Bale Mountains

National Park - Overview

Bale Mountains National Park - Overview

Bale Mountains National Park is located in Oromia region southeast of Ethiopia. The Bale Mountains are the second highest mountain range in Ethiopia with in a protected area of approximately 2,200 square kilometers. With so much diversity in geography and wildlife, it’s no wonder why it has been named to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. This undulating landscape ranges from glacial lakes and swamps to volcanic ridges and peaks ,inhabited by endemic species like the gelada baboon, the Walia ibex, and the endangered Ethiopian wolf.

A total of 40 rivers rise inside thr Bale Mountains National Park , contributing to five major rivers: the the Web , Wabe Shebele, Welmel, Dumal and Ganale. Additionally, the Bale Mountains are the source for many springs in the lowlands, which are of paramount importance as they are the only source of water year-round. Furthermore, two rivers emanating from Bale, the Wabe Shebele and Yadot, (the tributary of the Ganale) have hydroelectric schemes. The dam on the Yadot River supplies electricity to Delo-Mena, while the dam on the Wabe Shebele provides electricity to the Bale area.

There are also numerous natural mineral water springs, locally called horas, which provide an essential source of minerals for livestock. The mineral springs within the park are valued for their high mineral content including sodium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and calcium.

Distinct and unique habitats of the Bale Park

  • The Northern Grasslands
  • Habitats of the Bale Mountains National Park range from grassland areas around 3,000 meters in elevation to Mount Tullu Demtu, the second highest point in Ethiopia at 4,377 meters above sea level.

  • Northern Woodlands
  • Surrounded by East African pencil juniper (Juniperus procera) trees and St. John’s wort, waist-high wildflowers and grasses grow in the Northern Grasslands and Woodlands. Tree heath is native to the Ethiopian montane moorlands eco region in the park

  • Afro-alpine Meadows
  • The Afro-alpine moorlands of the Sanetti Plateau( an Oromifa Phrase meaning place of strong winds) is the largest continuous area of its altitude on the entire continent of Africa. Carpeted in lichen-covered rocks, and punctuated by Giant lobelia that grows to heights of up to 12 meters

  • Erica Moorlands
  • The Plateau is also dotted with alpine lakes and streams, providing important resident wildlife resources, as well as wintering and passage stations for rare and regionally endemic birds.

  • Harenna Forest
  • The Harenna Forest plant community makes up about half of the park, a woodland of trees draped in moss and lichens that seem to drip off the branches. The area is frequently cloaked in fog, and wildlife is elusive

Bale Mountains Wild life

Bale Mountains National Park is home to 5 mammals endemic to the Bale Mountains, and 20 other mammals endemic to the Ethiopian Highlands. Mammals of paramount importance in BMNP include the endangered Ethiopian wolf, the Mountain Nyala, the Big-headed mole-rat, and the. The Afro-alpine area is home to over half of the global population of the Ethiopian wolf, the rarest canid in the world with only 400 animals surviving. The northern juniper-hagenia woodlands harbor the largest population of the endemic and similarly endangered Mountain Nyala, estimated to be approximately two-thirds of the global population. Other mammals of the park include the endemic Menelik’s bushbuck, Bohor reedbuck, klipspringer, grey duiker, warthog, African golden wolf, spotted hyena, serval catl, colobus monkey, lion, leopard, and African wild dog.

Bale Mountains Endemic Birds

Bale's birds include sixteen endemic species, many of which are easily seen. These include Abyssinian catbird, Abyssinian Longclaw, Yellow-fronted parrot, spot-breasted plover, Black-headed siskin and Golden-backed woodpecker. wattled ibis, black-winged love¬bird . Wattled cranes are often seen breeding on the high plateau in the wet season.

Vegetation and Flora

The vegetation of Bale Mountains varies according to altitude. Around Dinsho, in the north, there are grass riverine plains, bordered by bands of bushes, particularly sagebrush and St. John's wort. Wild flowers, such as lobelia, Geraniums, 'red-hot pokers', and Alchemitta, form carpets of color. Higher up the mountains heather appears either as small bushes or as mature trees. The high Sanetti Plateau, at 4,000 meters (13,120 feet), is characterized by Afro-alpine plants, some coping with the extreme temperatures by becoming small and others by becoming large.

There are about 1600 species of vascular plants in the Bale Mountains National Park, of which 177 (29.5% of Ethiopia’s endemic vascular plant species) are found in the Bale floristic region and 31 of them are restricted to Bale floristic region. The forests of the Bale Mountains are important for genetic stocks of wild forest coffee (Coffee Arabica) and for medicinal plants in Ethiopia.

Bale Mountains Accommodation

Accommodation in the Bale Mountains ranges from the boutique and luxurious Bale Mountain Lodge, to budget-friendly lodging just outside the park or in the adjacent villages, with nothing in between. If you're travelling on a budget, you'll want to consider whether you're happy to stay in more basic lodging during your time in the Bale Mountains.

If you're happy to spend a little more, the Bale Mountains Lodge is one of the best lodges available in the country, and is located deep in the Harenna Forest meaning it's the perfect base for exploring the park.

  • Bale mountain lodge
  • This innovative and attractive lodge brings new levels of comfort and service to the unmissable Bale Mountains. Set in a forest clearing which teems with wildlife, this thatched Eco lodge offers a secure and comfortable base with first-class facilities, excellent food and exceptional views.

  • Wabe Shebelle Hotel
  • Located in the small town of Goba just outside the National Park, Wabe Shebelle is the only other hotel option for visiting the Bale Mountains. The hotel is certainly no-frills, and the overall service leaves much to be admired. If you're travelling on a budget, you'll likely have to stay here as your explore the Bale Mountains. The hotel is acceptable, but sits on the more expensive side for what it offers.

  • Harenna Forest Hotel and Cultural Lodge
  • The small village of Rira in the Bale Mountains hosts this budget-friendly lodge. The lodge is seldom used, and the town is usually visited as a lunch stop-over during a tour of the mountains as it is the home of many of the local guides. While the village is pretty and the people extraordinarily friendly, the lodging is only suitable for those comfortable with absolute basics.

Getting to Bale Mountains

Currently the only option for getting to the Bale Mountains National Park is by road. This can either by done in a private vehicle (4x4 necessary in wet season)

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