day Trip to Debre Libanos and the Jemma River Gorge



day Trip to Debre Libanos and the Jemma River Gorge – 1 or 2 days

TOUR COD BT/TA/001

Pick up from the hotel is at 8.00 am and we then head north on the Gojjam road to Debre Libanos, about 110 km from Addis Ababa or approximately two hours’ drive.

Debre Libanos is an important monastic center for Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, the monastery there was founded by the renowned 13th century mystic, Saint Teclehaimanot and there is a small cave near the church (which is of recent construction) where he is said to have stood for seven years on one leg, until the other wasted away and dropped off.

On this tour visitors can combine history and culture with some good bird watching, as we pass through the Sululta Plain we can see Black-winged plovers, Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged geese, Common Cranes and Wheat ears.

On arrival at Debre Libanos, we will first stop at the Jemma River gorge.  The Jemma River is one of the tributaries of the Nile, and there is a drop of nearly 1000 metres to the valley below.  Here at the gorge (and in the forest around the church) we can expect to see the Banded Barbet, the Black-headed Forest Oriole, the White-billed Starling, the Red-billed Starling, the White-winged Cliff Chat, the White-backed Black Tit, the White-cheeked Turaco and Hemprich’s Hornbill.  We will also see one of Ethiopia’s endemic mammals, the Gelada or bleeding heart baboon.   (In the gorge we will see a variety of vultures – Lamergeyer’s, Ruppell’s and Lappet faced vultures.)

Leaving the Gorge we proceed to the church.  After the church visitors can make the climb to the cave of St Teklehaimanot.  Near the cave monks may show visitors the remains of some 300 monks, slaughtered in 1936 by the Italian invaders.  Mussolini and the fascist authorities saw the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as one of the key elements of an independent Ethiopian identity, and thought that by carrying out the massacre they would cow the Church and by extension the Ethiopian people into submission.  Rather, this atrocity fed the flames of resistance.

If you continue up the hill from the cave from the top there’s a great view of the surrounding countryside.

At some stage we will take a picnic lunch, either at the Gorge or in the forest near the church.  We will leave Debre Libanos around 4.30 PM, returning to Addis Ababa early evening.

With the opening of the Ethio – German Lodge (the owner is an Ethiopian who had been resident in Germany), it is possible to spend the night in a great location, overlooking the Jemma Valley Gorge.  The scenery is stunning, and it is very peaceful.  As yet, the catering facilities there are not fully operational.