The best place to find the Ethiopian Wolf: Our journey and everything you need to know about finding the Ethiopian Wolf.
We visited Ethiopia for two weeks in October 2017, after our planned trip to Madagascar was cancelled at very short notice, due to an outbreak of the plague. Having always wanted to visit Ethiopia, we found some very reasonable flights and booked our seats. We didn’t have a lot of time to put together an itinerary, but being avid wildlife and nature lovers, we decided to invest most of our time searching for wildlife. In particular, we wanted to see Gelada Baboons and an Ethiopian Wolf.
So where exactly is the best place to find the Ethiopian Wolf? We found ourselves asking the same question. With a bit of research and of course a bit of luck, we managed to find Ethiopia’s elusive wolf. Take a look below and we’ll share our experience with you.
Flying into the capital Addis Ababa, we’d booked a transfer to our hotel as our flight arrived around 2am. After checking into our very average room, we went straight to sleep. The hotel had a fabulous restaurant with delicious traditional Ethiopian coffee, which we couldn’t get enough of at breakfast. They also offered a very reasonably priced vegan buffet lunch, which we also indulged in. The city was every bit as big and hectic as we thought it would be. Not being fans of big cities, we didn’t venture out too far. Instead, we used Addis as our hub, spending our time sitting on the sun terrace of the restaurant planning our trip. The frustrating thing about Ethiopia was the lack of information available to potential tourists. So, this time in Addis allowed us to put together a more solid itinerary.
Menz Guassa Community Conservation Area
We had read about a place called Menz-Guassa Community Conservation Area, a 100sqkm protected area, northeast of Addis with a healthy population of Gelada Baboons. Not only that, but Menz -Guassa was possibly the best place to find the Ethiopian Wolf. Three dozen of the estimated 400-500 endangered wolves surviving in the wild, inhabited the area. There was a very remote community-run lodge offering accommodation and guided walks around the area. So, we made a very sporadic decision to head a little off track in search of the world’s rarest canid.
To guarantee our seats on the bus, we took a taxi to the main bus station to buy tickets a day in advance. The bus station was overwhelmingly hectic and to be honest, quite intimidating. Thankfully, our taxi driver helped us get our tickets. The following morning we reached the bus station at 5.30am. Our bus was due to leave at 6am, but in true African style, we left at 7am. We were the only foreigners on the bus which made for an interesting journey. If you end up doing this journey, be prepared to be stared at!
The drive took 7 hours on both sealed, unsealed, bumpy and dusty roads. In fact, we had never encountered so much dust in all of our travels! Dust, as we later discovered, would become a solid part of our lives for our entire stay in Ethiopia. The scenery we passed was beautiful, as we drove through hills, villages and farmland. We were dropped right outside the lodge where a guard showed us to our room. The accommodation was basic, with a communal kitchen and shower block, both in separate buildings.
We were the only guests staying at the lodge, apart from two German’s – Torsten & Richard. They had taken a personal interest in the lodge and were there to offer assistance and guidance to the community lodge committee. We spent the evening wandering around the surroundings and chatting with our new German friends.
Since our meeting, Richard had setup ‘Grow My Future‘ the first community project in Ethiopia. “The volunteer-led foundation supports small-scale initiatives where people seek to sustainably use their natural resources while preserving the neighbouring wilderness”
Searching for the Ethiopian Wolf and Gelada Baboons
The following day, we went on a full day hike with a local from the community. He didn’t speak much English but knew where we could find the Gelada Baboons and of course, we were hoping to find an Ethiopian wolf. It took an hour or so of hiking along the mountains, with some reasonably sheer drops before we found our first Gelada family.
We were surprised at how close we could actually get to them and spent a lot of time taking photos and observing the families. We saw groups of males fighting, families grooming and babies hiding. It was truly an amazing experience.
On the way back to the lodge, we spotted a group of near two hundred Gelada’s. So we spent more time walking between them and taking photos. We knew there was a research centre about twenty minutes away in the nearest town Mehal Meda. The Geladas were quite habituated, which made photographing them easy.
The males were particularly photogenic, with their long cape of hair that resembled a mane, fit for a shampoo commercial. And the large bright red almost hourglass-shaped patch of skin on their chest and neck glowing. It’s easy to see where they get their nickname Bleeding Heart Monkeys from.
The Gelada’s even considerately positioned themselves for us amongst the colourful flora to feast. Gelada’s are actually the only primates that are primarily graminivores (grass grazers.) Grass blades are the main source of nutrition (90% of their diet) but they also happily eat flowers, roots and herbs.
Eventually, we headed back to the lodge having had an amazing time with the Geladas. Sadly, our day exploring Menz Guassa didn’t produce an Ethiopian Wolf, but we did see lots of their main source of food.
