Ethiopian Lakes and Rivers
Two hundred and ten kilometers south of Addis Ababa, the brown and copper colored Lake Langano beckons.
It is a popular resort for swimming, aquatic sports, sunbathing and bird-watching. Halmet shrikes are also found in great numbers, along with the butcher-birds.
Lake Tana, the largest lake, in Ethiopia is the source and from where the famed Blue Nile starts its long journey to Khartoum, and on to the Mediterranean.
The 37 islands that are scrattered about the surface of the Lake shelter fascinating churches and monasteries, some of which have histories dating back to the 13th Century. However, it should be noted that most of the religious houses are not open to women. The most interesting islands are: Birgida Mariam, Dega Estefanous, Dek, Narga, Tana Cherkos, Mitsele Fasiledes, Kebran and Debre Maryam. Kebran Gabriel is the principal monastery visited by male tourists from Bahir Dar, with its impressive Cathedral-like building first built at the end of the 17th Century. Dega Estephanos, which is also closed to women, is on an island in the lake, and the monastery is reached by a very steep and winding path. Although the church is relatively new ( only hundred years old) , it houses a Madonna painted in the 15th century. However, the treasury of the monastery is a prime attraction, with the remains of several Emperors, as well as their robes and jewels.
On the banks of the lake are many more religious houses, such as Ura Kidane Mehret and Narga Selassie, many of which are aslo open to visit by women.
Near Gorgora, at the northern end of the lake , the Susneyos palace is a forerunner of the magnificent palaces and castles of Gonder, and dates from the reign of Emperor Susneyos. In the same area the medieval church of Debre Sina Mariam is particularly important.
A sail or cruise on lake Tana is one of the most pleasant excursions for visitors to this region, particularly in the heart of the summer. Boats can be hired from the Marine Transport Authority in Bahir Dar.
Along the lakeshore birdlife, both local and migratory visitors, make this an ideal place for birdwatchers.
Bird lovers will not want to miss Fasilidas Island, which is especially famous as an important wetland. The whole of the Lake Tana region and the Blue Nile Gorge have a wide variety of birds both endemic and visitors. The variety of habitats, from rocky crags to riverain forests and important wetlands, ensure that many other different species should be spotted.
The Baro River area, accessible by land or air through the western Ethiopian town of Gambella, remains a place of adventure and challenge. Traveling across the endless undulating plains of high Sudanese grass, visitors can enjoy a sense of achievement in just finding their way. this is Ethiopia’s true tropical zone and here are found all the elements of the African safaris, enhanced by a distinctly Ethiopian flavour.
Nile perch weighing 100 kilos can be caught in the waters of the baro, snatched from the jaws of the huge crocodiles that thrive along the riverbank. the white eared kob also haunts the Baro, along with other river-bank residents that include the nile lechwe, buffalo, giraffe, tiang, waterbuck, roan antelope, zebra, bush-buck, Abyssinian reedbuck, wart hog, hartebeest, lion, elephant and hippopotamus.
South of Addis Ababa, some 160 kilometers away, lies Zwai, the northernmost and largest lake in the chain. It is filled with fresh water and extends over 434 square kilometers. The lake’s average depth is four meters. Its extensive aquatic vegetation attracts a variety of interesting water birds.
Commonly seen and easily identified are the long-tailed cormorant, darter, and various herons and storks – including the distinctive saddle bill stork. Wading through the water lilies are long – toed marsh birds such as the greater jacana. The hand some African fish eagle, green pigeon, black-headed oriole, wood hoopoe and barbet are also zwai residents.
When it comes to lacustrine peace and serenity, Lake Awassa- lying just south of the town of Sashemene and close to the town of Awassa. A gentle chain of mountains and a low plateau surround the lake, opening to a wide, low bay in the south. Swampy bays interspersed with volcanic rocks, sandy shores with bare rocky hills, and every formulation of terrain imaginable can be found near Awassa. The lake seems with a great variety of fish and, as elsewhere in the Rift Valley, endless species of birds.
Lakes Abaya and Chamo
The two southernmost links in the chain of ethiopia’s Rift Valley Lakes – Abaya (551 square kilometers) and Chamo(1,160 square kilometeres) – are also the lushest in vegetation, richest in wildlife and, to many, the most beautiful. The lakes support numerous species of fish, and hordes of hippos and crocodiles.
The bluff between the two lakes, known locally as the ‘Bridge of Heaven’ is carpeted with luxuriant vegetation and gives life to numerous springs. The nearby town of Arba Minch- meaning ’40 springs’- takes its name from these gushing streams.
The shores and islands of Abaya and Chamo are populated by the Ganjule and the Guji , who both follow ancient traditions of hippo hunting.