Tribal traits and traditions tour’ – Lower Omo Valley, South West Ethiopia and Harar with a Lalibela extension 14 Days 2nd- 12th February (Lalibela extension 13-15 February) 2022

Ther perfect sunset

Introduction – Our mission

Ther perfect sunset

Our photo tours focus on taking you to places, which have a unique appeal to photographers. We seek the beauty of landscape and seascape, the heritage of cultural diversity and the bustle of street and marketplaces. Effectively, photography through geography. 

Our tours will seek the best moments, light and opportunities to compose shots, which reflect upon those inimitable moments. We feel it is of value to immerse ourselves in local culture through, not only people and landscapes, but also, where feasible, through culinary experience and accommodation, which is culturally sympathetic. Interaction and understanding and, where feasible, spending time with people, makes moments and images more meaningful.

Our tours will have a ‘hands on’ approach, which enables clients to avail of sessions in which there are photo critiques and a chance to reflect on images captured whilst on tour. It is recommended that all participants bring laptops or tablets so that we can benefit from interaction and discussion, and ways of editing our images to get a result reflecting your own unique style. 

The joy of a selfie

‘It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see’. Henry David Thoreau

About the Trip

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.

Harar – a long history:

  • 7th Century: Part of Coptic Christian Kingdom of Axum, area adopted Islam
  • 1007: Harar city founded
  • 16th Century: Capital of Harari Kingdom, major centre of regional trade and Islamic learning
  • Said to be the first city Muslims migrated to from the Arabian peninsula
  • 1887: Becomes part of Ethiopia
  • 2006: Named Unesco World Heritage site

The city’s fortified walls, built between the 13th and 16th Centuries, even have small holes in them to allow the hyenas to enter the city at night.

The daily hyena feeding spectacle is just one example of this city’s unique heritage.

“This is one of the world’s ancient civilisations,” local historian Abdulswamad Idris tells me.”Some of the mosques you see here were built in the 10th Century.”

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  ‘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, Banna, Ari, Suri, Dassenech (Daasanach), Tsemai – names of some of the tribes we will encounter. The people of Harar are conservative and taking photos is possible but challenging. 

Villages are sometimes remote and this is what makes the photography rewarding. We travel in comfortable 4X4’s (Toyota land cruisers 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 impassible. It is also possible that we change the itinerary spontaneously if we hear of a local festival or celebration (bull jumping – hamar tribe.

You do need a sense of adventure for this trip. A good first aid kit with Malaria prophylaxis.We 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. 

We will often have very early starts to catch the best light with the tribes! Where possible we will visit markets throughout the tour. 


Day 1 – Wednesday 2nd February : Addis Ababa 

Group members gather in the lobby of the Capital Hotel and Spa. Tour overview,  briefing and Q&A session at 5:30pm. Overnight stay at the Capital Hotel and Spa

Day 2 – Thursday 3rd February : Addis Ababa – Arba Minch

Flight (ET135 11.40 – 12.45). Drive to Dorze. Visit Dorze people and the market. Overnight at Paradise Lodge.

Day 3 – Friday 4th February

Drive two hours from Arba Minch to Konso (2 hours) to visit their ancient fortified villages. En route we stop at Lake Chamo which is renowned for its fish eagles, pelicans, hippos and crocodiles (we do this only if the water level is low) Overnight at Kanta lodge

Day 4 – Saturday 5th February 

Young Hamar beauty

Drive 3/4 hours from Konso to Turmi. Visit Dimeka market but if there is a chance of a Hamar bull jumping ceremony our itinerary will change. The Hamar women have high cheek bones, wear thick copper/metal necklaces, elaborate beads, goat-skins and their hair is often coloured with red ochre and butter. The men often use coloured clay on their hair and take real pride in their appearance and culture. Like all the tribes, they are very photogenic. Overnight at Buska Lodge 

Apart from the Hamar tribe, we may also see the Banna and Bashada tribes

Day 5 – Sunday 6th February 

Young Kara man

A very early start to visit the Kara/Karo people in Dus, the second of three village settlements of the Kara tribe. Sited on the banks of the Omo River, the Kara known for their creative and decorative body chalk painting. Many of the Kara women have pierced lips and insert nails, flowers and pins. In addition to various photographic opportunities in the village and on the banks of the Omo River.  We may be able to photograph the ceremonial, communal dance performed by the people of Dus or early morning goat herding. This is dusty and very atmospheric – photo opportunities abound. 

We then drive to Kakuta/Kangaten a remote and less visited tribal area which is home to the Nyangatom, who are said to be descendants of the Topossa tribe in South Sudan. Here, we will have opportunities to photograph the tribe, who live in a climatically challenging area of the Omo (very arid). The women wear numerous strands of beads, which they build upon during life. Tribal adornment is an integral part of their culture. The area is semi arid and water has to be collected from rivers each day.Overnight at Buska Lodge

Day 6 – Monday 7th February 

Another very early start to visit the Arbore tribe. We drive to Chew Bahir (Lake Stefanie) to visit an Arbore village (2 hours). Here, we visit their villages and photograph daily life & a visit to Turmi market. After our visit to the Arbore we stop at a Hamar village to get the best of the light in the golden hour. Overnight in Buska Lodge 

Day 7 – Tuesday 8th February 

An early start to visit the Daasanach tribe who live in the fertile Omo river delta, close to Kenya and Lake Turkana where they hunt crocodiles. Drive from Turmi to Jinka, you can visit the Alduba (Banna) market, en route to Jinka. (2.5 hours). Overnight at Eco Omo lodge.

