Ethiopia is not a typical wildlife safari destination so, if you are into safari holidays, this article might not be what you are looking for! For the African safari experience, you should better travel to the countries such as Tanzania, Botswana, Kenya, Zambia and South Africa.
However, if you mainly love to be surrounded by animals and nature, I bring you the list of hotels in Ethiopia where wild animals are technically several steps away from your room door! These are the best Ethiopian wildlife lodges which provide adventure holidays in the vicinity of reptiles, mammals and birds!
I know that finding an appropriate accommodation in Ethiopia can be an overwhelming task. So I made it easier for you: pick an animal of your choice, and the answer to “where to stay in Ethiopia?” will follow!
Book these unique African lodges located in and around national parks in Ethiopia, and your room windows might become Animal Planet TV channel! With no Internet and often limited electricity in these resorts, your hands-on experience of the Ethiopian beauty will be a lifetime memory!
Doho Lodge (Awash)
Price per night: 68-153 Euros
If one would like to see hyenas up close, the easiest would be to travel to Harar in Eastern Ethiopia, where these nocturnal creatures come to feed in front of the city walls. However, if you’d like to learn more about hyenas in their natural environment, the Lower Valley of the Awash, on the border of Afar and Oromia regions in Ethiopia, is renown in the whole of Africa for its conservation of these mammals.
Below Fantale Volcano, dozens of spotted hyenas exit their cave dens in the twilight! The next morning, while the first sunrays start to wake up the African savannah, Mr. Genana from the Doho Lodge guides me to see the hyenas returning to their dens. The lodge opened in 2015, just at the northern edge of Awash National Park, and it is the only one on this list of Ethiopian wildlife lodges that doesn’t require the purchase of the park ticket. But hyenas do not know the borders. While one has to have a trained eye to spot them, their morning laughter cannot go unnoticed.
Diversity in the rip
This is the place where the African continent is breaking apart. In Awash, the Rift Valley is widening at the rate of about half a centimeter a year! This changing landscape provides a habitat for diverse wildlife. The plains formed by the explosion of Fantale 170 thousand years ago, now offer the peaceful grazing ground for oryx and kudu.
Equally elusive as hyenas, the hippos find their sanctuary in the vicinity of the lodge. While spotting both of these requests an effort investment, there is plenty of wildlife around Doho Lodge that will not bypass you! A wild boar often circulates the huts. Birds of different sizes and colors are everywhere, making this an excellent destination for bird watching. The families of antelopes such as lesser kudu and dikdik roam around the lodge daily. If that is not enough, twelve ostriches are living just at the lodge farm, while camels belonging to Afar people feed on the vegetation.
Hot springs for humans and crocodiles
Besides the animal life, the biggest attraction of Doho Lodge are its hot springs. Tamed in terraced bathtubs, before feeding the Doho Lake, they provide a therapeutic relaxation for the hotel’s guests! If you want to reduce stress, beautify your skin, relieve muscle pain and have a great night sleep (don’t be afraid of the omnipresent mosquitos: beds are equipped with a protective net!), this natural anti-aging detox spa is a miraculous solution!
If you are brave enough, you can even jump into the lake itself! Supposedly there are crocodiles in there, but the hotel staff convinces me they are only one meter long, and will not harm me! I try, and survive! Well, if not adventurous, you can also enjoy the lake from the safety of the boat. Sunset rowing is a beautiful way to say goodnight to this extraordinary place encircled by reed and palm trees.
Besides seven rooms built in traditional Afar style, Doho Lodge also provides the possibility of tent camping. The on-site restaurant offers simple breakfasts, as well as the selection of national and international dishes throughout the day. Electricity generator works only in the evening, and the lights are out after 10 pm. That is the signal for pleasant dreams at one of the best Ethiopian wildlife lodges!
