Written by Tadeja L. Colnar
The Simien Mountains National Park in Amhara region in northern Ethiopia offers some of the country’s most rewarding hikes. Admiring vistas in the Simien Mountains is exhilarating. Even UNESCO mentions that the spectacular scenery of these mountains is considered to rival Colorado’s Grand Canyon.
Formed by ancient volcanic eruptions, the Simien Mountains are known for dramatic cliffs and deep valleys which give home to several endemic species. On a clear day, views from some of the cliffs are reaching up to a hundred kilometers.
The national park attracts nature enthusiasts from all over the world eager to take on its mountains, or search for abundant wildlife. Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978, “the park is of global significance for biodiversity conservation because it is home to globally threatened species, including the iconic Walia ibex, a wild mountain goat found nowhere else in the world, the Gelada baboon and the Ethiopian wolf” (UNESCO, 1978).
People have been inhabiting the area for centuries. Balancing co-existence with endangered species along with finding ways for sustainable livelihoods of local communities presents a challenge.
For these reasons, we visited Befikir Kossoye EcoLodge some 32 km north of Gondar, on the way to the park. Mr. Dagnew Legesse, the owner of the lodge, is the Simien Mountains’ Tree Protector. He has planted over 100,000 local indigenous trees in a deforested area.
Employing over 40 people from the neighboring communities, life at the eco-lodge is intimately linked with the wild landscapes. It took about 7 years for newly planted trees to provide life giving underground waters on previously devastated area. The soil is made more productive by inter-planting various species, composting makes it even more fertile.
Bees are giving aromatic white honey abundantly. During our visit, while drinking the most delicious fresh milk with honey, a baby cow was born. True gifts of nature!
Though Befikir Kossoye lodge is famous for delicious local cuisine and spectacular scenery, it also a place where Queen Elizabeth II of England and the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie camped in 1965 while driving between Gondar and Axum.
The lodge offers cozy accommodation in triple, double and single suites, each named after a famous Ethiopian. The layout of the suites is in alignment with old traditions, nurturing for people and nature alike.
Wendell Berry once wrote that the care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope. At the Befikir Kossoye Eco-lodge we are recognizing the true sense of these words.