Omo Valley Tribes and Cultures - 10 Day Tour

This is an extraordinary opportunity to meet some of the more remote ethnic groups of the fascinatingly diverse areas surrounding the Omo River in south-west Ethiopia.  You'll learn about the varied ethnic groups who inhabit the region - from the Mursi, renowned for their lip-plates, the Konso famous for their terraced farming to the Hamer famous for their bull jumping coming of age ceremony.

 

Responsible Tourism in the Omo Valley

Venture Ethiopia Tours and Travel seeks at all times to promote responsible tourism.  This is especially important in the Omo Valley, where tourism is now a major source of income for many villages.  We only work with recognised local guides, who are approved by village elders, to ensure that the benefits of tourism are fairly distributed throughout the community.  We expect our customers to be respectful of the people they are visiting, their cultures and traditions.  Please also ask the permission of individuals before taking any photographs.  You can read more about our commitments to responsible tourism here.

Day 1: Addis Ababa

Day 1 starts with a half-day city tour of Addis Ababa, including its museums, churches and the Mercato, reputedly the largest market in Africa.

Day 2: Addis Ababa to Arba Minch

On day 2, you will leave Addis Ababa early in the morning and head towards Butajira, stopping on the way at the mysterious stone stellae field of Tiya.  Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, nobody really knows who carved the stellae, or the meaning of their mysterious symbols. From Butajira, it is a long but scenic drive through fertile countryside to Arba Minch, where you will stop for the night.

Day 3: Arba Minch

In the morning, you will take a boat trip on Lake Chamo to see the famous "crocodile market" - a stretch of sand where enormous Nile Crocodiles like to warm up in the sunshine.  Sightings of hippos are also common on the lake.

In the afternoon, you'll take a drive up the hillside to the highland community of Dorze.  The Dorze people are famous for their skill as weavers and on a tour round the village, you will see some of their products.  Even their houses are woven from bamboo. You can try your hand at spinning thread, and find out some of their many uses of the enset (false banana) plant.  From there, you'll return to your hotel in Arba Minch, where you'll stay a second night.

Day 4: Arba Minch to Jinka

Leaving Arba Minch, the tour continues southwards, past Lake Chamo to Karat-Konso.  The Konso Cultural Landscape, which includes 42 villages and surrounding farmland, is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  There are around 250,000 people living in this area, mostly in hill-top villages surrounded by high stone walls.  Konso farmers use a sophisticated system of stone terracing to retain moisture and prevent erosion of the hillsides.  The area is also famous for the waka (carved wooden funerary statues) that dot the landscape.  The Konso people are thought to have lived in this area for at least 400 years and they speak a language belonging to the Cushtic family.

From Karat-Konso, the journey continues, stopping on the way to see a village of the Tsemai people, who live around the Woito River.  The Tsemai practice slash-and-burn agriculture, as well as animal husbandry.  The spiritual leader of the Tsemai is the bogolko, who prays for rain, good harvests and the health of children.  The Tsemai are considered as magicians by some people in surrounding urban areas, but they are also known as one of the most peaceful peoples among the ethnic groups of the Omo Valley.  Alternatively, if it is a Thursday, you may choose to visit the local market at Key Afar, rather than the Tsemai village.  At the end of the day, you'll then continue on to Jinka, where you'll spend the night.

Day 5: Jinka

From Jinka, you will spend the morning exploring a village of the Mursi.  The Mursi people, who live in an almost inaccessible area between the Mago and Omo rivers, are famous for the clay lip-plates traditionally worn by women.  There is much controversy surrounding the origins of these lip-plates with theories ranging from disfigurement to discourage slave-raiders to a sign of beauty.  Both men and women of the Mursi tribe practise scarification and cut their hair very short, often with patterns shaved into it.  Men traditionally wear only a blanket tied at one shoulder, and women, a similarly-fashioned goat skin.  The Mursi have a reputation for being aggressive and the men carry a Donga (large stick) for fighting.  Ceremonial fights are also performed.  Cattle are the Mursi's most prized possession.  They are used in virtually every significant social relationship, most notably marriage, where they are used as a dowry, paid to the bride's father. They provide milk and blood, which form an integral part of the Mursi diet and the Mursi even name themselves after the colour of their favourite cattle.

In the afternoon, you will then have the choice of visiting the Jinka museum, or a village of the Ari people.  The Ari people, who live in the fertile lands surrounding Jinka, predominantly practice settled agriculture and produce a variety of cereals, pulses, root crops, fruit and vegetables, as well as the cash crops coffee and cardamon.  In rural areas, you may still see Ari women wearing traditional dresses made from the leaves of the false banana plant, and draped with colourful beads and bracelets.  At the end of the day, you'll return to Jinka, where you'll spend a second night.

