Visit The Omo Valley

Home of the earliest humans on the planet

Visit The Omo Valley

The tribes of the Lower Omo Valley, adorned with a fascinating array of lip plates, body paint and intricate beaded jewellery, are just one piece in Ethiopia’s complex and richly varied cultural jigsaw which spans 70 languages, ancient Orthodox Christianity and a uniquely Ethiopian calendar of time and date.

Omo Valley is undoubtedly one of the most unique places on earth because of the wide variety of people and animals that inhabit it. It is located in Africa's Great Rift Valley. The region is known for its culture and diversity. After the earliest known discovery of Homo Sapiens (Human) fossil fragments were found. The lower Omo Valley and Lake Turkana which is primarily located in Kenya, have both been declared World Heritage sites by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization or (UNESCO).

Inhabited for over two million years, and home to some of the earliest humans on the planet, the 2,400km2 Lower Omo Valley is believed to have been an ancient crossroads for people migrating across the African continent. Today, over 130,000 people call the Lower Omo Valley home.. It is often you come into contact with the following tribes: Arbore, Ari, Bena, Bodi, Bumi, Daasanech (Geleb), Dorze, Hamer (Hamar), Kara (or Karo), Konso, Kwegu (or Muguji), Mursi, Tsemay, and Turkana when you tour the valley.

Besides cultural attractions, the Lower Omo Valley is endowed with astonishing flora and fauna. The spectacularly beautiful Omo Valley also boasts a diverse ecosystem ranging from arid lowlands to lush high-mountain areas, volcanic outcrops, and one of the few remaining ‘pristine’ riverine forests in semi-arid Africa which supports a wide variety of wildlife. The Omo River runs through the valley and empties into Lake Turkana. The river is an important resource and without it the tribes and animals in Southern Ethiopia would not have survived.

The Mago National Park intersects the park and flows into the Omo River covered by dense acacia woodland. The Park is actually the home for over 100 types of wild animals of which are the buffalo and elephant, lesser kudu and a few other antelopes, leopard, jackals, cheetahs and lions, olive baboons and velvet monkeys roam within the park’s boundaries. The area is highly favorable for birdwatchers as it inhabits 300 species of birds like the Egyptian plover; Pel’s fishing owl, the Black-rumped waxbill and the dusky babbler. The area also includes other national Parks of Ethiopia such as the Omo National Park and Chelbi Wildlife Reserve. The valley is also the home of the Adenium obesum or the Desert Rose, a wonderful dark and light pink little trees whose trunk looks like a very small Baobab tree.

How to get to Omo valley

The Lower Omo Valley lies some 800km from Ethiopia’s modern capital Addis Ababa. Tours to this region will usually see you taking an hour’s flight to the nearby towns of Arbaminch or Jinka, from where the tribal villages are a few hours’ drive. Alternatively, you can reach the valley overland from Addis via the beautiful Bale Mountains.

It will take a couple of hours to drive between each of the Omo Valley villages, so you can expect to spend around four hours a day being bumped along in a 4x4. Ideally, you’ll want to spend at least a week in the Lower Omo Valley to make the most of your visit, and to ensure that economically your stay is as beneficial as possible to the host communities. Usually you’ll spend a day or two in each place, or at least half a day if you are tight on time.

In that time, you’ll visit a variety of communities; you could be exploring the Monday market in Turmi, marveling at the legendary fine pottery and the Hamer tribe’s intricate, butter-and-ochre-coated hairstyles, for example. Or perhaps visit Dimeka’s colorful Saturday market, which attracts elegant, bead-wearing Benna women selling handicrafts and jewelry. You will travel overland to traditional Mursi villages, famous for the fierce stick-fighting between tribesmen, or you might have the chance to witness the wedding ceremony of a Hamer couple or an incredible bull jumping ceremony

Best Time to Visit Omo Valley

Mid December to mid March, and July-September is the best season to travel as it is a dry season. Even though roads are being upgraded nowadays; from November – mid December, and June – travelers to Omo Valley should be flexible on the itinerary since one day of rain can make the roads temporarily impossible. March to May is not recommended due to high rain season.

Bull Jumping rituals performed by Hamers- frequented between Septembers – November and at random time before/after the main rainy season (February – April). DONGA – stick fighting of the Surma ritual performed mostly in every September.

Omo vally Tribal Market Days

Turmi – every Monday
Dimeka – every Saturday
Key Afer- Every Thursday
Jinka –Anthropological Museum at office hour
Yabello – every Saturday

The markets at Dimeka (Saturday), Key Afar (Thursday) and Turmi (Monday) are among the biggest and best.

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