Omo Valley & Lalibela

This photo tour is the ultimate combination of African culture and history. The Omo Valley is one of the most ethnically diverse places on Earth, with over 10 distinct tribes living very much as they did hundreds of years ago. We will be spending time photographing and immersing ourselves in the villages of 4 tribes as well as visiting traditional markets and making opportunistic stops when the time is right. It would be misleading to say that the Omo Valley is untouched by modern developments and as such it is very much a "see it while you can" destination.

Lalibela is home to the 12th century hand-carved rock churches of King Lalibela (1181-1221), after whom the town is named. It is truly an ancient world and includes 11 magnificent, medieval, rock-hewn chruches, dimly passageways, and hidden crypts and grottoes carved into the red volcanic rock underlying this remote Ethiopian town. These brilliant feats of engineering and architecture are often referred to as the "Eighth wonder of the world".


Book your spot on this photo tour now!


Photographic possibilities on this photo tour...


Arrival in Addis Ababa

Today is set aside as an arrival day in the wonderous land of Abyssinia. After arrival in Mole International Airport and having taken care of passport control and luggage formalities, you will be met by an Oryx representative as you exit the arrivals hall and driven to your hotel nearby where Mike will meet you.

Fly from Addis Ababa to Jimma

This morning you fly from Addis Ababa to Jinka, before continuing by road to Turmi. The Turmi area is home to the Hamar Tribe, one of the most well-known tribes in the Omo Valley. They are especially well known for their unique rituals, including a cattle jumping ceremony that the young men have to undergo in order to reach adulthood and to marry. They Hamar are also known for one of the most bizarre rituals on Earth. This is when the women taunt the men into whipping them as a symbolic show of love. They scars that are left behind are conspicuous on the bodies of all Hamar women. They take great pride in their appearance and wear traditional dresses consisting of a goatskin skirt adorned with vertical rows of red and yellow beads. Their hair is characteristically fised in dense ringlets with butterfat mised with red ochre. They also wear many bracelets and necklaces fashioned of beads or metal. The men wear woven cloth wrapped around the waist and many elders wear delicately coloured clay head caps that are fashioned into their hair and adorned with an ostrich feather. The ceremonies are rare to see, however with luck, our local guide may hear of, and we may even be invited to attend, this landmark event.
Turmi Area: Morning excursion to Karo Tribe, afternoon to Arbore Tribe

This morning, we head to the Omo River and our tribe of interest is the Karo, another tribe known for its elaborate body and facial paintings. These people live along the east bank of the Omo River and practice flood retreat cultivation. Like many of the tribes in the Omo Valley, they paint their bodies and faces with white chalk to prepare for any ceremonies. The Karo women have decoratively scarred abdomens, which are considered sensual and very desirable.
In the afternoon we visit the Arbore tribe, of who there are less than 9000, living in the flat country near Lake Chew Bahir. They are a very friendly people and the women are renown for the preponderance of colourful beads that adorn their clothes and bodies.
Drive Turmi to Jinka, afternoon visit to Mursi Tribe

A little more time will be spent with the Hamar this morning before heading north to Jinka, where you will stay for one night. This afternoon will be spent visiting the Mursi tribe. Most famous for the clay lip plates that the women insert in their lower lips, the Mursi are probably one of the last tribes in Africa amongst whom it is still the norm for women to wear these large pottery or wooden discs or plates. The lip plate (dhebi a tugoin) has become the chief visible distinguishing characteristic of the fascinating Mursi people.

