​User Reviews – Simien Mountains NP

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climbhigh1001   –  
Canada CA
Visited: December 2019 Reviewed: Jan 14, 2020

Email climbhigh1001  |  50-65 years of age  |  Experience level: first safari

Considering I had excellent weather, it was an absolutely fantastic trek!
Overall rating

The trek I completed began about 7 or 8 km west of Sankabar and took a total of 6 days, my furthest point from the start being the summit of Ras Dashen, the highest point in Ethiopia. My trek took place in December and for all 6 days, the weather could not have been better. Sunny and clear skies every morning, with some cloud coming in around 3pm (which was fine, as our hiking for the day was usually done by that time).

I booked my excursion through the company ETT. There are pros and cons with any company which I won't get into here, but let me say that for my Simien experience, they truly did a great job. Our guide, Berhanu, was very knowledgeable and just an all round really good guy, so if you can get him, he'll do you well.

As far as scenery and wildlife goes, it was incredibly beautiful at all times. The gelada monkeys were fun to watch and we had numerous opportunities to do so. Also, on two separate occasions I was able to see the rare Ethiopian wolf (also known as the red jackal, I believe) which was a fantastic experience. At one point, we even saw a group of about five ibex in a valley far below.

My group and I didn't know what to expect for food, so the first night we were served soup. We ate to our heart's content thinking that was all we were going to have, but that turned out to only be the first course of several - all of which were excellent - including dessert. I should mention that meat is not an every day thing, though, as I believe we had chicken only once in the first three days and again on my last day. Nonetheless, we all had plenty of energy and whatever we ate certainly satisfied us.

I should also say that a nice perk was that each day after hiking and arriving at the next camp, a snack of some sort (usually popcorn and biscuits (cookies)) was waiting for us - very much appreciated!

No day's hiking was particularly difficult (other than days 4 (up Mount Bwahit and then over to Ambiko) and 5 (up Ras Dashen), but the altitude did take some getting used to. By my final summit day (day 5), I had loads of energy even though it was definitely a longer day, but again, the terrain was never difficult, so really it was just putting one foot in front of the other until you get there. A 5am start helped with that, too, as it was nice and cool at that time and you could summit nice and early. (For reference, I should add that I'm a 55 year old male, not particularly athletic, but quite experienced with hiking and bagging peaks.)

The people in my group I only met for the first time on that first day, but I must say that they were a fantastic group of people (3 others plus myself) and made the experience that much more enjoyable. Hopefully if you go, you're able to join in with as good of people as I did!

Lucas K.   –  
Austria AT
Visited: January 2019 Reviewed: Mar 13, 2019

Email Lucas K.  |  35-50 years of age  |  Experience level: over 5 safaris

Wonderful trek in amazing scenery, with some wildlife thrown into the mix!
Overall rating

I went on a 4-day Simien Trek right after spending 3 days in Gondar for the occasion of Timkat in January 2019. I searched online for recommended guides before arriving and contacted one who had received good feedback. He offered to arrange the trek for 300$. I went along with that, which was a mistake. He pooled me with a group of other independent travelers, guided by someone else (who happened to do a pretty good job, to be fair). Those who shopped for the trek after their arrival to Gondar paid between 200-250$ for the exact same arrangement.

I travel very light and had little in terms of warm clothes. I planned to shop for cheap warm clothes in Gondar before setting out on the trek. This turned out to be quite difficult as most shops were closed throughout the 3-day celebrations. Admittedly, I didn’t try the big market which is a bit far from the center. Perhaps it would have been possible to find something there. I ended up buying a new hoodie in a shop at the Piazza on the morning of our departure, which was a bit pricey. I also looked for a wool hat for the cold nights but couldn’t find any, neither in Gondar nor in Debark.

I was told sleeping bags would be provided for those who would camp instead of sleeping in lodge beds at the camp sites. That proved to be true, but the sleeping bags were mostly damaged, had holes, or non-working zippers. Those of the group who used them sleeping in tents suffered quite badly.

The worst “offense” was certainly not being provided with enough drinking water. Every trekker received 1 liter of water in the morning, and 1 liter in the evening. That’s 2 liters per day to sustain you during days of trekking in warm weather up to 18km (Day 3) at altitude, with significant vertical distance covered. Carrying purification pills is of little use in the dry season as water sources are scarce. Random kids did sell bottles of Coke and sometimes water along the trail (50 Birr per bottle), but that doesn’t excuse the inadequacy of the provisions.

It’s imperative to bring enough warm clothes for the nights. Some trekkers were ill-prepared after the trekking organizers had assured them that they would be “okay” only bringing a sweater or a normal jacket. Blankets were provided in the evenings, but were in short supply.
Food was plentiful and good. Even wine and gin was offered included in the price. Beers were sold at the camp sites for 50 Birr per bottle.
The hiking distance increased incrementally from one day to the next. Day 1 covered 7km (overnight at Sankaber). Day 2 11km (overnight at Gich), Day 3: 18km (overnight at Chennek).

Personally I am glad I decided to go for the 4-day trek all the way to Chennek. The scenery does get better from one day to the next throughout the trek. The last camp at Chennek is arguably the least “spectactular”, but there are plenty of wonderful viewpoints within short walking distance.

There was a big and very uncomfortable discussion about if and how much to tip the scouts/cooks/mule drivers towards the end of the trek. Multiple sources suggest a total of around 1$ per day per staff member is adequate (their salary is around 5-6$ per day). Several trekkers didn’t want to tip at all, or offered as little as 0.25c per person per day. This soured the mood amongst the group significantly, as some argued that the staff had certainly been very accommodating and did more than “standard service” for the group. No idea if or how this issue could be resolved before it comes to that. I did ask my Ethiopian friends in Addis if they felt that tipping was generally appropriate, and they univocally affirmed this.

As far as wildlife goes, I and some others of the group spotted a rare Ethiopian wolf on two separate occasions, as well as Walia Ibex, and of course everyone saw plenty of Gelada monkeys.

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