Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Ethiopia: Gambela National Park

Located in the Gambela Region, its 5061 square kilometers of territory is encroached upon by cotton plantations and refugee camps. The general topography of the Park is flat, with some areas of higher ground where deciduous woodland and savanna occur; these higher areas are often rocky with large termite mounds. About 66% of the area is considered shrubland, 15% is forest, while 17% has been modified by man. Gambela National Park also supports extensive areas of wet grassland and swamps where the native grasses grow over 3 metres in height. Ethiopia as a tourist destination remains well behind its potential, and while known for its history, ancient cultures, and allegedly hidden treasures.The mystical Ark is rumored to have been hidden in Ethiopia somewhere,the country is not too well known for its national parks. The Gambela Park was established primarily to protect two species of endangered wetland antelopes: the White-eared Kob and the Nile Lechwe. Other wildlife reported as living here include elephant, African Buffalo, lion, roan antelope, tiang, Lelwel Hartebeest, olive baboon, and guereza monkey. Several birds only found in this area include the shoebill stork, the Long-tailed Paradise Whydah and the Red-throated and Green Bee-eaters. Located about 600 kilometres from Addis Ababa on the river Baro, Gambela has a strange history. From 1902 until it was captured by the Italians in the Second World War, it was administered by the British, the only part of Ethiopia to be so governed, The reason for this is that the British opened a port there on the wide and navigable Baro River, which during four months of the rainy season is navigable and provides direct access to the sea via the Nile through Khartoum. Ethiopian coffee was exported via this route, up to 1940. Now the port has fallen into disrepair, though remains of the warehouses and jetty can be seen. At its peak, up to 40 ships would be in dock at any one time. The undulating plains of high Sudanese grass offer excellent opportunities for wilderness exploration. It is not particularly easy to access however. Beyond Gambela towards the Sudanese border, the Anuak cultivators give way to the nomadic Nuer. These pastoralists herd their long-horned cattle into huge camps when they stop for the night. The presence in the park of a permanent major river, the Baro, which flows towards the Nile, adds to the attraction of the park as it is navigable for much of the year though reportedly not used for regular trips by tourists and its depth and width makes a good habitat for many hippo colonies and the giant Nile Perch. The most common plains game are reportedly the white-eared kob, also found in the hundreds of thousands at Boma National Park in Southern Sudan, and the Nile or Kafue Lechwe. In the river are to be found huge Nile perch, up to 100 kilograms, crocodiles and hippos. Other wildlife includes buffalo, giraffe, waterbuck, Roan antelope, zebra, bushbuck, Abyssinian reedbuck, warthog, hartebeest, hyena, lion and elephant. Unfortunately, there are very few animals to be seen in the park, but the birds are many and varied, the olive baboon and the local race of the vervet, with its white whiskers, are the very common, as is the black and white colobus monkey. Bus links to Addis Ababa via Bako. (Min 2 day journey) 4 weekly flights from Addis Ababa by Ethiopian Airlines (Mon, Thurs, Fri, Sat). All accommodation is to be found in nearby Gambela town. Ethiopia has rich tourism assets. With its diverse tourist attractions, which include cultural, historical and archaeological attractions, as well as a great variety of flora and fauna, the government of Ethiopia has initiated a number of measures to preserve and develop tourist sites throughout the country. Tourist infrastructures in various national parks have been upgraded, while renovation work on roads linking the parks with major roads and lodges is being carried out. Other measures include the protection of animals from illegal hunting in sanctuaries and parks, as well as the conservation of heritage sites, nine of which are included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Through these activities, Ethiopia has seen an increase in the number of tourists visiting its many attractions. Ethiopia continued to record positive growth in tourist arrivals over the review period. The country achieved larger tourist numbers in 2012 than in 2011 thanks to increased participation in international travel and tourism exhibitions. Showcasing the nation’s tourism products globally has enabled Ethiopia to promote its natural, cultural and historical attractions to the rest of the world. This has helped the country to attract more international tourists and also generated more travel and tourism revenue. Some of the notable international tourism and trade fairs Ethiopia has participated in recent years include the ITB, Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin, the World Travel Market in London, the Moscow International Tourism Fair and the Shanghai 2010 Expo. Good luck Ethiopia Paul Okia happytoursug@gmail.com www.happytoursug.com Paul Okia Happy Tours Africa happytoursug@gmail.com www.happytoursug.com

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