Awash National Park is one of the national parks of Ethiopia. Spanning across the southern tip of the Afar Region and the north-eastern corner of the Misraq Shewa Zone of Oromia, this park is 225 kilometres east of Addis Ababa (and a few kilometres west of Awash), with its southern boundary along the Awash River, and covers 756 square kilometers of acacia woodland and grassland.
The Addis Ababa – Dire Dawa highway passes through this park, separating the Illala Saha Plains to the south from the Kudu Valley to the north.
In the south of the park the Awash River gorge has amazing waterfalls. In the upper Kudu Valley at Filwoha is hot springs amid groves of palm trees.
The Awash National Park was established in 1966, although the act authorizing its existence was not completely passed for another three years.
In establishing this park, as well as the Metehara Sugar Plantation to the south, the livelihoods of the Karayyu Oromo people indigenous to that area have been endangered—an effect that is contrary to the Ethiopian government’s original intention of these establishments serving to benefit the local population.
The park is traversed by a series of well-maintained tracks, which take in the most spectacular of the many scenic attractions.
One of the main features is the Fantale volcano, on the southern flank of which can be seen the dark scar of the latest lava flow of 1820.
The mountain slopes hold evidence of sixteenth- century habitation, seen as remains of walls and settlements of considerable proportion.
The interior of the mountain-top crater — with its wispy white breath of steam vents — is still used by the local people, the Kereyu, for grazing livestock on a seasonal basis.
Another feature of the park are the hot springs in the extreme north. The water of these springs and rivers is in the region of 36°C (97°F) and is used by the local people to water stock.
The plains to the south of the main road are excellent for animal viewing and are bordered to the south by the Awash Gorge, Plunging 250 metres (820 feet) to the river.
The western end of the Gorge is marked by the Awash Falls, which can vary in intensity from a murky reasonable flow to a raging chocolate-colored torrent, depending on the rainfall and the activity of the hydro-electric scheme above it.
Awash’s wildlife reflects its dry nature: The Beisa oryx inhabits many of the more open areas, and greater and lesser kudu the bushed areas. Summering’s gazelle have distinctive white rumps and are often seen with the oryx.
A small population of the endemic sub-species Swaync’s hartebeest was trans-located here and occupy the grass plains. The liny Salt’s dik-dik appears frequently under the dry acacia bushes and Defassa water-buck arc seen in the bushy river area. There are two species of baboon — the Anubis and the hamadryas.
Though each has very different social structures, they hybridize near the river. Other monkeys are colobus in the riverine forest, and grivet in drier areas. Fan tale crater provides a different habitat, supporting mountain reedbuck and klipspringer.
Crocodile and hippopotamus splash in the Awash River and in the cooler parts of the springs and rivers in the north. Lion, leopard, serval, caracal, and wildcat are all seen infrequently.
The birds are numerous, more than 300 species on record. The campsites are an excellent place to sight birds. There, above the quiet murmur of the river, one can hear the exuberant chatter of greenwood-hoopoes, the rollicking duel of red-and-yellow barbets, or the soft lament of the emerald-spotted wood dove — to name only a few. Carmine bee-eaters manoeuvre over the water, homing in on their airborne prey.
There are several bustard species in the park and secretary birds in the grass plains. The raptors are represented by Fish eagles, tawny eagles, lanner and pygmy falcons, black-shouldered kites, and dark chanting goflfmwky.
Ree-eaters and kingfishers provide splashca of colour, as do rollers. Ostriches roam the plains and the- immense lammergeyer soars above Fantale searching for bones to smash.
Bordering the park, a twenty-eight-kilometer (17-mile) stretch Of the Awash River offers a superb one- or two-day rafting trip — if the water level allows it — featuring lots of spirited rapids, wildlife, and impressive rugged cliffs and side canyons.
The trip starts at the Awash Falls and ends at the beach below the town of Awash Station, with an optional overnight at a small hot spring sacred to the Kercyu people.
Where to stay
Doho Lodge & Hot Springs is an eco-lodge, untouched nature. It provides accommodation with variety of meal and drinks. Rooms are self-contained and separated from their neighbours. They are traditionally constructed and give leisure.
The Awash Falls Lodge is an eco-friendly Lodge, located in the heart of Awash National Park, 205 km East of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city, the centre for the African Union and many International offices.
It provides various services to guests: rooms, bar & restaurant, tours including game drives, natural hot spring bathing, nature trekking, bird watching, and community culture.
Buffet d’Aouache Hotel
“This is an unforgettable hotel, which although rather run down, is beautiful, and atmospheric. The main hotel sits next to the old railway and was once a major stopover from Addis to Dire Dawa.
One can imagine the travelers years ago disembarking from the train and arriving for lunch and an overnight stopover. With the cessation of the train, the main clientele has been lost, but it is a good alternative as a base from which to enter Awash National Park.
You can stay in the old Presidential Suite, next the main dining and sitting room. This is where Haile Salassie and Charles de Gaulle amongst others stayed, and had a great feel of the past. You will love sitting on the veranda until it becomes dark, watching the birds in the garden and relaxing with a good book.
The evening meal is very nice – you can have coutlette with fries and vegetables, with a cold beer. Breakfast choice of eggs or bread and jam, for a very reasonable price.
It is hugely interesting to hear the owner tell stories of her life spent in the hotel from when she was born until the current time, in the context of the events over the years.
There is a newer annex on the opposite side of the tracks you can chose the older section for the atmosphere.