Ethiopia

Epic landscapes and divine history

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Compassionate Travel

A guide to animal-friendly holidays

Animals and wildlife are a feature of many trips and holidays, both at home and further afield. From the everyday — zoos and circuses — to the exotic and unusual — swimming with sharks and walking with lions — we are often presented with opportunities to get “up close and personal” with wild animals while on holiday.

But there’s growing unease among travellers with the use of animals in the tourism industry. What was the sequence of events that led to an individual animal being made available for our entertainment? What are the effects of captivity on wild animals’ health and wellbeing? What does the commercial demand for captive wildlife mean for their survival in the wild?

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Ethiopia is epic. The only African country to have escaped European colonisation (apart from a five-year occupation by Mussolini’s Italy), Ethiopia has a unique cultural identity and history, much of which has been preserved. Tribal communities are plentiful, with individual customs and traditions that have remained unchanged for centuries. Staying among these communities is a chance to experience a forgotten world.

This is also one of the world’s oldest Christian nations, where rock-hewn churches and Orthodox chanting sit side-by-side with mosques and the Islamic call to prayer.

But Ethiopia isn’t just about its varied people. This is one of Africa’s most beautiful countries, with deep canyons, barren deserts, vast lakes and everything in between. It is home to 3,000m high mountain ranges and also the Danakil Depression, the lowest place in Africa. Here, simmering volcanoes bubble in the background as camels cross lakes of salt peppered with lava – all in 50C heat. Inhospitable it may be, but this is pure wilderness for the adventurous. Elsewhere, there is excellent bird-watching in the green Rift Valley, wolf sightings in the Semien Mountains and monkeys in the northern regions.

It’s impossible to travel to Ethiopia without acknowledging the country’s problems. Ethiopia has done much to move on from the spectre of the 1983-1985 famine when more than 1 million people died. However, the country still faces political instability and people displacement, brought on in part by a dispute with Eritrea that only concluded in 2018.

Despite these problems, Ethiopians are rightly frustrated that many ignore the positives of their extraordinary country for images of poverty and famine. Ethiopia is full of history, culture and natural beauty. It’s time to share it with the world.

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