Getting Lost Near Menagesha Forest & The Addis Ababa Merkato (Market)

This was a big miscalculation on my part.  I knew that many birders stay at the Ghion Hotel so I assumed they would have birding guides on call who would be able to take us out to Menagesha Forest.  They didn’t, or at least  the staff on duty the evening we arrived didn’t.  The manager did manage to line up a car and driver to take us out there and I knew roughly where it was from Google maps and eBird.

The driver showed up promptly in the early morning and off we went.  It took a while to escape Addis Ababa because of traffic but we finally got out into the countryside.  It was interesting to see some of the transport options the local people have!

An Ethiopian Airlines plane made into a restaurant.  I wish we would have had time to check it out!

Getting out into the forest areas, we started seeing baboons on the road.

This is where we turned and we did end up in a section of Menagesha Forest after a long drive but it wasn’t the main entrance.  We never did find that, a shame as we possibly could have found a guide there.

I heard something that sounded like parrot screeches so we stopped and went for a walk.

The driver (white shirt), my husband and a boy who just happened to be near the stream.

Yellow-fronted Parrots flying overhead

Blue-fronted Bee-eaters near a small stream

Speckled Mousebird

Common Waxbill

We happened to pass the Born Free Sanctuary so stopped in hoping that there would be people knowledgeable about birds.  There weren’t any birders but one of the guards showed us the lions for a small donation.

Heading back to Addis Ababa, we saw some roadside markets.

The last place I wanted to see was the Merkato, the largest market place in Africa.  I had heard it was full of pick-pockets and thieves and we had expensive cameras with us so we opted for a slow drive around the market with photos out the window.  It was still interesting to see people going about their daily business!

We had been in a minibus like this one for the trip from the Lake Langano turn-off to Ziway, where we changed to a normal bus.

There were some pretty traditional dresses.

Amazing what some people can carry!

All in all, it was a very interesting excursion, though I think we would have had more success with the birding if we had had a qualified birding guide.  I probably should have emailed the hotel and tried to set one up well in advance but I had gotten used to hotels popular with birders having guides on call.  I paid the driver around $70 in a combination of USD and Birr and it was worth it for a half day excursion.  He was a nice guy, I forgot his name but his photo is above.

Birding The Ghion Hotel’s Garden

I was really hoping this would be a better experience but the weather was against me for most of the afternoon I had free to explore the Ghion Hotel’s beautiful gardens.  Here is a glimpse of the birds I managed to find.

Tacazze Sunbird

Abyssinian Thrush

Abyssinian Slaty Fly-catcher

Speckled Mousebirds

Wattled Ibis in flight

Speckled Mousebird

Wedding party arrives for a photo shoot, they barely missed being rained out!


Hotel Review: Ghion Hotel, Addis Ababa

The Ghion Hotel is the most popular hotel in Addis Ababa for birders thanks to its beautiful grounds and garden so no wonder I was keen to stay here!  Full disclosure, non-birders may not like the hotel as it is rather dated and the wifi is very weak at best in some rooms, many rooms don’t have it at all and you need to go to the lobby.

We arrived in the evening just before dark after a long journey from Lake Langano so there was no chance to see the grounds that day.  Driving from the bus station, I was dismayed to see it had been raining, not good for birders!

The next morning, we could see a lot more!  Here is the entrance where the taxi will drop you off.

Restaurants are also accessible from this section.

This is the room we got which turned out to be a good location as I could get a wifi signal from just outside the door.

I haven’t seen a tv like this in years!

So the room is simple and definitely channeling the 60’s.  We weren’t here to sit around the room so it was ok.

Back to the lobby to organize a driver for birding Menagesha Forest with the manager who knew a driver, then on to dinner.

For dinner you can choose the buffet or order off the menu.  We went for menu items as we weren’t really that hungry.  Breakfast is included in the rate and also includes the buffet and freshly made omelets.

If the weather is nice, you can also eat outside.

Interesting decorations!

There are several shops in the lobby area.

