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Simien Mountains National Park
The Simien Mountains National Park is on the west side of the Simien Mountain range, in the far north of the country. The mountain range is one of Africa’s biggest and most spectacular with dramatic volcanic crags and pinnacles towering over steep gorges and river valleys. It contains the country’s highest peak Ras Dashen. Due to the stunning scenery and endemic flora and fauna, the park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The range is separated into several plateaux by large river valley. A huge escarpment on the north and east of the western plateau forms the boundary of this region. From the top of this escarpment - over 1000m high in places - you can look north to Eritrea. The mountain Ras Dashen is about 10 km east of the National Park - the two are separated by a huge gorge that was formed by the Masheha River.
The national park, along with Bale Mountain, is one of the country’s best for wildlife. Three large endemic large mammals live in the park: the Gelada ‘baboon’, the indigenous Ethiopian wolf and Walia ibex. The baboons are the most common of the three, and the other two are both extremely rare. The Ethiopian Wolf is the world’s rarest canid and if you wish to see it, we would recommend visiting Bale Mountains as well. The Walia ibex is unique to this area of the world. In addition, you may see klipspringer and bushbuck, as well as spotted hyena and common jackal.
One of the highlights of a visit to the Simien Mountains is to sit amongst the large groups of Gelada ‘baboons’ and watch them as they go about their daily lives. In fact, you can get incredibly close to these beautiful primates - often called ‘bleeding heart’ monkeys due to their distinctive chest colouration. It is worth mentioning that the Gelada aren’t really baboons at all! They are an old world monkey and the only living members of the genus Theropithecus. Like its close relatives the baboons (genus Papio), it is largely terrestrial, spending much of its time foraging in grasslands.
For birds the park is relatively poor; Bale National Park is a much better place to go if this is your interest. However, about 180 species of bird reside inside the park, including cliff-nesting birds of prey such as the lammergeyer, which float high above the escarpment seaching for prey.
The best reason for coming to this national park is to see the spectacular views; with viewpoints allowing a panoramic look at the surrounding country, and some incredible geography. The Simien Mountains are also notable for being the only mountain range in Africa which regularly has snow-topped caps; one must venture further than the foothills to observe it, however.
For the adventurous you can trek through landscapes covered by deep gorges, jagged plugs, and striking rock towers. Enroute, you can climb some of Africa’s highest peaks: Ras Dashen (4620m), Buyit Ras (3250m), and Bwahit (4430m) - while viewing the endemic species of wildlife and flora. During your trek you will also have the chance to interact with the local isolated mountain communities and witness their lifestyle, culture and ancient farming style.