After arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa and having completed your customs formalities and collected baggage, an ORYX representative will meet you outside arrivals hall where after you will be transferred to your nearby hotel. Here you will be met by tour leader and ORYX professional photographer Dale Morris, who will be at hand to discuss in detail your upcoming Danakil Depression tour!
This morning on our Danakil photography tour, we depart the highland city of Addis Ababa and fly to Mekele. Upon arrival, we will be met by our drivers, and after packing our luggage into the awaiting vehicles, will drive onward to Hamed Ela.
On the way we will pass through beautiful Tigre villages (the Tigre are a local ethnic group), and the escarpment of the Afar Depression, commonly known as the “cradle of mankind” and which is part of the Great East African Rift Valley. Here we will observe long camel caravans heading to the traditional salt mines in the Danakil, or out to the north-eastern highlands, loaded with salt bars in old traditional way. We will stop at Berhale to obtain permission and get scouts for the trip to Hamed Ela, which is a small village where we will be camping for the next two nights of our Danakil Depression tour.
Hamed Ela is the spring board from which to visit the Dallol (Danakil) Depression. Hamed Ela is a famous salt mining area, where sun-scorched salt flats stretch to the horizon, and sinewy lines of camels appear out of the heat haze, arriving out of the highlands to ferry the precious cargo of salt out of the Danakil. The camels strike out for the scorching salt flats from the village at dawn, and return late in the afternoon laden with salt.
This inhospitable land has been home to the Afar (Danakil) people for at least two thousand years. Afar men were renowned for their ferocity and xenophobia as recently as the 1930s, until which time lopping off the testicles of male intruders was customary! Traditionally the Afar are nomadic pastoralists and, together with the Tigrians, are still involved in mining salt bars from the lake in the Dallol depression and carrying them by camel caravan up to Tigray along ancient trade routes.
Late in the afternoon we will walk through the Afar village to photograph the sunset and the local camel caravan.
Dallol is from a climatic point of view, a particularly famous place, as it is on average the hottest place on the planet, with an average annual temperature of 34 degrees Celsius! From Hamed Ela we will strike out for Dallol in the cooler morning hours (this is a 36km drive one way), before the baking heat becomes intolerable. One of the lowest points on the surface of the earth at 116 metres below sea level (and Africa’s lowest point), this area is also of geological importance, as three tectonic plates have their junction here, near the northern point of the Great Rift Valley, and as such, earth tremors are frequently felt!
The out of this world scenery at Dallol is a real attraction – browns, whites, purples, greens and yellows adorn the bubbling hot springs, and bizarre reef-like formations protrude from the surface of the earth. Dallol is a field of phreatic craters in the barren salt pans north of the Erta Ale Range, and is in one of the lowest (and hottest) areas of the desolate Danakil depression. The Dallol craters are the Earth’s lowest known subaerial volcanic vents. The most recent of these craters, Dallol, was formed during an eruption in 1926. The Danakil is an inhospitable place that few foreign travellers have visited, and we can be assured of some of the most incredible scenery and photographic opportunities on earth!
After our daytrip to Dallol, we will return to our campsite at Hamed Ela where we will be overnighting.
Today on our Danakil photography tour, we head out for a morning excursion and photography at Dallol. At a time to be advised, we will drive back to Mekele for a good night’s rest and a bit of luxury at Mekele.
This morning on our Danakil photography tour, we drive from Mekele through Abala to Dodom. After arrival at Dodom, we will continue on foot as we walk to the Erta Ale Volcano (the walk can take 3 to 3.5 hours). Erta Ale, meaning “smoking mountain” is the most active volcano in Ethiopia, and one of only four worldwide that have an active lava lake at their summit. Erta Ale boasts one of the most spectacular lava lakes on earth, it is famous for being the longest existing lava lake. Please note that the best time for photography is at night.
