NAME: Phill Steffny
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CURRENT COMPANY: Phill Steffny Safaris
There is always so much to think about when returning home from far afield, particular if it’s somewhere new. My mind is still spinning with colours, tastes and sights from my first visit to a phenomenal country – Ethiopia. I hope I can find the words to do it justice! As I sit in front of my screen and type, I’m savouring a cup of Ethiopia's finest coffee, some classic Ethiopian reggae in the background, and my clothes still smell like incense. Visions of friendly people, mind-blowing landscapes, ancient history, incredible hospitality, rich culture and a deep sense of religious faith blend with a vibrant pace and an almost overwhelming sensory overload.
Ethiopia is one of the most unique places I have visited – for the simple fact that to the local Ethiopian, the year is actually 2004, not 2012, and that the first hour of sunlight is one o'clock in the morning! Not only has this remarkable land never been colonised by other nations, but its inhabitants still live a life as they’ve done for eons, vastly foreign to Westerners. As far as I’m concerned, this makes the experience of travelling through Ethiopia - whether for the culture, history or wildlife - absolutely unforgettable.
Most of us think of Ethiopia as a relatively undiscovered land, probably best known for its culture and history, yet there is one aspect seldom recognised. I believe it’s something that makes it even more unique, and that is the absolute wilderness of its national parks. The fact that there are very few people - tourists or local inhabitants – to be seen, and that it is home to some of the planet’s rarest mammals, makes a safari here about as wild as it gets.
In the remote northern highlands, rarities like the Ethiopian Wolf, Walia Ibex and Mountain Nyala rub shoulders with Gelada Baboons, sometimes in troups of two hundred or more. The Omo Valley’s national parks in the southern reaches offer some spectacular game viewing of many of Africa’s classic big game species, such as elephants and lions. In this vast region, there are tribes that rarely come into contact with westerners. The photographic opportunities are endless.
If you’re seeking a safari with the extra buzz of heading somewhere fresh and out of the ordinary, give Ethiopia some serious thought. You’ll be welcomed with open arms, and will encounter some unique wildlife and breath-taking landscapes. And when you leave, the memories of its ancient history and culture will remain, long after the tang of incense has faded. I can’t wait to go back.