Frequently Asked Questions

How much experience of horse riding is necessary?

The less experience you have the more exciting you will find it. Most of our visitors have never sat on a horse before and all returned safely and highly satisfied with their newly acquired skills. It takes only minutes to learn the essentials for being able to let oneself be carried by a horse. Trotting and galloping can be avoided to make you feel safe. If you don't you can still opt for walking, which is just as fast as riding but rather more exhausting. For groups it is a practical option to take fewer horses than there are members for some to walk and some to ride alternatively.

Can the trekking be done without horses?

The distance to and between the forest camps can be walked. However, due to the high altitude and frequent slopes walking can be quite exhausting. It is safe to ride even if you do it for the first time. So, maybe you should take along horses at least on the first day in order to have the option of riding when you feel tired. If you feel strong enough the next day you can still decide against using a horse. Of course, you are not obliged to hire even a packhorse. If you have a strong preference for hiking just carry your things in your backpack.

Can elderly people stand such a trip?

If you can stand moderate hikes of some 10 kilometres your age should not prevent you from trekking in Dodola. The speed can be adapted to your needs. The time required to reach a forest camp (from the plain or a previous camp) is half a day of continuous walking at most. Thus, there is time for as many breaks as necessary.

Can we bring children?

Our youngest visitors were toddlers! Children of 3 to 4 years of age or more find trekking real fun. If they are too big to be carried by their parents, or if they are not keen walkers, they can be put on a horse led by an assistant.

How many days should we stay for?

If you have enough time, spending every night in one of the nine different forest camps (five in Dodola area and four at Adaba) is best. The trek will then last for nine days. The minimum should be two days with one night spent in a forest camp of your choice. When you are travelling to Dodola or Adaba from Addis for the sole purpose of a mountain trip, the mileage and the time needed to cover the distance is considerable. To keep things in proportion think about staying for at least two nights.

Is there a season when you close?

We are on stand-by all through the year. The rainy season (June to September) may deter you but it should not. Chances are that you will have to make use of your rainwear but the flowering vegetation, misty forests and cloudy sky will offset the inconvenience. A means to try and avoid the rains is to set off early in the morning and arrive at the forest camp early after midday before the rains start.

How many people can a camp accommodate?

The 5 forest camps (4 in Dodola and 1 in Adaba) are equipped with eight beds. There is also 1 tent campsite in Dodola. The tented camp gives more privacy for a family. It is not uncommon in Africa to share a bed, which gives some room for manoeuvre. With extra sleeping bags more can be accommodated in the hall. Another possibility is to put up some group members in tents if they bring their own. The biggest group we’ve had so far totalled 16 people, not to mention young students coming as a group during vacation period with their teachers. The tented campsite can accommodate a group of more than 20 people at a time.

Do we have to bring sleeping bags?

There are sleeping bags and additional blankets at all sites. If you want your own sleeping bag bring it and it can be put on a packhorse for transport.

Can we rent tents?

There are no tents for rent. Using tents usually only makes sense if your group is too big for a single lodge (hut), which has 8 beds. More than that can be accommodated in the tented campsite (around 20 people per group). In that case some group members can pitch their own tents outside the lodge/huts or next to the big tents in the case of tented campsites. Pitching your own or a hired tent does not make a substantial saving.

How soon do we have to make bookings?

The facilities and guides are used to full capacity during the peak seasons of Christmas and Easter when booking is a must. In case if you are not able to make bookings and arrive impromptu in Dodola or Adaba during the afternoon all arrangements can be made for the next day. In all cases we recommend prior bookings.

How much will it cost us?

You will find the mountain trek extremely affordable. You can estimate on spending approximately US $15 per day and per visitor including guide, horse, accommodation etc. but excluding food and beverages. The exact amount depends on your group size. If you are alone there is nobody with whom to share the fee for the guide, packhorse, assistant, car park, or mileage fee for car transport to the forest edge.

Are prices negotiable?

The indicated prices are the ones accepted by the communities and the operators and can only be modified by changing the contracts that were established between the responsible government office and them. Only if you are not satisfied with the services provided can you apply price deductions. A list of penalties is displayed in every forest camp and can be consulted case-by-case. Tour operators can, of course, charge the visitors they are catering for the price they think fit for their extra services.

What if we are not satisfied?

