A Day at Awash National Park


We spent most of the day at Awash National Park taking a 20-mile game drive on Ilala Sala Plains with a park ranger as our guide. Our outing got off to a bad start. It had rained last night and we got stuck in the mud. It probably took close to an hour to get out. I literally got covered in mud, hair and all. Luckily some locals came out of the bush to help push. We finally made it out and continued on.

We saw more Oryx, warthogs, gazelle, baboons, a monitor lizard, and my favorite, bat eared foxes. They looked right at us with their big Mickey Mouse ears. Unfortunately I only got a picture of them from the back.

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We also went to the viewing point for the gorge inside the park. It was breathtaking!

Awash Gorge

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The Road Trip Begins – First Stop Awash

Today we descended into the Rift Valley, driving through lowlands with mountains on both sides. It’s a large span of flatland with acacias. It starts out green, with lots of crops and becomes drier as we go further; just grassy plains – no man’s land. It’s hotter than the highlands too, about 90, but very dry.

On the way we see Lake Besaka. It’s fluoride content is so high that it cannot be used for drinking or irrigation.

Lake Besaka

We drive straight through to Awash in about 3 hours from Debrezeit. We check in to our hotel, Buffet D’Aouache. It’s a historic hotel owned by a 98-year-old Greek woman whose family built it over a 100 years ago. It’s at the old train station, which was the midway point to Djibouti, the country’s port, and all the nobility used to stop here for the night on their way there. The receptionist showed us King Haile Salassie’s room and the room Charles de Gaulle slept in. The hotel has beautiful gardens, which are the owners pride and joy, and porches everywhere, many of which overlook the gorge.

Girma in the Garden at Buffet D’Aouche

After lunch we made our way to Awash National Park. The main road borders the park and there’s no fence. On the way we saw a huge clan of baboons and a Beisa Oryx. You can drive a regular car in the park; a 4-wheel drive isn’t required. The roads are dirt, but solid and fairly smooth. Our Corolla did fine. There are 2 lodges and waterfalls in the park, about 5 miles after the main gate. You can drive to them alone, but if you drive anywhere else, you have to take an armed Park Ranger with you. Walking is allowed, so you can get out anytime. Since it was getting late, we decide to head to the falls and try out a short hiking trail.

As we enter the park a herd of Oryx are grazing and stop to pose for me.

Awash National Park

Next we see a huge warthog that must be 4 feet tall with 3 foot curved tusks, but when I get out, he darts away. We see a baby dik dik that is hard to make out when he hides in the brush.

Awash National Park

We also see camels, but soon behind is a nomad who warns us not to take it’s picture (they think it steals their soul), but he didn’t know I had already taken one.

Awash National Park

My eyes were glued to the plain trying to spot animals the whole 5 miles.

The waterfalls are fantastic and a must for anyone visiting Awash. The force of the water coming over 6 falls into the shallow gorge sounds like thunder. Standing at the opposite edge of the gorge the water sprays you because the gorge is narrow where the falls begin and you’re so close.

Awash Falls

Awash Falls

Awash Falls

Awash Falls

At the bottom of the falls we go on a 90-minute hike through the woods following the river on a well-marked trail. We’re in the gorge and the walls are close on both sides. It looks like the earth just split apart here. The rocks in and along the river are pitch black.

Awash River

They’re volcanic and contrast with the muddy water of the Awash River. On the way back to the falls we see a huge crocodile sunning himself on a rock on the opposite side of the river, then I realize he could have easily been on our side, which makes me walk a little faster.

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