Fly to Addis Ababa

This morning your incredible time in the Omo comes to an end as you drive to the airport in time for your flight back to Addis Ababa. Some of the highlights in Addis Ababa, which depending on time available may include the following (depending on flight arrival into Addis – not all of the below are possible to be explored properly in a half day, and your ORYX Photo Tour leader will discuss with you which to visit): National Museum, Ethnological Museum, Trinity Cathedral and the Merkato Market

Fly Addis Ababa to Lalibela

Today you depart Addis and fly from Bole International Airport to Lalibela, located in northern Ethiopia. Lalibela is home to the 12th century hand-carved rock churches of King Lalibela (1181 - 1221), after whom the town is named. Lalibela is truly an ancient world and includes 11 magnificent, medieval, rock-hewn churches, dimly lit passageways, and hidden crypts and grottoes carved into the red volcanic rock underlying this remote Ethiopian town, constructed almost a millennia ago by the Zagwe dynasty. Today that world still remains, frozen in stone, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These brilliant feats of engineering and architecture are often referred to as the "Eighth wonder of the World". You will begin your exploration at the first group of churches of Lalibela, which are found northeast of a stream named ‘River Jordan’, which represent the earthly Jerusalem.

The first group of churches are: The twin churches of Bete Debre Sina and Golgotha with Selassie Chapel Bete Medhane Alem (the house of the Redeemer of the World) Bete Mariam (the house of St. Mary) Bete Meskel (the house of Cross) Bete Danagil (the house of Virgins) Standing 38 feet tall with seventy-two pillars, Medhane Alem is not only the largest in Lalibela, but it is the largest monolithic rock-hewn church in the world. Bet Golgotha houses remarkable reliefs of figures, early Christian art rarely seen in other parts of Ethiopia. At the end of the day, you will retire to your hotel, which has expansive views of the countryside and makes for a pleasant place to relax and soak up the atmosphere.

Full day at Lalibela

Today will be a full day of exploring this ancient town, focusing on the churches that represent the heavenly Jerusalem. After breakfast, your first stop will be at the church of Asheten Mariam or ‘Nakutola’ab’, which sits atop a mountain overlooking Lalibela. The vantage point from the mountain offers stunning panoramic views, making it easy to understand why the priests at this church believe they are the “closest to God” at this height. There is an optional mule ride to and from the road to the church.

In the afternoon you visit the second group of churches, which represent the heavenly Jerusalem. They are the churches of Bete Gabriel & Raphael, Bete Merquorios, Bete Emmanuel and Bete Abba Libanos. Perhaps the most interesting church here is the cross-shaped church of Bete Giorgis (Church of St. George), which is said to be a symbolisation of Noah’s Ark. Carved out of the ground, and shaped from the inside out, it is one, unbroken piece of stone. It is connected to the other sunken stone churches through a series of elaborate tunnels. We will spend time photographing it as the sun sinks lower in the sky, and it is bathed in warm afternoon light.

Fly Lalibela to Addis Ababa and Depart

At a time to be advised, you will head back to the airport to check in for your flight from Lalibela back to Addis Ababa, where this tour sadly comes to an end.

This photo tour is for you if...

– You are interested in experiencing ancient cultures that are almost untouched by the influences of the modern world.
– You have a passion for photographing people who are living lifestyles that are centuries old.
– You are happy with accommodation that is clean, comfortable but not lavish.
– You enjoy travelling with a small group of like-minded individuals. The small group size means that Mike will be on hand throughout this cultural photo tour as both your host and photographic tutor.
– You want to travel with the support of a team that has been operating in Ethiopia for over a decade.
– You want to experience the very best photographic opportunities that the Omo Valley has to offer, cherry picked to ensure that you have the ultimate cultural photo tour.

Tour cost includes...

– All accommodation as per the itinerary
– All meals
– Photographic fees for when photographing people
– Gratuities for local guides and services
– Photographic fees in national parks
– Portage fees
– All entrance fees as per the itinerary
– All airport transfers
– All ground transportation using 4x4 vehicles
– Professional local English speaking guide
– All local guide fees
– Bottled mineral water
– Government tax
– Hands on photographic tutoring by Mike Dexter

And excludes...

– All international flights
– Internal flights 
– All beverages other than bottled mineral water
– Visa costs
– Laundry
– Travel insurance
– Personal expenses such as souvenirs, telephone calls etc.

Book your spot on this photo tour now!