I had a private driver through Ghion Travel and Tours, but it is definitely possible to get around independently. However, with that said, I saw so many public buses flipped and crushed in ditches that I lost count, which made me thankful I hadn't attempted to take them.
Assuming you will be flying into Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, you will depart on your epic road trip from Addis. Leave the city at 7:00AM to avoid traffic and head south to begin your Southern Country adventure!
Your first stop is a small village called Tiya, where a world heritage site awaits. The Tiya Megalithic Steles site contains 900 year old standing stones (picture the Ethiopian version of Stone Henge).
The stones themselves are grave sites to a pagan warrior community that once lived on this land. Along each stone, you will note engravings of swords (indicating the number of people the individual buried had killed) or jewelry (indicating it was a notable woman). I found this site fascinating and I was lucky to be the only tourist there.
After Tiya, stop for a local coffee in the next village for just 5 BIR and continue onwards. You will notice at any one time, there are herds of cattle and donkeys with carts towing parcels to and from the markets along the roads. We passed fields of lush green crops and ‘false’ banana trees.
Stop in Albara Quilto for lunch, wifi and a bathroom break at the Sera Lodge Hotel, or you could stay here overnight if you have tons of time and want to break up the journey. Alternatively, if you can wait for food you can also stop in Sodo. I purchased bananas from the road for 25 BIR and a St. George beer for 28 BIR.
Arba Minch, apparently translated from Amharic to English means 14 springs. It is situated along the SW bank of Lake Abaya, not far from the Ethiopian/Kenyan border.
I stayed at the Derik hotel, which is literally so new that it doesn’t have a website but it was a modern and clean budget option at just 600BIR per night. It also conveniently has an amazing Italian/Ethiopian fusion restaurant on the premises which I tried and tested (obviously).
Start your day with Ethiopian coffee and a nice breakfast at the hotel and then depart for your Lake Chamos Boat Adventure!
Within the Nech Sar National Park, you can explore Lake Chamos by boat with a local guide (ask for Solomon). The cost should be around 2500 BIR regardless of the number of people in your group, or it will be included in your tour package.
Lake Chamos is smaller than Lake Abaya, but safer. Apparently, Lake Abaya is void of fish so the crocodiles are more aggressive. Lake Chamos has nile perch, tilapia, cat fish, and TONS of bird species such as storks, herons, pelicans and eagles.
I was lucky enough to see some crocodiles enjoying the morning sun, a lone hippo getting into the water and further down a pod of 6 hippos sleeping. We couldn’t get too close as Solomon said they have been known to be aggressive to the boats.