Ethiopia is the only sub-Saharan African country never to have been colonized. A widespread famine affected the country in the 1980s – the worst in a century – resulting in 1.2 million deaths. Today, its economy is booming, and travelers are heading to this unique African destination.
00:45 What sets Ethiopia apart from other African countries?
01:49 Alicia Erickson ‘shocked, in a good way’
04:30 Ethiopia’s rich culture
08:13 Is travel to Ethiopia safe?
09:28 Ellen Hall
11:30 Ethiopia’s coffee ceremony
16:29 Your Questions
20:32 Jane Wynyard
25:44 Poaching of ivory
30:54 Molla Miheretu and his family-run travel country
37:00 A little bit of everything
39:00 Next week
"What I'm so drawn to it is the rich culture, the really preserved history, which you don't see so much in Sub-Saharan Africa. Of course, unfortunately, a lot of that got wiped out with a real colonial presence and influence." - Alicia
"You can get around on short flights and if you want to spend the money you can also charter flights. We did fly around a fair bit, but we also drove around a lot. The roads are not in many places in the greatest of shape. People use it for herding goats across and school children are walking to school. You have kids driving horse-drawn carts." - Ellen
"Elephants are endangered, their future is very fragile. We're helping to protect these elephants and to make sure that they have a future." - Jane
"Ethiopia is considered an exotic destination. We see great growth. For example, last year, the tourism industry has grown by 48% last year only. It's because of the promotions or because of the opportunities Ethiopia has gathered from people like you." - Molla
Alicia Erickson is a digital nomad based between Seattle, East, and Southern Africa, and India. Alicia’s thirst for travel inspires her writing and drives her to seek out off-the-beaten-path destinations and stories of places that have yet to be told. Read her article The Alien Landscapes of Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression.
Alicia has also written an article covering women’s safety in Ethiopia, you can read it here.
Ellen Hall is the content producer in World Nomads' North America office. Ellen is the editor of the Stories and Explore sections and is our resident bird nerd. Did you know it’s believed more than 863 species of birds have been registered in Ethiopia, representing approximately 9.5 percent of the world's birds and 39 percent of the birds in Africa?
Read Ellen’s article Ethiopia’s Highlands: 3 Places That Will Surprise You.
Jane Wynyard is Head of Communications at Save the Elephants. its mission is to ‘… secure a future for elephants and to sustain the beauty and ecological integrity of the places they live; to promote man’s delight in their intelligence and the diversity of their world, and to develop a tolerant relationship between the two species.’
Click here to see how you can get involved including internships with research projects in Kenya.
Molla Miheretu is the General Manager of FKLM Ethiopia Tours, Travel & Car Rental, a socially responsible and environmentally friendly travel company, with has minimal or zero impact on the environment, local culture and heritage.
FKLM's in-house and freelance guides have a minimum of five years of work experience specializing in history and culture, birding and wildlife, trekking, photography and general tours.
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Learn more about the Coptic Calendar.
Apply for an Ethiopian e-Visa.
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Learn how to capture meaningful travel stories and go on global scholarship assignments for World Nomads.
Want to travel the world, write about it and get paid? Here’s how it's done and how you can do it, too.
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Kim: Do you want to go to Africa, Phil?
Phil: Yeah, I do, but I don't know which country to go to, Kim.
Kim: Oh, luckily we're going to shine the spotlight on Ethiopia and after this episode, it will be on your list.
Phil: On my list.
Speaker 3: Welcome to the World Nomads Podcast delivered by World Nomads, the travel lifestyle and insurance brand. It's not your usual travel podcast. It's everything for the adventurous independent traveler.
Kim: Thanks for tuning into the World Nomads Travel podcast. It is Kim and Phil with you along with a group of expert travelers introducing us and you, all of us, to Ethiopia.
Phil: As we will discover, Ethiopia is a place of ancient culture with archeological finds dating back more than three million years. It's the only African country never to have been brought under colonial control. A widespread famine affected the country in the '80s. Do you know it killed 1.2 million people?
Kim: Yeah, terrible.
