The southern part of Ethiopia is a diverse mix of scenery, lakes and people. The Rift Valley offers contrasting scenery from the forest and springs around Wondo Guenet and wild alpine scenery of the 4,000-metre high Sanetti Plateau in the Bale Mountains region, to the lakes around Arba Minch, such as Lake Chomo and the popular water sports area of Lake Langano.
The south is also home to various tribes with the most well-known being the Mursi, Karo, Erbore and Hamer tribes, whose bodily decorations and agro-pastoralist lifestyle are far removed from the 20th century. Perhaps the most well known of the tribes in the Omo are the Mursi, whose women are decorated with large lip plates. Once a woman reaches the age of 20 the lower lip is slit and a clay plate is inserted. As the lip is stretched a larger plate is inserted and throughout a lifetime these plates can reach up to 15cm in diameter
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Destinations in Southern Rift Valley
Turmi, part of the Omo valley, is a small market town situated in south-west Ethiopia. Located 778km from Addis Ababa it is accessible by a 275km asphalt and gravel road from Arbaminch or from Jinka, which is 140km away. Turmi is the settlement of the Hammer people who are famous for their bull jumping ceremony in which a young man who wants to marry jumps over a line of bulls to win over his potential bride's family.
Lake Langano, with a surface of 305 sq km and a depth of 45m, is more developed for tourism than any other lake in Ethiopia. All the resorts offer a variety of optional water sports, while boat trips can be made to an island noted for its hot springs, or in search of hippos and crocodiles. The wooded shore is also of great interest to bird enthusiasts.
Jinka is the administrative capital of South Omo and has a quaint atmosphere. It has an elevation of 1490m above sea level and stands above the rest of the Omo Valley. Jinka is home to the German-funded Ethnographic Museum and is connected to Addis Ababa by air as well as road. Market day is Saturday and Mago National Park, 40 kilometres south by unpaved orad, is a nearby attraction. Jinka's amenities include digital telephone access, postal service, electricity provided by a diesel generator, a bank and a hospital. In May 2009 Jinka increased its electrical service from 16 to 24 hours a day when the town obtained additional generators.
Bale Mountains National Park
Bale Mountains National Park Bale Mountains is the largest area of Afro-Alpine habitat in the whole of the African continent. It gives the visitor opportunities for unsurpassed mountain walking, scenic driving and the chance to view many of Ethiopia's endemic mammals, in particular the Simien fox, the mountain nyala and birds such as the thick-billed raven, wattled ibis, blue-winged goose and Rougets rail.
Awasa The lakeside city of Awasa is situated at an altitude of 1,685m in the Rift Valley. Awasa is the largest city in the Ethiopian Rift Valley, supporting a population of around 116,000. It has a compact, attractively laid-out centre with a bright and modern character. The main attraction of Awasa is the lake. Set in an ancient volcanic caldera, Lake Awasa has no outlets, yet the water remains fresh, and the lake supports a rich variety of plankton and an abundance of fish. The surrounding scenery is beautiful and provides a mountainous backdrop to the lake.
Arba Minch is situated by Lake Chamo and Abaya, the most southerly of Ethiopia’s Rift Valley lakes. It is the base to explore Chencha, home to the Dorze people (famed for their beehive shaped houses and their weaving skills) and Nech Sar Park.
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