Ethiopia’s jewel on the crown, the Simien Mountains National Park is so incomparably impressive and spectacular for the variety of its fauna and flora species. This mosaic pattern promotes species richness and diversity. It is therefore not surprising that Ethiopia with its numerous mountains has the highest number of endemic birds and mammals on the African continent.
Graced with such marvelous landscapes and unique plant and animal species, the Simien Mountains National Park is located in the loop of Ethiopian historic route, encompassing extensive massif highlands. The Simien Mountains, constituting one of the major mountain massifs in Africa, are geologically described as a volcanic pile now bounded by gigantic erosion precipices on almost all sides. The mountain massifs are domed by many summits above 4,000 meters, including the highest point in Ethiopia – Ras Dashen at 4,620 meters (15,157 feet), which is the fourth highest mountain in Africa. Although the Simien Mountains are in the sun continent Africa, the temperature in the park’s area can drop below freezing point at night. Hail and snow also fall on the highest points and the resulting ice may remain for several days.
The Simien Mountains National Park is the stronghold of many precious mammals, three of which are endemic: Walia ibex, the Ethiopian wolf and Gelada baboons. The Walia ibex (Capra ibex walie) and the Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis) belong to the most endangered mammals in the world. The Walia ibex live on nearly vertical cliff faces and narrow ledges in a restricted area within the park. They are seldom found below 2,400 meters. Both males and females have horns, but those of the males are more massive. The Ethiopian wolves can be more easily spotted in the Bale Mountains National Park than in the Simien Mountains. They are the most beautiful members of the dog family anywhere in the world. Its bright coat, white under markings and its nearly black tail make it easy to recognize. Another mammal unique to Ethiopia is Gelada baboon (the bleeding-hear or the lion monkey). They are among the most strictly vegetarian of the primates. They spend most of the daytime plucking grass and digging for roots and bulbs on which it feeds as well as picking through each other’s fur. Both sexes of geladas have a heart-shaped patch of bare reddish skin on their chests. Adult males have a thick lion-like mane on their heads and shoulders. Gladas are seldom found far from the cliffs. Like the Walia, they are well adapted to living on the nearly vertical cliff faces which would defeat most animals. They have the most amazing family patterns and often described as the most social mammals of all.
There are also some stunning bird species in the park that include the famous bearded vulture, augur bussard, black-headed siskin, chough, Egyptian vulture, fan-tailed raven, groundscraper thrush, hillchat, short-crested lark, Ruppel’s griffon vulture, Slender-billed chestnut-winged starling, thick-billed raven, red-breasted wheatear, white-collared pigeon and tawny eagle.
The Simien Mountains National Park receives international attention as a World Heritage Site due to its biodiversity, its high number of endemic species and its outstanding physical features. The high biodiversity of the park is a result of Ethiopia’s geological location. The park has three general botanical regions. At the lowland altitude, up to about 2,700 – 3,000 meters, we find grassland and cultivated areas. Between the altitudes of 3,000 and 3,600 there was a forest of giant heath. Higher above 3,600 meters the mountain grassland begins. Of all the Afro Alpine plant species at this altitude, giant lobelia is the most spectacular one, growing up with flower stalks up to eight meters high. (10 days in the exotic Simien massifs)