Phil: It's horrendous.
Phil: We'll discuss safety in Ethiopia later in the episode, but a couple of interesting facts. Interesting and confusing. Ethiopia has 13 months in the year, so technically it's still 2012 there now.
Kim: I like that. You can go back in time and you're younger.
Phil: Back in time, yeah. It's because they follow the Coptic calendar. We'll explain what that is in show notes and the clock starts when the day does. Sunrise is one o'clock and sunset is 12:00. This is doing my head in, Kim.
Kim: Well, let's get into it then and find out more about this fascinating country. Alicia Erickson is a digital nomad. She's based between Seattle East and Southern Africa and India. Now Alicia's thirst for travel inspires her writing and drives her to seek out those off the beaten path destinations and stories of places that have yet to be told like Ethiopia, a country Phil, she was totally floored by.
Alicia: Oh gosh, Ethiopia is just incredible. Oh, man. I spend most of my year, the year traveling just with the nature of my job, giving me so much flexibility. I find it more and more difficult to find countries that just shocked me in a good way and that just really feels like, wow, this place is authentic. Just a handful of tourists and the most incredibly diverse ancient culture. It just feels old-world. I felt like I was walking in the mountains with shepherds and donkeys and houses that have not really been changed for 2000 years. Ancient relics and having dinner around fires talking about Ethiopia and politics and eating injera from the same plates. It just felt almost biblical in a way. So few countries these days that really have just made me smile the entire time I was there for both the good and the bad because there's definitely some adventure along the way.
Kim: A little, Rwanda is emerging as a go destination following the genocide there around 25 years ago. And for me, when I think of Ethiopia, I think of that famine. Obviously they've been able to pull themselves out of the shadow of that?
Alicia: Yeah. It's incredibly complex. There's not so much attention to what's going on in Ethiopia and certainly, it's complex. There are complicated political issues. There's still a lot of food security issues that has caused mass displacement within the country. Talking to locals and talking to some ex-pats working for various aid organizations there, it's a massive problem still.
Alicia: But, Rwanda really seems to be promoting tourism, I don't see that in the same way in Ethiopia, but it's still very accessible. I wouldn't say that the underlying political tensions and the issues with the famine and everything have impacted one's ability to go and explore and experience the country.
Kim: We know that you're widely traveled. How distinct then is it as an African destination?
Alicia: Yeah, it's so completely different. I think that's why I love it so much because I do spend a lot of my time in Sub-Saharan Africa. Unlike a lot of the places which are wildlife and Safari destinations so to speak, Ethiopia is not, although it does have its own unique wildlife like the Gelada baboon which roams in a couple of the Northern Highland areas. But what I'm so drawn to it is the rich culture, the really preserved history, which you don't see so much in Sub-Saharan Africa. Of course, unfortunately, a lot of that got wiped out with a real colonial presence and influence.
Alicia: Ethiopia with very, very little European and foreign presence has really preserved these thousands of years old language, which sounds nothing like other languages in East Africa. They have the Ethiopian Orthodox religion which is so distinctly unique and it's found in churches that are over a thousand years old and have very traditional ceremonies. It's different in the food which also originated well over a thousand years ago. It's distinct in the fact that while coffee is grown there, like in a lot of the other regions, people actually drink it. They keep the best things to themselves. It's not exported and it's very much part of their traditions, their day to day coffee ceremonies where incense is burned and the coffee beans are roasted over an open fire and then ground by hand and brewed several times over.
Alicia: And of course, Ethiopia itself is incredibly diverse and complex with so many different ethnic groups and cultures and languages within it and of itself. But yeah, I mean I really would say the history, the language, the food culture is nothing like the rest of their region.
Kim: Speaking of politics, do the women really ruled the roost? I think you wrote that half the cabinet positions belong to women. This is progressive.
Alicia: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. It's very progressive. When I was there, well the bits I was trying to catch with a bit of translation and very broken Amharic and English exchange gave me a window, a little peek into the window of what's happening. There is a lot of change happening and especially the younger generation. I spent quite a bit of time talking to them, particularly in the capitol. They're very, very welcome of the change and the progression and the presence of women.
