Tribes of the Omo Valley, Ethiopia - September 7 - 18, 2019
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- Saturday, September 7th Addis Ababa
Upon arrival at the airport you will be driven to the hotel which is 15 minutes away. The hotel has internet, a nice lounge area, good restaurant, wonderful staff, a money exchange and is a comfortable place to start the trip. The group will have a meet and greet dinner that evening . O/N Jupiter Hotel
Day 2 - Sunday, September 8th: Addis Ababa - Arba Minch
In the morning we will photograph the pilgrims and priests at the ornate Holy Trinity Cathedral. Women in shama- traditional white shawls, and men deep in prayer are both inside this second most important place of prayer in Ethiopia as well as in the expansive courtyard. The group will then go to the airport for the short flight to Arba Minch. Departing Addis Ababa in the early afternoon we will check into the picturesque Paradise Lodge. 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 - Monday, September 9th : Arbaminch - Chamo Lake - Dorze Haizo - Arbaminch
Starting off at 8:00AM, we will go on a two hour boat trip on Chamo Lake one of the seven Rift Valley lakes in the region where we will be able to see hippos, nile crocodiles, pelicans and a variety of birdlife. Men in dugout canoes fish with spears and nets. After an early lunch in a local Arba Minch restaurant we will proceed to Dorze Haizo. The village is located uphill 23 kms north of Arba Minch in the Gughe Mountain chain. 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. Afterwards we will visit the vibrant weekly tribal market at Chencha, 7kms further from Dorze Haizo. The stalls sell home goods and the woman can be photographed smoking pipes, men in old army hats and lots of local color. A landscape photography opportunity exists on the way down from the mountainous village market. Overnight at Paradise Lodge.
Day 4 - Tuesday, September 10th : Arba Minch - Konso - Arbore - Turmi
The group will start the day by photographing a Sunday morning church service on the outskirts of Arba Minch. It is full of color, ritual, candles burning, wax dripping, priests chanting. Then we will drive to Konso to at traitional dirt and mud and stone village. It 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.
Proceeding further into the scenic Weito lowlands, 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. Arriving in Turmi late in the afternoon, we will be spending the night at the Buska Lodge which will be our base for the next few days. 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. Buska Lodge
Day 5 - Wednesday, September 11th : Turmi
During the day we will be visiting two local Hamer villages in close proximity. One visit at sunrise and another at sunset. 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. Monday, being one of the weekly market days 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. To wander back to the hotel on the dirt road independently always yields great images as you will encounter many Hamer people. Overnight at Buska Lodge.
Day 6 - Thursday, September 12th : 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 he 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 as a donation and the dance is how they say thank you. 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. We will be bringing a picnic lunch with us. Evening at the Buska Lodge in Turmi.
Day 7 - Friday, September 13th: Turmi - Kangaten - Turmi
Starting off from Turmi at sunrise 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. Mid-afternoon, we will return to Turmi where we will be spending another night at the Buska Lodge. If we hear of a bull jumping ceremony we will alter our schedule and be sure to photograph it. Buska Lodge
Day 8 - Saturday, September 14th : Turmi - Omorate - Key Afer - Jinka
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.
The afternoon will be spent photographing at the Bena tribe market at Key Afer. It is a lively 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. Arriving Jinka late afternoon, we will be lodging at the Eco Omo Lodge.
Day 9 - Sunday, September 15th: Jinka - Mago National Park - Jinka
At 5:00am, 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 for any photographer (and a sense of humour is required!)
The group can wander freely and our experienced local guide will be assisting you at all times.The group will visit Omo Child Center www.omochild.org in the afternoon. The director, Lale Labuko who is the only western educated Kara tribe member and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer 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. Eco-Omo Lodge
Day 10 - Monday ,September 16th : Jinka - Weito - Arbaminch or Jinka
Today we will be photographing an Ari tribal village which is a 30 minute drive from Jinka. These people are not painted nor decorated but an excellent representation of rural southern Ethiopia. Past photography groups have visited the school and donated school supplies. The classrooms are visually compelling and great to document. We will walk up the main road visiting the houses and meeting the people.The group will be afforded the opportunity to visit the only museum that is on the itinerary, South Omo Research Center. The Jinka market is a hub of activity and street photography is easily done here. The people are warm and to wander here is pure Ethiopian joy. The Paradise Lodge in Arba Minch is our final destination. If the airport in Jinka is open we will spend the day here and visit with a family and photograph the coffee ceremony.
Day 11- Tuesday, September 17th: Either Arba Minch or Jinka to Addis
Today we will fly back to Addis Ababa. If the airport in Jinka is open we will fly from there. If we return to Addis early in the afternoon I will escort the group to my favorite bead store in Ethiopia as well as a Fair Trade home goods store that has the highest quality fabrics. Those leaving on late night flights will be driven to the airport. Farewell dinner will be in the hotel.
Day 12 - Wednesday, September 18th: Addis Ababa- Homeward Bound
Transportation to the airport provided.
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: $7,100 (If arriving on Ethiopian Airlines)
$7,250 - Other airlines
Group Size: 8
2 Spots Open
2 internal flights
All photography fees
All meals/cold drinks/coffee/water
Couples: $300 discount per couple
Sharing: $250 discount per person