Tours to the Omo Valley Tribes – 13 Days
This is a photographic expedition to the remote tribes of the Omo Valley to witness some of the last remaining authentic tribes on the African continent. Being isolated from the fast-moving world for thousands of years because of its remote location, the Omo Valley is truly a haven for anthropologists and photographers looking for a unique photographic opportunity in a lesser-known and rarely photographed region.
Day 1: Arrive Addis Ababa
Arrive at Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Welcome to Ethiopia! Upon arrival, you will be welcomed by your local tour leader and transfered to the Golden Tulip Hotel.
Addis Ababa, founded in 1886 by Menelik II, is situated at 2,500 meters (8000 ft.) above sea level. It is the 5th highest capital city in the world. The city enjoys an excellent climate year-round, with an average temperature of 25C (77F). Addis Ababa is a pleasant city with wide avenues of jacarandas, interesting museums, and one of the largest open-air markets in Africa, known as the "Mercato".
For the rest of the day, relax in your comfortable hotel and get ready for the unique adventure awaiting you.
Overnight: Golden Tulip Hotel, Addis Ababa
Day 2: Addis Ababa, Arba Minch
We will have a nice breakfast in the morning then a pre-tour briefing when we will share all the necessary information for the photo trip to the Omo Valley, one of the most remote places on the planet.
After the pre-tour briefing, we will meet our driver for the transfer to Addis Ababa airport for our 40-minute flight to Arba Minch.
Upon arrival at Arba Minch airport, you will meet with your drivers and drive north to the mountain village of Chencha, located on the southwestern escarpment of the Great Rift Valley, which runs north to south all the way to Mozambique. This is the home of the Dorze people. The Dorze people, once famous warriors in the region, are now renowned cotton weavers whose tall beehive-shaped and bamboo-woven dwellings are among the most distinctive structures to be seen anywhere in Africa.
Our visit to this village and the unique cultural experience is an ideal way to ease into the authentic tribal experience awaiting us deep in the Omo Valley. As the sun goes down, we will drive back to Arba Minch enjoying the beautiful view of the sunset as we pass through hundreds of cattle herds as they return from a day of grazing in the fields.
Overnight: Paradise Lodge, Arba Minch
Days 3–5: Konso, Turmi
After breakfast, we will continue driving further southwest to the Omo Valley. As we drive from Arba Minch to Turmi, you will see many tribal villages and small towns including the Tsemay and Konso.
Isolated for millennia from the rest of the world, the beautiful Omo Valley is home to an exciting mix of many small and distinctive tribal groups. Amongst others, we find the Kara, the Mursi, and the Hamer — all of whom have retained their own unique customs and traditions. Lifestyles are as varied as the tribes themselves. Lacking any materials, culture, and artifacts common to other cultures, these tribes find unique ways in which to express their artistic impulses. Arbore women are well known for their long headdresses. The girls shave their heads to indicate virginity, and only start growing hair after marriage. The Dassanech are a semi-nomadic tribe living on the shores of the Omo River. Their clans stretch across Sudan, Kenya, and southern Ethiopia. They are known for their very unique and ornate hair buns. Both the Surma and the Kara, for example, are experts at body painting, using clays and locally available vegetable pigments to trace fantastic patterns on each other's faces, chests, arms, and legs. These designs are created purely for fun and aesthetic effect, each artist vying to outdo the others.
Our last destination for today is Turmi village, home to the beautiful nomadic Hamer tribe living beside the Keske River. The Hamer display an elaborate and diverse selection of body decorations. They are also identifiable for their high cheekbones, custom of elaborate beads, cowries, and leather, and thick copper necklaces. The Hamar women are striking with their beautiful colorful beaded skins, ornate necklaces, and metal bangles around their wrist and ankles. We hope to arrive at the lodge for late lunch and be in time to visit a Hamer village with good light for photography.
For the next 3 nights, we will be based here at Turmi village, the center of the Hamer tribe and other tribes living in the surrounding area. This will give us a great chance to attend different rituals including the Evangadi dance and bull jumping ceremonies in some of the off-road tribal villages. This base allows us to be flexible and capitalize on all the photographic opportunities in the area. During our stay in Turmi, we will also visit the Abore and Dassanech tribes.
Overnight: Buska Lodge
Days 6–8: Kara, Dus
This morning, we will have a chance for one final photoshoot with the Hamer before our drive to the Kara tribe, who reside on the shore of the Omo River. The Kara are the masters in body and face painting, which they practice on a daily basis. Before their rituals and dances, they carefully paint their faces and body as well as the faces of their friends using various-colored soil, minerals, plant pigments, flowers, white chalk, and black charcoal. Men are decorated with red clay hair buns they have prepared for days.
For the next couple of days, you will have the chance to mingle with Kara and spend quality time with them, learning about their daily activities including attending different rituals and following them as they herd their cattle and farm.
Our mobile tent will be set up along the shore of the Omo River as we will make Dus our village for the next 3 days. This will allow us to get to know the Kara tribe better.
Overnight: Mobile Camping, Dus
Days 9–12: Dus, Kibish, the Exotic Suri Tribes
Today, we start our day very early as we prepare to depart for the real adventure awaiting on the other side of the Omo River in the Land of the Suri. After breakfast, we drive to the other side of the Omo River to Kibish, home of the exotic Suri tribes. ‘Exotic’ finds true meaning here.
The Suri tribes are nomadic pastoralists and the men live in the cattle camps. They live on drinking raw blood and milk from live cows. During our stay at Kibish, we will visit cattle camps and witness rituals and cultural activities at different villages. There will definitely be many great photographic opportunities and a chance to interact with the tribes.
We will set up our mobile camp at Kibish, very close to the villages we will be visiting the following days. After a snack and when it is cooler, we will walk to the Kibish River where we will find the Suri tribes along the river. This will be a wonderful opportunity to photography the tribe in their daily activity in good light.
Here we will have another 3 full days to explore the Suri tribes. The Suri are one of the most attractive and decorative tribes in the whole of Africa. They paint their body in colorful detail and make various headpieces from wildflowers other natural ingredients. The women wear a lip plate made of clay. The bigger the plate, the more beautiful the woman is considered to be. The art on the body and the scarification are created with thorns from trees and razor blades. You can’t help but feel that you are transported thousands of years back in time and witnessing an ancient tradition unchanged to this date isolated from the fast changing world.
In this captivating region, you will be privileged to witness age-old customs and rituals, learning of the symbolism that remains an integral part of everyday life.
Overnight: Mobile Camping, Kibish
Day 13: Kibish, Mizan, Addis Ababa, Charter Flight
In the morning, we will drive to Mizan to catch our private charter flight to Addis Ababa. The charter flight will save us 2 long days of driving. Upon arrival, we will meet our driver for the drive to our hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure and to freshen up.
In the evening, there will be a special Ethiopian farewell dinner party with traditional buffet and local drinks. There will also be a live cultural dance show of the different ethnic groups living in the country — the perfect ending to your trip! After the farewell dinner, transfer to Addis Ababa Airport for the flight back home. End of the tour.