Please excuse any shipping delays due to COVID-19. We appreciate your ongoing support for independent brands during a time when it really matters. Please reach out if you have any queries.

Adventure: Pack your bags, embark on an adventure, to one of the most amazing places on Earth.

28-Jan-2019

It was a beautiful spring day in March 2017. There I was dealing with one of my biggest ongoing dilemmas in life. Which camera lenses to pack in preparation for an upcoming adventure. The trip I was preparing for however was no ordinary one. I was heading to Rwanda to roam among the Silverback Gorillas.

Up to that point, my girlfriend had insisted she had no interest in joining me. Mainly out of fear of being up close with the Gorillas. In my mind however, she was going to miss out on a rare, amazing, and perhaps once in a lifetime experience.

Some might say the following was to my detriment, but one day before my fight, I managed to persuade her, through youtube videos, that this was a trip on which she must join me. She agreed. So I cancelled the trip, with a view to reschedule for a time that we could both go.

What to do. My annual leave was already approved, and in my mind, I was already in Africa, surrounded by its raw, natural beauty and wildlife. Where else would I want to be…

I swiftly reached out to a friend based in Kenya and asked for guidance on where else I could go, on such short notice, for an equally enriching experience. He’s advice was Ethiopia. Go see the Red Wolf. He’d never been. But the decision was simple as I recalled an episode of Planet Earth and Sir David Attenborough’s narration of the rare breed. To this day, I am grateful to myself for one skill I have developed over time. To break routine, pack my bags, and embark on an adventure. I followed his advice. I quickly googled for lodges in and around Bale National Park, where you can find the Sanetti Plateau at about 4000m above sea level, home to around 400 of the rarest canid on Earth, the Red Wolf. I found Bale Mountain Lodge. After several email exchanges everything was set, including a driver to collect me in Addis and together drive across the country into the southern highlands. He is now a close friend and business partner.

Founded by Guy and Yvonne Levene in 2013, Bale Mountain Lodge is part of their wider conservation related, development company committed to delivering high quality tourist facilities to Ethiopia. The lodge itself is underpinned by sustainable values and operated by way of eco-technology. It is located inside the National Park within the vast Harenna forest, and situated at roughly 3000m above sea level. This means that even at your doorstep, you are transported to a magical wonderland of rare and rich nature. You have grasslands to the North, the wild forestland to the South and the Sanetti plateu which is home to the Red Wolf, and around a 40 min drive from the lodge.

At the time of visiting, the lodge had 11 rooms, all very charming, of decent size, and very functional. From the moment you arrive, you’re treated as family. The food, well, is just like your mum’s home cooking – in your mind deserving of a Michelin star or two. The local produce, flavoursome as ever. The packed lunches something to look forward to. The local coffee, well, we all know the flavour of Ethiopian coffee. But having it prepared in a traditional way, takes it to another level. Sunsets involve sitting around the fire with a nice glass of wine in hand, taking in the breathtaking surroundings.
The main wildlife attraction is no doubt the Red Wolf. Other endemics to the region include the Mountain Nyella, Menelik’s Bushbuck, Bale Monkey, Bale and Harenna Chameleon. A wander into the surrounding forest leaves you with an exhilarating feeling knowing that whilst you may have not spotted them, a leopard or a forest lion, may have spotted you. The park is also a bird lovers paradise.

As tourism here is not as well established as Ethiopia’s East African neighbours, wildlife here is extremely shy and considered more wild. Something I personally find endearing and fulfilling. I found myself alone on the Sanetti Plateau. Alone with just the Eagles, Vultures, Giant Mole Rats, and the Red Wolf. The plateau is vast arid land, which therefore provides an uninhibited sweeping view of the happenings. I had the privilege of watching nature in all its glory when a Red Wolf had sniffed out a Giant Mole Rat, and was subsequently chased for its meal by an Eagle. He/she got away safely, making its way to the rest of the pack.

Outside of the Red Wolf there is plenty to do. Early morning bird walks became part of my daily routine. Evening game drives to see the majestic forest lion boasting a free-flowing reddish mane. The local hike which is fairly challenging. Learning about the ongoing research, community activities such as assisting with the local honey farming, visiting local village and nearby ancient cities, all make it an enriching experience. The founders’ commitment to sustainability is unwavering and ever expanding. Some examples at the lodge include:

- Micro-hydro power:All electric power used at the lodge is powered by a micro-hydro power plant which is located in the nearby river. Efficiency technology is used to minimize power draw.
- Water:Water is taken from the river and is subjected to several filtration processes, allowing water to be drunk from the tap.
- Waste:The lodge is committed to minimized non-biodegradable waste, and therefore packaged products are kept an necessary minimum. Local foods are used as much as possible, which also ensures economic benefit for the local communities. Solid waste is processed through a biogas unit and glass and plastic is taken offsite for recycling. You will notice for example the drinking glasses are recycled bottom halves of wine bottles. Firewood is sources from sustainable plantation to ensure carbon offset.
- Bio Gas:Envisaged to use kitchen scraps to produce gas for cooking purposes in the service quarter kitchen. Once the biodegradable waste becomes inactive, it is to be used as fertilizer.

Getting there

Either by flight from Addis Ababa or by 4x4. I personally prefer the scenic route of passing through local towns and villages and climbing up the Southern Highlands. Allow sufficient time however, particularly if you’re like me and love to explore by foot, with camera in hand. It took me around 10 hours to reach the lodge from Addis Ababa. It is not wise to drive once the sun has set and make sure to have plenty of spare fuel. It is not uncommon to face fuel shortages at the petrol stations along the way. Refer to website for guidance on flights and options for vehicle and driver arrangements. The lodge and the Sanetti plateau are what you would consider to be in the middle of nowhere. But it is said that nowhere often leads to the very best of somewhere. One of my favourite memories in this lifetime is sitting on a rock on the Sanetti Plateu, taking in the vastness of nothing, and sipping on the Coffee I had been given by the lodge. It was on this trip, the vision of Mamo & Oz was born. A vision to be told at a later time. And what about the Mountain Gorilla’s you ask? We still haven’t been. But we did recently roam among the Chimpanzees of Kibale forest in Uganda.

www.balemountainlodge.com