Our two dear friends recently came to visit us in Ethiopia, so we decided to take a road trip down south, an area we had not yet explored. While Northern Ethiopia is better equipped to handle tourism, Southern Ethiopia is more….umm….’authentic.’ There is, however, a satisfying mixture of cultures, wildlife, and scenery.
After an all-day drive on unfinished roads, we arrived at the aptly-named Paradise Lodge in Arba Minch. The view was gorgeous. Overlooking lakes Chamo and Abaya, as well as Nechisar National Park. This is one of the few areas in Ethiopia where you can still spot huge crocodiles, hippopotamus, zebra, dik-dik, kudu, gazelle, and a huge variety of bird life.
For about $15 per person, we took a boat tour across the lake, then a walking safari in the national park, complete with an armed guard. Despite the glaring heat, it was incredible to walk alongside herds of zebra, who paused occasionally to stare at us, staring at them.
We hired a local guide, an honest-to-goodness Rastafarian, to show us the cultural aspect of the area. He took us outside of Arba Minch, high up on a mountain, where the Dorze tribe lives. Famous for their weaving skills, the women spin the cotton by hand, then the men weave, using a foot-powered, complicated-looking loom. Most still live in their traditional beehive-shaped huts, which sometimes have the face of an elephant.
At the village, we sampled bread made from false banana roots, chased it with locally-made arake moonshine, and haggled for colorful handmade scarves. Our Rastafarian guide even proposed to our friend, hours after meeting her. “My brother has a fereji (foreign) wife,” he cajoled.
So, we can say with confidence that Arba Minch truly has it all: endangered animals, gorgeous views, unique cultures, and convincing marriage proposals.