Introduction to Bale Mountain National Park
The Bale Mountain National Park is one of Ethiopia’s natural gems and one of the best locations to experience the country’s unique endemic wildlife, plants and birds. The park, which is located about 400 kilometres south of Addis Ababa, spans over 2,200 square kilometres, encompassing some of the world’s most protected Afroapline moorland. The park also features several other habitats, including a massive indigenous forest. Given the rich biodiversity and spectacular scenery, the park is currently on UNESCO’s tentative list.
The Bale Mountains‘ highest peak, Tullu Dimtu, towers at 4,377 meters above sea level, making it the second highest peak in Ethiopia. The park’s habitats comprise woodlands in the north, a small grassland valley area, an extensive Afroalpine plateau in the central part and the southern escarpment comprising the spectacular indigenous Harenna Forest. The park has a flourishing plant life, including 1,321 species of flowering plants, 163 of which are endemic. There is also a high concentration of medicinal plants and wild forest coffee. With all-year-round birding and 310 recorded bird species in the park, birding is a key attraction. There are 17 enemic species, 11 of which also occur in neighbouring Eritrea. Palearctic migrants make the period from November to March even more exciting.
Two major highlights of the park are the Harenna Forest and Sanetti Plateau. The Sanetti Plateau is situated 4,000 meters above sea level and characterized by its striking Afroalpine flora, such as the giant lobelia and red hot poker. This is the best place in Ethiopia to see the simien wolf, the rarest canid in the world. The huge rodent population, including the endemic giant mole rat, supports not only the simien wolf, but also a variety of raptors. Other birdlife includes the rare wattled crane and spot-breasted plover.
The Harenna Forest is one of the last remaining natural forests in Ethiopia. Hugging the southern escarpment, which falls rapidly in altitude (3,200 meters to 2,000 meters, over a distance of 8 kilometres), the Harenna Forest presents a diverse abundance of flora, fauna and avifauna. Look out for black-and-white colobus monkey and the elusive bale monkey, as well as Menelik’s bushbuck. Birds in the area include the grey cuckoo shrike, Abyssinian catbird, Ruppell’s robin-chat, Abyssinian ground thrush, white-cheeked turaco and many more. Ethiopia is one of the only, if not the only, country where coffee still grows wild. Ask your guide to show you some of these wild coffee plants, which flourish in the shade of the tall trees. For thousands of years families have harvested the coffee berries, many depending on the sale of coffee as their sole income. Organic wild honey is another delicious offering of the Harenna Forest; extracted from hand-carved beehives that are perched high in the trees on the southern slopes.
The closest airport is located at Bale Robe, Goba, and receives scheduled flights from Addis Ababa on certain days of the week. The park’s headquearters are located at Dinsho, a 30-minute drive from the Bale Robe airport.
When in Bale Mountain
The time zone in Ethiopia is East Africa Time (EAT), GMT +3.
The Bale Mountain National Park is open all year round.
The best time to visit Bale Mountain National Park for trekking is from November to February, during the dry months.
When in Bale Mountain
Where to say
Bale Mountain Lodge
Bale Mountain Lodge is a splendid boutique forest lodge, tucked away in a large clearing in the magnificent Heranna Forest, deep within in the Bale Mountain National Park. Accommodation comprises 11 stylishly furnished bedrooms, all with ensuite bathrooms and wood-burning fireplaces; as well as a rustic three-bedroom house, perfect for families and small groups. The restaurant is housed in a traditional-style „tukul“ – a thatched, rondavel-shaped rock building. A sunken fireplace adds a welcome dimension of coziness. The lodge, designed to blend into the natural environment, is built using local grey stone. In keeping with the lodge’s core values, the furniture and decor is locally crafted, using sustainable materials.