Gambela, covering 1,954 square miles, is Ethiopia’s largest national park, while Awash is its oldest. Ethiopia has made great strides in nature conservation, and there are nearly 20 national parks scattered across the country. The parks have established Ethiopia as a top tourist destination in Africa.
Ethiopia's National Parks
Awash National Park
Awash National Park occupies a total area of 291 square miles in the Great Rift Valley’s northern region. The park was established in 1966 after advice from UNESCO. The parks landscapes include the Awash River, Mt. Fantale dormant volcano, hot springs, waterfalls, and plains. The park is mostly arid, and it is characterized by grassland and woodland. Vegetation is composed of acacia, scrubs, riverine forests, and pockets of Doum Palm. Annual precipitation in the park is recorded between 400 and 700 mm. The park boasts populations of baboons, warthogs, hippopotamus, greater kudus, East African oryx, crocodiles, Defassa waterbuck, lions, and leopards. The park is managed by the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority. Threats facing the pack include cattle grazing, deforestation, agricultural expansion, and pollution of the Awash River. The park’s management is actively involved in educating the surrounding communities so that that they are equipped to use natural resources efficiently.
Omo National Park
The Omo National Park covers an area of 1,377 Square miles on the western shores of the River Omo. The park includes the plains lying in proximity to the river which is characterized by grasslands, savannah, and shrubs. The park’s rivers have a gallery and riverine forests along their banks. Landscapes within in the park range from hot springs, mountains, rivers, to plains and plateaus. The park boasts plentiful wildlife including lion, Oryx, elephant, baboons, zebra, buffaloes, warthog, and waterbuck. 306 avifauna species have been identified in the park such as herons, kingfishers, egrets, warblers, and woodpeckers. Although the park has little tourist infrastructure and is widely undisturbed, tribal communities have negatively impacted it through cattle grazing and hunting.
Gambela National Park
Gambela National Park was founded in 1973 in western Ethiopia. The park is situated in the river systems of the Akobo, Gilo, and Baro Rivers. The park’s habitats include the forest, rivers, swamp marshes, wetlands, savanna, and grassland. Most of the park is low and flat with an average altitude of 500 meters above sea level. There are some higher rocky regions in the park as well. Mean yearly precipitation is at 1,400 mm and a mean temperature of 27 degrees Celsius. Notable fauna in the region includes monkey, baboons, leopard, giraffe, buffalo, elephant, bushbuck, waterbuck, and abundant avifauna. The park has little infrastructure, and most of it is unaltered. The local communities engage in cattle grazing, deforestation, and hunting.
Simien Mountains National Park
The Simien Mountains National Park occupies and area of 159 square miles in Ethiopia’s Amhara Region. The park is home to the Simien Mountains, the highest peak being the Ras Dejen at an elevation of 4,620 meters. The park’s landscape is comprised of valleys, precipices, gorges, and cliffs. Isolated Erica and Giant Lobelia trees dominate the park. Fauna present in the park includes the Ethiopian wolf, Walia ibex, bushbuck, gelada baboon, and golden jackal. The park is threatened by human encroachment, cattle grazing, agricultural activities, and fires. The facility is not adequately protected, and conservation efforts to extend the park’s boundaries are underway.
Other National Parks In Ethiopia
The rest of Ethiopia’s national parks areare Alatish (1,029 mi2); Bahir Dar Blue Nile River (1,825 mi2); Borena Saynt (1,670 mi2); Bale Mountains (850 mi2); Abijata Lakes (342 mi2); Nech Sar (198 mi2); Mago (750 mi2); Chebera Churchura (460 mi2); Maze (78 mi2); Yangudi-Rassa (1,827 mi2); Geraille (1,374 mi2); Dati Wolel (166 mi2); Yabello (970 mi2); Gibe Sheleko (96 mi2); and Loka Abaya (190 mi2).