Geography and landscape
Nechisar National Park is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Ethiopia. The eye-catching spring waters, the great Bridge of God and the majestic Amaro Mountains, the magnificent Abaya and Chamo Lake, the giant Nile crocodiles and the amazing wildlife are the wonders of Nechisar National Park. Nechisar National Park is located in the Great Rift valley of South Ethiopia. It is situated on 514 square kilometers, and of which 85 percent is land and the rest is water body. Nechisar National Park – meaning “white grass” and officially called Nechsar in the law – is a very scenic and accessible park at a distance of about 500km from capital Addis Ababa and valued by many visitors as the finest park of the country. The city of Arba Minch, which means 40 springs, has several convenient lodges located on a ridge overlooking the park. Park elevations range from 1108masl at Lake Chama and 1650masl at Mount Tabala, renowned for its hot springs.
The Nile Perch and Catfish – and the Kulfo River and Sermale River. During the dry season, both rivers are less than 10m wide and 1m deep, but during the rainy season the water can rise considerably, inundating the floodplains and blocking access to the park.
As part of a 1960s UNESCO plan to protect and conserve nature and natural resources in Ethiopia, a two person team of UNESCO consultants spent three months surveying most major wildlife areas in Ethiopia, and officially submitted to the Wildlife Conservation Board in 1965 their recommendations, which included a game reserve to the east of Lake Chamo to provide protection for the population of Swayne’s hartebeest and other local wildlife
The important regional centre to the park is Arba Minch in the Main Ethiopian Rift. Approximately 15% of the park consists of lakes including Lake Abaya in the north and Lake Chamo in the south. Part of the habitat consists of the groundwater forest and shoreline of the lakes, but there are dry grassy plains, and most of the park is covered in thick bushland and the wooded valleys and foothills of the Amaro Mountains. The altitude ranges from 1,108 meters above sea level at the shore of Lake Chamo to 1,650 meters on Mount Tabala in the north-east, renowned for its hot springs.
The forest between the two lakes and by the Kulfo river is dominated by Ficus sycamorus, which can grow up to 30 m tall. Extensive areas to the west of Lake Abaya were cleared in the 1960s and 1970s to establish large-scale mechanized farms for cotton and other crops.
Mean annual temperature is around 21C. The highest temperatures are from January to March with daily maxima about 35C; November and December have the lowest temperatures, around 28C. The average annual rainfall is about 900mm. The rainy season is from March to May with a minor period from September to November.
The freshwater swamps at the mouth of the Kulfo River and in Lake Chamo are dominated by Typha angustifolia, tall waterside grasses and the small leguminous trees, such as Aeschynomene elaphroxylon and Sesbania sesban. Taller trees found in the park include Dichrostachys cinerea, Acacia tortilis, Balanites aegyptiaca and less common Acacia nilotica. The southern part of the park is domainated by edaphic grassland and a calcareous black clay soil underneath with Dobera glabra, Acacia tortilis and the grass Chrysopogon aucheri forming much of the landscape.
Both Lake Abaya and Chamo have substantial fish populations, notably Nile perch, which forms the basis of the local fishing industry. Crocodiles inhabit both lakes and there is a crocodile farm near Lake Abaya. At Chamo crocodiles are exploited for their skins.
Wildlife in the park include plains zebra, Grant’s gazelle, dik-dik, and the greater kudu as well as one of the last three populations of the endangered Swayne’s hartebeest, endemic to Ethiopia. A stretch of the northwest shore of Lake Chamo is known as Crocodile Market, where hundreds of crocodiles gather to sun themselves. The park also has populations of bushbuck, bushpig, Anubis baboon, vervet monkeys, and black-backed jackal. The endangered painted hunting dog, Lycaon pictus, once existed in the park (with last sightings at Fincha), but may now be extirpated due to human population pressures in this region.
Birds of Nechsar National Park
Nechisar National Park is considered an important habitat for bird populations particularly those migrating.
333 bird species have been recorded for the park, of which are 3 endemic: the Thick-billed raven; the wattled ibis; and the mysterious Nechisar Nightjar, Caprimulgus Solala. Other interesting birds are the Lesser Flamingo, Pallid Harrier, several Kingfishers and Storks, Pelicans, and African Fish Eagles.It has a noted population of kingfishers, storks, pelicans, flamingos and African fish eagles.
Other birds include Falco naumanni and Circus macrourus, which are fairly common on passage, while small numbers of Phoenicopterus minor have been reported on Lakes Chamo and Abaya. Species typical of bushland habitats include Phoeniculus somaliensis, Lanius dorsalis and Cisticola bodessa and the open plains support three species that are very unknown elsewhere in Ethiopia: an isolated population of Mirafra albicauda, the endemic Caprimulgus solalaand the rare C. stellatus. The south-western corner of Lake Abaya supports one of only two Ethiopian populations of Myrmecocichla albifrons. Other species of note include Accipiter ovampensis, Aviceda cuculoides, Gypaetus barbatus, Macheiramphus alcinus, Chelictinia riocourii, Francolinus levaillantii, Podica senegalensis, Crithagra reichardi, Schoutedenapus myoptilus, and Coracina caesia.