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12 Days – Tribes of Omo Valley Photography Tour


12 Days – Tribes of Omo Valley Photography Tour overview Located in the far southwest of Ethiopia is the Omo Delta, one of the last great tribal regions left in the world. Living in this remote but accessible area are a vast number of tribal groups all within driving distance of one another. Living in voluntary isolation, their culture, dress, and language have remained intact. Some 45 different languages are spoken, and tribes range from the many thousand strong Borena to the smaller Karo Tribe. With the recently constructed road stretching from Addis Ababa to Arba Minch, this area is now open for exploration and tourism. To anthropologists, the Omo Valley is a living museum; to photographers, the Omo Valley is a visually breathtaking experience.

Seven distinct groups of people live in this area. The Mursi are known for the clay lip plates that the women insert into their lower lips. The Hamar women wear thick copper necklaces, have braided hairstyles colored with red clay, and have high cheekbones. The Karo is highly decorated with chalk. The Konso are pastoralists and weavers. Visually stunning landscapes will be traveled through, ranging from mountains to savannah.

Visitation to the local tribes is a unique travel experience. Photographic opportunities range from documenting the daily life of the tribes, portraiture, and scenic shots as well as the opportunity to enhance one’s compositional skills. Until the 1970s, these tribes had no contact with the outside world and now you have the opportunity to know them. Traveling three photographers per Land Cruiser, eating the local food, and staying at local accommodations make for a special experience.

12 Days – Tribes of Omo Valley Photography Tour

Most of the country, including all coastal areas, enjoys a so-called Mediterranean climate, almost identical to much of California. Summers are hot and dry with a 7-month period of near-constant sunshine generally from April until November.

Day 1 – Addis Ababa

Upon arrival at the airport, you will be driven to the hotel which is 15 minutes away. The hotel has internet, a nice lounge area, a good restaurant, wonderful staff, and a money exchange, and is a comfortable place to start the trip.  The group will have a meet and greet dinner that evening. O/N Jupiter Hotel

Day 2 – Addis Ababa

We will start the day with a photoshoot in the  Entoto hills, the highest point in Addis where the women wood carriers walk, donkeys roam and people pray at  St. Mary’s Church.  From there we will walk to the local Shiro Meda market where people shop for shama cloth and traditional clothing. The group will photograph the pilgrims and priests at the ornate Holy Trinity Cathedral. Women in shama- traditional white shawls, and men deep in prayer are both inside this second most important place of prayer in Ethiopia as well as in the expansive courtyard. Lunch at the Lucy restaurant which is adjoining the Ethnological Museum which houses Lucy, the most complete skeleton ever discovered, being 3.2 million years old.

O/N Jupiter Hotel

Day 3 – Jinka

We will take the 11:40 am flight to Jinka arriving at 1:00 pm. The afternoon will be spent walking the packed village lanes of the Aari village. These very rural people are friendly, some homes are brightly painted, they do pottery, grow sorghum and daily life is easily photographed. Chickens in the yards, kids wanting to hold your hands, and women cooking by fire all make for a great introduction to the Omo Valley. These people are not painted, pierced, or decorated but are an excellent representation of rural southern Ethiopia. Past photography groups have visited the school and donated school supplies. The classrooms are visually compelling and great to document. We will walk up the main road visiting the houses and meeting the people. We will be spending the night in the Eco Omo Lodge which is on the banks of the river where people bathe, clothing gets washed and cars get cleaned.   O/N Eco Omo Lodge

Day 4 – Jinka

Early morning we will take the two-hour ride through Mago National Park to reach a Mursi village. As they are nomadic it is impossible to name the settlement we will visit. The women wear circular clay lip plates, the men are garbed in large towel-like wraps. Photographing women grinding sorghum and breastfeeding while making their morning coffee which they drink out of gourds is possible. Our local guides handle the photo fee payments so you can shoot with abandon. For protein, the men bleed a bull in the early morning and drink its blood. The homes are thatched straw and sticks, and these people are illiterate and their traditions are very much intact. many of the men have body adornments. A sense of humor is needed to fully appreciate the Mursi photographic experience.

The afternoon will be spent wandering the dirt street and markets of Jinka. The market is colorful and vibrant with many bars, and stores selling plastic woven baskets, and day-to-day items. Splitting into small groups a guide will help you with translation, setting up shots if desired, and seeing to it that you can photograph freely.