Day 6: Jinka to Turmei

Leaving Jinka, the tour continues south to Turmei, passing through an area occupied by the Hamer/Bana people.  In the morning, you will stop off either at a local market (if it is Tuesday or Saturday) or at a Bana village.  In the afternoon, you'll either visit a traditional Hamer village or, if you are lucky, witness the Hamar's famous bull-jumping ceremony, which takes place when a Hamar man comes of age.  He must successfully leap over a line of 8-20 cattle 4 times if he is to be allowed to marry, have children, and own cattle of his own.  In the village, Hamer women wear elaborately decorated goat skins with beaded necklaces, bracelets and waistbands, usually black and red, with the number and type of necklaces worn denoting their marital status.  Women decorate their hair with clay and butter and twist it into small braids.  Men wear a clay cap which is painted and decorated with feathers and other ornaments.  Overnight at a hotel in Turmei.

Day 7: Turmei

From Turmei, you will visit a village of the Dassanech people.  The Dassanech tribe, living around Omerate, is not strictly defined by ethnicity but has absorbed a wide range of different people over time.  The Dassanech are divided into eight main clans, each of which is believed to have special powers over different things such as water, crocodiles, snakes, diseases, drought, eye infections, scorpion bites and muscular problems.  Members of the same clan are forbidden from marrying (or even dancing with) each other.  Both men and women of the Dassanech adorn themselves with beads and bracelets.  In the afternoon, you may be lucky enough to see a Hamar Bull-jumping ceremony, or visit the Hamar village if you saw the bull-jumping ceremony on the previous day.  At the end of the day, you'll return to Turmei, where you'll spend a second night.

Day 8: Turmei to Arba Minch

From Turmei, it is a scenic drive back to Arba Minch, where you'll stop for the night.

Day 9: Arba Minch to Hawassa

From Arba Minch, you will continue the journey back north, passing through fertile countryside.  The roadsides are often lined with villagers selling fresh, seasonal fruits.  Your final destination for the day will be Hawassa, a pleasant lakeside town where you will spend the night.  Views over the lake at sunset can be spectacular.

Day 10: Hawassa to Addis Ababa

In the morning, you will see Hawassa's famous fish market, before departing north for Addis Ababa.  On the way, you will stop for a tour of Abiyata-Shala National Park, where flocks of up to 50,000 flamingos gather.  The tour ends with dinner at a cultural restaurant in Addis Ababa, where you can see traditional dances from around the country while sampling various Ethiopian dishes.

Services Included

  • An experienced professional English-speaking guide

  • All meals from lunch on day 1 to the cultural dinner on day 10

  • All land transport involved in the itinerary

  • 9 nights hotel accommodation

  • Entrance fees and local guides for all excursions described 

Services Not Included

  • Travel Insurance

  • Ethiopian Visa

  • Tips for staff

  • Miscellaneous expenses – alcoholic drinks, souvenirs etc.

 

Joining Arrangements & Transfers

On the morning of day 1, your guide will meet you either at the airport or at your hotel in Addis Ababa, by prior arrangement.  At the end of the trip, after the cultural dinner, you will be dropped back either at the airport (if you are flying back that night) or your hotel in Addis Ababa, if you are staying on in Ethiopia.

 

Accommodation

This trip includes 9 nights' accommodation in tourist class hotels.  The exact hotels used will be dependant on availability but please remember that Ethiopia is a developing country and that accommodation can be basic in comparison to European standards. All accommodation is based on two people sharing a room. If you are travelling by yourself you will be paired up with another single client of the same gender. Depending on availability, it may be possible to book a single room, although an additional charge may apply.

 

Group Leader & Support Staff

The group will be accompanied by an experienced English-speaking guide plus a driver and local support staff, as required.

 

Guidance On Tipping

Tipping should not be seen as something you have to do but in Ethiopia, as in many parts of the world, it is an appropriate way of saying thank you for a service well done. For each of your drivers on this trip we would recommend around £5 per day from the group, and for each of your guides around £10 per day from the group.

 

Upcoming group tour dates:

  • Sunday 27th October - Tuesday 5th November 2019 (open for bookings)
  • Saturday 21st - Monday 30th March 2020 (open for bookings)

Interested in this tour but can't make those dates?  We can arrange dates to suit you so please contact us.

 

Prices

The cost of this tour is 42,200 ETB (1,535 USD / 1,303 EUR / 1,140 GBP) per person.

It is possible to arrange this tour for 1 or 2 people, but a surcharge may apply.  Please contact us to find out more.

Please see the further details tab for information about services included.

A deposit is required upon booking.  For more details, please see our FAQ page, or read our full terms and conditions.

Omo