Simien mountains national park was formally established by 1966  and due to its unique landscape and the rich bio diversity, the simienpark is inscribed as the world heritage site by UNESCO in 1978. As an area of  wonderful topographical features it is also nicknamed the ‘roof of Africa’.

The park has excellent potential to be among the top places of interest in Ethiopia.  There are great opportunities for viewing variety of fauna, flora and the yet unchanged traditional life of the local people, trekking, mountain hiking and ecological studies.

The park is found North West of Ethiopia about 885km from Addis Ababa and about 102km from Gondar.  It is the place where Ras Dashen, the highest summit in the country and the fourth highest in Africa is found.

Simien mountains national park lies within the center of a triangle of important historical sites of the country namely Axum, Gondar and Lalibela churches.

Though not far from equator, the climate of Simien Mountains is a temperate type with generally afro alpine characteristics. The daily temperature ranges between a minimum of below freezing  -2 Celsius and maximum of 18 Celsius. Fluctuations are common and hence the area is described as ‘summer every day and winter every night’.

There is one wet season June to September and little rain fall from February to March which the mean annual rainfall is about 1550mm.

simien ibexThe park is endowed with arrays of animal biodiversity which represents species of both African and Eurasian origins. The Walia Ibex (Capra Walie) is one of the most fascinating wild goats, endemic to the area and the Simian Mountains are the southernmost limit of Ibexs in the world.

Though few in number, the rare Ethiopian wolf (Canis Simensis) is also another tourist appeal of the park.

Tourists will have ample opportunities to learn more about by looking at the socio ecological aspects of the endemic gelada baboon (Theropithecus gelada), bleeding heart baboon or lion monkey as it is sometimes called.  Maternal care, hierarchy among males, fighting for takeover and dominance among them and other behaviors of these animals.

There are also various species of larger animals such as leopard, caracal, wildcat, common jackal, hyena, bushbucks (common bush ethiopian wolf buck and an endemic one called Menilik’s bush buck), klipspringer, bush dicker, black and white colubus monkey,  anubis and hamadrads baboons. Moreover, considerable numbers of species of rodents are common in different habitats of the park.

The park is listed as one of the important bird areas in Ethiopia. Over 180 species of birds are recorded in the park and few of them are endemic to the country.  This number implies the Simien Mountains National Park is a bird watchers paradise.

Some of the birds that are frequently viewed are the; lammergeyer (bearded vultures), augur buzzard, verreaux’s eagle, erckel’s francolin, alpine chat, ankober siren, the vultures, tacazze sunbird, etc.

Lower altitudes have much diversity of bird species than the uplands. Tourists interested in bird watching are expected to trek in the lowlands and should have ample days to spend.

The variety of flora in the park is as diverse as the range of habitats and altitudinal gradients. Various species of forest trees, herbs and grasses are recorded in the park. The natural vegetation found in the afro montane areas (from 2000 – 2700m asl) include species like hagenia abyssinica, dombeya torrida, schefflera abyssinica, olea europea and many others.

simien geladasMostly below the edge of the escarpments, there is dominated forest, the ericaceous belt (tree heather or Erica arborea), dotted with St. John’s wort, both of which are known as Forbes and small shrubs in other parts of the world.

In higher altitudes (above 3200m) the afro alpine vegetation dominates the region. Here grass and herbaceous species are the dominant floristic composition. However the magnificent  landmark species is the giant lobelia.

Others species of interest include rosularia simensis, arabis thaliana are common in steep inaccessible cliffs of rocky parts. The numerous flowers in the upland and forested areas of the simian mountains national park are of photographers delight.

Eskinder Hailu - Manager, Highway Tours

Eskinder Hailu
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