The British owner of Bale Mountain Lodge in Bale Mountains National Park on why she opened a hotel in one of Africa’s last great wildernesses
(Harper’s Bazaar)―Calling all wolf lovers. There are only 250 of them living in the highest Afro-Alpine mountain areas of Ethiopia. A place where, incidentally, I now live, too. They are graceful, red, lithe-limbed animals who hunt during the day for the endemic rodents on the beautiful Sanetti Plateau, in the heart of Bale Mountains National Park in south-east Ethiopia. And 60 per cent of them live on my doorstep.
My first sighting was in 2011, when, returning over the plateau after our first “hunt“ for the perfect place to build a lodge within the park, a wolf crossed the road in front of our car. He was heading off on his own “hunt“ – for a tasty morsel of giant mole-rat. Mr Wolf got his catch and we built the lodge too – Bale Mountain Lodge – about which more later.
The park is a quick charter-flight hop from Addis Ababa to Robe, a journey which catches sight of the magnificent Wabe Gorge, a huge hole in the “Breadbasket of Ethiopia“. Or it’s a tiring 500 kilometers south-east of Addis by a road that was only completed in 2013. The road through the park is unmade (for which read, “challenging“) and the plateau – at a dizzying height of 4,000 meters – is the habitat of the majority of the wolves.
It is the wolves that attract most of the tourists. Do they look like werewolves, I was once asked: “No, more like a fox but with the grace of a gazelle, and the poise of Grace Kelly,“in the words of one excited Texan visitor.
Yet the park is relatively undiscovered. I‘d wager only a couple of hundred tourists manage to make it every year – about the number of those arriving by the hour at London Zoo, which pulls in 850,000 annually.
What are people missing by not coming to the park? Spectacular volcanic plugs and peaks, lakes, rocky gorges, juniper forests, meadows and heather-covered moorlands. Volcanic rocks with names like trachytes, basalts and tuffs. Crashing waterfalls. Lush valleys, dramatic peaks, gorges and canyons.
Continue reading this story on Harper’s Bazaar
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