Category Archives: safe

Ethiopia is safe to travel to, says British FCO, so pack your bags and come and see this ancient land.

British FCO map advising travellers going to Ethiopia

British FCO map advising travellers going to Ethiopia

The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) have lifted travel advise against non essential travel to all tourist destinations in Ethiopia. On 2nd December they returned their advise to the pre September levels with exception of several remote woredas (district) in North West of Gondar, by lifting advise against travel to western Amhara and parts of Oromiya.

Naturally we knew it was safe for tourists to visit for a long time now, and having just been back from the Simiens, Gondar and Bahir Dar myself, I could see  how peaceful it was. A priest on Lake Tana was confused as to why tourists were staying

Tana Cherkos Museum, L.Tana

Tana Cherkos Museum and monk, Lake Tana

away from his church. It was not easy to explain to him why foreign governments thought Ethiopia so dangerous. I look at some of the advise still on these websites and am baffled myself.

Lake Tana has seen the ebb and flow of history for several millennia. At one church I went to the priest in the museum told us that the church dated back to some 900 years BC! ….Err… how is this possible? Well the assumed original structure and location were part of a Jewish temple and was a refuge for the Arc of Covenant in pre-Christian tana-cherkos-img_1620times!  Such is the importance of the Old Testament era in Ethiopian Orthodox thinking that there is no clean break but a continuum into the Christian era.

Imagine the changes and upheaval that has passed by Lake Tana in the last 2900 years! Armies of Queen Yodit (a Jewish Queen) Mohammed Gragn (from Harar) resulted in burned churches and upheaval, as did wars between factious regional leaders and epochs of civil war that left their damage. The recent disturbances pale against those

Lake Tana fisherman on a Tankwa,-  papyrus canoe.

Lake Tana fisherman on a Tankwa,- papyrus canoe.

of history! Lake Tana is a tranquil place, with history going back into the mists of time. It is a lake which still has hippos and where you can greet fishermen passing by in the papyrus tankwa canoes (a craft also found on the Nile and Lake Titicaca!).  So pack your bags and  come and see for yourself.

 

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Simiens is normal for the Gelada and Ibex, but where are the tourists?

Gelada baboons, staring back at tourists

Gelada baboons, staring back at tourists

Life in the Simien Mountains this week:

Gelada baboons graze the Simien grasslands as they did last year: murmuring and mewing, with occasional shouts when bachelor males venture too close to family groups. They spend much of their time grooming each other in ritual social behaviour. The grazing consists of digging the grass with sharp strong fingers and pulling out the succulent roots to eat.

Gelada Family grooming in the Simiens

Gelada Family grooming in the Simiens

No sign that they are at all on edge or unduly worried by the bizarre travel advise given out by embassies that is limiting the numbers of tourists visiting their mountain home

Walia Ibex grazing steeper slopes, near the precipitous ledges. There numbers were down to a few hundred some decades back, but now there are over a thousand of these surefooted mountain antelope.

Wail Ibex above Chenek Camp

Walia Ibex above Chenek Camp, beside Giant Lobelia plant

They glance curiously at the camera touting tourists who were lucky enough to see this rare animal, and then go back to their grass, or take a break in the shade of a Giant Lobelia plant.  Maybe they wonder why there are fewer tourists this year.

Trekkers are passing through, enjoying the sunny days, the golden gwassa grass, azure blue skies with lammergeyers, eagles and vultures, soaring across the scene and the unique wildlife of the park on view.  But less than in recent years.

Walia Ibex looking down on passing tourists

Walia Ibex looking down on passing tourists

That makes the experience for the visitors better, but spare a thought for the local people who depend on tourists to pay for their goods and services. They cannot understand the reason why foreign governments are telling tourists to stay away. Tourists were never targeted in the unrest that spread to some of the towns several months ago. And that unrest ended. But still the foreign governments advise their nationals to stay away!

If you haven’t been already then come, if you have been then come back to Ethiopia!

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News Flash: Restrictions on Diplomats traveling out of Addis dropped

Rugged Trekking means more ups and downs, and higher altitudes

Peaceful and quiet in the Mountains of North Wollo – but the Tesfa Communities are not getting enough guests through thanks to negative travel advice.  (Boya Mikael guesthouse)

As part of the State of Emergency the Government in Ethiopia announced that diplomats needed permission to travel more than 40km out of the capital. In practice diplomats have been getting this permission with no problem, and now the government have withdrawn these restrictions.

