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2018 Danakil Depression Expedition

Key Information

Date: Sunday, November 11, 2018
Duration: 9 days
Places: 10

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View from the crater rim of Erta Ale – one of the most active vulancoes in the world – into the active, red glowing lava lake. Erta Ale is a continuously active basaltic shield volcano in the Afar Region of northeastern Ethiopia, only some kilometers from the border to Eritrea.


Technically described as the hottest place on earth, the remote Danakil Depression in north eastern Ethiopia is home to some of the most stunning and otherworldly landscapes in Africa.  Imagine a vast, volcanic landscape with active lava craters and fields of rainbow coloured, mineralised lakes, nomadic tribal people who mine salt and carry it for miles across salt lakes in a trade that has lasted for centuries and this is the Danakil Depression in northern Ethiopia.

During our visit to the Danakil we will spend some time searching for the world’s rarest wild horse, the Somali Wild Ass, in the remote Mile Serdo Wild Ass Reserve.  We will trek into the spectacular live volcano of Erta Ale, visit nomadic Afar people, swim in some of the area’s geothermal springs, visit one of the deepest depressions of Africa (down to 116 metres below sea level) and we will explore the sulphur lakes and fumaroles of the incredible Dallol.

A couple of scientists standing on the crater rim of Erta Ale – one of the most active vulancoes in the world with an active, red glowing lava lake.



After breakfast we will leave Addis Ababa for Gedamaitu to begin our journey into the Danakil Depression, one of the lowest parts of Africa. Though long, today’s drive is fairly easy and on a very good road passing through flat and fertile farmlands, extensive lava beds, craters and volcanic cones. After a brief stop for lunch at Awash, we will then continue our drive onto Gedamaitu where will stay for three nights in tented camps. We will use Gedamaitu as a base to explore the Mile-Serdo Wild Ass Reserve.

Overnight:  Supported camping at Gedamaitu.

Afar Girl near Bilen in central Ethiopia


After breakfast we will leave Gedamaitu for a full day excursion to the Mile-Serdo Wild Ass Reserve. Covering 8766 square kilometers, this remote and arid habitat is primarily established to conserve the world’s critically endangered African Wild ass. As the fragile ecosystem is utilized by local pastoralists and their livestock, spotting the wild ass is not an easy task but we will also search for other wildlife in the area during our safaris into the reserve.

Overnight:  Supported camping at Gedamaitu.

Last Caravan of salt in Afar depression


Today we will explore the Serdo section of the Wild Ass reserve, and if time permits we will enjoy our first visit to this region’s Afar villages.

Overnight:  Supported camping at Serdo.

“Somali wild ass family looking for the food in desert. Photo taken in the National park Hai-Bar Yotvata, Israel”


After packing up camp we will leave Serdo for the three hour drive to Afrera. En-route we will visit traditional Afar people and their homes.  The Afar are more ethnically related to Somalis than Ethiopians, yet the largest population of nomadic Afar people now reside in Ethiopia.  Their huts  are often equipped with simple but efficient utensils and tools for every day life. The Afar tribes  are adorned with striking traditional costumes and elaborate hairstyles. After visiting the Afar we will continue our drive onto Afrera to stay overnight. Staying here will give us an opportunity to swim and bath in geothermal springs. Lying around 100m below sea level, Lake Afrera is one of the deepest depression in the world.

Overnight:  Supported camping at Afrera


Today we will rise early to enjoy the stunning sun rise on the picturesque Lake Afrera. We will take a walk on the salt flat and photograph the local Afar people obtaining salt by evaporating the water of the lake. Then, we will drive around three kilometres from Afrera to visit a local Afar village. Returning back to Afrera, we will then proceed onto Askoma where we will enjoy a picnic lunch before we collect our local security guards, road guide and camels for transporting  your camping gear to the incredible volcanic crater of Erta Ale. We will then start our four hour trek to the New Erta Ale, which is around 3.5km south from the Old Erta Ale to spend two nights at the top of one of Africa’s most active volcanoes. That evening we will enjoy the night watching and photographing the constantly bubbling and exploding lava of Erta Ale’s crater. At the time of writing it is possible to approach the lava within 10-15 meters range. Our camp for the night will be in a shed of thatched stone huts watching stars. Due to the rocky geological nature of Erta Ale it is not possible to camp in tents.

