The Bale Mountain Lodge is located in a clearing within the Harenna Forest of the Bale Mountains National Park, one of the largest remaining tropical Cloud Forests on earth and Ethiopia’s premier National Park. The lodge sits at 2380m above sea level, on a small hill, overlooking a mountain stream and offering views of the 1500m high Harenna escarpment, with its volcanic outcrops rising dramatically above the forest.
Bale Mountain Lodge is accessible from Addis Ababa by private charter flights (1 hour flight plus a 90 minute game drive transfer) or by road (7 hours). All charter flights currently land at Robe airstrip, a grass field used by three private airlines, from which the lodge collects passengers for the 1hr 30min game drive over the Sanetti Plateau to the forest. Road access is excellent, on asphalt roads all the way to the park entrance, with the last hour being on a good all-weather road through the park. Ethiopian Airways is currently upgrading Robe airfield and intends to offer scheduled flights three times a week from late 2014.
ECO CREDENTIALS/SUSTAINABLE TOURISM
The site is 100% eco-friendly with power coming from our own Micro-Hydro power plant, biodegradable waste processed through our Bio gas system to provide cooking gas and firewood sourced from sustainable plantations outside the National Park. Heat pump hot water systems are in operation to reduce the power draw and water is recycled through soak-aways which return the purified waste water to the soil and rivers. All other waste is managed to prevent any contamination and plastic packaging is minimized on purchase and subsequently removed after use. This all contributes to make the lodge as ‘carbon positive’ to the environment as possible.
Bale Mountain Lodge is set high in the mountains, on an 8 Hectare plot within the cloud forest, with views overlooking a large clearing which is used by animals for grazing and foraging. The lodge uses a mixture of contemporary and traditional designs centered around two large fireplaces which encourage an inclusive and cosy atmosphere within this truly remote and wild environment. All of the 8 ‘menyettabets’ (guest rooms) offer comfortable beds, private decks and wood burning stoves. Each is hidden from view from any other to permit guests to feel totally isolated whilst being safe and warm. The lodge is a superb location from which to explore the forest and the plateau, both of which offer walking safaris in the company of a knowledgeable guide. The Rift Valley, with its camel markets and dry dusty conditions, is a mere 45 minute drive to the south and the Sof Omar caves, Africa’s largest limestone cave system is a return day trip to the North.
Bale Mountain Lodge will ultimately accommodate 30 guests in 15 menyettabets but currently opeates with 8 guest rooms and a 3 bedroom house. The menyettabets, all unique, are of stone and wooden construction set around the 8 hectare site. Three menyettabets located near the main lodge are fully wheelchair accessible but are also well suited to families or individual travelers. Every room has private views. The rooms are predominantly set up as large doubles but many can incorporate additional beds on request, in support of family groups. The house is offered as a self-catering unit or additional rooms for large groups.
The open plan living and dining room has traditional architecture with a high thatched roof, lined with bamboo, both areas furnished with locally sourced furniture and fabrics A large sunken fireplace acts as the focal point of the room with fires laid on both the lounge and dining room sides of the hearth. Our friendly service creates a sense of comfort and relaxation and guests are encouraged to meet before dinner for sundowners around the external fire pit on the front deck. The bar area has its own wood burning stove and provides an emphasis on quiet contemplation and relaxation. A wide eucalyptus wood deck encircles the lodge and offers additional space for al fresco dining or taking tea and cakes in the afternoon. Walkways extend around the site to numerous attractions; a waterfall fed rock pool is ideal for cooling down on hot days; secluded benches and pagodas are great spots from which to watch the wildlife, or simply get away from the pressures of modern life. All of the paths and decks permit views of the clearing, the stream or a wetland habitat (which harbours many endemic species of fogs and newts) all areas of which attract migratory birds and local wildlife. It is intended that the lodge will offer spa treatments to include massage, manicure, and facials, and a hot tub in a location which straddles the mountain stream, adding the gentle sound of running water to the feel of seclusion and privacy. Currently, these services are still in the development stage. Whilst it is appreciated that guests may require internet access at times we emphasize that this is a wilderness environment and that internet access is limited to the Main Lodge buildings and, due to our remoteness and the necessity of a private satellite link, this may be limited at times.
Meals are made from the finest fresh ingredients by our local chef. Breakfast and lunch may be served in the lodge or as a picnic option dependent upon guest activities. Dinner is served in the main Lodge ‘tukul’, with its excellent night sky views and warming fire.
We accept children under 6yrs but please note that this is a private, wilderness destination so parental supervision is necessary at all times. We provide early dinners for children for your convenience and can offer a babysitting service for those who wish to socialize with fellow guests after their children have gone to bed.