Finding the Ethiopian Wolf
We stood slightly deflated, on the side of the misty road at
Suddenly, we couldn’t believe our eyes as Africa’s most endangered carnivore trotted out of the mist only 50m away from us. The Ethiopian Wolf of Menz Guassa literally appeared out of nowhere and Chris quickly and chaotically rushed for our camera, before sprinting for some sort of vantage point. Amazingly, we got a couple of photos before it was lost to the mist again. What just happened! We couldn’t believe our luck.
In all the commotion, our bus arrived allowing us no time to savour the moment. In a frantic dash, we boarded the bus and were on our way, almost in disbelief that we had just seen one of the rarest species on earth. Although we were ecstatic that we’d found what we were looking for, we wished we wished we had an extra day at Menz Guassa.
Having said that, as we headed down the bumpy road back to Addis Ababa, we left feeling so happy with the past few days. And we even experienced a little more wildlife on the way back!
For us, Menz Guassa was the perfect way to start our travels in Ethiopia. It was a great decision to get a little off track and is for sure the best place to find the Ethiopian Wolf!
Next up on our Ethiopian travels – Blue Nile Falls & Lake Tana.
Getting to & from Menz Guassa
Addis Ababa – Menz Guassa
Buses from Lamberet Bus station run the 7 hour route from Addis Ababa to Mehal Meda (last stop) daily departing at 6:00am-7:00am. Ask to be dropped off at Menz Guassa Community Lodge. All bar one person on our bus spoke no English at all, so communicating this with the driver was tricky. We strongly recommend having your hotel write ‘Menz Guassa Community Lodge’ down for you in Amharic, so you can just show the driver.
We took a taxi to Lambaret Bus station the day before we wanted to leave and the taxi driver (who we arranged through our hotel in Addis) helped us purchase the bus tickets.
Menz Guassa – Addis Ababa
From Menz Guassa, we took the same bus back to Addis. However the bus starts further north at Mehal Meda, so the lodge arranged for one of their team to go and buy our ticket the night before, so we were guaranteed seats. If you choose to wait and on the side of the road and flag a bus down, it will likely be full when it passes and may not stop to pick you up.
The accommodation at Menz Guassa Community Lodge is basic but adequate. There are private rooms and a separate shower and toilet block. As there’s no restaurant or shops nearby, you must take your own food (we purchased in Addis beforehand). The communal kitchen and eating area had good cooking facilities.
It’s worth noting that the shower and power weren’t working during our visit. Remember this is a community run project in Africa, so things don’t always get fixed quickly and operate differently! Remember, you need to pre-book this accommodation and experience.
Best time to visit
As a whole, the drier months from mid-October through to April are the best time to visit Ethiopia. During the rainy season (June-October), trails can be wet, muddy and misty. Menz Guassa is located in the Highlands, so the nights can get extremely cold.
How much time do you need
We personally feel that Menz Guassa is the best place to find the Ethiopian Wolf. But like all wildlife encounters, there is NO guarantees that you will in fact see one. To give yourself the best chance, we recommend allowing 2-3 full days at Menz Guassa. Our biggest regret was only having one and a half days there. Given that travelling by bus takes 7-8 long hours, having a few days to enjoy the surrounding area make the journey more worthwhile.
Tips and Essential Information
- If you’re travelling to/from Addis Ababa to reach Menz Guassa, store your main bags at your hotel and only take a small bag with essentials with you. The bus may try to charge you extra for large bags.
- As the weather in the mountains changes quickly, you should bring clothes for every occasion particularly wet weather gear. The time of year of your visit will dictate what you need to pack. Our November visit was freezing from early evening through til mid-morning. So check ahead to see what temperatures to expect on your visit.
- Take enough cash to pay for everything you need here. There are NO ATM FACILITIES. Tips are appreciated.
- Download Maps.me to your phone so that you have offline maps. We love pinning our journeys as we travel.
- Stock up on food, snacks and water before you leave. There are no shops here so you will need to buy and take everything you need in advance.
- For the best chance of seeing an Ethiopian Wolf in Menz Guassa, have some flexibility in your itinerary and allow a few days to visit the lodge.
- A good pair of ‘broken-in’ hiking boots. By this we mean don’t just buy a new pair and use them for the first time on your treks. It’s a recipe for blisters and potential discomfort.
- Decent socks for hiking and for the freezing nights
- Thermals. The afternoons and nights were super cold and we wished we had thermals with us
- A decent beanie or buff
- Waterproof jacket and trousers
- Biodegradable wet wipes
- Antibacterial hand wash
- Head torch
- Quick-dry travel towel
- Pre-charge you camera batteries/phone as you’ll want to take a lot of pictures.
- If you have a passion for wildlife photography, we highly recommend taking a decent zoom lens. You can generally get quite close to the Geladas but the rest of the wildlife isn’t as habituated. We shoot the majority of our wildlife pics with a Canon 100-400mm.
Planning a trip to Ethiopia? Check out our other Ethiopian blogs:
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