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Bēhance

  • Ethiopia 2009
    Lalibela, Arba Minch, Muger Gorge and the Bale Mountains
  • Ethiopia is a remarkable country, unlike any other I've visited in Africa. Of course no two countries are alike, but Ethiopia feels closer to north Africa or the Middle East when compared to its sub-Saharan neighbours - or at least those that I've visited. The people, the culture, the food, the wildlife and the landscape are all resolutely different from anything else I've experienced.

    It also couldn't be more different from the classic western perception of a country devastated by famine. Droughts and famine are still a huge problem here, but it is the south and east of the country, the deserts near the borders with Kenya and Somalia, where people suffer. Much of the rest of the country - the majority, in fact - sits on a plateau more than 2,000 metres above sea level, meaning that the climate is pleasant year-round and rain is relatively plentiful in these regions.

    Some parts of the country are very well-travelled. The ancient, rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, for example, are firmly on the tourist trail - although that shouldn't put anyone off visiting, as these man-made wonders are quite magnificent, and are all the more special for the fact that they are still functioning places of worship.

    But our road trip also took us to seemingly less popular attractions. At Nechisar National Park to the south we were the first people to drive through in over a week. Over several days spent in the Bale Mountains photographing endangered Ethiopian wolves in the Web River Valley and on the Sanetti Plateau, I didn't see another tourist. And for a day, I had the gelada baboons of Muger Gorge all to myself. These are rare luxuries when observing such photogenic mammals in Africa.
  • Bet Giyorgis, one of Lalibela's extraordinary 13th Century rock-hewn churches.
  • What makes a visit to Lalibela - or any of the ancient churches in Ethiopia - so interesting is that these are active places of worship, not just sites of historical interest.
  • Priest, Lalibela.
  • Market, Lalibela.
  • Traditional Dorze beehive hut in Chencha, southern Ethiopia.
  • The view from Chencha down over Nechisar National Park.
  • Nechisar National Park.
  • Kirk's Dik Dik, a tiny species of antelope - Nechisar National Park.
  • Kori Bustard, Nechisar National Park.
  • The scars you can see come from other Zebra, not from lions.
  • Nechisar National Park.
  • Olive baboon.
  • Pylons, on the road to the Bale Mountains.
  • Mountain Nayala, Bale Mountains.
  • Warthog.
  • Nic in the Web River Valley, Bale Mountains.
  • Ethiopian Wolf, unique - as the name suggests - to Ethiopia. It is highly endangered and exists in two isolated communities, one in the Bale Mountains (where this photo was taken) and the other in the Simien Mountains. What surprised me was how easy it was to find them - and the fact that over several days I was the only westerner observing/photographing them.
  • Photographing the wolves, Sanetti Plateau - Bale Mountains.
  • Giant lobelia, Sanetti Plateau.
  • The terrain in Ethiopia is wildly varied. Just an hour's drive from the snowline up on the Sanetti Plateau lies the Harenna Forest, a magical, fairytale-like woodland - all mossy vines and mist.
  • Vervet monkey, Lake Langano.
  • Black and white Colobus monkeys, Lake Langano.
  • Olive baboon, Lake Langano.
  • Muger Gorge.
  • Gelada baboon, Muger Gorge - about an hour outside of Addis Ababa.
  • Male Gelada baboons are big. Very big. The males look more like lions than apes.