​Expert Reviews – Awash NP

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Philip Briggs   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Multiple visits

Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.

A compelling volcanic landscape
Overall rating

Set in the heart of the Rift Valley east of Addis Ababa, Awash National Park protects a starkly magnificent volcanic landscape bisected by the Awash River and an associated ribbon of riparian woodland. It is a very scenic park in its own rather desiccated way, hosting such landmarks as the spectacular Fentalle volcano and its gaping crater, and the powerful Awash Falls at the western head of a 150m-deep gorge. Poaching has accounted for the loss of much of the park’s once prolific mammals, and while patient visitors might well encounter dry-country species such as Hamadryas baboon, Beisa oryx, greater kudu, lesser kudu, Soemmerring’s gazelle and warthog, the only large predator seen with any regularity is spotted hyena. The park offers excellent dry-country birding: the gorgeous Abyssinian roller and northern carmine bee-eater are likely to be seen alongside seven species of bustard (notably the very localised Arabian bustard), while Fentalle Volcano is one of only two reliable sites for the endemic yellow-throated serin.

Ariadne van Zandbergen   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Multiple times

Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.

Dry country animals on the banks of the Awash River
Overall rating

This little-known but scenic park is more than worth a visit. There isn’t a lot of wildlife, but I enjoyed seeing dry-country specials such as Beisa oryx, Soemmerring’s gazelle and the rare Hamadryas baboon. The park is particularly rich in birdlife and bird-watchers will be thrilled at ticking off some of the endemics and localized species resident here. Even non-birders will enjoy seeing more colorful avian fauna such as northern carmine bee-eater and red-and-yellow barbet. The Awash River is the lifeline of the park and the impressive waterfall of the same name is a highlight not to be missed. Another highlight is Doho hot springs. You can do a boat trip on the palm-fringed lake fed by the springs, but nothing beats sitting in a natural bathtub filled by hot spring water on the edge of the lake at sunset with a cold beer in hand.

Stuart Butler   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: January

Stuart is a travel writer and author of numerous Lonely Planet guidebooks, including Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Twitchers’ delight
Overall rating

Ethiopia is likely to make bird watchers go weak at the knees. With over 900 species recorded, it’s one of Africa’s best birding countries and the dramatic Awash National Park, with over 450 species, is one of the better birding locations in the country. Avian highlights include the endemic yellow-throated serin, Ethiopian cliff swallow and Arabian bustard. Scenically, this is also a stunning park: volcanic cliffs and spires, sunflower-yellow grasslands and the 150m-deep Awash river gorge mean that there’s always something to catch the eye. But what about the mammals? Well, like most Ethiopian parks, the big mammal count can’t compare with that of countries to the south, but on the two different trips I have made to Awash I’ve been rewarded with sightings of a fair few elegant oryx as well as plenty of baboon, and some warthog and Soemmerring’s gazelle. Rumour has it that there’s lion, leopard and even cheetah present, but I suspect you’d have to be very lucky to see any.

With easy access from Addis Ababa, low prices, great scenery, wonderful birdlife and a few large mammals to be seen, this park is well worth tacking onto a larger Ethiopian journey, but unless you’re a serious birdwatcher then you wouldn’t chose to safari here over Kenya.

Average Expert Rating

  • 3.0/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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