Before coming to trek the Simien Mountains you have already been in Ethiopia for at least a few days so you know some basic issues that may arise with communication, scheduling, and transport. We had many questions about how to organize when we arrived in Gondar and worked it out but hopefully this will save you some time in planning your trek to Simien Mountains National Park and how to choose a Simiens guide if you use one.
- You can arrange package 3 day tours for 180-200USD in Gondar or in Debark.
- There is an ATM machine in Debark even if the receptionist at your debark hotel says otherwise.
- Going to the national park headquarters is the least expensive route for hiring a guide, scout, cook, mules, and mule drivers
- You don’t need a guide, the scouts don’t speak English but they know where they are going
- Bring plenty of sun protection! We got roasted even re-applying often.
- Be prepared to be cold at night. Though I did not find it that bad, some my friends originating from warmer climes were pretty uncomfortable. In high season you can’t count on extra blankets so come prepared. Hats and gloves are a good idea if you are tender.
- Headlamp or torch is essential, just ask the guy from Denmark.
About the National Park Service and the guides:
- Guides are hit or miss. Ours was nice at the office and we found that he was a practiced asshole. A real prick with nothing to offer. However, in the park I met another guide with a different group who was excellent. I will post his information here soon.
- The guide supervisor at the park service headquarters does not care if your guide is crap. Our guide called him in advance and set him up with some nice lies about our group. The supervisor refused our request to fill out a complaint form and told us we insulted them. Wow. Manage your expectations! Transport to/from Debark and/or Chenek (Simien Mountains National Park)
To get to Debark take a minibus from Gonder (50 birr)
From Debark to Simien Lodge or beyond you need to contact the local mafia who will have a representative at park headquarters. Though there is local transport it is not for faranji’s, but you can try. They will gouge you 1200 birr for the one hour ride into the park.
Chenek to Debark. Most treks end in Chenek. The transporatation boss will gouge you for 2200 birr for this 2.5 hour ride. He will spare no expense in getting you the crappiest vehicle possible for your return trip. However, there is a local bus. When I hiked Bwahit (4430m) on the last day, 6 buses passed me on the road part of the hike. They charge faranji 80 birr as opposed to 2200 birr. You will have to argue with the crime boss and there is no one on your side in that town. Not saying it’s not friendly but they will ring you like a sponge for every birr possible.
Here is a picture of our guide. If you take him you will regret it. He offered us no help when we encountered people who spoke no English, no background on the area with the exception of elevations, and he just got drunk at night with his friends without giving us any plans for the next day. I have since learned his name is Melese Beza
The guide below was with a French couple that we leap frogged with on the trail. His name is Bogale and he always looked after his group and ours if we were near him. He is also knowledgeable about the area. You can reach Bogale to ask if he is available at email@example.com. If he does not respond immediately he may be guiding or may not be in an area with internet.
Click to see photos of hiking in the Simien Mountains
Please share this with your Ethiopia bound friends!!!