My Ethiopia

Preparing Ethiopia's first community based Park

  The Kundudo, Saar Erta and Ejersa  Goro

  Community Conservation Area



  A satellite view with the main attractions. FULL VIEW, pls click FULL SIZE under photo

The proposed conservation Area, shortly indicated for simplicity as Kundudo Park represents Ethiopia’s first Community Conservation Area project. It covers an area of naturalistic, archaeological, tourist and geological-speleological interest and the three main peaks dominating Harar views. The area has not been chartered, resource mapping is under way.

It has been devised by Prof. Marco Viganò after a series of discovery in the area, in the fields of Geology, Speleology, Archaeology, and Natural Science. An International Symposium held in Harar in September 2009 has proposed its realisation as part of the Extended East Route for sustainable tourism, a project being elaborate by the Harari Killil and Oromia.

It represents a viable alternative for tourism development to the noted Classic North Route. The EER covers 3000 kms. in three States, Ethiopia, former Somaliland and Djibouti and, within Ethiopia parts of five Regional States, Dire Dawa, Harari, Oromia, Afar and Sumali.

The main findings and attractions in the proposed conservation area are:

  1. The Kundudo feral Horses and its forests, that are to be restored.
  2. A number of archaeological sites under first investigations.
  3. Five sets of freshly found Rock paintings and a few more, already known to science. Amongst these the last find, Goda Rorisso, appears to prime.
  4. Beautiful landscapes, and mountain views including an impressive seasonal waterfall and the Kundudo North Face.
  5. Naturalistic sites with the discovery of a new endemic species. Lammergeiers and over 150 bird species are common sights. A natural spa has just been uncovered near Ejersa Goro.
  6. The best cave systems found so far on our continent, the Gursum Pearl.
We are preparing a Workshop, to be held in Harar in August, to set up the guidelines and start action to charter the area. Participants from communities and stakeholders in the two provinces or weredas involved, Gursum and Jarso. 

Kundudo, apology of a park

There was a grand flat top mountain, near the sky. On it, men felt the Infinite as near.

Kundudo it was, the Sacred Amba. So elegant and cute it cut your breath. Dense with secrets, legendary lives, nature’s mysteries born with her, open only to the Mind that created them.

Up the steep cliff a lost and distant day those who prayed in the ancient mosque founded on the top prairie freed large, fascinating white and red horses. They knew this was good, they had to be there.

Just under, the Zigba trees lathed like potent yet delicate spindles caressed the dark basalt walls, towered over the densest of the forest where the rare giant antelopes still hid. More horses pastured in the clearances, alone and proud, forgetful of man.

Rills, then torrents, lastly seasonal rivers flew from the dens, the holes and springs under the most beautiful caves of Africa.

Drop by drop, from the top greens it seeps in the rock’s cold bowels. It touches the black ignites warmed by the sun. it slowly dissolves the mass of white limes into thousands of holes, reshaping it into funnels that channel it down, where pure dark reigns and unknown creatures slowly dance, move onto columns and intricate rock formations, or swim in the springs.

Water resuscitates new rocks in hidden forms were powders, salts and time shape the caves’ incredible decorations, a light, unstoppable sculpting respire.

It flows out of darkness and enlightens the lower slopes with stimulant leaves, in the pullulating fields of the newcomers, the indefatigable peasants. It gives life to the villages that could not preserve the forest, the huts of those who destroyed the dreams of the horses that were born free.

They menaced the Sacred Mountain, just because they did not know. Out of ignorance of a wealthy future in peace, which they could not see.

They could not understand what was in their Mount, what hope it bore. They only saw the easy barter of its millennary green for some silver pieces, the work of the plough on cleared soils. Forgetful of the might of Ahmed al Ibrahimi, the left handed, of the Harēr Kings, of the swamps and town of Hubat, fulgent myth of conquering Islam, as impoverished seekers of little bread with no history.

He who knows not desecrates and spoils, without much fault.

The Oromo sons have touched the Sacred of Kundudo, cut far too much of that forest, killed unseen beings that multiplied in it, occupying its branches, its waters, its barks and roots.

