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Ethiopia–Why to Go NOW? 8. Reason: Simien Mountains - Where Monkey and Capricorn say good night

Updated: Jan 19

The UNESCO-protected Simien Mountains National Park in Ethiopia can boast more than a dozen four-thousand meter high peaks - Let's go hiking!

For outdoor enthusiasts, Ethiopia is not really on the top of the bucket list, which is – in my opinion – a big mistake: the UNESCO-protected Simien Mountains National Park can boast more than a dozen four-thousand meter high peaks, and in contrast to neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania, the mountains here are not (yet) overcrowded. ​

Safety note: I was in Ethiopia in 2019. There is currently a travel warning from the Federal Foreign Office. Please check before you book a trip.

Ethiopia Simien Mountains gelada monkeys sunset
​Spectacular rocks, Lammergeier, Gelada monkeys, the endangered Ethiopian ibex, which only exists in these mountains, as well as the Ethiopian wolf, hyenas and leopards (OK, for those you have to be really lucky …) make hiking here a unique experience.

Hiking in the Simien Mountains/Ethiopia - How safe is it?

In the Simien Mountains, hikers have no other choice: everyone who hikes here must have a local scout with them, who must be booked at the national park office in Debark. A scout is not a hiking guide, and most of them speak little or no English.

Many visitors complain about this rule, but Eyosi, our hiking guide, explains why he thinks it makes sense: "People used to live up here in the mountains and were then resettled to preserve the nature parks. Imagine if, like our scout Nussein, you used to be a shepherd here and now had to live in a town ... it makes sense for the locals to firstly have a job, secondly to be back in the mountains that they love and thirdly to benefit a little from the nature park."

To work as a scout is the only chance for the locals to back to "their" mountains

Nussein is an older gentleman with a grey beard, weather-beaten face, well-worn flip-flops and a large rifle. At the beginning of his three-day hike, we are not sure who or what he wants or needs to protect the tourists from. But on arrival at the Geech campsite, a biology professor from Kiel opens his eyes to potential dangers when he enthusiastically shows him photos of the Ethiopian wolf. "Have you seen it too? ..." the North German wants to know "He was very close to the waterfall".

However, the Ethiopian wolf is not really dangerous, but rather small and very shy - those who get to see it can count themselves lucky.

Click on the first picture to start the photo gallery.

The ethipian Simien Mountains are not only known for their spectacular rock formations and great hikes.

If you are lucky, you can also admire wild animals in the UNESCO-protected national park. Many of them can only be found here in the mountains of the East African country, and some are threatened with extinction. Eyosi is a walking encyclopaedia when it comes to flora and fauna. In order to walk in a partner look with Scout Nussein, who is almost 40 years older, he takes a piece of a lichen that grows on the trees and sticks it to his stubble.

"They're also called grandfather's beard - this species only grows when the air is very clean."

We breathe as deeply as we can at an altitude of 3600 metres. The Simien Mountains are home to more than a dozen four-thousand-metre peaks spread over almost 180 square kilometres. On the first evening, the still very manageable number of tourists walk from Camp Geech to the nearby mountain Kedadit (3760 metres) to admire the sunset. My friend would prefer to stay in his tent, the altitude is weighing heavily on his mind, but Eyosi doesn't let up:

"Come along, there might be a surprise up there."

The surprise comes completely unexpectedly and quite spectacularly in the form of a pack of 400 jelada monkeys fleeing from the high plateau into the cliffs at sunset to hide from predators such as leopards.

A red hairless patch is characteristic of these primates, which are also known as blood-breasted baboons and feed mainly on grass. From a distance, their flowing mane resembles that of a lion. Completely mesmerised, we sit among the squeaking monkeys, which run right past us in front of the orange setting sun and show no signs of shyness.

2. Day from Gich Camp via the View Points Emet Gogo 3.925 and Enaty 4.070 to Chennek Camp

The next day, two mountains with magnificent panoramic views are on the programme. From Geech, we climb gently through grassy terrain covered with giant lobelia to Emet Gogo (3926). On the other side, the mountains drop vertically down into the valley, revealing spectacular rock formations and towers. A few enterprising young people from the nearby village offer mules to weary tourists before the final climb. But the path to the first of the 4070 metre high Innatye also leads rather leisurely through a small forest and then through grassland.

At the top, a pair of oryxes are eagerly waiting for the exhausted hikers to unpack their lunch - if you are tired and slow, the nimble birds with the distinctive white spot on the back of their head and beak will quickly snatch a snack.

We sit down next to the man from Kiel, who obviously has a very special eye for the endangered animals for whose urgent protection the park was established. He shows us photos of a leopard he has seen under a tree. Even Eyosi wants to see the picture, because it is extremely rare for anyone to see this animal - let alone photograph it.

The biggest star of the Simien Mountains is the Ethiopian ibex, which is endemic to the area.

In 1963, there were only 150 of this species left in the world. In the meantime, their numbers have risen again to 1,200 thanks to gradual protection. The area around Camp Chennek is one of the best places to observe these rare animals. Like the monkeys, the ibex retreat to the steep slopes just a few metres from the campsite at sunset. This time we are lucky: two of these almost extinct animals leisurely stomp past us when all we really wanted to do is admire the view of the valley.

The biologist has also seen them and is delighted:

"How jealous do you think my colleague who is researching African animals will be when I tell him that two Ethiopian ibex, of which there are hardly any left, have walked past two metres away from me?"

Key Facts to our hike in the Simien mountains:
Gich Camp Simien mountains Ethiopia

1. Day from Sankaber Camp 3.250m to Gich Camp 3.600, passing the Jimba Waterfall, 14km

I really like Gich Camp, because there are no roads for vehicles – it’s hikers only. For sunset you can walk up to the mountain Kedadit 3.760 and if you are lucky the Gelada monkeys will storm pass you to hide in the cliffs below for the night.

2. Day from Gich Camp via the View Points Emet Gogo 3.925 and Enaty 4.070 to Chennek Camp

From Emet Gogo you have spectacular views of the valley below with its bizarre rock formations. Another climb will lead you to Enaty, which is a great place for lunch, while enjoying the view.

3. From Chennek Camp climb up to Bwahit 4.430 before descending back to Chennek and driving back to Gondar

Chennek is famous for the good chance of spotting the endangered Ethiopian ibex, which - like the monkeys - hides in the cliff below the campsite during the night.

Scout with a gun Ethiopia Simien mountains

Good to know:

Gondar is the closest town to access the Simien National Park. The 100km drive to Debark takes up to two hours. The entrance gate at Buyit Ras is another 14km east of Debark.

Every hiker (or hiking group) needs to have a local scout, who is organised at the Park Office in Debark, if you didn't book a package in advance.

How to get there:

Ethiopian Airlines flies daily (at least from Frankfurt) directly to Addis Abeba. If you book with them, you get a discount on the inland flights, which you will probably need, as the roads are very bumpy and dusty …


We arranged everything through Lalibela Eco Trekking.

Molla Kassaw - the owner - organized our whole trip and everything worked perfectly. We didn't have a single guide, but always different local guides, who showed us their town/hike. That way we got to know a lot of different people, who knew their local attractions best.

I didn't really film - I was too occupied to take pictures of all the beautiful things going on around me, but as I had the drone with me, and as I sometimes pressed the record button on my camera as well, I had a few (very shaky, sorry) clips, that I edited into a short clip. I hope you enjoy watching it …

You can read more Blogs of Ethiopia, which I wrote here:

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