Limalimo Lodge (Simien Mountains)
Price per room: 153-392 Euros
High in the Simien Mountains, in Amhara Region of Ethiopia, one of the unique species of monkeys spends their days. Called Gelada monkeys, these are the only primates in the world that – graze! That’s right, strolling around the mountain meadows, large families of Geladas sit in the grass, and peacefully eat it.
To see them, one typically needs to purchase one of the overpriced national park private tours. But if you decide to stay in the place such as Limalimo Lodge, there is a high probability that monkeys will come to – you!
The monkeys of myths and legends
Julia Jeans, the operations manager of the lodge, explains to me that these monkeys, when they notice their reflection in the large room windows, can sometimes knock into them. But generally, even if their lion-style manes and large fangs can look intimidating, Geladas are peaceful creatures. You can approach them very close, while they pluck the grass with severe concentration and dedication!
However, locals do not believe that Gelada monkeys are so innocent. In the past, they were accusing them of damaging crops and pasture, but also for robberies, burglaries, even rapes and murders!
If we put local legends aside, these endemic mammals are quite fascinating! They use a complex system of communication and live in huge groups that established sophisticated social networks. The females are the ones deciding who the boss is! The males, on the other hand, have a distinctive bare patch of red skin on their chest, the indicator of their sexual life. This is why their popular name is the bleeding heart baboon. Even if, technically, they are really not baboons.
Luxury respecting nature
Simien Mountains are also home to the endemic goat Walia ibex, as well as the endangered Ethiopian wolf. Be safe; those will not approach Limalimo Lodge! But the hotel terrace is a great place to observe the mountain’s birdlife.
Limalimo is a boutique property providing luxury accommodation in Simien Mountains, while at the same time defending the ecological principles, as well as paying respect to the local human environment. I have written a full review of Limalimo Lodge earlier, so feel free to check what are the other aces of this Ethiopian eco-lodge in the vicinity of Simien Mountains’ wildlife.
10000 Flamingos Lodge (Shalla Lake)
Price per room: 46-76 Euros
In Abijatta-Shalla National Park, in Oromia Region of Ethiopia, there are more than 400 species of birds recorded! The most known residents of this lakescape are flamingos, greater and lesser ones. Nested on the hill between the two crater lakes (the bigger one is Shalla, the smaller one – Chitu Lake), 10000 Flamingos Lodge provides impressive views of the surrounding.
The lodge was founded by the Belgian expat, the birdwatcher Jan Jackers, who fell in love with Africa fifteen years ago, decided to move here and start a tourism business in Ethiopia. Besides 10000 Flamingos, he also opened Baboyaga Lake Viewpoint Lodge in Debre Zeit, another bird paradise. The man just adores birds!
Fifty shades of pink
I check in into what must be one of the most spacious rooms on this list. The hotel fits two beds into each of the ten houses (in my place, one bed is on the ground floor, and the other one in the gallery). But thatch-covered, traditional round huts don’t provide only a lot of space to breathe freely. They also come with large glass surfaces that bring in loads of light.
The view of the Chitu Lake can be a fantastic meditative backdrop. Flocks of white and pink spots sprinkle the shores of the lake. The friendly lodge host Mohammed readily jumps to show me the congregation of flamingos from the closer view. These are skeptical birds, and they fly away when the intruders cross the line of their comfort. Usually, that’s already at 20-30 meter distance.
Some smaller birds are courageous enough to squeeze in through the holes under the roof, and show off their flying skills in the interior of the room. One can also expect to see smaller flying animals (well, in fear, there is no space for the word “smaller”), such as insects, but protective net above one’s bed guarantees a good night sleep. On the other hand, if you want to see some larger animals, such as the endangered antelope in Senkele Swayne’s Hartebeest Sanctuary, you will need to hit the road. It is just one-hour drive away.
Ethiopian wildlife at its best – offline in paradise
Shalla Lake is one of the deepest lakes in Africa. Some of its islands are protected breeding sites for birds. The lake, however, does provide benefits for humans as well. One can bathe in the lake’s hot springs and enjoy its supposedly healing mud!