Now those who have understood must save what the eye can still see. The rock entrails have protected so far, beyond minuscule openings, in deep darkness the mysteries of the caverns formed since ever deep inside, still being sculpted every day.

Those marine creatures petrified by a sortilege, the majestic trees and the dense undergrowth with the Horses together free must return, out of those hands of man that cut, gather to sell, tie to ropes and profanate.

Ten steps to realize a First Community Conservation Area

After indications from the Harer Symposium on the Extencded East Route, the amazing Kundudo is set to become Ethiopia's First Community Conservation Area, a Regional Park where conservation, touristic use and community fruition try to armonise in a Local context.
I attempt here a check list on things to do , to make this, the dream of many in Ethiopia and in the diaspora, come through.
1- Contact UNEP in Addis, the Environment Protection Authority (Dr. Tewelde G/Izgabhier) to have support for the Community Conservation Area. Involve the Oromia administration, Misrak Hararge Zone, fully.
2- Take the cows down on the grave health hazard grounds, pay something to the two or three biggest cattle owners and polluters, as Area Wardens.
3- Organise further resource mapping: explorations, caves, forest, bauty spots and paintings included
4- Start reafforestation, as natural as possible, as much as feasible, in a systematic way. If not the original 8500+ hectares, at least 1500 to start with, near the most interesting spots, like the north face and the Immis falls.
5- Make one or two ecolodges. A first obvoius location has been pinpointed under the Immis falls.
6- Set a Museum up. It should be a way to promote local archeology, save the incredible fossil fields off the northern slopes and a tool to promote visits.
7- Prepare the development of different facilities in Gursum, a better hotel, cafes, more economic activities tied to tourism.
8- Empower the communities all around, working with them. Teach and show issues related to the environment and tourism, reafforestation, make it possible for many to profit through tools drected to empower the poor.
9- Promote tourism from now, even though the Conservation Area is not operative yet: people will see how this will benefit them directly and start cooperating.
10- See the Kundudo as one of the most significant naturalistic and historic attractions, part and parcel of the EER; link it with nearby locations and attractions.

A Kundudo Logo

We could do with a Logo for the new Community Conservation Area. Some time back, brother Meftuh from Toronto indicated this job by a young artist. I quite like it. Do you?

The discovery of what appears to be the best cave system in Africa justunder were we want to preserve the original feral horse pack has given a new impulse to our project, transform the whole massif in Ethiopia's first Community administered Park, a place where conservation and tourism work hand in hand to promote our peoples. We need to act, fast, and a promotion campaign is part of our tasks, too.


       A room in the Gursum Pearl Cave                     KUNDUDO PROTECTOR, by Ashelind

What a stunning mountain will become, soon

The Kundudo, the elegant Mountain that dominates Harar views, will soon enough become Ethipia's first Community Conservation Area.

To conserve what? The unique Feral Horses, the Archaeological sites, some of the best Caves ever discovered in Africa, or its special forest?


Possibly, an area dedicated to the many things one can do there: Trekking, Canyoning, Climbing, Biking, Paragliding, Caving, or just spend time resting and camping on its amazing flat top.

Why not, stargazing from its undisturbed, often dry 3000m summit into the deep skies of eastern Ethiopia or climbing next to its falls in full light, under the flight of one of the world rarest and most peculiar birds, the Lammergeier.

So, let us just call it the Kundudo Park!


This map visualizes some of the ongoing action research to promote it as a main part of the Harar destination cluster in the new Eastern Tourism Route in Ethiopia.


The whole short chain, including the yet unstudied, slightly higher Sarita tarara to the North West, should indeed become an Oromia State Park dedicated to Cultural Tourism.

Because nowhere else interesting tourist activities could be presently coupled with the conservation, promotion and education on natural resources as here, in the whole of Ethiopia.

First, its still largely unstudied forests, reduced unfortunately no more than fifteen years ago to two or three remnant patches should be the object of research, and immediate reproduction of the main original species in nurseries. The north east face should be reforested. Out of the original 9,000 hectares of semi-pristine forest, a good few hundreds could be replanted within a few years.


