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01.12.18 ‘Tribal traits and traditions tour’ – Upper + Lower Omo Valley, South West Ethiopia

Alternative Visions with Light Motives

‘Tribal traits and traditions tour’ – Upper + Lower Omo Valley, South West Ethiopia

Duration : 15/16 Days  1-16 December 2018


The Omo valley of Ethiopia is part of the Southern Nations and Nationalities Peoples Region (SNNPR) and is a relatively isolated area of the country, renowned for its indigenous people or tribes. There are approximately 40 tribes in the region, many of who are living as they have existed for millennia. It is these tribes that we have come to photograph – in their villages, the bush, roadside and local markets.

The photography

With tribal peoples photography is different. A very good local guide is necessary but here the precedent of paying villages and/or individuals is almost universal. This was something the tour companies seem to have instigated decades ago when tourism was in its infancy. We always try to give to the village instead of the ‘person’ because it is less discriminating, and we get our local guides to deal with payment to take pressure off the ‘photographers’. We are sensitive to the impacts that tourism can cause, hence, we try to make visits sustainable and avoid promoting ‘zooification’! It is all a delicate balance and the local guides are often best in deciding which strategy to adopt. In some cases when we have stayed in a ‘Suri’ village, for example, we wander around the village without a camera just to become a familiar sight. It is interpersonal skills, which make the moment count. And in that moment we want to capture light, colour, emotion, insight, character and spirit. We try to shoot in the golden hours or at least where there is shade from the intense African sun. In the right light, at the right time, the ordinary becomes extraordinary and that is something to strive for. Extraordinary portraits, tribal life and street markets. Arbore, Hamar, Kara, Nyangatom, Bena, Ari, Suri, Dassenech, Tsemai – names of some of the tribes we will encounter.

Villages are sometimes remote and this is what makes the photography rewarding. We travel in comfortable 4X4’s (Toyota Landcruiser or similar) to get to some of the very best locations. There is always a plan B if plan A has to be abandoned due to the occasional downpour, for example, making unsurfaced tracks impassable. It is also possible that we change the itinerary spontaneously if we hear of a local festival or celebration (bull jumping – hamar tribe, Stickfighting – Suri tribe).

Camping is in good quality tents with thick roll mats, a toilet tent and a cook to cater for all our meals. Ethiopia isn’t like Kenya or the countries to the south where ‘luxury tented camps’ are the norm, but the camping is comfortable and good. And you get to places others so not see!

You do need a sense of adventure for this trip. A good first aid kit with Malaria prophylaxis. I will send out a ‘things to bring’ list later. We will be off the beaten track but will not be doing any arduous ‘treks’ except to walk around and to, some of the villages, which are short distances.

I first travelled to the Omo valley in 2000 and lived in Ethiopia from 2006-2010, hence I know the country well and love it. In the last few years, since living there, I have been back once every 12-18 months to capture those inimitable moments in the Omo and elsewhere.

Services included

  • Meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner for the time of the tour. Meals may occasionally be local depending on location but for the most part, the food is unsophisticated western fayre.  Meals will also include water and soft drinks.
  • Entrance fees/permits for villages.
  • Transfer to and from Bole airport to the hotel.
  • Photo tour leaders and local guides.
  • Travel by Toyota Landcruisers (4×4) or similar.
  • The cost of the tour is US$6250. To reserve a place there is a deposit of 10% US$625
  • The single supplement is US$250 and there is a surcharge of US$180 for domestic flights when flying to and from Ethiopia with Ethiopian Airlines (recommended).

Services not included / additional costs.

Alcohol and paying for photographs in villages. We will try, where negotiable, to pay a lump sum to the village but sometimes this is not possible. I recommend approximately $150 per person for ‘photo fees’. This needs to be converted to small notes on arrival in Addis Ababa. Some photographers take thousands of photos!!! The local guide will handle payments. You will also need some extra money for tips for drivers, cooks, guides etc. Approximately US$15 per driver/guide/cook per day. This shared among all participants.

For the day by day breakdown of the tour and a taste of what to expect – click here

If you want to find out more about the tour or ask us any questions – you can contact us here

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Dec 01 2018


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