Alicia: Unfortunately, it's not welcomed by all in such a large country that it's highly traditional. Those changes aren't ... While they might be happening on that larger political scale, they're not necessarily happening on a cultural scale. It's something that I believe from my understanding will take quite a bit of time. There's still a lot of unrest that's somewhat surrounded by the issue of women but also surrounded by the issue of a new ethnic group being in power. There's always going to be a power struggle with that. But change is happening nonetheless, which is a beautiful thing to see.
Alicia: It is important to know visiting Ethiopia, that it's not the easiest country to navigate. It's a big country with not particularly the easiest travel route or overland transportation. It can get a bit expensive. Going in with a bit of patience and an open mind, I think it's been one of the most rewarding and memorable countries I've been to.
Kim: Well, a great start as we explore Ethiopia. Thanks for that Alicia, who's written a couple of articles for us, one on an area that feels more like Mars or Venus than planet Earth. And also, an article on women's safety both in show notes. Regarding the politics that Alicia mentioned Phil, is that causing any issue for travelers?
Phil: Look at the time of recording this, it was suggested that travelers exercise a high degree of caution in Ethiopia overall due to possible civil unrest. Avoid any protests and that sort of thing, but do not travel to border areas with Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia or the Gambella and Somali region. All these border regions are places where there is conflict, as well. I know there was a warning about possible attacks going on. They happen from time to time. They put those warnings out when they think there's a credible threat that they'd sometimes go away after that as well.
Kim: Be alert, not alarmed.
Phil: Be alert, not alarmed. Check all those government travel alerts that are specific to your country of residence and check out our travel safety alerts on worldnomads.com too.
Kim: Nice one. We'll have a few more commonly asked questions about travel to Ethiopia later in the episode. But Ellen Hall is our content producer for World Nomads. She's based in our North American office and she's the one that you need to convince if you want your travel story shared. Ellen is about to give us some insight into Ethiopia's Highlands, but how Ellen did you find it as a destination generally?
Ellen: It was really interesting. I think I knew a little bit about it before I went, but I think that I wasn't really expecting it to be so different than just the usual concept of Africa. I mean it's a lot of high elevation areas. It's very Christian. There's wildlife, it's not your lions and elephants and things that you ordinarily associate with Africa. Just the landscapes are really also not really what I was picturing. We covered a lot of ground and there's just quite a lot of variety.
Kim: What are some of the places then that surprised you?
Ellen: Yeah. The Simien mountains are one of the first places we went to. Most of, well about two-thirds of Ethiopia is covered by what they call the Highlands. It's all, it's pretty high elevation and goes up to I think 13,000 feet, so pretty high. It's a lot of very sharp pinnacles and mesas. It was all very green and lush. That was not really what I was expecting. That was surprising.
Ellen: What I also found interesting is there's a big population in Ethiopia, it's I think the second-most populous country in Africa if I'm right. There was just agriculture everywhere. Even in Simien Mountain National Park. Lots of the park is actually cultivated. There are some places where that's not allowed because it's protected areas for the Walia ibex. But, just everywhere you look, people, people. The agriculture is still being done by oxen and plow. I don't know what I was picturing, but it's just endlessly fascinating.
Phil: Tell us about the people that you met there as well. I mean lots of them, but were they nice as well?
Ellen: Oh yeah. Everybody was lovely. We were traveling around quite a bit so I, unfortunately, didn't probably get to spend as much time with the locals and chatting with them as you might like. But, we did stop in at a village at a local home and had a tea ceremony there. Coffee, I should say, a coffee ceremony because they're very famous for that. The ceremony, it's a ritual. You roast the beans, you grind the beans, the woman does, and lays out all the cups in front and pours it for you. The coffee's delicious.
Ellen: We did meet some kids. I actually met more people in the Omo Valley, which is not something that I talk about in the article. Those are the tribes, some of the famous tribes that live in the Southwest. There, we didn't have any common language, but there was quite a bit more interaction. Just being there, hanging out with them seeing them doing what they do in their daily lives and some of their traditions. That was very interesting as well.