Day 8 – Wednesday 9th February 

An early morning start to visit Mago National park and the Mursi tribe. The Mursi are closely related to the Suri and Kachipo of South Sudan. The women are renowned for their lip plates. Body scarification is commonplace and like all the Omo valley tribes they are pastoralists. .

If we have time we may be able to visit the Ari Tribe in the Jinka area.
Accommodation: Overnight at Eco Omo Lodge in Jinka

Day 9 – Thursday 10th February 

Visit Jinka museum – great for insight into the lives of the tribes. Then we fly from Jinka flights (ET135 13:05-14:15 and ET364 16:00-17:00) to Dire Dawa via Addis Ababa. Drive (1.5 hrs) Dire Dawa to Harar. Overnight at the Wonderland Hotel. 

Day 10 – Friday 11th February 

An early start to wonder the narrow cobble streets of the ancient walled town of Harar. It’s easy to feel lost, both geographically and in time, when you’re in eastern Ethiopia’s Unesco World Heritage-listed Harar. The ancient walled city, scattered over hundreds of narrow alleyways clustered together like a maze, has plenty of old-world charm. Wherever you look, there’s a noteworthy feature: traditional Harari houses, 16th-century gates, watchtowers, and uniquely constructed mosques and shrines. Harar continues to bear the significant handprint of the trade that once flourished here, from India, the Middle East and the rest of Africa.

Overnight at Wonderland Hotel

Day 11– Saturday 12th  February

Drive (1.5 hrs) Harar to Dire Dawa, en route visit Awaday khat market, Kafira spice market and Dire Dawa Railway Station. Flight (ET209 15:30-16:30) Dire Dawa to Addis Ababa. Evening transfer to Bole International Airport for international flight. End of service. 

If you have opted for the extension overnight at Capital Hotel and Spa

Extension to Lalibela 

Day 12 – Sunday 13th February  

Flight (ET120 11:30-12:30) Addis Ababa to Lalibela. Visit first cluster of rock-hewn churches in Lalibela. It’s known for its distinctive rock-cut churches dating from the 12th and 13th centuries, which are pilgrimage sites for Coptic Christians. Carved out of rock, the subterranean monoliths include huge Bete Medhane Alem, and cross-shaped Bete Giyorgis. Many are joined by tunnels and trenches, and some have carved bas-reliefs and colored frescoes inside. Overnight at Maribela hotel 

Day 13 – Monday 14th February  

Visit early morning service and second cluster of churches Lalibela. Afternoon visit Yemrehane Kristos church. Lalibela (ላሊበላ) is history and mystery frozen in stone, its soul alive with the rites and awe of Christianity at its most ancient and unbending. No matter what you’ve heard about Lalibela, no matter how many pictures you’ve seen of its breathtaking rock-hewn churches, nothing can prepare you for the reality of seeing it for yourself. It’s not only a World Heritage site, but truly a world wonder. Spending a night vigil here during one of the big religious festivals, when white-robed pilgrims in their hundreds crowd the courtyards of the churches, is to witness Christianity in its most raw and powerful form.

Overnight at Maribela hotel 

Day 14 – Tuesday 15th February  

Flight (ET121 13:00-14:00) Lalibela to Addis Ababa. Evening transfer to Bole International Airport for international flight. 

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.
  • Accommodation as stated but the nature of the destinations that we operate in may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that in countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.
  • Photo tour leaders and local guides.  Travel by Minibus

The cost of the main tour is USD$5,950 (2nd- 12th February) .
The cost of the extension to Lalibela is $1,500 (13th-15th)

To reserve a place there is a deposit of US$1000.
The single supplement is US$410 and for the Lalibela extension US$115.

It is highly recommended to fly with ET as ET discount internal flights substantially when flying long haul with them. With other airlines there is an additional cost which will be added).

Payment is possible by Bank Transfer and also by PayPal, in this case an additional 5% will be added to cover the transaction fees (PayPal).

The final balance is due three months prior to departure.

The cost above will include US$285 when ET is used for the international flights (US$130) for the extension.

If you choose not to fly ET for your International flights then the extra is US$310 and US$150 which you will have to pay.

Services not included / additional costs.

Alcohol and paying for photographs if there is a special ceremony – eg Bull Jumping or Stick fight. We will try, where negotiable, to pay a lump sum to the village but sometimes this is not possible. I recommend approximately $250 per person for ‘photo fees’. This needs to be converted to small notes (Birr) on arrival in Addis Ababa (I will try to do this in advance so that you can get the money directly from me in new notes). Some photographers take thousands of photos!!!

The local guide/s will handle payments. You will also need some extra money for tips for drivers, cooks, guides etc. Approximately US$20 per driver/guide/cook per day. This shared between all participants. 

I will send out medical forms, gear lists, additional information on the tribes, travel liability forms at a later stage. 

If you have any questions please contact me by email or telephone +353872825851