Smart monkeys and an elusive Ethiopian mountain goat
13th September 2016
The vastness of the Simien Mountain National Park is staggering. At every turn dramatic vistas take your breath away. Add a mountain goat and one child full of excitement to your trip, and it becomes an even more memorable experience.
“It’s a day of adventure today,” said my 11-year-old son Adonias, excited to explore one of Ethiopia’s most iconic national parks. For as long as he could remember he had seen images of the Simien Mountain National Park on TV, and now was his chance to experience it in the flesh.
Our picnic lunch from the Limalimo Lodge kitchen packed, off we went for a day out in the park. We wanted to cover a lot of ground for a small boy, so we were driving.
“I love the Simiens!” I said to Adonias, as I started to tell him about the history of the area, the flora and fauna, and the culture of the mountain people. Also, fearing that he may get sick, I told him about high altitude and how he might spot symptoms of sickness.
“Look: baboons! Gelada baboons!” he exclaimed the next minute, as literally hundreds of them scampered across the lush grassland in search of their breakfast.
Travelling with a child full of excitement and expectations is not always easy. In the case of my son, he wanted to see everything all at one go: the Walia mountain ibex, the Ethiopian wolf and the Gelada baboon. These are the three wildlife species endemic to the park.
My scout saved me: “Little man, don’t expect too much too quickly!” Adding – to keep him hopeful: “If we’re lucky, we’ll see at least one; but keep praying and we might see more!”
After an hour of taking photos of the baboons at Sankaber, we started climbing towards Chenek. Adonias was captivated by the beauty of the settlements we passed along the way. He’s a city boy, so just to see a boy of his own age herding a flock of sheep gets his mind racing. Imagine his thoughts when I told him that I had grown up herding sheep just like that boy!
Situated at 3,500m above sea level, the settlement of Chenek is the best place to spot wildlife in the park. And today we were not disappointed. We climbed up a bit and at 3,600m where we were lucky enough to have a close encounter with this legendary mountain goat. The Walia mountain ibex, is only found in the Simiens and is an important national symbol. The emotions that went with seeing this beautiful creature in the wild, and the look on my son’s face are two things I really will treasure for a long, long time.
Either the scout had been right, or my son had been praying hard. Whichever it was, this had been our lucky day.
Girma Moges – one of the directors and guides at Tadele Travel – took his son to the Simiens in July.
The Simien Mountains are in our opinion one of Ethiopia’s must-sees. Even if you’re not a hardened mountain hiker, you still have relatively easy access to spectacular views and all the excitement of wildlife spotting. See our suggestions for visiting the Simiens.
By Girma Tadele