Abijatta-Shalla National Park is one of the oldest Parks in Ethiopia. It is located 200 kilometers south of Addis Ababa. Abijatta is founded in 1963, in Central Ethiopian Highlands of Oromia Region. The 887 square kilometers park revolves largely around the stunning alkaline lakes Abijatta and Shalla, which act as a migratory home for vibrant and diverse bird life. The two lakes are separated by three kilometers of hilly land.
Walking through Coated with flamingos, pelicans, the grassland and acacia woodlands to the shores of the shallow Lake Abijatta gives the traveler what this great park can offer to the public. The shoreline often takes on a remarkable pinkish hue. The altitude of the park ranges from 1540 to 2075 meters, the highest peak being mount Fike, located on the isthmus between Abijatta and her mystical southern sister lake, Lake Shalla. Lake Shalla is the deepest in the entire rift valley and fills the center of a collapsed volcano. The dramatic black cliffs, jagged peaks and steamy shoreline speckled with bubbling hot springs is a stark – but perfect – compliment to the cotton-candied shores of Abijatta.
The park was primarily created for its aquatic bird life, particularly those that feed and breed on lakes Abijatta and Shalla in Large numbers. While attention is focused on the water birds, the land area does contain a reasonable amount of other wildlife. Besides the two lakes, the primary attraction of this national park are a number of hot springs on the northeast corner of Lake Abijatta, and large numbers of flamingoes on the lake; The greater kudu, Giant Striped Gnu, Grant’s gazelle, black-backed jackal and spotted hyena may exist. Although baboons are still quite common, they were outnumbered by the livestock introduced by cattle herders. A few Grant’s gazelle and several ostriches were kept in a fenced enclosure near the gatehouse. Nevertheless, more than 300 bird species have been recorded in Abijatta-Shalla or the remnants of the adjacent park-like woodland.
Aibijatta-Shalla is heaven for ornithologists and a pleasant place for those with an appreciation for birds. The park is home to over 300 species – over half of the total number of species recorded in the whole of Ethiopia. This narrow portion of the Great Rift Valley is a major flyway for Pale-arctic and African migrating birds, many of which can be observed between the months of July and September. There some of the endangered species flying overhead, including the Lesser Kestrel, the Eastern Imperial Eagle, and the Basra Reed Warbler. The four islands in the center of Lake Shalla have favored nesting grounds for a variety of birds, with the great white pelicans notable among them. White-necked cormorant, African fish eagle, Egyptian geese, and numerous plover and herons are also common here.
Both lakes are terminal lakes and their beaches are unstable and saline, but they are very different in character. Abijatta is shallow at about 14 meters with a mysterious fluctuating water level. Freshwater flows into it through the small Horakello stream. The steam mouth is a source of relatively fresh water, much frequented by water birds for drinking and bathing. The Lake is surrounded by gentle, grass-covered slopes and acacia woodlands.
However, Lake Shalla is surrounded by steep, black cliffs and peaks that reflect in its waters, is the deepest lake of the Rift Valley (260 meters (853 feet). , It is exceptionally beautiful, with shores that give a scent of mystery with their hot sulfurous springs that bubble up and flow into the lake. Lake Shalla is nearly devoid of fish, and most birds will fly to neighboring Lake Abijatta to feed. Gingerly walk the unpredictable perimeter of the lake, weaving among huge numbers of greater and lesser flamingos that busily snack on the algae that grow easily in these waters. Keep an eye out for the migrant wader, the Mongolian plover, and the Pacific golden plover, as they too enjoy feasting in these waters.
There are over 400 bird species recorded here, almost half the number recorded for the whole country. Although the islands in Lake Shalla are a real birds paradise, the birds fly to Lake Abijatta to feed. Abijatta itself is very alkaline but shallow, so flamingoes can be seen scattered over most of its surface, and especially along the windward edge where their algal food source concentrates. You can approach quite closely but beware of treacherous deep and mud if the lake is low. Large numbers of flamingos gather here, together with great white pelicans and a wide variety of other water birds. Besides of the rich Birdlife, some mammals can be spotted at the Lake Abijatta-Shalla National Park, especially Grant’s gazelle, Oribi warthog and the Golden Jackal.
The headquarters houses a small museum, which gives an excellent idea of the wealth of bird life in the park. A further track leads on from Dole to the shores of Lake Shalla where hot steam, mud and water bubble to the earth’s surface. Revered locally for their medicinal properties, the hot springs have a sense of primeval mystery about hem, especially in the cooler early mornings. They are relics of the massive volcanic activity that has formed this amazing country and landscape.
Other Attractions in the region
Other Attractions In association with the Abijatta Shalla Lakes National Park is Senkello Swayne’s hartebeest Sanctuary, some 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the town of Shashemene, and close to the Chitu entrance of the park. The sanctuary was established for this endemic subspecies of the hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus Swayne) which once roamed the plans of Somalia and Ethiopia in thousands, but is now restricted to four small localities in Ethiopia. The sanctuary is small but well worth a visit. Set beneath a small rounded hill, over 2,000 of these rich, chocolate-colored hartebeest are packed into this area of wooded grassland, along with bohor reedbuck (Redunca Redunca), Oribi Warthog and many different species of birds.