Between its ancient wonders and its vibrant ethnic traditions, Ethiopia presents a rare chance for photographers to document fascinating cultures barely touched by the centuries. In the Omo River Valley, meet and photograph diverse peoples who distinguish themselves with elaborate body paint, scarification and lip plates. Document bustling market scenes, and train your lens on the exquisite underground churches of Lalibela.
Document the unique traditions of the peoples of the Omo Valley, described by National Geographic magazine as “Africa’s Last Frontier,” during dances and gatherings specially arranged for our group.
Frame a wide array of subjects, from bustling village markets and everyday life among thatched huts to the birdlife of Lake Chamo and the pilgrims of Lalibela.
Visit Omo Child, an organization cofounded by National Geographic Explorer Lale Labuku, dedicated to rescuing mingi children in the Omo Valley.
Activity Level: Easy
Trips rated EASY typically have 1-3 hours of activity per day, with hikes/walks less than 3 miles on mostly flat terrain at altitudes of up to 3,000 feet.
Itinerary - 14 Days
Days 1 & 2 — U.S./Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Depart for Addis Ababa on an overnight flight. If you wish, head to the Ethnographic Museum for an introduction to Ethiopia’s cultures before you gather for a welcome dinner tonight.
Radisson Blu (D)
Day 3 — Addis Ababa/Arba Minch
Begin the day with a behind-the-scenes tour of the National Museum of Ethiopia. See historical treasures as well as some of the most important early human fossil finds in the world. Fly south to Arba Minch, set amid thick jungle at the junction of Lake Abaya and Lake Chamo. Settle into our cliff-top tukuls (thatched huts) overlooking the “Bridge of God” that separates the lakes, and take photographs of the sweeping landscape. Paradise Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Arba Minch/Jinka
During a cruise on Lake Chamo, zoom in on a wide variety of birdlife as well as hippos and crocodiles wallowing by the shore. Then drive south and west by 4x4 through ever-changing landscapes of banana plantations, terraced hill and high mountains. A stop in a market village gives you a first chance to photograph the unique tribes of the south. Upon arrival in Jinka, gain insights into the area’s ethnic groups at the wonderful Jinka Museum.
Eco-Omo Safari Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Jinka
The distinctive cultural identities of the Omo Valley make it an extraordinary place to photograph. This is the home of tribes such as the Kara, the Hamer, and the Mursi, who decorate themselves with beads, feathers and elaborate body paint and pride themselves on ancient traditions. From everyday village scenes to portraits of women with lip plates to intriguing initiation rites, your photographic opportunities abound. Today you meet the Mursi, a pastoralist society that inhabits Mago National Park and are especially known for the lip plates worn by the women. Stroll through a Mursi village to witness daily life and learn about their intriguing culture. Back in Jinka this afternoon, visit Omo Child, a nonprofit cofounded by National Geographic Emerging Explorer Lale Labuko to stop the practice of mingi. This superstition dictates the killing of children who are believed to be cursed, and is still followed by some tribes. Omo Child rescues these children and gives them a home and an education to help them become contributors to society in the future. Eco Omo Safari Lodge (B,L,D)
Days 6 & 7 — Jinka/Turmi
Work on portraiture and capturing scenes from everyday life during a fantastic photo adventure. Head south into the heart of the Omo Valley, stopping at villages and market towns along the way. Get acquainted with Hamer people, who fashion their clothing out of goat skins, cowrie shell, and beads, and cover their hair and skin with a mix of butter and red minerals. Visit the Kara, known for their face and body painting, in their farming communities along the Omo River. Wander through the local markets with your camera in hand, catching fleeting interactions between different tribes and filling your lens with images, both colorful and quirky, of the market stalls. With luck, your visit will coincide with a bull-jumping or an evangari dance — two of the important rituals of the region. Buska Lodge (B,L,D daily)
Days 8 & 9 — Turmi/Konso/Addis Ababa
Our last Omo Valley encounter is with the Arbore people, who live in tall, rounded huts. After a photo shoot, drive to the terraced hills of the Konso region, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site for its rich culture. Here, train your lens on a very different kind of village built within concentric stone walls. Meet the Konso chief, a spiritual leader with an important role in tribal judicial matters, and hear about his people's complex traditions. Drive back to Arba Minch the next day, and fly back to Addis Ababa. Kanta Lodge (B, L, D; B, L)
Days 10, 11, & 12 — Lalibela
Fly north to the World Heritage site of Lalibela. Hewn out of sheer rock below ground level, Lalibela’s eleven freestanding churches date from the 12th century and have welcomed worshippers ever since. Spend two days venturing through and photographing the web of tunnels and trenches that link the churches, capturing the site from unusual angles. Head into the countryside to visit Yemrehane Kristos, a beautiful stone church built within a mountainside cave that pre-dates the churches of Lalibela. Stop at a village for an up-close look at rural life in northern Ethiopia and watch local women make injera, a flatbread that accompanies most meals. Tukul Village (B,L,D daily)
Days 13 & 14 — Addis Ababa/U.S.
Return to Addis Ababa and enjoy time to explore the city on your own. Trace Ethiopia’s tumultuous recent history at the Red Terror Martyrs Museum, or stop by a local coffee producer to pick up freshly roasted beans. This evening, transfer to the airport for your return flight, arriving home the next day. Radisson Blu (B)
Pricing starts at $8,995 per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,795. International airfare to/from Addis Ababa and airfare within Ethiopia are not included in the expedition cost.
The group flights within Ethiopia (Addis Ababa/Arba Minch and Addis Ababa/Lalibela) are $695 (subject to change). In order to optimize photographic opportunities and allow for better access to our National Geographic photographer, we will limit these trips to 16 travelers.
Accommodations (hotels, tents, and cruise cabins) are based on double occupancy. If you prefer single accommodations, and if such are available, you can pay a single supplement fee. If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we can assign a roommate of the same gender. If there is no one with whom you can share, a single supplement fee will apply.
See special terms and conditions for this adventure.
Ethiopia Photo Tour
Group or Custom Journeys
Starting at $8,995 Per Person