They also have an Ethiopian style restaurant where we had lunch after returning from the Menagesha excursion.  We opted to sit outside to look for birds while we ate.

I ordered some local food just to try it, I think it was the 3rd item down from the English side.  It was like a curry served with injera.  It was OK, I wasn’t wild about the injera and the portion was huge so I couldn’t finish it all.

The views were great!

A few little birds were hopping around looking for food.

Now the main reason to choose the Ghion is to have access to the beautiful gardens so look for the next post to focus on birding the gardens!

The Ghion Hotel is available on most online booking sites or you can book direct.

Ethiopian Airlines Kilimanjaro – Addis Ababa – Bangkok

This was a United Airlines award and for this homeward bound leg we had Ethiopian Airlines from Kilimanjaro JRO to Addis Ababa ADD in economy (no business class available), then business class the rest of the way to Bangkok ending with Thai to Brisbane BNE.

Although the first leg was in economy, we did pay for a business class ticket with miles so I tried to get us into the lounge at JRO.  No dice.  The lady did try, she went and asked her supervisor if they could let us in and he said no.  It wasn’t a fantastic lounge anyways but would have been better than the gate.


So off to the gate we went to mingle with the “hoi palloi” and show off my new braid.


Mt Kilimanjaro was shy and didn’t come out to say goodbye.


Same mediocre business section as before on the 737.  The flight to Bangkok was on a 767 which was marginally better but no lie-flat seats.  We were still tired enough to get some sleep.

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Breakfast – they did bring eggs but I forgot to get a photo.


So Ethiopian Airlines left me less than impressed.  I would have liked it much better if we had been in economy paying less for the award as my expectations would have been lower.  Their economy is OK if that’s what you pay for.  But I don’t recommend paying extra to fly business on this airline.

Hotel Review: Addis Ababa Hilton

There is a bright side to flying on Ethiopian Airlines.  If you have an overnight layover, they provide hotel accommodation, meals and transport between the airport and hotel.

Blurry photo taken on the run trying to beat everyone else to the transit desk.


First you have to get past the lines.  At 8pm, they were packed.  Most people had connecting flights in the morning and several planes had disgorged passengers so being first off the plane didn’t help.  We had to go in the same bus with everyone else and pass the temperature taking control.

Then we need boarding passes which we didn’t get in Accra as the computer was down and they were handwriting passes.  So we went to the transit counter which had a Cloud Nine line and got them without drama.  Next we had to go to the accommodation desk which was packed!  Although I rarely do this, it was time to pull the DYKWIA card.  I “innocently” went to the front and asked where the business class accommodation line was.  The lady said “Right here”, took our boarding passes and issued us vouchers for the Addis Ababa Hilton, dinner and breakfast and a transit visa voucher.  Whew, one line avoided!  Most business class passengers get the Hilton, economy passengers get a cheaper hotel, maybe a 3 star.

One last hurdle to pass – immigration.  There was a business class line and next to it a line for diplomats.  The oddest people seemed to be diplomats!  The same officer was serving both lines and “diplomats” got to go first so it took forever to get through.


It was close to 10pm by the time we got out of the airport, got in a shuttle and were carted off to the Hilton.  The Christmas tree in the lobby was gorgeous!  We outran the others in the shuttle to get our room.


We were in the older wing which could be a disadvantage to some people but it worked ok for us.  The grounds on that side were very birdy in the morning!


Desperate for a shower and not hungry, we grabbed some dessert from the designated restaurant, showered and passed out.


The next morning we could see more where we were.  I like character in a hotel so the old wing with the huge atriums and catwalks over the gardens were perfect for us.  We did some early morning birding so tomorrow you will see the grounds and birds!


There were some nice Ethiopian touches around the lobby.  There seemed to be a conference in town and the hostesses were dressed in beautiful traditional costumes.

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We couldn’t see the entrance as we arrived at night so here it is now.

IMG_6333From here, the shuttle took us back to the airport and we got a glimpse of Addis Ababa on the way.

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