Overnight:  Supported camping at Erta Ale


Full day exploring the rim of the volcano.

Overnight:  Supported camping at Erta Ale


This morning we will start early to trek out of Erta Ale to be at the base camp for around 9:30 AM. From here we will drive on to Dallol to stay two nights at Hammed Ela. The eighty kilometre rough road between Erta Ale and Hammed Ela will take around six hours to drive. The dramatic desert landscape changes from solidified lava to rocks and sand making the drive one of the highlights of the Danakil Depression.

Overnight: Supported camping at Hammed Ela

Inside the explosion crater of Dallol volcano, Danakil Depression, Ethiopia


Today we will spend the full day exploring Dallol. At 116 meters below sea level, Dallol is the lowest point in Ethiopia and one of the lowest in Africa. Dallol is home to amazing mineral formations, strange colors, bubbling sulphur/hot springs and much more. We will have also an opportunity to visit Lake Asale where the local Afar men mine salt slabs by hand and load them up on camels for transport to sell.

Overnight:  Supported camping at Hammed Ela

Danakil depression landscape with red formations and sour river. Sulfur, salt and other minerals paint water in fantastic colors.


We will spend the first part of today photographing places we have enjoyed already in Dallol but would like to return to for more shots.  We will then leave Hammed Ela for Mekele to fly back to Addis Ababa. The drive between Hammed Ela and Mekele will give us an opportunity to see long caravans. Upon arrival in Addis , we will enjoy a final dinner and transfer out service based on flight schedule.

Overnight:  Addissinia Hotel in Addis Ababa (if required)

Afar herders lead caravans of dromedaries from Hamed Ale hamlet to Lake Assale saltern to load salt blocks and transport them to market in Berahile town through Danakil desert. Afar region-Ethiopia.


Accommodation on the expedition will be fully supported camping that will include generators for refrigerators and charging batteries.  Transport will be undertaken by four wheel drive.


This is a strenuous expedition that involves treks in extreme heat.  The longest trek distance is around four hours, when we will hike to the active volcano crater of Erta Ale.  During this trek, your luggage will be transported by camels along with all of the other equipment we require to camp for two nights in this remote volcano.  Elsewhere the walking distances are small and relatively easy.

A caravan of camels on their way through the Ass Ale salt lake in the Danakil Desert in Ethiopia. Every day more than 1000 camels are arriving at the place where the Afar people are braking plates of salt out of the ground – the traders are buying these salt-blocks and transporting themt with their caravans of camels and donkeys in 5 – 6 days back to the Highlands of Northern Ethiopia.


The Danakil Depression has been classified as one of the hottest places on earth.  Our expedition has been timed to take place in winter, when temperatures will average between 30 and 40C during the day.  Given the intensive volcanic heat, the night time temperatures are around 30C.


For the Somali Wild Asses and birds we may encounter on the expedition a lens with a focal length of 400-600mm is recommended. (If your budget does not run to prime lenses, a high quality 100-400mm or similar zoom can be a great alternative.) Alternatively, you can get wonderful results with a high quality digital compact camera with a 20x or higher optical zoom.

For landscape and night photography we suggest you bring a wide angle lens from 10mm upwards.

For the Afar people you may wish to have either a wide angle lens, point and shoot camera, a standard zoom i.e. 24-105mm or even iphones and ipads!

If you have questions about what equipment you ought to bring, please contact us.

Eruption of Volcano Erta Ale, Ethiopia

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