Overview – Lake Ziway

Philip Briggs
By Philip Briggs

Philip is a renowned Africa expert and author of many Bradt guidebooks to African destinations, including the guide to Ethiopia.

Philip is a renowned Africa expert and author of the Bradt guidebook to Ethiopia.

Philip is the author of the Bradt guidebook to Ethiopia.

Lake Ziway is one of seven Rift Valley lakes south of Addis Ababa. Even from the shore, the birdlife is quite phenomenal. Big flocks of great white pelicans and squabbling marabou storks are a permanent presence around the jetty where local fisherfolk clean their catch. Take a boat trip in search of hippos and to visit the historical Tullo Guddo monastery for a rewarding half-day excursion.

Best Time to Go October to January (Little rainfall)
High Season October to January (It is busier)
Size 440km² / 170mi²
Altitude 1,636m / 5,367ft

Pros & Cons

  • Great bird-watching opportunities
  • Half- and full-day boat trips available
  • En route to southern Ethiopia
  • Lots of accommodation options
  • Limited access to the lake
  • Not a protected environment

Lake Ziway Safari Reviews

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  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
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  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
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Lake Ziway offers excellent bird watching. Great white pelicans bob around the fishing boats to collect offcuts in their large pouches. Malachite kingfishers patiently peer into the water for their next catch, African jacanas trot on lilies and black crakes nervously creep between the reeds. If you’re lucky you might see a black heron (umbrella bird) using the shadow cast by its wings in a unique fishing technique.


Lake Ziway is a shallow Rift Valley lake surrounded by volcanic hills. It is accessed via the town with the same name and, while worth a quick stopover, its real beauty is best appreciated on a boat trip. There are several small islands on the lake including Bird Island, a roosting refuge for the great cormorant and African darter.

Weather & Climate

The weather and climate of Lake Ziway is comparable to that of Ethiopia in general. More info:

Best Time to Visit

Lake Ziway can be visited at any time and the birding is phenomenal throughout the year. However, Lake Ziway is mostly visited en route to southern Ethiopia, which itself is best visited in the Dry season months from October to January. From November to March Palearctic migrants flood the country.

Getting There

Lake Ziway is located 160km/100mi south of Addis Ababa and is easily visited on a road trip to southern Ethiopia. The drive takes about three hours.

Health & Safety

Please read our vaccinations and malaria page for Ethiopia, and our general wildlife viewing safety precautions page for more info:

Want to Visit Lake Ziway?

Lake Ziway Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
Most Helpful Expert Review
Birding at Lake Ziway

Lake Ziway is the largest of Ethiopia’s Rift Valley lakes. Most tourists traveling to southern Ethiopia will make at least a quick lunch stop here – the fresh lake tilapia is highly recommended. Even on a short visit, I always take a...

Latest User Review
John  –  
United Kingdom UK
Reviewed: Apr 15, 2020
Easy trip from Addis making a great place to stay if you have a few days too spare.

An easy ride from Addis via Nazret by bus, although I came via Butajira. This means most tourists are local. A pleasant place to wander, with enormously wide streets which away from the main roads carry mainly horse drawn vehicles. The food...

Full Review