Exploring Ethiopia with an Unflinching Love for Natural History
Our Photography Tour to Ethiopia is only weeks away! Sourabha Rao talks to Tour Skipper Sachin Rai about why Ethiopia, what it has in store, and why he’s so excited about it!
Sourabha: What inspired you to choose Ethiopia as a new Photo Tour destination this year?
Sachin: We are always striving to add new places to the vast range of Photo Tour destinations we already have. The underlying reason to do so has always been an undeniable love we have for the natural world. And we want to enable as many people as we can to see various wildlife and untamed places.
We already have Kenya and Tanzania Photo Tours in Eastern Africa, so the natural extension for us was to offer Ethiopia, because it teems with rare and exotic wildlife seen only its wild terrains. Exploring the depths of Earth’s biodiversity there, an ancient land known to be the cradle of life, is thus our newest exciting adventure.
Sourabha: Sounds great! So personally, what are you most excited about this Photo Tour?
Sachin: I love exploring wildernesses on foot. It allows you to soak yourself in not only the delight of sightings but also of the scents and the sounds at an unhurried pace. Hiking and looking for wildlife is the best way to connect with the natural world for me, and hence, exploring Ethiopia is a privilege. Apart from the endemic wildlife that we are zealously looking forward to, it is the very experience of simply being in those pristine mountains that I’m most excited about.
Sourabha: What amazing wild animals are expected to be seen on the Tour?
Sachin: There are over 31 endemic species of mammals and more than 856 species of birds in Ethiopia. While we expect to see as many species as we can, the main targets are the gelada baboon and the endangered but magnificent Ethiopian wolf.
I love the gelada baboon for its sage-like bearing, its striking face and the bright hourglass-shaped patch of skin on its chest, which sometimes looks like a heart! The gorgeous Ethiopian wolf, with its red and white fur, will also be a delightful subject to photograph in its contrasting environment.
It is one of the world’s rarest canids and the most endangered carnivore of its continent, which makes it all the more special in its rarity. I am also excited about the handsome-looking walya ibex, the wonderful bearded vulture, tawny eagle and the thick-billed raven among all the other wildlife known to live there.
Sourabha: Well, that sounds like a lot to look forward to! Which areas of Ethiopia will you explore during the course of the Tour?
Sachin: We set out to explore the breathtaking Simien Mountains National Park and the Bale Mountains National Park. These spectacular terrains are a result of various geographical phenomena like erosion and lava eruption that have occurred over millions of years, which is why there is something sacred and magical about being there.
Simien Mountains includes the highest point in Ethiopia, and is home to the gelada baboon and a lot of endangered wildlife, including the Ethiopian wolf and the walia ibex. It was one of the first places to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Bale Mountains National Park has what is called Afromontane habitats – one of the highest incidences of terrestrial habitat for animal endemicity in the world. These mountains are known to be formed even before the formation of the Great Rift Valley!
Sourabha: Amazing! Now what kind of opportunities do the Tour participants have on this Tour in terms of photography?
Sachin: Many of the animals in Ethiopia are found only there, so photographing them in their natural habitat is a unique opportunity. Considering how ruggedly beautiful the territory itself that these animals inhabit, making images will be both fun and exhilarating.
Sourabha: What photography equipment must one carry to make great images in Ethiopia?
Sachin: Certainly a telephoto zoom lens. For great habitat photos, landscapes and other creative perspectives, it’s very important to have a wide-angle lens. A lens with a focal length of around 400mm is essential for bird photography. If you wish to make images of beautiful flowers in the mountains, a macro lens is important. It’s advisable to carry relatively lighter equipment so that it will be easy to carry around as we explore the wild places, especially on foot.
Sourabha: What’s your message to travel and photography lovers about the Ethiopia Tour?
Sachin: Ethiopia is a country of amazing wildlife diversity and stunning geographical contrasts. To think of the idea that modern humans took baby steps through these jungles and rivers and spread out to the rest of the world makes it an astonishing destination to discover. Personally, I cannot think of a better way to reconnect to our origins.
Join Sachin on the ‘Mountain Marvels’ Ethiopia Photo Tour this March!