Kim: I know you mentioned animals and in my reading that I've done in Ethiopia, there is a lot of birdlife. You are a frequent guest on the podcast, but many people may not realize that you are a twitcher isn't it, Phil? Is that it? Someone that loves birds.
Ellen: Yeah. We don't really call them that in the States, but I do call myself a bird nerd because it's true. My husband and I both, very interested in birds and there is anywhere in Africa, I think you're going to see a lot of interesting birdlife. But, because it's an elevation, you see different species. Especially when we were in the Bale Mountains National Park, our naturalist guide was happy to hear that we were birders. We made a challenge, we gave ourselves a challenge of trying to find 50 species in the one day that we had there, the one full day. We didn't, we got pretty close. Yeah, they're really, you have a lot of beautiful raptors and you have more songbirds and flycatchers and just and rails, all kinds of variety. That was really fun for us.
Phil: You are a bird nerd.
Ellen: As you have heard.
Kim: As you were talking I was hearing David Attenborough.
Ellen: Yeah, I can bore people for a long time talking about birds.
Phil: One of the things that it's not really on the tourist or on the travel map, it's tourism and travel is quite new to Ethiopia.
Ellen: Yeah, I think so. I think it's definitely growing and there is getting to be more of a travel infrastructure there. We traveled ... You can get around on short flights and if you want to spend the money you can also charter flights. We did fly around a fair bit, but we also drove around a lot. The roads are not in many places in the greatest of shape. People use it for herding goats across and school children are walking to school. You have kids driving horse-drawn carts. It can be quite a bit ... I don't think I would want to drive there, but you certainly can get around. It just takes a long bit of doing getting from place to place.
Phil: That's the kind of traffic jams you want though, isn't it?
Ellen: It's true. It is true. Definitely there are more lodges. There are some camping places. The national parks you can camp and a lot of people do multi-day treks. They may hire a horse or some horses to carry their gear. That's definitely possible. But, I do feel like a lot of people aren't aware of what there is to see and do there.
Ellen: The main thing, I think the main reason that most people go or have been going is because of the churches in Lalibela. These are these amazing churches that are carved into the rocks. They're set in a pit, but they're these big monolithic churches and the insides are carved into archways and they're all brightly painted. They're still very much in use. If you go, you might have to wait for the service to be over with before you can go in. People have been going there for a long time. But I don't know that some of the other things to see and do there have really caught on.
Ellen: There are also other places to see these churches. That was another thing that I found. Wasn't really expecting to be impressed by it as much as I was, is an area called Gheralta, which is all these beautiful sandstone valleys and pinnacles. It's very beautiful, but in all those cliffs there are about 120 of these little hand-carved churches that you have to climb up a path or maybe even climb an actual cliff to get to these churches. That's an area that I was just really impressed by and was a highlight that I wasn't expecting.
Kim: Thank you, Ellen. Now regular listeners to the podcast would know about our travel news segment. Now we promised you more audio in 2020, so what we're doing is creating a weekly five-minute wrap up of travel news. It will be available soon from wherever you get your favorite podcasts. We've replaced it with your questions. It's useful practical information related to the destination. It's the stuff you want to know.
Phil: Yeah, that's a very sensible idea that I thought. Look, some of the more commonly asked questions about travel to Ethiopia include is it safe? I think we just addressed that earlier in the episode. They also ask, do I need a visa? Anyone traveling to Ethiopia is required to apply for an E visa via an online form. We'll put a link to it in the show notes of course. That enables you to visit the country for up to 90 days. You must be a citizen of one of the eligible countries to apply and that costs around $52 to $72 US dollars. That includes the E visa application revision communication with the government and assistance. If you're not one of the eligible countries, you probably have to go and apply for a full visa, which means going to the Ethiopian consulate in your country.
