Saturday, July 30, 2011

Omo Valley of Ethiopia

Reckoned by enthusiasts to be one of Africa’s premier locations for white-
water rafting, the Omo River’s early fury takes it through gorges hundreds of
metres deep over fish and the huge shapes of crocodiles and hippos.
On the final leg of its journey south to Turkana, the Omo forms the border
between Kefa and Gamo Gofa provinces. It is here that Ethiopa’s largest
nature sanctuary, the Omo National Park — one of the richest in spectacle
and game and yet one of the least-visited areas in East and Central Africa — is
located. And another sanctuary, the Mago National Park, has been established
on the eastern bank of the river: a land of endless, distant horizons.
Both parks can offer amazing spectacles of big game and have the merit,
also, of being far off the beaten track. Virtually unexplored, they are places in
which game can be seen in a truly natural state. Most easily reached from the
town of Jinka, Mago National Park is mainly savannah, with some forested
areas around the river, It was set up to conserve the large number of plains
animals in the area, particularly buffalo, giraffe and elephant. The birds are
typical of the dry grassland habitat — bustards, hornbills, weavers and starlings.
Kingflshers and herons feed in and around the Neri River, which provides an
alternative habitat. Adjoining Mago the large and beautiful Omo National
Park has hardly been visited in the past two decades, as getting there has been
so difficult.
The parks are extensive wilderness areas, where wildlife can be prolific: large
herds of eland, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, cheetah, lion, leopard and Burchell’s
zebra. Greater and lesser kudu, leIwel hartebeest, topi, gerenuk and oryx
are all resident species, as well as deBrazza’s, colobus monkeys and Anubis
baboon. The 306 bird species recorded include many that will be familiar to
East African visitors.

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