Abijatta – Shalla National Park, Ethiopia
Abijatta – Shalla National Park is a national park in the Republic of Ethiopia located in the Oromia Region and the Ethiopian Highlands region. The park is about 200 kilometers South of Addis Ababa and east of the Batu – Shashamane highway. It encompasses an area of approximately 887 square kilometers including the Rift valley lakes of Abijatta and Shalla.
The two lakes – Abijatta and Shalla are separated by about three kilometers of hilly land. Abijatta – Shalla National Park ranges on an altitude of about 1540 to 2075 meters with its highest peak known as Mount Fike which is positioned between the two lakes. Aside the two lakes, the national park has got other primary attractions including a various number of hot springs on the northeastern corner of Lake Abijatta and also a large number of flamingos along the lake.
Though little wildlife can be viewed in the park, Abijatta – Shalla National Park was established in 1974 to mainly protect and conserve the wildlife. In the last days of the Derg regime and during the time afterwards, a numerous nomads took advantage of the weakened central authority to move into the park and set up residence with their livestock. During this time, a large number of Acacia woodland surrounding Lake Abijatta was cut down for charcoal and currently, a few small groups of Acacia trees exist though they continue to cut them. Also, the locals continue to remove the salty soil from the lake shoreline and sell it.
Wildlife of the park
A recent visitor of the park noted that a large breeding population of different animals like the greater kudu, black backed jackal, spotted hyena, and Grant’s gazelle may exist but he saw no evidence for their presence. Although baboons are still somehow common to the park, they were reduced due to the introduction of livestock by the cattle herders. Several ostriches and a few Grant’s Gazelles were protected in the fenced enclosure near the gate house.
Abijatta – Shalla National park was mainly established to protected different endangered wildlife though a few of them can be viewed in the park due to different human activities like livestock farming that is done by the cattle herder within the park premises. Among the animals to be spotted in the park include the hippos, crocodiles, giraffes, leopards, zebra, warthog, hyena, cheetahs, Egyptian geese, the greater kudu, black backed jackals and others. Other mammal species in the park include the endemic monkeys like the colobus monkeys that are seen swinging on the tree branches..
More than 300 species of birds gave been recorded in Abijatta – Shalla National Park. Among these birds include the migratory and resident species and among these are; the Greater white pelicans, storks, egrets, herons, neon pink flamingos, and others. Also, expect to see ostriches in the forests en route to the lakes.
Accommodations in the park
Abijatta – Shalla National Park does not have any accommodation facility on site but camping is allowed in different areas on site especially for the adventurous travellers. The park is accessible via the Ziway – Shashamane highway. Some people visit the park while passing through the Rift Valley and en route to the Bale Mountains, Omo Valley or even head up to Addis Ababa.