Phil: Other travelers want to know what vaccinations you need. The world health organization recommends hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, cholera, yellow fever, rabies, meningitis, and polio. Look, it's rabies. The same thing that you get to prevent rabies is the first of three injections you get if you catch it. A lot of people and this is entirely up to you, but unless you're going there and you're going to be going on a farm or working closely or living closely with animals which is pretty likely in rural Ethiopia, I wouldn't bother about the rabies vaccination. Certainly, hepatitis A and B and you should have all those other ones. They do wear out eventually. You can go and see your travel doctor, see what you need a booster for and make sure you've got a lot of those things.
Kim: Yeah okay. I've got to write that tetanus down. I haven't had one for a while.
Phil: I haven't stepped on anything sharp and rusty for a while so I know I'm good. When to travel to Ethiopia, the best time is September to April, either at the end of the rains in April when the land is dry and barren or as it flourishes again in September to October.
Kim: That was almost poetry, Phil. Well, what type of travel insurance do you need for Ethiopia?
Phil: All right. That's the sort of question that people ask if they're not buying similar to a World Nomad's product, like a comprehensive travel insurance product. I think what people are asking there is they're saying, do I need medical evacuation coverage? Do I need medical costs coverage? Do I need ... They've done lots of belongings that a lot of people are used to buying those things separately. You can buy them all in one in a travel insurance product like World Nomads, so make sure you do your research. Make sure you buy a policy that's suited to your particular circumstances. That may not be the World Nomads policy. Pick one that's absolutely suited to you. We're happy as long as you've got the correct protection. It doesn't have to be us. If something really, really bad happens to you, then you need intensive medical care, you need medical evacuation insurance. You need to be able to get out of there and get somewhere where you're going to get the proper coverage.
Kim: Okay. Now that we've mentioned insurance, do we have to play some disclaimer?
Phil: I've got one lined up right here, Kim.
Speaker 6: The information they provide about travel insurance is a brief summary only. It doesn't take into account your personal needs and does not include all terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions and termination provisions for the travel insurance plans described. Coverage might not be available for residents of all countries, states or provinces. Please carefully read the policy words available at worldnomads.com for a full description of coverage.
Kim: Best disclaimers ever. Thank you. Now a reminder, if you'd like to get in touch email [email protected]
Kim: Change your pace now, but still in Africa. Angie Davis, one of our featured amazing nomads suggested we speak with Jane Wynyard who Angie met in Nairobi and discovered they were kindred spirits.
Phil: Yeah, look, Jane ditched a 10-year fashion career in London to go to Kenya and is now working full time at Save the Elephants, which we're about to hear more about. But first, let's find out what inspired Jane to move to Africa.
Jane: I was looking for a change. I'd been in London for 12-15 years and been in fashion media for 10 years. The change came about because I discovered photography, loved it so much and realized I had a bit of a knack for photographing wildlife. I don't know where this decision came from, it sounds a bit crazy, but I thought, right, I'm giving up my career. I'm going to go and chase photography. I'm going to go and work in conservation and I want to go back to Africa.
Jane: It took me a long time to make the jump because I was leaving a well-paid job and a career and a life in London, designer clothes and celebrity parties and stuff. But, I just felt like I wasn't really fulfilling my life and I wanted to do something that would give back and make a difference. I did a lot of courses in photography. I did a lot of courses in helping me make a decision to actually leave my career because it was very scary. I was really leaving behind a lot of comforts.
Jane: But, a friend of mine who knows the CEO of Save the Elephants, Frank Pope, put me in touch with him and he invited me out for two weeks to do field photography for Save the Elephants. I mean, that was it. I was so hooked. And yeah, that's how it all started really.
Phil: How's it worked out for you then? I mean what's the transition been like? Because I mean a lot of people are scared about making the jump.
Jane: It's been so smooth. I can't even begin. It's been the smoothest transition I've ever made. Going from New Zealand to London, going from journalism to PR, but going from London to Africa has been so smooth. I mean there are challenges, there's obviously language, there's culture, there's, I'm living in the bush with scorpions and snakes and wild elephants. But mentally and emotionally, it's been a really, really easy transition. It feels like it's the right thing. I feel like I'm on the right path. I feel like I'm meant to be here.