If you are not satisfied with the services provided you can apply price deductions. A list of penalties is displayed in every forest camp and can be consulted case-by-case. The guides are instructed to insist on price deductions for the slightest deficiency. Please support their efforts. It is the best means to secure a good service. Complacency will not help us. It will only spoil habits that were difficult to build up. For similar reasons please refrain from making gifts of any sort. This is not to mean that tipping is unwelcome. It is a good motivation if it corresponds to the quality of the service provided.

Who receives the visitors' payments?

There is a tour guides’ association office at each destination (Dodola and Adaba), which work closely with the forest users group union (representing the large community), the responsible organ for over all forest and tourism activities in the area. The guides association and the forest users group union supports and coordinates the interaction of the different independent service providers. The Guides association and the independent service providers are the recipients of your payments.

How long does it take to get to Dodola or Adaba?

Assuming that your starting point is Addis Ababa, getting to Dodola or Adaba will take a little over a half day by public transportation thanks to newly paved roads. Driving continuously in a private vehicle may reduce it to some five hours depending on the traffic. In both cases, if you break for lunch or refreshments your arrival in Dodola could be in the early afternoon. Coming by public transport takes not much longer. The direct bus leaving Addis at 6 a.m. arrives between 12 and 1 p.m. There are also indirect buses you may take that connect in Shashemene or Assela.

Do the guides speak foreign languages?

The guides master English as a foreign language well enough to be able to communicate and give explanations on what you could be curious about. Some basic knowledge of English is required on your side.

Can we go for a mountain trip on our own without guide?

Even if you buy our trekking map and have a GPS-set with you for navigation we would not like to let you go hiking on your own. Security is not a problem, there is no risk at all. However, we have to maintain our good relationship with the forest dwellers. The presence of a guide is necessary for you to communicate with the locals and for them to know who is roaming around in their area.

What is the point of hiring assistants if there is already a guide?

In addition to the guide one or several assistants might be needed if you take horses. The arrangement made with the mountain dwellers is that horses bringing visitors will be sent back once the camp has been reached. Otherwise all visitors would only hire horses from the plain and the forest dwellers would lose a source of income. The assistants are therefore hired to bring the horses back after arrival at a forest camp where you can hire new horses and assistant(s) the next day. One assistant cannot handle more than 2 horses on his way back. Therefore, depending on the number of horses needed for the trek, you might be asked to hire more than one assistant.

Where can we leave our car while we are up in the mountains?

Your car can be parked either in Dodola or Adaba towns or at the forest edge. If you come with a driver he can drop you at the forest edge, drive back to town and pick you up when you are back. Alternatively, you can leave your car in a shelter at the forest edge.

Why is tent pitching only slightly cheaper than using a bed?

The assumption is that campers use the non-bed facilities of the lodge as much as visitors paying for a bed. The camp keepers have to collect and chop firewood, bring water, clean the place etc. Essentially, they want the facilities to be used - and paid for.

Why can the same horses not be used on consecutive days?

The arrangement made with the mountain dwellers is that horses bringing up visitors will be sent back. Otherwise all visitors would only hire horses from the plain and the forest dwellers would lose a source of income. The assistants are therefore hired to bring the horses back after arrival at a forest camp where you can hire new horses and assistant(s) the next day.

Is it possible to see wild animals?

Do not expect too much in terms of game spotting. Although there are wild animals, including the endemic Nyala and Menelik's bushbuck, they are normally hidden between the trees and bushes. The Bale Mountains National Park headquarters at Dinsho on the way to Goba is a place where Nyalas and other game are guaranteed. You can see them practically out of the window of your car.

Is there clean water in the camps?

There is water all year round at the camps. Some have springs providing water fit for drinking without prior boiling. Others take it from streams where it is boiled before consumption or passed through the water filter found at each of the camps. In any case you will not find the water supply to be a problem because the air in the mountains is so fresh that you hardly ever feel like drinking anything other than tea or other drinks prepared from boiled water.

What other information materials can be provided?

A 12-minute promotional video can be provided [see Other infos]. If you need a trekking map you can buy it on arrival in Dodola or Adaba. You can also buy a video or CD if you are interested in development and conservation issues of the project.

Where can we eat in Dodola or Adaba?

There are many local restaurants in Dodola and Adaba offering the standard range of Ethiopian dishes at a very low price. The Dodola Motel and the Da'ima Cafe provide 'westernised' food; however, the prices are almost double what they charge the locals.

What kind of foodstuffs can we buy on-site?

The guide can direct you to where they sell pasta, rice, lentils, dried peas, tinned oat flakes, powdered coffee and milk, chocolate bars, biscuits, cheese, tomato concentrate, tinned butter, oil etc. Fresh vegetables and fruits are difficult to transport and available only twice weekly in the Dodola or Adaba markets.