We will have a day of our Danakil Depression tour to explore around the 613m high Erta Ale. The volcano is centred on the east African Rift, and is mostly below sea level (possibly the only such land volcano on planet earth). Techno-coloured landscapes, incredible mineral deposits, sulphur lakes and bubbling sulphur springs make this area visually fascinating! At night, the glow of the volcano is sensational – surely one of the most amazing sights on earth!
Departing Erta Ale, we retrace our steps back to Domom, and then head back to the now familiar Mekele. This is the capital of Tigre and one of the largest towns in Ethiopia, and is sometimes regarded as rge smartest and arguably the most rapidly developing town in the country. Mekele is a likeable place, with good facilities and the welcoming air that is so typical of Tigre. Emperor Yohannes’ palace dominates the city. Majestic in design and handsome in size, the palace is the city’s main attraction. It also serves as city’s museum, where one can see, among the other things the Emperor’s throne, royal beds, dresses, artifacts and rifles. Similar in architecture, Abreha Castle Hotel is a medieval structure believed to be built on an artificial hill deliberately assembled by a local aristocrat who wanted to defy Emperor Yohannes IV, and demonstrate that he was not a less important personality than his cousins who lived in the palace!
Mekele is also identified as a transit point for the camel caravans bringing salt up from the arid Danakil Depression, and in to the bargain, there are said to be around 120 rock-hewn churches within an 80km radius of Mekele.
We return to Addis today by way of a morning flight, where this remarkable Danakil photography tour sadly comes to an end.
**Please note that there is a lot of camping on this this tour, and the tour should only be attempted adventurous photographers as the Danakil is remote and the conditions can be quite rough. The itinerary can change at short notice, but please be aware that we will try to stick as closely as possible to the original itinerary**
Although Dale grew up in suburban London, which certainly isn’t replete with wild animals, his addiction to wildlife films instilled a deep love for animals and the outdoors, and he has subsequently left London and spent the last 20 years travelling the globe working with, and photographing its wildlife.
During this time, he has produced more than 400 nature, travel and photography oriented magazine articles and has worked on numerous wildlife documentaries including for the BBC. His photographs have appeared on high profile front covers and he has won several awards with global publishing companies.
Aside from having guided widely in Africa, his extensive experience in tropics, whether it be the steamy jungles of south-east Asia or South America, or the endemic rich island of Madagascar, make him the natural choice for ORYX’s Brazil, Borneo and Madagascar tours. His sense of humour and relaxed demeanour ensure that he is a hit with all the people he guides, both young and old!
“I thought I should write to you of the amazing trip we had to the Omo Valley with Dale.
The trip was well organised and we were well taken care of.
Dale was a wonderful leader. He was generous with his knowledge and we learnt a lot from him. He was kind, considerate and a lot of fun!
The local arrangements with Dinknesh were excellent too, the drivers were very pleasant and Melkamu in particular was fantastic.
It would be remiss of me not to also mention Kirsty, who was always responsive and efficient.
You can be sure we will be recommending ORYX to our friends!
“I second all of what Shobha has said. We had such an amazing time. The Dale-Melkamu combination was fabulous, as were all our drivers from Dinknesh. We always felt well taken care of, and safe.
Dale was not only generous with his knowledge but also his lenses. He truly has a wealth of information and we really learnt so much from him. His wicked sense of humour was also much appreciated :)
Thank you too to the ever efficient Kirsty!
We hope to be doing more photo tours with ORYX in the not too distant future!
“Trip to Omo valley with Oryx expeditions and Marius Coetzee is like a dream, like a walking meditation. Every detail is so very well ironed out that you forget you are in some of the remotest parts of the world. He will always have his ear to the ground for the rumblings in the valley. Giving you indelible memories is what he is after. No corners are ever cut to ensure your comfort. If some unexpected situation does arise, his steady and calm leadership will keep you centered. You know that he will put your safety first no matter what.
From photography point of view, his genius is talked about a lot all over the internet so I won’t delve on it. What I would like to highlight however is how generous and patient he is as a teacher. He quickly assesses your level of expertise and gives you appropriate pointers. His passion and zeal is consistent whether you are amateur fumbling with a new camera or a well versed photographer yourself. Sometimes he will push you out of your comfort zone to get better images and and then other times he knows to give you creative space.
