In a world where everyone is looking for something different, Bale Mountain Lodge is a truly unique experience which is genuinely unlike anywhere else on the planet. Set at 2400m above sea level, within a large clearing in a 4500Km2 virgin rain forest, the lodge is a hidden gem which provides guests with an opportunity to discover the habitats and endemic wildlife of the Bale Mountains National Park (BMNP). The park is a UNESCO ‘Biodiversity Hotspot’ which due to its topography as a mountain ‘island’ surrounded by dry lowlands has enabled its wildlife to evolve in a totally different way to anywhere else in the world. It is said that, were the habitats of Bale to degrade, more species would become extinct than if any other area of similar size on the planet were to be lost. Since the lodge opened in 2014 it’s sponsored conservation research has helped scientific teams discover new amphibians, new moths and butterflies and even a new, and exceptionally rare, species of snake. Every guest at the lodge witnesses wildlife that exists only in Bale and that can be found nowhere else on the planet.
The main wildlife attractions in Bale are our rare and endemic mammals, most famous of which is the stunning Ethiopian Wolf. These shy and elegant wolves are rufous coloured, leading some to incorrectly describe them as the Ethiopian or Simien ‘Fox’, and these days only a few hundred remain. The wolves have evolved from the European Grey Wolf and as man has encroached on their habitat they have been forced higher and higher into the Afro Alpine wilderness above 4000m asl. The lodge provides expert local guides to help our guests have the best opportunity to see these endangered creatures whilst also experiencing the flora, fauna and birds of the wolves’ home on the Sanetti Plateau. As an example of the richness of the wildlife, on the plateau there can be seen 14 species of eagle alone, amongst the large variety of raptors, all birds which prey on the same rodent population which sustains the wolves. The rodents themselves are also endemic to the high plateau and are therefore a unique wildlife experience. The plateau is home to the world’s most remote goose, a rare and beautiful hare, the highest elevation and most northerly population of Wattled Cranes and many other small species such as flocks of the endemic Black Headed Siskin. Nobody leaves the plateau without seeing something they can see nowhere else in the world.
Coupled to the high elevation experience on the Sanetti Plateau, guests experience the amazing variety and contrast of the forest. The forest habitats vary by altitude, each forest layer throwing up different plants and with them different birds, insects and amphibians. The majority of guests like to look for the endemic Bale Monkey, a beautiful but shy Grivet which lives in the bamboo habitat at around 2500m asl. Again our guides are expert in finding them even though fewer than 1000 remain on the planet. Lucky guests also see our forest lions, a large, healthy black maned variety which is itself becoming more rare as man encroaches into the forest and destroys the habitat. Leopards, Civets, Servals and Giant Forest hogs are also seen along with 320 species of birds, endemic Nyalas and Bushbuck, and countless species of plants, insects and amphibians many of which have neither been catalogued nor perhaps even named.
To support this spectacular wildlife experience the lodge is a comfortable and peaceful 11 room haven, a place where guests are able to discuss their day over a glass of wine after experiencing what many guests describe as ‘the best showers in Ethiopia’. The communal main lodge is large enough to embrace social distancing whist enabling everyone to sit close to an open fire or a wood burning stove. We run a set menu but cater for all requests from vegetarian to celiac and, provided we are forewarned, any other dietary requirements. Meals are often taken communally but guests can sit apart on request. After diner every guest returns to a bedroom which has large beds and also has a stove or a fire to keep out the mountain chill and which provides a cosy and warm atmosphere as the fires are lit by the staff during dinner. All the wood we burn is sustainable wood from plantations; we take nothing from the forest. The lodge is 100% sustainable and all the electricity is produced on site using a self-built hydro-electric system which generates 20 – 25Kw of constant power to heat the boilers, light the rooms and run the kitchens. In a country where electricity provision elsewhere can be a bit ‘hit or miss’, the constant power at Bale Mountain Lodge can feel like a luxury. Guest with a technical bent can walk into the forest with a guide to visit the hydro plant which sits on a forest stream deep in Bale Monkey country.
The lodge’s partnership with LEVA is designed to take us to another level of service where guests can be confident that the high level of Bale Mountain lodge welcome and efficiency will be maintained. In partnership we are looking to develop the wildlife offering and, rather than resting on our laurels, we want to maintain our standards and continue to improve our position as Ethiopia’s premier wilderness lodge. The LEVA Bale Mountain Lodge is a must visit experience in Ethiopia which, when coupled with the cultural tourism of the North, makes Ethiopia both fascinating and unmissable. We look forward to meeting you during your visit.