Expert Reviews – Chebera-Churchura NP
Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.
Tracking elephants on foot
It may be little-known and even less commonly visited, but remote Chebera-Churchura National Park forms a worthwhile goal for adventurous travellers who don’t mind roughing it and doing their game viewing on foot. I was pleasantly surprised by the wildlife around the riverside campsite, which included black-and-white colobus and grivet monkey as well as some wonderful birds, notably silvery-cheeked hornbill, half-collared kingfisher, double-toothed barbet, snowy-headed robin-chat and Abyssinian ground thrush. The main goal of a guided walk into the nearby Maka Forest is the possibility of seeing some of the park’s 500-odd elephants. While the elephants are quite skittish, we had a couple of fleeting encounters and the vibe was somewhat reminiscent of gorilla or chimp trekking, weaving through the jungle listening out for the trumpeting of an angry pachyderm. Other wildlife we saw en route included buffalo and bush pig. We also did a longer hike to the lily-covered Bulo Crater Lake, which is home to around 100 hippos. There are few guarantees here in terms of wildlife viewing, but it is a genuine adventure!
Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.
Elephant’s in Ethiopia’s jungle
Elephants? In Ethiopia? I’d been to Ethiopia many times and seen most of the endemic wildlife for which the country is known, but I’d never heard you could see elephants here. So, I was skeptical when I was taken to the remote, totally off-the-beaten-track jungle of Chebera-Chuchura National Park. When I got to the entrance, I was pleasantly surprised to find I had the whole park to myself. There are no facilities but there is a beautiful camping spot next to a stream. This was as far as I could drive. There are virtually no roads in the park itself, so all wildlife viewing is done on foot. The next morning, I set out with my local guide to track the elusive elephants. These are not the relaxed gentle giants you’ll encounter in the popular parks of Kenya or South Africa. The elephants of Chebera-Chuchura have vivid memories of being hunted, and the survivors are skilled at avoiding humans. The guide and I tiptoed through dense forest undergrowth, trying to avoid snapping twigs, and stopping regularly to listen for elephant activity. After several hours playing cat-and-mouse, I finally caught a glimpse of three elephants hurtling across a clearing – not the greatest sighting perhaps, but boy, was it exciting!