I have wondered at times if he has more than two eyes. Not sure how he picks on you making faulty composition, helping someone set their camera, keeping an eye out for the senior member so that she does not fall and watching where the “red bag” of a forgetful client went all at the same time!
This is not an expedition. This is treasure of life experiences. You genuinely forget that Marius is your expedition leader. He becomes your friend and family.”
“Game over. All the good things come to an end and it is now the time to say bye bye to Ethiopia.
The trip to Omo Valley has been a real photographic expedition and a great adventure. I travelled to lot of places with different people but I must say that this trip was very special. I had the chance to meet Marius Coetzee few years ago and I had the impression that, besides the fact the he his really a great photographer, he is also a real tour leader with clear ideas of what he is doing. I do normally travel with my wife and not too much oriented to groups but this time it was different. We acted like a team and everybody was just fantastic and I was honoured to share this time with you all.
Now, many Companies sell the Omo Valley tours. Just forget about. If you are a photographer just Google ORYX Photography and sign a tour with them! This was not only a ‘tour’ this was a real experience with real people and a real leader.
Thanks Marius and thanks ORYX! I also had the chance to improve my photography with you, and thanks to my entire companion. You were all great and it was a pleasure to share this experience and will be glad to repeat it with all of you (and this time with my wife!) the Mongolian Experience in 2016. Travel safe, travel with ORYX…”
“Last day of a fabulous and extraordinary three week adventure in Ethiopia! Massive thanks to Marius Coetzee and Kirsty Horne at ORYX Photography for a superbly organized trip and also to Eyob our legendary local guide!
Anyone wanting an Epic trip, I can highly recommend Ethiopia – stunning scenery, friendly people, great food (and beers) and so much more… And go with ORYX Worldwide Photographic Expeditions -you won’t regret it!!”
“I had a simply phenomenal time and loved Ethiopia every bit as much as you forecast! The other participants on the trip were great fun – we were from five different continents – and all got on extremely well. Thank you for an exceptional, inspiring holiday, ORYX. Everybody said how wonderful you had been, Kirsty, always responding in a friendly, efficient way as if we were your only clients. Thank you, team!”Ethiopia
“Kirsty, Marius and ORYX photography expeditions in general. What I can say..words sometimes cannot justify and explain experiences those experiences need to be lived so one can understand them. Kirsty from day one when I sent the initial email you replied within hours and since never ever anything seemed to be problem..to be honest it was your prompt responses that made me make the final decision to go ahead with ORYX…so for that huge Thank you Kirsty you are amazing :).
Marius – I really don’t have words to describe your commitment towards your clients, your passion for photography, your people skills and ability to deal with different situations. Kirsty you have asked if the tour was up to my expectations. To be honest well above exceeded my expectations..uncle Marius is the best :).
I guess this trip and the people that I met will always stay in my memories..how can one forget the adventures that we had from crossing rivers, negotiating with uncles, to meeting up the most isolated tribes and learning more about photography….I’m looking forward to be with the same group of people on the Mongolia trip.. and final word…. Marius you are young passionate entrepreneur and you should be very, very proud of yourself my friend :).
Regards and lots of Love”
“It does not matter whether you are an adventurer, photographer, traveller or tourist, the Omo Valley in Ethiopia, has a special appeal. Its exotic name conjures mystery, mysticism and certainly, a road less travelled. It is in this valley that several tribes with their traditional ancient culture and customs reside. Each tribe has their particular features and uniqueness. The Mursi with their lip plates, the Karo with their beautifully painted bodies, the Hamer with their Ochre hair and they offer excellent opportunities for “unguarded moment” photography. However, with increasing tourism, it has been a practice that the person to be photographed will demand payment for each photograph taken. Do not be deterred as this is probably one of the ways that the tribesmen can earn some tourist dollar. Do not expect luxurious accommodation but the basic accommodation is liveable and adds on to the rustic experience of your trip of a lifetime. In some places we had to stay in tents which are large and comfortable.