Do the camp keepers offer meals?

The forest camps are basically for self-catering visitors or those being catered for by commercial tour operators. In other words, the camps do not provide proper restaurant services. They offer a range of beverages (soft drinks, beer, wine, local spirits), and meals they know to prepare. The main staple of the forest dwellers is not injera (soft, slightly acid pancake made of teff flour) which accompanies every meal in urban centres. The highlanders mainly subsist on a kind of porridge, couscous or polenta made of broken barley or maize. The fermented starch extracted from the pseudo-stems of the false banana (ensete) is prepared into a thick, caked pudding. They also bake unleavened bread made of barley. Butter oil goes into most of their preparations. Its rancid aroma is what they prefer but you are unlikely to appreciate it. Their vegetable dishes mostly consist of onions, local cabbage or wild nettles. Unless you want to broaden your culinary experience in such ways bring your own provisions or buy what you need in Dodola or Adaba. Meat supply is, however, guaranteed. You can have a goat or sheep slaughtered at the camp and have the barbecue supplemented with pasta, rice or pulses. If you do not want a whole animal to be sacrificed for you buy eggs and have them hard boiled for the trip.

Is IFMP a tourism project?

IFMP was engaged in promoting the development of nature-oriented tourism as one of many activities deployed to conserve the natural afro-montane forests. It supported and coordinated the service providers on a non-profit basis and did not engage in any commercial operation. The direct recipients of the visitors' payments are the various service providers (guides, camp keepers, horse providers etc.). The IFMP has now handed over all the tourism operations, including bookings, to locally organized guide associations who are closely working with the forest users group union.

How does the community benefit from the scheme?

The contribution of tourism development to forest conservation is known to be quite limited. Although it generates some additional income for local people they are few to benefit. Some degree of sharing is attained by transferring part of the turnover to the community. For this purpose a sort of tourist tax is levied. It consists of 20 percent of the bed charges paid to the village administration and forest entrance fee to the forest user group union. The proceeds contribute to upgrading social infrastructures such as village schools.

Is Dodola or Adaba part of the Bale Mountains National Park?

We are adjacent to BMNP, which by no means makes us second choice. Our landscape, forests and natural setting equal those of the park. The edge Dodola and Adaba has over BMNP is that our area is more forested, that we provide the facility of forest camps, and that we have a truly service-minded team. Trekking through the park means you have to use tents without any facilities such as shelter from rain and the cold, wood stove, shower, kitchen utensils, crockery or lighting. Moreover, you have to provide your own camping equipment. Also, by visiting the Dodola and Adaba sites you benefit the larger community.

Apart from the mountain trips what else can we do there?

If you come it will have to be for a mountain trip that can eventually be combined with trout fishing or day trips to some two or three interesting places such as a cave underneath a waterfall. After the trek the natural route to follow is towards Goba for the Sanetti plateau or the Sof Umar caves. As you might have gathered from your tour guidebook, you pass the Rift Valley Lakes on the way to Dodola.

Can we trek to the Sanetti plateau?

The Sanetti plateau can be crossed by car on what is known as the highest all-weather road in Africa. A trek to the plateau from the Dodola or Adaba area is possible. However, it would lead you through an area less attractive than Dodola and Adaba and where no camps are situated. That is why it makes more sense to drive to the plateau from Goba. If you really want to reach it by a camping trek then the proper starting point is Dinsho, a small town between Dodola and Goba, where the park headquarters are located.

Is it possible to trek to the Harena forest?

The Harena forest is on the southern slopes of the Bale Mountains dropping down to the lowlands bordering Kenya and Somalia. As we are on the northern slopes you can overlook parts of the Harena forest from the top of the escarpments and mountains in the Adaba area. You can visit these southern parts with their higher rainfall and typical bamboo forests. Day trips from the forest camps will not take you far enough. For trips of more than one day you would have to be prepared to camp.

How about security?

For no good reasons the Bale Mountains' reputation in terms of security is somewhat prejudiced. IFMP operated for more than 10 years in the Dodola and Adaba area without the slightest incident. All the farmers know the project and its objectives. Now they have taken over the responsibility and are operating efficiently. The settlement density is not so crowded that it puts visitors off, but dense enough not to let any event or stranger go unnoticed. Security is excellent because of mutual control. All our visitors returned home having felt perfectly safe despite the fact that some had come worried about their security.

See also:

Bale Mountain Trekking Ethiopia (GTZ in Ethiopia)

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