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The Tana Lake 



Lake Tana, the largest lake, in Ethiopia is the source and from where the famed Blue Nile starts its long journey to Khartoum, and on to the Mediterranean. The 37 islands that are scrattered about the surface of the Lake shelter fascinating churches and monasteries, some of which have histories dating back to the 13th Century. However, it should be noted that most of the religious houses are not open to women. The most interesting islands are: Birgida Mariam, Dega Estefanous, Dek, Narga, Tana Cherkos9, Mitsele Fasiledes, Kebran and Debre Maryam.

Kebran Gabriel is the principal monastery visited by male tourists from Bahir Dar, with its impressive Cathedral-like building first built at the end of the 17th Century. Dega Estephanos, which is also closed to women, is on an island in the lake, and the monastery is reached by a very steep and winding path. Although the church is relatively new ( only hundred years old) , it houses a Madonna painted in the 15th century. However, the treasury of the monastery is a prime attraction, with the remains of several Emperors, as well as their robes and jewels.

On the banks of the lake are many more religious houses, such as Ura Kidane Mehret and Narga Selassie, many of which are aslo open to visit by women.

Near Gorgora, at the northern end of the lake , the Susneyos palace is a forerunner of the magnificent palaces and castles of Gonder, and dates from the reign of Emperor Susneyos. In the same area the medieval church of Debre Sina Mariam is particularly important.

A sail or cruise on lake Tana is one of the most pleasant excursions for visitors to this region, particularly in the heart of the summer. Boats can be hired from the Marine Transport Authority in Bahir Dar.

Along the lakeshore birdlife , both local and migratory visitors, make this a an ideal place for birdwatchers.

Birdlovers will not want to miss Fasilidas island, which is especially famous as an important wetland. The whole of the lake Tana region and the Blue Nile Gorge have a wide variety of birds both endemic and visitors. The variety of habitats, from rocky crags to riverain forests and important wetlands, ensure that many other different species should be spotted.


Awasa Lake        


At about 275 km from Addis Ababa a gravel road on the right runs along the shore of Lake Awasa to the two or three resort hotels. The luxury Awasa Hotel, is the most comfortable. Simpler accommodation at the Bekele Mola Hotel, and the more interesting Belle Vue du Lac (also with swimming pool and a tennis court) is quite adequate. Fishing and boating are favourite pastimes on Lake Awasa, although again the bird watching, if not as spectacular as Abyata, has its own special attractions.


Chamo and Abaya Lakes    


Far south in Ethiopia's Great Rift Valley lie two marvellous lakes ringed by savanna plains and smoke; mountain crests. By far the largest of Ethiopia's Rift Valley lakes, the 551-square-kilometre waters of Chamo and the 1,160-square-kilometre surface of Abaya are considered by many to be also the most beautiful. Indeed, few places on earth can match the allure of their setting.

Much of this forms part of one of Ethiopia's finest national parks, Nech Sar, established as a sanctuary for the rare Swayne's hartebeest. From the town of
Arba Minch on the ridge of land that divides Abaya and Chamo there are commanding views of the panorama all around including both lakes with Nech Sar on the eastern side and, to the west, the Guge range of mountains. Such is the outstanding beauty of this viewpoint it has long been known as the Bridge of Heaven. Equally poetic, Arba Minch -meaning Forty Springs in Amharic -takes its name from the bubbling streams which spring up amid the undergrowth .of the luxuriant forest which clothes the steep slopes beneath the town.

This region, more than 500 kilometres south of Addis Ababa, is one of Ethiopia's last great surviving wildernesses. But an international hotel at Arba Minch with high-quality service and facilities ensures the visitor enjoys the splendours of nature in comfort.

This is an ideal base from which to explore the forested land between the lakes, and the plains of Nech Sar beyond where the surviving herds of Swayne's hartebeest, once in abundance, and zebra and Grant's gazelle roam the high savanna.

There's an air of untamed grandeur about all this that lingers over the lakes and mountains. Alive with many species of fish -the fighting tigerfish, giant Nile perch, barbel, catfish and tilapia offering fine sport -

Chamo and Abaya are an angler's paradise. In the reed-fringed bays of Chamo's sparkling aquamarine waters hundreds of hippos emerge at night to graze on the grassy shores. Chamo is also sanctuary for several thousand Nile crocodile, some reaching lengths of up to seven metres from snout to tip of tail.

Here the balance between predator and prey remains in equilibrium; birdlife flourishes in equal proportion: hordes of yellow weaver birds flit constantly through the trees, and vividly-coloured kingfishers skim the lakes where Great White pelicans, storks; ibises, hornbills and cormorants plumb the waters for food. With piercing echoing cries, black, and white fish eagles swoop down from their tree perches to snatch up unwary fish in their talons.

People Around the Lakes
The shores and islands of Abaya and Chamo are populated by farming peoples such as the Ganjule and the Guji, both of whom also have ancient traditions of hippo hunting. The Guji ply the waters of lake Abaya in high-prowled am batch boats similar to those depicted on the tombs of the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs.
South-west of the lakes in the direction of Jinka, the traveller comes to the homeland of the Konso who practice an intensive form of agriculture on intricately-terraced hillsides. The Konso have a rich indigenous culture that finds expression in haunting music and dance, and in the weaving of beautiful thick cotton blankets.

