The Semien Mountains National Park, as the local name “Simen” means north, indicates is dominantly occupied by Northern mountain ranges, and is one of and the best of national parks in terms of scenic potential & variety. High, rising volcanic plugs, results of ten’s of millions of year back volcanic and earth’s tension activities are the main and major attractions of the park.
The SMNP, after recommended by the UNESCO mission in 1965, was formally established by 1966 and gazetted in 1966. Due to its unique landscape and the rich biodiversity resources, the park is inscribed on the list of World Natural Heritage by UNESCO in 1978.
As and area of wonderful topographical features on “the roof of Africa” with opportunities for viewing a variety of fauna, Avifauna, flora The yet unchanged traditional life of the local people, trekking, mountain hiking and ecological studies, the SMNP has excellent potential as the first important place of interest to visit on the Ethiopian tourist circle.
Species recorded: 21 mammals and 180 birds
Charismatic species: Walia Ibex
Location: The Semien Mountains National Park is found North West of the country, in Amhara Regional State, about 850km from Addis Ababa and about 102km from Gondar. It is located on geographical coordinates about 130 11’N and 38004’E with an area of about 232.5km2 adjacent to Mt Ras Dashen, the highest peak in Africa. It lies within the center of a triangle of the important historical site of the country which regularly visited by a number of foreign tourists namely, Axum, Gondar and Lalibela.
Rainy Season: there is a single rainy season in the area that occurs between June and mid- September. Average annual rainfall is about 1550mm.
Temperature: the area usually experiences a cool climate, which ranges from -2.5 to 180c. During dry season early morning is the coldest.
Ecological zone: north-west highlands.
Vegetation types: Afro-alpine steppe belt (grassland zone), Ericaceous belt and Afro-montane forest belt.
Major wildlife species: the park is endowed with arrays of animal biodiversity which represents species of both African and Eurasian origins. The Walia ibex (Capra Walie) is one of the most fascinating wild goats, endemic to the area. Though, the rare Ethiopian wolf (Canis Simensis) is also another tourist appeal of the park. Tourist will have ample opportunities to learn more opportunities to learn more about the primates by looking at socio-ecological aspects of the endemic Gelada Baboon (Theropithecus gelada) bleeding heart baboon or lion monkey as it is some times called.
Maternal care, hierarchy among males, fighting for takeover and dominance among them, and other behaviors are the most impressive behaviors of this animal. There are also various species of larger animals such as leopard, caracal, wildcat, common jackal, hyena, bushbucks(common bushbuck & an endemic subspecies called Menelik’s bushbuck), klipspringer, bush dicker, black and white Coloobus monkey, Anubis and Hamedryads baboons. More over, considerable numbers of species of rodents are also conspicuous in different habitats of the park.
The Semien Mountains National Park also boast a unique flora. Alpine steppe is characterized by the occurrence of as diverse as the range of habitats and altitudinal gradients. The natural vegetation found in the Afro-montane areas (altitudes 2000-2700m a.s.l) include species like Hagenis abyassinica, Dombeya torride, Scheffiera abyssinica, Olea europea, Juniperus procera, Albiza shimperians, and many others, the afromontane forest plant species such as Hebenstreitia dentate, Scabiosa columbaria, Swertia spp. Saturia simensis, Saxifraga hederifolia and many others are most commonly observed, there is dominated forest, the ericaceous belt (tree heather or Erica arborea), dotted with St. John’s wort (Hypericum revoltum), both of which are known as Forbes and small shrubs in other parts of the world.
In higher altitudes above 3200m the Afro alpine vegetation dominates the region. Here grass and herbaceous species are the dominant floristic composition, the magnificent landmark species is the Giant Lobella (Lobelia rynchopetalum). Others species of interest include Heliichrysum citrispinu, Kniphofilia, Alchemilla species, as Rosularia simensis, etc. Sacculent plants such as Rosularia simensis, Arabis thaliana, Primula verticulate, are common in steep, inaccessible cliffs of rocky parts. Different species of grasses such as Festuca gelbertiana and Carex monostachya are common and dominant in areas of the high plateau. The numerous flowers in the upland and forested areas of the Simen Mountains National Park are of photographers delight.
Endemic mammals of the park: Gelada Baboon, Walia Ibex, Ethiopian Wolf, Mahomet’s Mouse, White-footed Rat, Ethiopian grass Rat, Crocidura baieyi Lovat’s White-tailed Rat, Grey-tailed Rat, Giant Molerat and Simen Mouse.
Common birds of the park: the park is listed as one of the important Bird Areas in Ethiopia. Over 180 species of birds are recorded in the park and few of them are endemic to the country. The SMNP is a bird watchers paradise; some of the birds that are frequently viewd are the Lammergeyer (bearded vulture), Augur buzzard, Verreaux’s eagle, Erckel’s francolin, Alpine chat, Ankober siren, the Vultures, Tacazze sunbird, etc. Tourists interested in bird watching are expected to trek in the lowlands and should have ample days to spend.
Endemic birds of the park: Abyssinian cat bird, Abyssinian longclaw, Spot-breasted plover and Black-headed siskin
Major physical/geological features: spectacular mountain scenery and escarpments consist of dark Trapp basalts and bright, soft tuff.
Tours: the main attraction of the, Simen Mountains National Park is its biosphere such as steep cliff, escarpments, landscape, cool climate and endemic wildlife. These spectacular attractions can be largely discovered through trekking. So trekking is one of the main reasons to visit the park.
THE TREKKING ROUTES:
- From Debark to Sankaber camp would normally last 3-4 days, Tiya Afaf is a spectacular observation point. From this point Gelada Baboon can be scanned. The camp is equipped with modest infrastructure and tourist lodge.
- From Sankaber camp through Gich camp to Chennek camp would normally take 6 days, the viewpoints include:
- Nigus Aysimush: one of a spectacular observation points offers good opportunity to view wildlife, icluding Walia Ibex
- Jinbar Waterfall: gives best view of impressive river waterfall
- Gidir Got Summit: to gain the most spectacular views of the escarpments including an ibex.
- Seha Summit: to gain the most spectacular view of escarpments including an ibex
- Imet Gogo Summit: offers a good opportunity to view Walia Ibex, Gelada Baboons and spectacular views in all directions.
- Kurbet Metaya: offers a good opportunity to view Walia Ibex
- Chennek camp to Ras Dejen(the highest summit in Ethioipia) a trek from Debark to Ras Dejen and back to Debark takes at least 9-10 days.
Out side park: along carrying on nature tourism, the northern part is famous to ofer an outstanding historical routes, such as Lalibella, Gondar and Axum.