Far off the grid within Africa’s Great Rift Valley in southwestern Ethiopia lies the Lower Omo Valley. Around 800km from Addis Ababa, home to 16 distinct traditional African tribes, the Omo is without a doubt one of the most culturally diverse and spectacular places on Earth. Although these days, modernising influences such as education, tourism, development and religion are much more pervasive than before, ancient traditions, communal farming and cattle-herding still form the back-bone of daily life for the majority. The valley is divided into east and west with different indigenous tribes living on both sides of the Omo river.
Eastern Omo Valley
The dry vast savannah of eastern Omo might be the path more trodden, but its ethnically diverse, and accessible to reach all year-round. From the Hamar with their red dreadlocked hair and animal skin skirts, to the body painted Kara tribe, the Mursi with clay-plated lips, the Nyangatom and Arbore with colourful beads stacked high on their necks, amongst several other wonderful communities to visit, like the Konso, Ari, Borana, Banna and Tsemay.
Southwest Omo Valley
Visiting the remote, green, and mountainous land of the Surma (otherwise Suri) people on the western side of Omo National Park is perhaps the more adventurous route, and best for people who are happy to do a lot of off-roading and forfeit hotels for camping in bush villages. In return, this is real and wild Africa at its best, and travelling here is an experience you’ll never forget. Still, Surma can only be reached when local conditions are favourable.
Omo Valley Tours
Every trip to the Lower Omo Valley will be totally different from the next, and although a great deal of patience and flexibility is necessary, along with a huge amount of respect for these incredible people and their day-to-day lives, the Lower Omo Valley is well worth adding to your Ethiopia tour itinerary… sit back and prepare to be amazed! At Yared Tour & Travel, we’re working hard to develop new community-based tourism experiences which are being created with, and supported by local people. In 2019, we launched Shoshi Trekking (meaning ‘guest’ in the local language) – a 3-5-day guided adventure hike with the Hamar community, giving you the chance to get physical, and delve deeper into tribal culture for longer in the Omo Valley.