The Simien Mountains are located in North-Western corner of Ethiopia and contain the country’s highest peaks. The tallest point is Ras Dashen (4543m), the fourth highest mountain in Africa. Other notable peaks are Biuat (4437m) and Abba Yared. Although the Simien Mountains are not the highest point in Africa, many would say that they offer the most dramatic mountain scenery on the continent. They have National Park status and for anybody visiting Ethiopia the Simien Mountains are among the highlights of a visit.
The Simiens consist of a high plateau which ends abruptly in deep escarpments up to 2000m deep from which there are vistas of up to 100km over the surrounding lowland valleys. The Northern escarpment offers the most dramatic scenery with wonderful views to numerous deep canyons, dramatic ridges, and isolated monoliths and spires.
View from the Northern Escarpment
The almost 3000 years old country, which is the source of the mankind, has got a forgotten mountain range on the Ethiopian Highland. This mountain is the fourth highest mountain range in the African continent. According to an ancient greek myth this mountain is “the chess table of gods”. The lot of spires, towers, canyons and rock formations shows this is true.
There are lot of villages, where the local Amharic people live. The mountain is not a home only for the local people, than the home for some endemic species. These attributes means the mountain has got a unique, beautiful and the same time wild faces.
The mountain lies in the northern part of Ethiopia. The mountain is a huge 60 km long escarpment.
Large section of the mountain has been incorporated into the Simien National Park, covering almost 180 km². The park has been declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.
The mountain scenery is stunning. Mainly form is plateau-like massif which cut by enormous valleys and gullies, ravines. There’re a lot of rock-formations, towers, spires and statue-like formations.
The mountain divides the country into distinctly contrasting highland and lowland regions. Twenty peaks towering to heights above 4000 meters. The highest peak, Ras Dashen (or Ras Dejen) at 4620 (some books and maps shows 4543) meters, is the fourth highest peak on the African continent. This National Park is characterised by gentle highland ridges which end abruptly at 1000-2000 meters deep escarpments. The cliffs and deep canyon style gorges provide a feast for the eyes and the natural lookout points allow vistas of up to 100 kms over the lowland valleys.
The mountain is home for some of Ethiopia’s endemic wildlife and birdlife species. The mountain there are lot of troops of Gelada Baboons (Theropithecus gellada), with their scarlet bleeding heart on the chest and long fur on their body.
The other endemic mammals is the Wyala ibex (Capra ibex walia) which is usually stand on the rocky edges of cliffs. The world population of these mammals about 400, which over half lives in the Simien.
The highly endangered Ethiopian wolf (canis simensis, or other name: Abyssinian wolf, Simien fox, Simien jackal)is rarely show himself. In Ethiopia has got about 500 survivors!!! These wolves lives in the afroalpine zone, only in the Simien Mountain and the Bale Mountain which lies in the country’s south part.
Above the rocks the huge endemic bird, the Lamergeyer – unique species of vultures - shows his sometimes almost 3 meters wing-spread. These species are the biggest measures, but this mountain is home of some smaller animals and home for 3 species of rat…
While the afroalpine zone means mountain grassland this spotted plant gigantism. The highest plant is the giant lobelia, which is common in every african alpine zone, like in the Simien. Other important elements of the flora are the erica grass, heathers, everlasting flowers, and the yellow flowers saint john's wort.
The town in Debark is the gateway to the Simien mountains which ascend immediately East. Debark is located approximately 100km North of Gondar, which has an airport with daily flights to the Addis Ababa. Buses from Gondar to Debark take about 3-4 hours along an unpaved road and leave daily.
|Debark's market |
|Foothills of the Simien Mountains
The National Park headquarter is in the town main street's south side.
In the park it is compulsory for the visitors to be accompanied by a guide and a scout. Most of the scout is armed by a Kalashnyikov (AK47).
At the HQ in Debark you can arrange the entire trek, you can pay all the fees (including park fees, guide, scout, mule and muler etc…). The guides are very helpful, they arrange all the team, whose with you the whole trek.
In the mountain is allowed to camp. The camps are next to the amharic villages, so you must respect the locals habits.
It is not allowed to take fire by woods.
Sometimes lot of gelada baboon hang around the campsites. Be careful about these creatures because they're not so friendly than it appears in first sight.