Yabello National Park lies 565 Km south of Addis Ababa on the Awasa-Moyale highway. It is 10km east of Yabello town in Borena Zone, Oromia Regional State. A trip to Yabelo National Park is nothing like the experience in zoos, rather it’s a trip which takes the traveler deep into the wildlife in its natural habitat. The park screeches over an area of 2,500 square kilometers. It is home to endemic Swayne‟s Hartebeest, Bush Crow and White-tailed Swallow, Ostrich and over 210 species of birds. Zebra, Gazelle and Guenther’s Dik-Dik are quite common. If you want to enjoy an exciting wildlife spotting and catch a good look of the green jungle, then head to Yabelo National Park where you can experience the ultimate escapade.
The park elevations ranging from 1430 to 2000 meters above sea level, it was primarily set up to protect and conserve the Swayne’s Hartbeest Alcelaphus buselaphus swaynii, an endemic Hrtbeest. The area of the sanctuary is notable for its red soils which have little organic matter. The general vegetation-type is Acacia savanna, the major trees being A. drepanolobium on black cotton soil, and A. brevispica and A. horrida on the slopes. There are also patches of Balanites aegyptiaca, and several species of Commiphora and Terminalia at the lower altitudes. The higher parts of the hills were formerly covered with forest dominated by Juniperus procera and Olea europaea cuspidata. Endemic species of birds found in this protected area include Stresemann’s bush crow and white-tailed swallow.
The area of the Sanctuary is notable for its red soils which have little organic matter. The general vegetation-type is Acacia savanna, the major trees being A. drepanolobium on black cotton soil, and A. brevispica and A. horrida on the slopes. There are also patches of Balanites aegyptiaca, and several species of Commiphora and Terminalia at the lower altitudes. The higher parts of the hills were formerly covered with forest dominated by Juniperus procera and Olea europaea cuspidata. Endemic species of birds found in this protected area include Stresemann’s Bush Crow and White-tailed Swallow.
At least 210 species of birds have been recorded of which 62 are Somali-Masai Biome species. Mammal species include Swayne’s Hartebeest, Burchell’s Zebra, Gerenuk, Grant ’s gazelle, and Guenther’s Dik-Dik. Unique features The park affords protection to the endemic Swayne’s Hartebeest and is the home of the endemic and vulnerable Ethiopian Bush Crow and White-tailed Swallow are also restricted-range species. Other non-endemic but globally threatened species include the Taita Falcon. With 62 Somali-Masai Biome birds, the site affords protection to 64% of Ethiopia’s Somali-Masai Biome assemblage. Other interesting birds found here include Ostrich, Short-tailed Larck, Pringle’s puff-back, Northern Grey Tit, Abyssinian Grosbeak Canary, Vulturine Guinea Fowl, Somali Sparrow, Black-capped social Weaver, Donaldson-Smith Nightjar, Star-spotted Nightjar, Grey-headed Social Weaver and Magpie Starling. The site is good for Burchell’s Zebra and smaller numbers of Grant’s Gazelle and Gerenuk.
The Borana people are part of the Oromo which is the largest ethnic group of Ethiopia. The Borana are pastoralist who travel long distances with their cattle and camels in search for scarce food in an arid environment. Their appearance is much more ‘African’ in the way that the women are dressed in the colorful clothes found at many other areas in Africa. Yabello is the largest town in the Ethiopian Borana area, they are also found in northern Kenya. It is a good base to explore the area and the Saturday market is well worth a visit.
The crater lake El Sod is known as Chew Bet in the Amharic language, which translates as ‘salt house’ For centuries Borana people harvest salt from the lake for human and animal consumption The latter distributed in a wide area including northern Kenya to keep the cattle healthy. The lake is situated in a beautiful setting and offers a short but strenuous hike along the same path the donkeys take to bring out the salt.
The Borana people live in a semi-arid area where water is scarce. To supply their cattle (and themselves) with this precious liquid when there is no surface water, they dug wells by hand up to 30 meters deep. These wells made it possible for the Borana people to survive for centuries under harsh conditions. It is an impressive sight to see a well operating. Man and woman from a human chain down in the well-passing buckets between them to bring up the water. Meanwhile, there is a loud chorus of singing to keep the rhythm going. Animals waiting for their turn to drink.