Tribes of the Omo Valley, Ethiopia - Sept 24 - Oct 6, 2018
Located in the far southwest of Ethiopia is the Omo Delta, one of the last great tribal regions left in the world. Living in this remote but accessible area are a vast number of tribal groups all within driving distance of one another. Living in voluntary isolation, their culture, dress and language has remained intact. Some 45 different languages are spoken, and tribes range from the many thousand strong Borena to the smaller Karo Tribe. With the recently constructed road stretching from Addis Ababa to Arba Minch this area is now open for exploration and tourism. To anthropologists, the Omo Valley is a living museum; to photographers the Omo Valley is a visually breathtaking experience.
Seven distinct groups of people live in this area. The Mursi are known for the clay lip plates that the women insert in their lower lips. The Hamar women wear thick copper necklaces, have braided hairstyles colored with red clay,and have high cheekbones. The Karo are highly decorated with chalk. The Konso are pastoralists and weavers. Visually stunning landscapes will be travelled through, ranging from mountains to savannah.
Visitation to the local tribes is a unique travel experience. Photographic opportunities range from documenting the daily life of the tribes, portraiture, scenic shots as well as the opportunity to enhance one's compositional skills. Until the 1970s, these tribes had no contact with the outside world and now you have the opportunity to know them. Traveling three photographers per Land Cruiser, eating the local food and staying at local accommodations makes for a special experience.
Day 1 – Monday 24th Sep : Addis Ababa
Upon arrival at the airport you will be transported to the hotel. The group will have a meet and greet dinner and time to get over the long flight. Overnight will be at the Jupiter International Hotel.
Day 2 - Tuesday 25th Sep : Addis Ababa - Arbaminch (Flight : ET135 13:35 – 14:40)
Late morning the group will be driven to the airport for the short flight to Arba Minch. Departing Addis Ababa we will arrive at 2:40pm. After a lunch break and trip overview at the picturesque Paradise Lodge, we will spend the afternoon having our only full photography workshop event. The sunset from the terrace of the Paradise Lodge overlooking Nechisar National Park, Chamo and Abaya Lakes makes for a great end of day shoot. Overnight at Paradise Lodge.
Day 3 – Wednesday 26th Sep : Arbaminch - Dorze Haizo - Arbaminch
Starting off at 7:00AM and throughout the day, we will be using pre-Meskel celebration festivities for photo shoot, same including the ritual cattle- slaughtering events both in Arbaminch town as well as Dorze Haizo village located uphill 23 kms north of Arba Minch in the Gughe Mountain chain. Additionally here, you will be able to capture images of their village, cone-shaped bamboo huts, cotton weavers and observe Kocho staple food preparation made out of Enset trees. We always end our visit by tasting their locally brewed drink. A landscape photography opportunity exists on the way up and back down through the mountainous enroute terrain. Returning back to Arbaminch town early evening, overnight will be at Paradise Lodge.
Day 4 – Thursday 27th Sep : Arba Minch – Chamo Lake - Konso
The annual Meskel Festival celebration falling on this day, we will be using the early morning for street photography shoots of locals celebrating, including Church visit for a lively interaction in the morning. At 10:30am, we will be having a boat trip on Chamo Lake (one of the seven Rift Valley lakes in Ethiopia) where we will be able to see the largest of Nile Crocodiles, Hippos and a variety of bird life. After lunch break, we will be heading to Konso, enroute having village shoots of the Konso tribe in the vicinity of Konso town in traditional dirt and mud villages. Konso is one of the nine UNESCO-registered World Heritage sites in Ethiopia. Here, you will be able to photograph their terraced farm fields, the symbolic Waka totem poles and have a general insight into their nine-clan community structure with photo shoot opportunities enroute as well as within the villages we will be visiting. We will wander the paths through this very rural village. The people are excellent terrace agriculturalists. End of the day, you will be spending overnight at Kanta Lodge.
*Depending on available photo shoot opportunities of Meskel Celebration in Arbaminch, same can be extended through the morning half day in exchange for the boat trip on Chamo Lake.
Day 5 – Friday 28th Sep : Konso – Arbore - Turmi
Starting off at 5:30am, we will be proceeding to Turmi via the Weito lowlands where on arrival at about 7:45am, we will be visiting an Arbore tribal village located at the northern edge of Mount Buska. The Arbore women are absolutely stunning, they have extremely dark skin and strong features. Prior to marriage the women have their heads shaved. They wear dark robes, colorful beads and their huts are fabricated from tree branches. We will work on our portraiture skills in this village. Proceeding further and arriving Turmi shortly after mid-day, we will be having lunch break at the Buska Lodge which will be our base for the next few days. At 4:00pm, we will be having our intro-type brief first round village visit of the Hamer tribe in the surroundings of Turmi. End of the day, we will be returning back to the Buska Lodge for overnight stay. These round-shaped tukul lodges have porches and are on the bank of a stream. If you like shooting star trails this is your mecca as there is little light pollution.
Day 6 - Saturday 29th Sep : Turmi - Korcho - Dus - Turmi
Departing Turmi at 5:15AM, our photography group will head towards Korcho and Dus, two of the three villages of the Kara tribe. Settled on the banks of the Omo River, this tribe is known for their creative and decorative body chalk painting. We will visit the local school and photograph these outgoing and curious kids. Many of the Kara women have pierced lips and insert nails and pins. Our first stop will be in Korcho village. Photographing on the bank of the Omo River can yield iconic images. We will continue on the unpaved, pot hole strewn and rough dirt track to Dus village. Early afternoon, we will photograph the ceremonial, communal dance performed by the people of Dus. Epic Photo Tours will be donating bags of grain and the dance is how they will thank us. The Kara of Dus pride themselves as the best dancers in the Omo. We will also photograph these warm and inviting people on the banks of the Omo and in the shade, under the large umbrella like trees. Evening at the Buska Lodge in Turmi.