The group will visit Omo Child Center www.omochild.org in the afternoon. The director, Lale Labuko who is the only western-educated Kara tribe member and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer will give us a tour and we will have a question and answer period. The kids can be photographed and visiting Omo Child is always an emotional experience. Lodging once again will be at the Eco Omo Lodge which has a patio where the group can have a cold beer or hot coffee after this long day.
O/N Eco-Omo Lodge

Day 5 – Turmi

Proceeding further into the scenic Weito lowlands, we will be visiting an Arbore tribal village located at the northern edge of Mount Buska. The Arbore women are absolutely stunning, they have extremely dark skin and strong features. Prior to marriage, the women have their heads shaved. They wear dark robes, and colorful beads and their huts are fabricated from tree branches. We will work on our portraiture skills in this village. Arriving in Turmi late in the afternoon, we will be spending the night at the Buska Lodge which will be our base for the next few days. These round-shaped tukul lodges have porches and are on the bank of a stream. If you like shooting star trails this is your mecca as there is little light pollution.  O/N Buska Lodge

Day 6 – Turmi – Dus – Turmi

Departing Turmi at 5:00 AM, our photography group will head to Dus, the friendliest village of the Kara tribe. Settled on the banks of the Omo River, this tribe is known for its creative and decorative body chalk painting. Many of the Kara women have pierced lips and inserted nails and pins. Photographing on the bank of the Omo River can yield images of the kids diving into the water The group will shoot a cattle and goat drive which is iconic. Dust swirling, men with guns and long herders stick driving their herd to the water. The group will photograph the ceremonial, communal dance performed by the people of Dus.

Day 7 – Turmi – Kangaten – Turmi

Starting off from Turmi at sunrise we will be heading to Kangaten, home to the Nyangatom tribe that historically is said to be a split group from the Toposa tribe of South Sudan. Settled on the other side of the Omo River, we will be crossing the Omo River where we will be able to access and visit remote tribal villages. The teenage boys are lively and like to play much of the day. The women are topless and wear many strands of heavy beads, the girls are playful and love to have their images taken. Mid-afternoon, we will return to Turmi where we will be spending another night at the Buska Lodge.  We can also photograph the Hamer tribe digging for water, smoking out bees, or do another local village sunset shoot. O/N Buska Lodge

Day 8 – Turmi – Omorate-Turmi

Departing Turmi at 5:00 AM, we will be heading to Omorate, home of the Dassanach tribe who are said to be descendants of the Turkana tribe in North Kenya. Like many of these tribal groups, they use chain links and other western ‘cast offs’ as decorative objects. Crossing the newly constructed Omo River bridge and driving further for 12kms, we will be able to photograph a remote Dassanach tribal village, just 11kms from the shores of Lake Turkana. We will photograph the women cooking by fire, grinding corn meal, and the men with their flock.  We will try to continue further south to Lake Turkana to see and photograph the small wooden fishing boats and Dassanch people. O/N Buska Lodge

Day 9 – Turmi

This being Monday we will attend the Turmi market. The Hamer people will be selling honey, snuff, foodstuffs, and local wares. The group will be split up and wander freely shooting the many stalls. Of note, the stores have some artistic designs and the crafts market is the best in the Omo. The grain mills are amazing and many stores are great backdrops for street photography.

The ritualistic bull-jumping ceremony usually takes place on Monday. The women dance with the bells on their ankles making a distinctive noise that blends in with the bugles they blow. The age group (16-25) of men called Maza whip the women as a sign of devotion as they will be responsible for the women as they grow old.  8 bulls are lined up and the nude guy will run across them numerous times. Once completed he is able to marry.  O/N Buska Lodge

Day 10 – Turmi

During the day we will be visiting two local Hamer villages in close proximity.  One visit at sunrise and another at sunset. Leaving the hotel at 5:30 AM the short ride will get us to the Hamer village as the people get ready for the day. Goats going out to pasture, sorghum being ground, kids milking goats. The Hamer women have high cheekbones and wear thick copper necklaces which indicate first wife status and elaborate custom beads. The Hamer are very outgoing and easily engaged. Many of the men wear feathers in their hair and dress in dark green blankets. The sunset shot will be in another village 20 minutes away from our lodge. Another trip’s favorite photoshoot is that of silhouettes… O/N Buska Lodge

Day 11 – Addis Ababa

Today we will fly back to Addis Ababa from the  Jinka airport. The group will return to Addis early in the afternoon and go to a Fair Trade home goods store that has the highest quality fabrics/ shawls/ linen. Those leaving one late-night flight will be driven to the airport. Farewell dinner will be in the hotel.
O/N Jupiter Hotel

Day 12 – Addis Ababa- Homeward Bound

Transportation to the airport is provided.


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