Today after breakfast you’ll be collected by your guide for further exploration of Addis Ababa before heading to Awash this afternoon. First, drive to Mt. Entoto. The highest peak in Addis Ababa at 3,200 meters above sea level, it offers stunning views over the city from the summit and there is an appreciable drop in temperature. It was here that Addis Ababa was founded, when Emperor Menelik II built his palace here in 1887. The compound at the peak hosts the Entoto Mariam church, an Ethiopian artefact museum and the humble palace buildings. On the way up, roadside stalls offer fresh Ethiopian coffee.
After visiting Mt Entoto we shall drive to Awash National Park, around 225km east of the city. Check into Awash Falls Lodge, a simple lodge overlooking the Awash River with 30 African-styled ensuite rooms and tasty local and international food.
Today after breakfast, take a game drive in Awash National Park with your guide. The park boundary is formed by the Awash River and the park is dominated by the dormant volcano of Mt Fantale in the middle. Visit Aga Edu Cave in search of wild hyenas, and explore the southern flank of Mr Fantale, on which one can see the dark scar of the lava flow of 1820.
Awash’s wildlife reflects its dry nature: The Beisa oryx inhabits many of the more open areas, and greater and lesser kudu the bushed areas. Soemmerring’s gazelle have distinctive white rumps and are often seen with the oryx. A small population of the endemic sub-species Swaync’s hartebeest was translocated here and occupy the grass plains. Salt’s dik-dik appears frequently under the dry acacia bushes and Defassa waterbuck are seen in the bushy river area. There are two species of baboon — the Anubis and the hamadryas. Other monkeys include colobus in the riverine forest, and grivet in drier areas. Crocodile and hippopotamus splash in the Awash River. Lion, leopard, serval, caracal, and wildcat are all present but seen infrequently.
Awash is a haven for bird-lovers, with the largest diversity of species recorded in Ethiopia, including greenwood-hoopoes, red-and-yellow barbets, emerald-spotted wood doves and carmine bee-eaters, plus predators including bustards, secretary birds, kingfishers and fish eagles.
If there is time, visit the Awash hot springs in the extreme north, containing water permanently at 36°C (97°F). Also see Awash Gorge, plunging 250 metres (820 feet) to the river which can vary in intensity from a murky dribble to a raging chocolate-coloured torrent, depending on rainfall.
Today after having breakfast we will drive back to Addis, in time to attend the Meskel festival with your guide. Watch as Sunday school children and priests in their bright vestments sing a special Meskel song while circling the Demera (bonfire).
We have arranged for a day room at the Jupiter Hotel and dinner this evening, after which the tour ends. Those taking TW’s recommended flights back to London will be transferred to the airport to catch a flight overnight to London, departing after midnight.
Those who require an overnight stay in Addis can pay a small supplement to convert today’s day room into an overnight stay.
Those taking TW’s recommended flights to London will take off at 01:05 and arrive London at 06:05.