This should go some way to convincing foreign governments that travel in Ethiopia is safe.  Tourists have been travelling around the country, and although numbers are down due to some being put off by the negative advise, the tourists that are visiting have been commenting that all seems peaceful and normal.

Now we are all waiting to see if the foreign governments can react quickly and lift their negative advise that is restricting the flow of tourists, stopping new bookings and harming the economy of the nation and livelihoods of many that rely on tourism!

 

 

 

 

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Ethiopian Update – should we visit Ethiopia at this time

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Me with the community at Mequat Mariam guesthouse

Many of our clients are asking if they should visit Ethiopia at this time, and what is happening in the country?

Some facts:

The Government of Ethiopia declared a State of Emergency on 8th October as a response to a surge in violence across certain parts of the Oromo region. The violence itself was a response to the deaths of a large number  of people at a large traditional Oromo festival in Bishoftu (Debre Zeit), an Oromo town some 40km south east of Addis Ababa, in which people were killed in a stampede following attempts by security forces to stop political demonstrations.

What does the State of Emergency mean?  It is not Martial Law, there are not tanks on the streets, and life looks much as it did before. The government has taken increased powers to control the unrest and restore law and order. They have now powers to stop and search, check houses and so on. This has not affected tourists, and can only increase security.

The internet is working, but social media is not!

Some Social Media is currently blocked in Ethiopia. Facebook, You Tube and Whats Ap for example are not working. [Please note we are not using the Tesfa Tours Facebook site – contact us by email].

The 3G internet service on mobile devises is also closed thereby stopping access to the internet by phones where there is no wifi. However places with internet wires (broad band) coming in still get a reasonable service, and many hotels have some wifi working. Just don’t rely on it, in fact your trip to Ethiopia could be an internet ‘Detox’ trip.

Events in the north of Ethiopia in August and September:

In late August trouble flared up in Gondar, Bahir Dar and towns around that area (such as Debre Markos and Debark) there were protests, road blocks and attacks on properties.  Within a week this was ended and roads re-opened.   Since early September the only protests have been ‘stay at home’ strikes whereby businesses closed and transport stopped. This only happened in Bahir Dar and Gondar, and seems to have fizzled out now.

Where is safe to visit?

Giyorgis Church in Lalibela,

Giyorgis Church in Lalibela,

Most of the north of Ethiopia is now safe. However the eastern side of Amhara Region – including Lalibela stayed peaceful and quiet throughout this time. Tourists are now visiting Bahir Dar and Gondar, and trekking in the Simiens without any problems. There has been no reason for tourists to stay away from Lalibela at all, Tigray is also calm and peaceful, with no violence. So Axum and the Gheralta area can be visited. The Tesfa community areas of North Wollo (around Lalibela) and E.Tigray (around Adigrat ) are also perfectly safe.

In the south the events in Oromiya were worrying and there is a need to be careful on any road trips across the region, in case there is any flare up of the violence. The Bale Mountain National Park, is itself safe to visit however it would be advisable to wait for some weeks to see if things will remain peaceful before embarking on road trips south from Addis.

The Omo Valley has been untouched along with Arba Minch, so trips there are also fine. There were disturbances in Konso (just south of Arba Minch) but it is peaceful again there.

Harar and Dire Dawa have been peaceful, although there were some disturbances on the road between, but that is now calm.

Danakil depression has been untouched by recent event, and tourists continue to visit daily. It is an area to which the British and other governments advise against travel, but it is as safe today as it was a year ago.

Will my insurance be valid if I visit?

Check your insurance policy to be sure. Most British insurance companies defer to the British FCO travel advise, and currently the whole of Amhara region and chunks of Oromiya carry the advise not to travel there unless essential.  However we are optimistic that the blanket advise for Amhara will be revised and become more specific in the coming weeks.

Is it right to visit Ethiopia at this time?

Anne and her friends with a community in Tigray

Anne and her friends with a community in Tigray

Many people benefit from your visit to Ethiopia. And these people need their income. In places like Lalibela thousands of local people earn their salary or get an income linked to tourism. And these people need their jobs. In the mountains where the Tesfa communities provide stunning walking opportunities the farmers need the additional income that your visit brings. Lodges across the country employ local staff and buy where they can local produce. If these places do not get enough tourists visiting this year it is ordinary people’s lives that will suffer. When you visit you will be greeted by happy welcoming faces. All of our guides, drives and the communities that host you really want you to come!

Let Tesfa Tours help design a holiday that will positively impact on local people and put money into their hands, while giving you a holiday you will treasure.

 

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