Ethiopia and Djibouti vacation

““A 16 day small group expedition to a little-visited and spectacular part of the world, with several nights wild camping and the chance to swim with whale sharks.”


Mekelle | Rock-hewn church of Abreha and Atsbeha | Danakil Depression | Dallol | Asebo | Etra Ale | Lake Afrera | Semera | Lake Abbe | Lake Assal | Forêt du Day National Park | Tadjoura | Islands of Maskali and Moucha | Djibouti City | Gulf of Aden

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16 Nov 2019
US $6815
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14 Dec 2019
US $6815
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04 Jan 2020
US $6975
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01 Feb 2020
US $6975
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14 Nov 2020
US $7125
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12 Dec 2020
US $7125
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Vacation type

Small group vacation

Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, traveling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week vacation, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travelers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.

What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Make the most of your vacation time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travelers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your vacation.

Solo travelers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those traveling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travelers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travelers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travelers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Valerie Parkinson
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson

Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Roshan Fernando
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando

Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travelers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Ethiopia and Djibouti vacation

Accommodation and Meals:
On this trip we stay in hotels, traditional Afar huts and spend 4 nights wild camping. Accommodation will be locally staffed as per law in Ethiopia, which is a benefit to local communities. Spending part of the trip in environmentally friendly, low energy consuming accommodation like the traditional Afar huts and wild camps reduces our overall carbon footprint. Hotels provide plentiful, locally sourced breakfasts and where meals are not provided, our local guide will be able to recommend the best restaurants and cafes, making it a wonderful opportunity to support businesses in the area and explore Ethiopia’s cuisine. At the marketplaces, clients can buy fresh produce and even see the local specialty ‘enjera’ being made. This is sour dough made from a grain called ‘teff’ and is used as a scoop to eat from warm, and often spicy, casserole dishes known as ‘wat.’

Local craft and Culture:
As this trip is primarily focused on natural landscapes, there are limited opportunities to support local craft. Nonetheless, our local guides will advise clients not to buy items of antiquity value (heritages or ancient relics) and items that are made from endangered species such as lion’s skin, leopard’s skin and Walia ibex’s skin. Throughout the trip, we may encounter local people and tribes especially when we are traveling through the remote Danakil depression. The Afar have traditionally been wary of outsiders. Hence, it is important that we respect their traditions and behave appropriately and not treat these tribes as exotic exhibits to be photographed.

The wilderness adventure of this trip begins when we embark into the Danakil depression. There, we will visit Dallol, one of the hottest inhabited places on earth, with a bizarre landscape of dyed orange and yellow from the sulphur and iron oxide. We will also climb Erta Ale, one of the few places in the world that provides a chance to look down into a bubbling lava lake. One rare example of a forest in the region is the Foret du Day national park where its arid land is home to several locally rare and endangered species. In places like this, we are careful to use tracks that are already there to prevent causing any disruption of flora and fauna in the region. Our visits to remote areas thereby provides financial benefits and support local communities to preserve their environment and provide more job opportunities.

One key highlight of the trip is the whale shark safari, which is the world’s largest fish species. Djibouti is one of the best places in the world to see whale sharks especially when the waters off the country are pristine and home to one of the healthiest reefs in the world. We are aware of the vulnerability of these creatures and are always committed to treat them with respect. Clients will be briefed about the swimming guidelines to ensure that they do not disrupt the sharks in any way. Being able to swim alongside these beautiful marine creatures will allow clients to learn more about their behaviour in their natural habitat and appreciate these mammals better.

Since 2013, we have been supporting various projects in Ethiopia, specifically the Simien Mountains. One of our past involvements was to sponsor a remote village school in Debre Chiwa in the Simien Mountains where we supplied financial donations and manpower allowing 2 new, furnished classrooms to be built. With the improvements, the number of pupils and teachers has doubled and the school now receives some state funding. In the recent years, we supported the Simien Mountains Mobile Medical Service, a small charity dedicated to provide medical care in the area. We donated money to allow them to run a first aid course for the national park scouts and guides and also provided a number of first aid kits to be used throughout the park. In 2018, we donated US$1000 towards building a rest house next to a maternity clinic.

A Fair Deal:
We work closely with our local operator and ensure that all of our guides are local and that in exchange for their expertise that they are paid and treated fairly. The leaders will give a briefing on Responsible Tourism issues to help clients understand how they can help reduce their impact and maximise the benefits to the local community from our visit.

Group Size:
This is a small group tour, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.

UK Office:
It all starts at home where we work towards reducing our carbon footprint in our offices through energy conservation measures, recycling policies and the promotion of cycling and walking as a means for our staff to commute. Our head office has become a plastic-free zone with the use of plastic bottles being banned in our head office and we distributed reusable water bottles and tote bags to every staff member. We also support a large number of community and environmental projects in different parts of the world and try to give something back to the places we visit.

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