Returning to the Omo valley, I found that the experience second time around was better than the first. This was mainly due to the people that I was travelling with. The leader of our team was Marius Coetzee, a superb photographer, who is the CEO of ORYX – Worldwide Photographic Expeditions (Pty) Ltd. The trip undertaken by me and my two Australian travelling companions, was a customised photography tour and Marius was always ready to share with us his experiences and tricks of the trade of a photographer extraordinaire. The organisation by ORYX is immaculate and excellent and the vehicles, drivers, cook, guide used were world class. The company took care of everything including negotiating the payments for the photographing of the tribes and preventing the unnecessary hassle of us having to negotiate for a price to photograph an individual and then spending endless time and effort debating over a few cents.
It was a 13 day well spent, I returned from the trip certainly a better photographer and more knowledgeable in the culture of the various tribes of the Omo Valley. Furthermore, I appreciate how difficult it is for the tribes to cope with the changes to modernity. I certainly also left the valley as a better human being.”
“Words really fail me in trying to thank you adequately for leading and orchestrating an unbelievable, enlightening, photographically enriching, rough, tough, soul searching and at times happy and sad, all rolled into one, expedition to the Omo Valley, Ethiopia.
I have come out of the experience not only having acquired new photographic skills but also understanding so much more about myself and what I need and would like to achieve as a person on a harsh but beautiful planet!
The organization of the trip was faultless and Afe and all the guys of Dinknesh, Ethiopia were fantastic. The vehicles held up under incredibly rough conditions without a blip and considering the kilometers travelled, days on end, the group and team were like a close knit family unit…. Chilled and respectful towards each other and photographic models we encountered along the way.
Literally, I was blown away and loved every moment! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope you will be able to lead many like minded people to the Omo before things change too much!
Thank you Marius and team, please also convey my thanks to September for the delicious food whilst camping…. Although, I’m also missing my omelette and hot red wine in a tumbler ;). Good times!”
‘I travel overseas 18 times a year, many of these being photographic trips. Ethiopia is not an easy destination – truly beautiful but definitely hard roads and weather conditions.
This is a trip that I had been planning for 2 years. I went thru’ every single tripadvisor review on Ethiopia and looked at many webpages of travel agents and photographers offering photo expeditions to this place. During our trip, we bumped into a few other travel expeditions by other travel companies. It is clear that the deal given to me by Oryx was the best. Everything was carefully planned, we did not have to compete with other tour groups. Very happy with this trip altogether…my highest recommendations. Thank you Marius once again for making all this possible!’Ethiopia - Omo Valley
“I just returned from the Omo Valley trip and must say it was the most interesting cultural expedition I have ever taken. In looking back at my photos I am overwhelmed by the amazing people and places we visited. We were able to visit a number of tribes, all with different beliefs and customs. In addition we spent 5 hours at a Bull Jumping ceremony with access that few people get. We also were able to attend a morning ceremony of harvesting blood from cows. The blood is mixed with milk and the tribe drinks it for protein. This wasn’t a staged ceremony, it was a daily ritual. Everything we saw was authentic.
Marius was always on the look out for photo opportunities. You never knew when he would stop the car, and we would pile out, lay on our bellies in the dust, and have someone drive a heard of goats or cattle our way in order to catch the light hitting the dust to get just the right image. We made several stops at markets and were always the only non-local people in attendance. The trip was perfectly coordinated by ORYX and we had a fabulous local guide, Afe, who added local knowledge to the trip. ORYX has a long standing relationship with most of the tribes we visited.
Knowing the Chief and elders ensured our safety and made it easy to photograph the people.
I can’t imagine any detail that was overlooked. Our safety and comfort and photographic education were always paramount.
After going on a trip with ORYX, I don’t want to do anything other than small group travel again. There were 3 guests, a local guide Afe, Marius, and we also had another professional photographer with ORYX, Sam, who gave us invaluable advice. I used exposure settings and compositions I had not considered, and got great results. I can’t say enough positive things about ORYX.”