Jane: The work is incredible and it doesn't even feel like work. It feels like my life. I don't feel like I'm working. I feel like this is just my life. Yeah, it's been amazing. I'm very, very lucky. I don't take any of it for granted and I pinched myself every day still. I've been here what, two and a half years.
Kim: Tell us about this organization that's grabbed you.
Jane: Save the Elephants is actually, it's a research and conservation organization. It's based in Kenya. It was founded by zoologist Ian Douglas Hamilton 25 years ago. We conduct research into the ecology and behavior of wild elephants. We have a research station in Samburu National Reserve which is where I'm currently based in Northern Kenya. We have a team of amazing researchers that go out every day studying wild elephants. They go and record their movements, their behavior, their families, their social structures.
Jane: There's about, I think they've identified about 900 elephants that live in these reserves along the Ewaso River. The knowledge that they've got of their family structures, of the history has really opened this incredible world, opened up this amazing insight into the world of elephants.
Jane: We also have a second research station in Sagana and Savo where we have this amazing project called Elephants and Bees. It's run by Dr. Lucy King. They've introduced beehive farming to stop elephants from raiding crops in the local villages. It's fantastic. It's developing a harmonious existence between humans and elephants. The farmers get to make a small income from the honey that they produce from these beehives. It's now in 19 countries around the world, the project. It's having an 82% effectiveness of proving that it keeps elephants away from crops. There's a lot of love stuff happening with this organization and it's really exciting to be part of it.
Phil: You're telling me elephants are frightened by bees?
Jane: Yeah they are. When they touch the beehive fence, when they touch the wire, the bees start buzzing. We've seen elephants actually running away from these beehives. Yeah, they're scared of bees.
Kim: Why is there a need, Jane, for an organization like this?
Jane: At the turn of the century, there were a few million elephants in Africa. Today, there are between 400 and 500,000 on the entire planet. Elephants are endangered, their future is very fragile. We're helping to protect these elephants and to make sure that they have a future. The other thing about elephants too is they are landscape gardeners of the ecosystem system. They have a really important role in keeping ecosystems alive.
Jane: There's been research recently that shows that the extermination of forest elephants could have a major impact on climate change. It's important for organizations like us to protect elephants, not just for Africa but for the entire world.
Phil: How bad is it now? Poaching of ivory?
Jane: Poaching in places like Kenya has reduced which is great, but places like Central Africa and the Congo poaching is still really, really, really bad. In Mali, there's a small pocket of elephants left and Mali which is under siege from poachers. Elephant populations are recovering some places like Heramba and [Zakouma] and Zambia. The poaching has reduced and elephants are recovering, but the ivory trade is still their biggest threat to elephant populations across the continent. The demand for ivory has been around for centuries.
Jane: China has been one of the most prolific users of ivory. But, the China ban which was introduced at the beginning of last year has been one of the biggest steps that have occurred towards the end of the ivory crisis. But the problem is that, despite China closing its ivory trade, there's still a thriving market, illegal ivory trade countries like Laos and Myanmar and Vietnam and Hong Kong where the sales of ivory have now shifted to. We're finding through our research that people from China are actually now buying ivory from these countries, which means that elephants are still been killed. But, the demand for ivory and the price of ivory is still way too high. But right, now our focus is as to really to try and dissuade Chinese people not to buy ivory from these illegal markets that are mushing around Asia.
Kim: Listening to you, can you imagine a future where you're not involved in this?
Jane: I mean, it would be great not to have to protect elephants for them to be able to roam free and wild across Africa. But at the moment, yeah. I mean in some ways I probably sound selfish because I absolutely love the work and the job and it's incredible. I love the people I work with and I love working with elephants. Hopefully, we'll always study elephants because their behavior and their movements is so fascinating. But, to have to protect them, it would be fantastic if they no longer needed our protection, if ivory was no longer something that people wanted and used and that elephants were longer killed. Yeah, of course, it would be fantastic. But, I hope to always work with elephants because they are the most incredible and most intelligent animal I've ever been around.