Day 7 – Sunday 30th Sep : Turmi
With a morning start at 6:30am and then at 4:30pm, we will be having two extensive local Hamer village visits in the surroundings of Turmi, same within a one-way driving distance of maximum 30kms to allow us to encounter authentic experiences. The Hamer women have high cheek bones, wear thick copper necklaces and elaborate custom beads. The Hamer are very outgoing and easily engaged. Many of the men wear feathers in their hair and dress in dark green blankets. End of the day, overnight will be at the Buska Lodge.
*While in Turmi area, we will be on the lookout for the ritualistic bull jumping ceremony. Our itinerary will be altered so that we can attend this unique event. The event includes women dancing and blowing horns, men whipping the women on their backs and the actual bull jump. A tribal rite of passage for young men!
Day 8 – Monday 01st Oct : Turmi - Kangaten - Turmi /*Market Visit /
Starting off from Turmi at 5:30am, we will be heading to Kangaten, home to the Nyangatom tribe that historically are said to be a split group from the Toposa tribe of South Sudan. Settled on the other side of the Omo River, we will be crossing the Omo River where we will be able to access and visit remote tribal villages. The teenage boys are lively and like to play much of the day. The women are topless and wear many strands of heavy beads, the girls are playful and love to have their images taken. Shortly before noon, we will be returning back to Turmi. Monday being one of the weekly market days in Turmi, we will be able to photograph them buying food, coffee grinds and conducting commerce. The local teens play bingo, wheel of fortune and skee ball and to join in is always a fun experience. The craft market in Turmi is extensive and one of the best in the Omo. End of the day, we will be spending our last night at the Buska Lodge.
Day 9 - Tuesday 02nd Oct : Turmi - Omorate – Albuda – Jinka /*Market Visit /
Departing Turmi at 6:00AM, we will be heading to Omorate, home of the Dassanach tribe who are said to be descendants of the Turkana tribe in North Kenya. Like many of these tribal groups they use chain links and other western ‘cast offs’ as decorative objects. Crossing the newly constructed Omo River Bridge and driving further for 12kms, we will be able to photograph a remote Dassanach tribal village, just 11kms from the shores of Lake Turkana. We will photograph the women cooking by fire, grinding corn meal and the men with their flock. This will be the first time that this tribal group is included in our photo tour program.
Then heading to Jinka, enroute at Alduba, we will be photographing the Bena/Hamer market. Driving further and arriving Jinka late afternoon, we will be lodging at the Eco Omo Lodge.
Day 10 – Wednesday 03rd Oct : Jinka - Mago National Park - Jinka
At 5:30am, we will head into Mago National Park, home of the Mursi Tribe. The Mursi women are known for the circular clay plates that they wear in their lower lip. The men are draped in blankets. Photographing this tribe is a challenge to any portrait photographer (and a sense of humor is required!) We will hire models and stage photo shoots while here. The group can wander freely and our experienced local guide will be assisting you at all times. We will make the drive back to Jinka and eat lunch at a restaurant that is always a group favorite. We will visit Omo Child
Center in the afternoon https://africageographic.com/blog/ending-the-superstitious-killing-of-children-in-the-omo-valley/ The director, Lale Labuko will give us a tour and we will have a question and answer period. The kids can be photographed and visiting Omo Child is always an emotional experience. Lodging will be at the Eco Omo Lodge which has a patio where the group can have cold beer or hot coffee after this long day.
Day 11 – Thursday 04th Oct : Jinka – Key Afer – Jinka – Addis Ababa (Flight : Jinka - Addis Ababa ET135 16:15 – 17:25)
Today we will be photographing an Ari tribal village which is a 30 minute drive from Jinka. These people are not painted or decorated but an excellent representation of rural Southern Ethiopia. Mid-morning, we will be heading to Key Afer where we will be visiting the lively weekly Bena tribe market that attracts the Hamer, Ari, Tsemai and local Bena tribe. Photo opportunities include portraiture and market activity. Women selling chickens, men selling honey and bee pots, teenagers flirting, women gossiping and men shaving each others’ hair are easily photographed. At noon, we will be returning back to Jinka where after lunch break, we will be heading to the airport for our flight to Addis Ababa. Jupiter International Hotel for overnight stay.
Day 12 – Friday 05th Oct : Addis Ababa City Tour
Today we will photograph Addis Ababa and its various attractions – Shola/Mercato, the largest open-air markets, Entoto Hills for a panoramic view of Addis Ababa, and a visit to Zoma Contemporary Art Center http://zcac.weebly.com/zcac.html. Jupiter International Hotel for overnight stay.
Day 13 – Saturday 06th Oct : Homeward Bound
Ending your tribal photography tour of Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley, you will be transported to the airport for your flight back home.
Celebrate Meskel in a local Arba Minch church and Dorze village.
Visit Ethiopia and photograph the lip plate wearing Mursi Tribe and visit them in the Mago National Park.
Shoot the Hamar bull jumping ceremony. A truly unique cultural event.
Visit the Kara Tribe who paint their bodies with chalk. Photograph this friendly tribe.
Photograph the Arbore Tribe. The women wear black shawls and colorful beads.
Trip Fee: $6,800
Group Size: 8
Photo Leader: Tonya Colson
2 internal flights
All photography fees
All meals/cold drinks/coffee/water
Couples: $300 discount per couple
Sharing: $250 discount per person
Trip insurance required
Gratuities to guides/drivers