If one wants to wash oneself at 10000 Flamingos Lodge, the staff will provide the hot water in the black bag, heated by the sun. Even if solar panels should also create electricity, I could not charge any device in my room during the entire stay. Charging in the common area also didn’t work properly. So this is the kind of place where one should try to switch off completely. And live like the locals – with no electricity.
My primary objection about 10000 Flamingos lodge is the slow meal service. Even if the dishes are simple, and even if I understand that not all ingredients are always available in the lodge, our set (!) time for breakfast, lunch or dinner was never respected. My waiting ranged from 34 to 100 minutes! Luckily, the sincere smile on the friendly Mohammed’s face sometimes brightens the room better than any working light bulb could. This is actually probably one of the friendliest places on this list of Ethiopian wildlife lodges!
Awash Lodge (Awash)
Price per room: 42-107 Euros
Arriving at Awash Lodge already sets wildlife adventure expectations! Driving from Awash Town to Awash National Park, we are greeted by a spontaneous welcome committee of Hamadryas baboons, sitting by the road. After registering at the park office and the reception of the lodge, on the hotel grounds again I meet – monkeys. Where is the staff? Will this be the ultimate wildlife habitat experience, with no human employees around?
Humans as a missing link
Sadly, I did feel that the staff is the weakest link of the Awash Lodge. That is probably the only reason why this hotel is on the fourth place of the list of the best Ethiopian wildlife lodges, even if it is directed by the same management as its sister company, the triumphant Doho Lodge. I say, it saddens me. This is the biggest lodge in the list (36 rooms), it has the highest number of employees (31), and yet, so often I couldn’t find anyone present at the bar or even at the reception. Then, even when one does find humans, the provided service does not reveal eight years of experience.
Without going too deep into analyzing this crucial minus, I have to say that Awash Lodge is built at a truly spectacular site – just next to the mighty Awash Falls. While natural resources compensated the lacks in human resources, the touristic potential of this property will bloom fully only when all the standards get balanced.
The boisterous waterfall is a great natural spectacle to look at, but it also provides the never-ending lullaby sound for your best sleep.
Under the falls, snouts are poking through the foaming river surface. This natural beauty is infested with – crocodiles! Swimming against the stream, crocs are waiting for the falls to serve their fish meal. Afterward, they climb the river banks or at least some rock in the river, and – sunbathe.
Awash Falls is one of the rare places where one can come quite close to the crocodiles, which are approximately 2 meters long. Luckily, they are afraid of humans, so they run into the water instead of attacking the curious. My Ethiopian friends inform me that only the crocodiles at Chamo Lake, further in the south, are dangerous for people. They can grow up to five meters in length, and their protein-rich diet ritual supposedly includes jumping on the boats and feeding on the tasty human buffet.
Up for camping in wildlife habitat?
If you are into birds, the area around Awash Lodge will be of your interest as well. Otherwise, the animals you might encounter during your stay in the lodge are lizards and smaller rodents. As for the insects, this place might have fewer mosquitos than Doho Lodge, but at the same time, the room I stay in has a protection net with – large holes.
In general, being the older property, the tukuls of Awash Lodge could benefit from a face-lifting. Outdated or nonfunctional furniture, bathroom doors that do not close or windows that don’t have glass, strangely positioned electrical switches and sockets, are just blatant examples screaming for improvement.
Nevertheless, Awash Lodge is still the best place to experience the vicinity of the Awash Falls and its crocodiles, especially if you want to stay for more than one night. Just like in Doho Lodge, this hotel also provides the possibility of putting up your tent! Which is a great camping idea! As long as you don’t go moonwalking towards the river banks.
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Disclosure: My stay at these Ethiopian lodges was complimentary, but all opinions are my own. Also, this post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on them and make a purchase, Pipeaway might make a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting our work!