Phil: How close to them do you get? I mean, are you able to ... Obviously you recognize individual elephants, but do you get close enough to be able to form some sort of bond with them or do you have to keep too much of a distance?
Jane: I mean their wild elephants, so we have to be very careful. But, in Samburu, because we've worked with them for 25 years, the Samburu population of elephants are probably the most relaxed. They know our vehicles and our researchers, so they tend to get very close. They're very relaxed around us. We have one bull elephant called Anwar who actually likes to stick his head on top of our car, have a good scratch. But obviously, we don't touch them and they don't touch us, but they're very curious and they'll come around the vehicle sometimes and put their heads on the bonnet.
Jane: David [Dubalam] who's our head of field operations, seems to be an elephant magnet because whenever I'm in the vehicle with him or other people are in the vehicle with him, the elephants just crowd around his vehicle. He knows them all by sight and I guess they probably know him as well. We get close, but we have to also keep our distance because of course, they are wild elephants.
Kim: We've heard how you got involved, but how would people that are listening to this become involved in some of the projects the organization is carrying out?
Jane: I think the best way for people to get involved obviously is awareness. Just to go on our website, see the projects that we do. Share our stuff on social media. Talk to other people about why elephants are important. There's a lot of information on our website about how elephants are landscape gardeners, the impact they have on the ecosystem, why they're important to the planet, information about what incredible animals they are. It's spreading awareness and also educating people about why ivory is bad and why we need to end the ivory crisis. Also, donate, I mean every little bit helps. Every donation helps to make a better future for elephants. Those are the two key ways that people can get involved. Definitely awareness and donating.
Kim: As we mentioned, Angie put us in touch with you. She's been one of our most popular, amazing nomads. She describes you both as surfer girls, gypsies who have chosen the path of responsible travel and fallen in love with Africa, elephants, and simplicity. Does that sum you up?
Jane: That definitely sums me up. It sure does.
Kim: Thank you, Jane. Phil, honestly, it is so hard to believe Africa's elephants could disappear for much of the wild within a generation.
Phil: I know. Too soon. We've got to do something about the absolutely. I've got a link to Save the Elephants and the great work they are doing in show notes. Give them a hand.
Kim: Yes, Molla Miheretu, and I Googled the translation of that.
Kim: ...is the general manager of the Ethiopian Tour company, FKLM. He joins us now to tell us about the company and a little bit more about his country.
Molla: Thank you, Kim. FKLM Tours is an eco-friendly and socially responsible destination management company based in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia covering Ethiopia and Djibouti, Somaliland and now we are working to add [inaudible] as well. FKLM the name, for the first founders of my family and who contributed a lot for me to be here today with you. It was named when I was in high school. You can understand the travel business was already my dream. I feel I'm fortunate enough to realize it.
Phil: What is it that it does? What're the strengths of the company?
Molla: Okay, as a destination management company, I know you understand very well what the destination management companies offer the service including current [inaudible] service and hotel booking, group tours, package tours, private tours, and also airport transfer. Anything to do with the destination in general. When they see the strengths is that FKLM Ethiopia Tours is not just a company established to make a profit only. It has a human character who understands the environment, our staff or the staff, those destinations, the suppliers, local communities and like that. Our history is a story of compassion, love, and care. Maybe we will discuss further on this on another occasion. I'll try to have a plan to write a book about it. It is a very beautiful story I tell you.
Phil: Oh no, let's hear the story now. We love compassion.
Molla: Okay. You know what, because I feel it is so important and it's a rare story and that is the reason I want to write a book about it. I hope you don't mind if I don't tell you today, but honestly, it is a really amazing story and I promise I will do and you'll be the first people to hear it.
Phil: We will hold you to that promise. Absolutely.
Molla: Our strength is about our passion for the environment and for the community where we are operating in.
Phil: The motivation behind that, were there other tourism operators there who were not doing that? Is that why you started?
