Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia


Photo: Hulivili ( [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
It sounds like someone is trying to break into your room. When you first heard a noise outside, you assumed it was groundskeepers. There weren’t any voices, though. You stayed in bed and tried to ignore it. But the noise keeps getting closer. You aren’t scared exactly. It’s more nervous curiosity that’s building inside of you. So you push aside your woven bedspread and quietly creep toward the door. You’re shocked when you see who’s on the other side.

There aren’t groundskeepers on your doorstep. It isn’t housekeeping or the manager making her morning rounds either. It’s three geladas. Two smaller ones are sitting in the nearby grass. Their small, sturdy fingers are pulling blades from the ground and stuffing them into their mouths. A much larger one, who must be a male, looks like he’s patrolling the outside of your room as he shuffles around on all four feet. He sits up when he sees you. You can see the distinguishing bright red patch of skin on his chest. You stare at each other for what feels like minutes, even though it’s probably only for a few seconds. It’s hard to tell which one of you is more surprised. Then he turns around, and the three geladas head into the hills.

Many people call geladas baboons. They’re actually Old World monkeys that are only found in the Ethiopian Highlands. The large monkeys sleep on cliff ledges in the Simien Mountains. At daybreak, they move down from the cliffs to the top of plateaus to forage for grass and seeds. Your room at Limalimo Lodge seems to be positioned near one of their favorite spots.

Photo: Limalimo Lodge

Limalimo Lodge sits on the edge of Simien Mountains National Park in northern Ethiopia. The new ecolodge—it opened less than two years ago—was created by two local mountain guides, who already owned trekking companies and knew the land well. So they found a remote, stunning spot north of Debarq. They used sustainable materials, including wood, thatch, and rammed earth. They added solar panels and a rainwater-harvesting system. The result is a striking design lodge that overlooks the national park’s spectacular scenery.

Simien Mountains National Park is one of the most beautiful spots in Ethiopia. The Simien Mountains are plateaus that are separated by valleys and rise to pinnacles. Ras Dashen, the highest mountain in the country, stands among the serrated peaks. The mountains are covered with African alpine forests. Endangered species, including the coyote-like Ethiopian wolf and the goat-related walia ibex, live among them. So do caracals, spotted hyenas, klipspringers, and, as you’ve already discovered, geladas. It’s no wonder the park was named one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites back in 1978.

But back to the gorgeous lodge. Limalimo Lodge has 12 cottages with huge windows, natural fabrics, and hot water bottles for chilly nights. The restaurant and bar sit at the highest point of the property. Appetizers and St. George beer are served on the spacious terrace before dinner begins inside each evening. Local specialties, like stewed lamb, are often on the menu. Ethiopian wine continues flowing freely into the night, even when you move down to the fire pit. While early morning yoga, local village visits, and, of course, day treks are the among the activities from which you can choose when the geladas wake you up in the morning. At least tomorrow, you won’t be startled by the commotion outside of your room.


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