Paul Infield review 26 Feb 2013
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
It's difficult to pick out a highlight from such a trip. The stone churches at Lalibela and the stellae at Axum were extraordinary, but the most memorable bits for me were seeing and meeting the Konso, Hamar and Mursi tribes in the south.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
Take lots of antiseptic hand-wash - you'll need it, especially after handling money.
Take shoes which are easy to take off and put on - you have to remove your shoes every time you enter a church.
Give yourself lots of time to get through Addis Ababa airport on departure: the queues and slow bureaucracy mean that you'll almost certainly need it. Smile a lot: We found almost all the Ethiopians we met delightfully friendly. Even those who try to sell you things or beg will desist if you simply smile and say "No, thank you".
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
We doubt it. We flew a great deal in the north - which was necessary because of time constraints but wasn't environmentally friendly - and we did nothing for conservation. As for benefiting local people, whilst tourism almost always provides important money for local economies, we were concerned here that tourists visiting some of the tribes in the south (particularly the Hamar and Mursi) might actually lead them to develop a culture of dependence and also cause them to decorate and mutilate themselves in order to make themselves more 'attractive' for tourist's photos.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
It was an extraordinary experience: stimulating, enthralling, and, in parts, troubling. The images it left us with will remain with us for many years to come.
Read the operator's response here:
I thankfully welcome Mr Paul's review and am grateful that they have used us, an Ethiopian based operator company. We have hired around 13 people from the locals for this trip and money earned as as a result is consumed locally. This has benefited directly around 13 people and their many dependents.
All the hotels and accommodations were also locally owned. They also hire the locals and get most of their needs from the same. Markets were also the highlight that our visitors had a chance to visit and buy souvenirs.
I do agree with their concern that some of the tribes in the lower Omo valley particularly Mursi tribes have developed such a behavior. This problem has indeed a complex nature and needs a careful intervention of the different parties the local tourism and culture bureau, local elders, tourists, operators etc. We have never hesitated to aware those in our reach.
As for the environmental impacts we have designed the itinerary to cover the most parts of the country with in 17 days. There is a time constraint issue. However we have used 4 internal flights which are available only in the North that are an hour long. This has helped us to avoid too much fuel consumption had they been by car.