The Omo Valley

Tribal Encounters in Ethiopia


There are 52 tribes in Ethiopia’s southern Omo Valley, one of the most diverse ethnic regions on the planet. Tours from surrounding towns and cities take you into the Rift Valley, where you can personal encounters with tribes like the Arbore, Ari, Bena , Dorze, Hamer (Hamar), Konso, Mursi, Tsemay, and Turkana. I visited three different tribes, and had three very different experiences. The Alaba lived in dark round huts, baking traditional injera over wood in the middle. The Mursi, with their famous lip plates, carried guns used in inter-tribal warfare. The Konso showed me how young men sleep in the same hut, acting as guardians for the community. Prodded for tips, I battled to find an authentic way to communicate, until a soccer ball gave us something in common. Watched by the elders, the Konso kids showed me one of their games too. There’s always a way to make a real connection.

Length of Trip : 7 days/7 Night Tour. Longer if you travel by road instead of domestic flights.

Cost :
From US$1900 per person based on a double booking. Price includes accommodation, admission/entrance fees, guide services, and transport.

Best time to go : Dry season is July/August and December/January.

Wheelchair friendly : Speak to operator if arrangements can be made.

Family friendly : A challenging trip for younger kids.

Where to eat :
You'll stop at clean restaurants along the way, recommended by your tour guide. Injera and tibs - yum!

Official Site :
Merit Tours
Visit the fascinating tribes of the Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia with World Expeditions

Where to Stay :
Accommodation is provided in basic, clean and safe hotels in the region.

Getting There :
To get to the Omo Valley, you'll fly from Addis Ababa to Arba Minch. There are few flights, so travellers are advised to be in Addis Ababa for Monday. Alternatively there are tours that leave Addis by road. You'll see more of the country, but the tour usually runs 13 days.

Note from Robin :
We visited three tribes and had three very different experiences, some of which didn't sit too well. The Mursi encounter, in particular, depends on the tribe and the negotiation that takes place for your visit. The goal is to have an authentic cultural encounter, not visit a human zoo. Speak to your operator and try and ensure you're visiting the right tribes with the right intentions.