The location of the Bale Mountain Lodge has been selected for its stunning views and its access to the forest and plateau. The lodge showcases the best of Ethiopian flora and fauna whilst providing access to other attractions further afield. Our resident naturalist will co-ordinate all of the activities within the National Park, activities which include guided bird watching trips, game viewing, fly-fishing, walking and interaction with research and conservation teams which are operating in and around the lodge site. We also offer trips to Sof Omar, the largest limestone cave system in Africa, and to Dolo Mena and the Rift Valley.
The Bale Mountains is one of the top five bird watching sites in Africa. The National Park harbours some 16 endemic species along with large numbers of migratory birds and passage raptors alongside the resident populations. Key endemic species on the plateau include the Wattled Crane, Rouget’s Rail, Ruddy Shelduck, Black Headed Siskin and Blue Winged Goose whilst the forest supports the endemic Ethiopian Cisticola, Abyssinian Oriole, Abyssinian Catbird, the Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher and other colourful varieties such as the Yellow Fronted Parrot and Black Winged Lovebird. Within two hours of the lodge can also be found the rare Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco and the Libon Lark, of which only 36 breeding pairs are known to exist. Finally, the plateau hosts a small population of Golden Eagles and other rare raptors such as Lammergeyers and Long Eared Owls. All bird watching trips can be supported by expert guides who know the avifauna and the vegetation of the forest and who can offer you the best chance to spot those rare birds.
The Web, Shire and Tegona rivers offer some of the best trout fishing in East Africa with the best months for fly fishing being Nov – Mar. Each of the rivers offers fast flowing water with abundant rock pools where fish can be stalked in the company of an experienced river guide. For guests who are new to fly-fishing, our guides provide expert instruction and assistance. Rods, tackle and flies are provided although enthusiasts may bring their own. All fishing is on a catch and release basis. Fly fishing is an extra $50 per person per day. For those who would like something different the rivers to the south also contain African Catfish which also take a fly.
The lodge is situated in a clearing that is used by a wide variety of game. Recent sightings include Giant Forest Hogs, Leopards, Black Maned Lions, Bale and Vervet Monkeys, Olive Baboons and Menelik’s Bushbuck. On the plateau, a mere half an hour’s drive away, can be found the Ethiopian Wolf, the world’s most rare canid, with some 2/3 of the remaining population (350) situated on the plateau and seen most days by visitors. That said, apart from the wolf on the plateau and in spite of the variety of game in the area, guests need to be patient as the forest vegetation provides excellent cover for animals and makes a sighting more difficult. With time you can rely on our guides to give you the best opportunity to see the rare and endemic mammals of the Bale Mountains, animals that are unique to Bale and Ethiopia.
A day trip out from the lodge takes you to the Sof Omar caves. In the dry season you can take a hike through 16 miles of underground caverns, crossing the Wabe river three times during the trip. Alternatively, by choice or during the rains when the river is in spate, guests
can stay around the entrance caves where the local population regularly holds religious ceremonies and services. To the south of the Lodge through the forest lies the town of Dolo Mena. On route you often pass through small temporary camps harvesting and drying wild coffee beside the road. On arrival, the town is small and dusty but has a vibrant market, often supported by camel trains and an enthusiastic population which, as yet, remains curious about foreigners.
RECOMMENDED EQUIPMENT & ATTIRE
The atmosphere at the Bale Mountain Lodge stresses relaxation and comfort. Guests are encouraged to feel comfortable in the surroundings and casual clothing is the norm. For game and bird watching, clothes are best to be neutral coloured and guests are also advised that the lodge is at 2380m and so is often cold in the morning and evening times. Sweaters and waterproof clothing should be brought as the mountain rain forest weather can be unpredictable, even in the dry months of Oct – Apr. At all times of the year a hat, sunscreen, binoculars, camera and walking shoes are essential.
RECOMMENDED LENGTH OF STAY:
In order to have an opportunity to experience both the forest and plateau we suggest stays at Bale Mountain Lodge should be a minimum of 3 nights
The climate in the Bale Mountains can vary greatly. It is generally cool and damp from April to September, but warm and drier from October to March.
TEMPERATURES: Minimum temperatures can fall below zero, with summer maximums of around 30ºC.
Emergency medical cases at the lodge are immediately taken to Robe Hospital, one hour to the north of the lodge by road. When available the lodge uses the newly established Medical Air Rescue Service and all vehicles are equipped with medical first aid kits. The lodge is situated at 2380m and there is no malaria so clients have no need to take malaria prophylactics unless they venture down into the rift valley.
Whilst we intend for this service to be available it is currently not possible