Another distinctive people of the region around Lakes Chamo and Abaya are the Dorze, once warriors, who have now turned to farming and weaving. They produce the colourful toga-like robes known as shammas which are worn throughout Ethiopia. Though there's a large Dorze population around Arba Minch itself, their traditional homeland is further to the north around Chencha, high up in the Guge mountain range overlooking the lakes and the Bridge of Heaven.

The brief, 26-kilometre drive from Arba Minch up to Chencha involves a remarkable transition – climbing from the lush, tropical forests of the lowland, through bamboo at around 2,500 metres, into stands of juniper laced with Spanish moss where cold fingers of cloud grasp the ancient limbs of the trees and the air is chill and bracing.

Dorze villages are classic example of simple architecture, unlike anything seen elsewhere in Ethiopia -towering beehive-shaped structures reaching up to 12 metres high, the interiors dark but spacious and airy with floors of pressed earth. The vaulted ceiling walls are covered with an elegant thatch of ensete (false banana) to form a smooth and unbroken convex dome. Each home stands in its own grounds surrounded by smaller but similar houses: guest house; cow-shed, kitchen and perhaps even a workshop for weaving or other work.

Northwards from Chencha, leaving Lake Abaya behind -and with it the wilderness -the traveller eventually comes to the bustling market town of Sodo, which stands on the border between the regions of Gamo Gofa, Sidamo and Kaffa. This is one of Ethiopia's premier coffee-growing areas and, quite possibly, the original home of the coffee plant –where, the first trees grew wild before being cultivated and then, in the 14th century, taken to Yemen and from there across the world.


Lake Langano     


At the Horacallo bridge it is possible to turn left along a track which leads to the lake. There are good camping spots here along the northern shore however, the main track to the lake is at about 210 and 215 kms leading left to the Wabe Shebele and Bekele Mola Hotels, beach and camping ground respectively:

The soft brown waters of Langano are set against the blue backdrop of the
Arsi Mountains soaring4,000 metreshigh. A few birds make Langano their home but this resort is less for the nature lover than sportsman and sunworshipper. Here you can waterski and sail, swim or bask in the blazing sun on the sloping sandy beach. European food is served in the hotel restaurant but the tilapia is good and cooking freshly caught fish over the camp fire has its own special attraction. The local Oromo women are often prepared to sell jewellery or utensils; copper bracelets or brass; bead necklaces and cowrie shell decorated milk pots.     

Video sequence  Video stream about Lake Langano


Lake Abyata   


Before reaching the turnoff to Langano lake, the road passes over the Bulbula river. Just before the bridge and the village, there is a track to the right (at the top of the slope) which leads to the lake edge. At certain times of the year the greatest congregation of birds is to be found here. However, before the next bridge, over the Horacallo river (connecting Lakes Langano and Abyata) a turning to the right leads to the more usual area of exceptional bird viewing.

Thousands of flamingos create pink carpets in the blue bays of the lake; great white pelicans soar in from
Lake Shala to enjoy the fishing and execute their fantastic ballet; pied kingfishers hover and dive; fish eagles protect their territory with their eerie cry; cormorants and darters fill the dead acacia trees silhouetting strange and beautiful shapes against the sunset. Here are tall marabous, sacred ibis, dwell sometimes in the hundreds of thousands, snipe, stilt, avocet, and the black heron searching the shallow water in the shadow created by his black umbrella.


Zuqala Lake   


A huge volcanic cone set isolated in the surrounding plain and rising 600m Zuquala’s crater is still perfectly preserved. Two kilometres across and sixty meters deep the crater is occupied by a shallow lake, well known as a holy lake. For many centuries the rim has been the site of a monastery. Mohammed Gragn destroyed one of the buildings but it was rebuilt and is still in use today. The inside rim of the crater is covered with juniper forest, the frequent swirling mists encourage a heavy growth of trailing lichens and the beautiful black and white colobus monkey can sometimes be seen, adding yet another dimension to this already picturesque place. To get to Zuquala, it is possible to turn off the Addis Ababa-Bishoftu road at Dukem 35 km. from the city, or to turn off near Bishoftu at Dirray. The latter is probably the more used track at the present time, it is about three hours walk or fifty minutes drive to Wember Mariam at the base of the mountain. It is possible to drive to the top, but check conditions before driving it as it can be a difficult road.   


Zway Lake    


Lake Zway is 26 km. long and 18km, wide and several islands dot the surface of the largest of the five lakes. There are several turnoffs leading to the lake shore Tall fig trees line the original shore, but in recent years the level of the lake has dropped to such an extent that several hundred metres of grassland and reeds come between you and the water. Marabou storks roost on the tops of the acacias in the evenings, and many other birds have made the grassy stretch their feeding area. On the north side of the lake where the Meki river flows in lies Hippopotamus Bay. To reach the far shore or any of the islands it is necessary to bring a boat.       

Contact Address
Ethiopia Tourism commission
P.O. Box 2183
Fax: 251-1-5513899
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Email: info@tourismethiopia.org or tour-com@telecom.net.et


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This site was last updated 05/26/18