 Untouched forest in Kuni, Mt Muktar                                        In the meanwhile a say ten room lodge and a small, two hut geological and fossil museum will be erected at Bedada, where the falls are, next to a few huge Afrocarpus, where the Immis small aqueduct has its tanks.                   


The views from there, over two deep valleys, are stunning, and only forty minutes or less pleasant walk, with a little scramble on basalts next to one of the four fall jumps will take visitors to the top, where the Feral Horses will again, once and for all, be.

We ascertained ten of the original pack are still around, with three stallions.

They can and will be saved. Many will be able to see them roaming again, as the young of Harar used to do for ten generations or more, up the top.

The huge fossil field around there will be studied, and specimen removal forbidden. Instead, locals and tourists alike will be encouraged to contribute with their finds to the small museum, that will include maps, local history and geography fact, notes on the archaeological areas, the horses, the forest and the cave system.              A feral Mare


The Bedada pass, where famed travelers first saw Harar from, will be a shady treed area again, forever.


The impressive North face will be the object of more strenuous trekking and climbing, whilst the first canyoning route in Ethiopia, on the Immis falls, will soon be opened. The Italian speleologist team wanted to set up this February, before they stayed extra days in the mountain’s deep bowels, as they made a special discovery indeed.


Just where Richard Burton -the famed travel writer- mentioned a massive source, the cave system that gives life to at least three springs in all proved to be one of Africa’s marvels. Long water filled lower parts, incredible chimneys and rooms filled with the delight any speleologist lives for, special rock concretions of twenty, more common and rare kinds, of many special colours.

After the Italian team charged with it will have carried out a substantial part of  the exploration and published on it, speleologists from all over the world will be invited.

Difficulties, the water presence, its nature make it impossible to adapt for ordinary tourists.

One or more other caves could be fitted with a generator and lighting systems, easy passages fitted for more ordinary visitors.


Visits and an organised area with boards and picnic facilities, again after excavations, would make way to an equipped track walk around the Mt. Stinico archaeological area.

Just under it, the administration could, with profit, restore a local lodge and fit it with restoration      



Some stalactites in the new cave                                           facilities, possibly rooms.

Trekking paths will be traced all over the chain, including the yet unstudied Sarita tarara, a team of fifteen British Cyclists will be visiting this March, opening the Kundudo cyclo-tourism track, camping on top, where they will take their mountain bikes to.


Soon, probably within a year or two, the first daring pioneers will jump with their parachutes off the top.

Whilst this activity is forbidden in the Semien Mountains National Park, it will be encouraged here.

Differently to the rugged Semiens, the flat top offers the perfect choice of points to take off from, one for every wind direction, off straight cliffs that greatly facilitate jumping.

On top of it, the whole mountain is encircled by a road, there is no dearth of possible landing places, and the recuperation             Steep cliffs contour the whole of the flat top

of the glider will be so easy a lover of this sport could make more than one jump in a single day.         


Less strenuous or daring travelers will walk or take a four wheel drive car to see more fascinating Rock paintings between the Kundudo and Harar.


The Stinico guided archaeological path and the Bedada Kundudo museum will host references to the other cluster member, Koremi, the Rock Paintings over the whole area, Harar itself, as well as a guide to the restored forest and other near locations, like Dire Dawa, its prehistorically inhabited and painted Porc Epic cave, and the not so distant marvel of Laas Geel, Hargeisa, the 'Sistine Chapel' of       


'Lizard god' painting on the Saka Sharif Rock                         prehistoric Rock Painting.


Many will, soon, enjoy a cultural experience that takes them to immerse themselves in a few fascinating sciences, Geography and Geology, Caving, Archaeology, History, immersed in a special Nature, working directly for its Conservation, or indirectly as spectators of the making of a singular African Park of a new definition.


Where you do not just watch, passively, but actively participate, learn a lot and can have the fun of your life in a fascinating, unique and irreplaceable environment with few equivalents in the world.