Agreed by many as one of the last few great rafting expeditions in the world, the Omo River in Ethiopia has long held a draw for the most avid adventure traveler. The mixture of travel into deepest darkest Africa combined with fantastic wildlife viewing and incredible tribal interaction have made this trip a favourite since it was run in the 1980’s. Recently some negative press has been given to EBCO, the Ethiopian Power Authority for the impact of what the Gibe III power project half way down the river trip, will have on the famed tribes on the lower reaches of the river. This has meant them influencing the Ministry of Tourism and no more permits are being issued at this time for running the river.
The trip is split into two unique sections. The Upper River is a phenomenal insight into the wonderful wildlife of the area. Abundant hippos, crocodiles and bird life can be seen from our rafts, with incredible campsites (some with hotpools!) at every turn of the river. We have on occasion even seen lion from the rafts! As the trip is so long, we require a resupply at Bele Bridge for fresh produce (of AMAZING quality in Ethiopia) and people who may just be running the Lower Reaches of the river, made famous by the tribes of the area. Bruce Parry made a high profile BBC TV programme in the area called Tribes which focused on Bruce living with the Karo, Omorate, Bodi, Hamer, Mursi tribes. On our trips we call into tribal villages along the way and get a real chance to trade and interact with these wonderful people. It is like going back in time.
The Gibe III project is providing excellent resources for what is a relatively poor African Country, however with all projects such as this, there can be negative implications for some people. Our job is not to get into this discussion, but to share with as many people as we possibly can, the amazing scenery and wildlife of the Omo Valley. On our last trip in August 2009, we were treated to some wonderful hospitality by the dam builders when our trip arrived at the coffer dam, our boats were transported to the other side of the dam fully loaded whilst the clients and guides were treated to a wonderful meal of Italian food (the dam is being built by Italian Engineers)
Potentially, this river can be run for another 3 years whilst the main dam wall is being built and we are trying our best, through dealings with Ministry of Tourism and Embassy officials to share this with more of you. The only thing that is certain, is if they do allow more trips on this river, it should be on the top of your MUST DO list!
by Hamish McMaster
Hamish McMaster is the Water By Nature owner. He has spent the past 25 years exploring and playing on the world's great rivers. He still loves nothing more than getting out there and sharing adventures.
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