Molla: Exactly. Unfortunately, the tourism industry is just starting in Ethiopia. We do not understand the impact yet. Our understanding, what I mean is the industry in general in Ethiopia, for the environment or the impact we have to understand the environment and to the indigenous people. People are not really aware or I should say they're not conscious enough what's going on. For example, we have some places which have had some problems. It's because of some stakeholders. For us looking at the problems and the destinations in general, we want to be very different from that.
Molla: Okay, I'll just say the intention or the background for us to focus on the environmental friendliness and on social issues is because of the prevalence of the problem in Ethiopia in general. As I said, the Ethiopian tourism industry is just starting. This means we have a good chance to influence the direction we'd like to Ethiopia has very good potential to be a sustainable destination. We use nearly a hundred percent renewable energy.
Molla: With the distribution from income generated from the tourism industry is also one focal point. For example, we must employ local guides at each destination whenever we travel or whenever we take groups. That is so that the income is fairly distributed to each locale instead of staying with one tour operator in the capital. That's one big way.
Molla: Another one is we use public transport than private arrangements, so that makes us already, we are in the direction of sustainable travel. As I said, we have untouched tourism potential and of course, that has to be sustainable and we have to make sure that this great destination, this untouched destination will work on the foundation of sustainable travel.
Kim: Sounds like the perfect destination for a nomad, Phil.
Molla: If we talk about Africa and what makes different to other African countries, I think-
Kim: Oh, yes, yes, we would like to know that. What does make Ethiopia different to other African destinations?
Molla: Nowadays, connectivity is also important. Ethiopian lands are connecting the globe to Africa and Africa to the globe. Ethiopia is well connected. That means it is more accessible for international travelers. Let me put it this way. Ethiopia is a combination of many African countries as a tourist destination. For example, if we talk about unchanged history, most people will associate the Egyptian pyramids. Ethiopia has also prehistoric sites going back 800 BC or before. An example is the Axum obelisk was built 800 BC, around 800 BC. Or, other people will talk about Safari in Kenya or Tanzania and of course, Ethiopia has its own endemic wildlife such as the Gelada baboon, Mali ibex, mountain nyala, et cetera. Of course, we have lions and giraffes and elephants too.
Molla: Because, when people think about Africa, the other one's about tribes. For example, we say Masaai tribes for Kenya or Himba in Namibia. We have so many of them in the Omo Valley, over 56 different tribes, very unique, in a way.
Molla: Ethiopia has a little bit of everything. When you drive from destination to another, all the way is also destination because of the lifestyle, the topography, the way there are [inaudible] every few hundred kilometers. Driving around Ethiopia is also, we call it a roadshow. That is Ethiopia comparing to other African countries.
Phil: I had no idea it was that diverse. It's really another one of those destinations that it's just, I'm just so eager to go and see it.
Molla: You are forcing me to say to you more of what [crosstalk 00:37:41].
Phil: Yeah, go on then.
Molla: When we say Ethiopia, our tourism motto is Land of Origins. It's because Ethiopia is the origin of humankind. I'm sure you have heard of Lucy. Coffee is from a place called Kaffa in the Southwest of Ethiopia. Coffee is originally from Ethiopia. And of course, Ethiopia is one of the oldest nations in the world with its own core civilization and also with its own writings and scripts.
Molla: Ethiopia is shadowed with the famine that happened in the '80s. Instead of all these great histories and really great potential in terms of tourist destination, I think people, what comes to the minds of people when they think of Ethiopia is the famine, unfortunately. But, I'm glad that there are people like you who would make this known. That's the main reason that Ethiopia is becoming a very hot destination at the moment. It's considered an exotic destination. We see great growth. For example, last year, the tourism industry has grown by 48% last year only. It's because of the promotions or because of the opportunities Ethiopia has gathered from people like you.
Kim: Well, that is a perfect way to wrap up this destination episode in Ethiopia. It's been our pleasure, Molla. You could learn a lot from him, Phil, on politeness. We'll have links to Molla's company, more information and some photos in show notes. Next week, Phil-
Phil: We're going to explore Muslim travel with Glory Ali.