Expedition to the Surma's Donga stick fighting festival and Omo valley cattle breeders


December 4 to 13, 2020
Tour Southern Ethiopia

tour to Ethiopia Omo Valley Surma Donga festival Mursi Hamer expedition to Africa benna Bull Jumping Daasanech Nyangatom Karo tours to Africa

Dassanech Karo tribe Bulls jumping ceremony Assale Afar
The Great Rift Valley is the cradle of humanity, where on both banks of the Omo River dozens of tribes live in a traditional way, and some even remain in the Stone Age. Each of the tribes is distinctive and characterized by unique traditions, such as wearing lip plates by Surma people, the initiation ceremony of Banna, where the boys must run across the backs of a dozen bulls, or Dassanech's smearing with manure.

Our ethnographic expedition sets off to the right bank of the Omo River, where every year, after the rainy season, Surma hold the Donga stick fighting festival, when men selflessly fight with sticks under play-off system in the hope of winning and taking any woman who came to the tournament.

Tour to South and North Ethiopia. The Great Rift Valley is the cradle of humanity, where on both banks of the Omo River dozens of tribes live in a traditional way, and some even remain in the Stone Age. Each of the tribes is distinctive and characterized by unique traditions, such as wearing lip plates by Surma people, the initiation ceremony of Hamer, where the boys must run across the backs of a dozen bulls, or Dassanech's smearing with manure.

Our ethnographic expedition sets off to the right bank of the Omo River, where every year, after the rainy season, Surma hold the Donga stick fighting festival, when men selflessly fight with sticks under play-off system in the hope of winning and taking any woman who came to the tournament.

Dates: December 4 to 13, 2020

Duration: 10 days / 8 nights

Number of participants: 4 – 12

Cost per person:
- USD 2090 subject to 12 participants,
- USD 2190 subject to 10 – 11 participants,
- USD 2290 subject to 9 participants,
- USD 2390 subject to 8 participants,
- USD 2490 subject to 7 participants,
- USD 2590 subject to 6 participants,
- USD 2690 subject to 5 participants,
- USD 2840 subject to 4 participants.

Everything is included except for:
- international flight to Addis Ababa roundtrip
- domestic flight from Jinka to Addis Ababa one way
- international medical insurance,
- Ethiopian visa (on arrival at the airport for 50 USD)
Estimated cost of all flights – from Moscow to Addis Ababa roundtrip and from Jinka to Addis Ababa one way: USD 650 – 800 (Usually bought on your own)

Single supplement: USD 380


Day 1. December 4, 2020 (Friday). Arrival in Ethiopia

Flight to Addis Ababa with the arrival late in the night.
Arrive in the airport of Addis Ababa. Transfer by car to the hotel Jupiter. Check-in and overnight in hotel Jupiter.

* Recommended flight from Moscow with Turkish Airlines with the connection in Istanbul, flight TK-414 departs from Moscow at 12:30 on December 14, flight TK-676 departs from Istanbul to Addis Ababa at 19:25, arrival in Addis Ababa on the next day, on December 5 at 0:45 am.

Meals: no
Accommodation: Hotel Jupiter in Addis Ababa

Day 2. December 5, 2020 (Saturday). Addis Ababa – Jimma – Mizan. 580 km

Breakfast in the hotel. Meet the guide and directly start our expedition by 4WD Land Cruisers 70. Long drive via Jimma until Mizan Tefari. We pass through the southwestern part of Ethiopia where coffee, one of life's great pleasures, originated and considered as Ethiopia's gift to the world. Jimma is the largest settlement in western Ethiopia and serves as the capital of Kaffa region where coffee is originated. On the way we will pass Guraghe Villages (woliso), Gibe Sheleko (Valley) National Park. Lunch in Jimma.
The drive to Mizan covers the most scenic area of paradise for nature lovers. We cross through the famous town of Bonga (Kaffa Biosphere reserve – UNESCO recognized). If time allows, short stop Kaffa villages with Coffee gardens and passes through the dense and evergreen natural forest associated with wild (organic) coffee found in these zone where full of wild animals and variety of birds.

Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: Salaysh hotel in Mizan

Day 3. December 6, 2020 (Sunday). Mizan – Kibish – Tulgit. 180 km

Today we drive through the southwestern plains of the Rift Valley, a place that is home to the Surma people. The Surma tribe is characterized by a tough, but egalitarian social system, which is based on the age criterion. Surma belong to the Nilotic peoples and are one of the darkest-skinned people on earth, differing greatly in skin color from the neighboring Ethiopian tribes of the Omo Valley.
On the way, we will see Bebeka, the largest coffee plantation in Ethiopia. It is interesting, first of all, for its variety of birds. Arrival in Kibish - the settlement center of the Surma people. Lunch and first acquaintance with traditional Surma in Kibish.
Continue to Tulgit. Dinner and camping in Tulgit.

Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: camping in Tulgit

Day 4. December 7, 2020 (Monday). Tulgit – Kibish – Traditional Surma villages

where will have the chance to see the morning ritual of pastoralist Surma with their cattle's trying to drink as breakfast the mixture of fresh blood and milk from live cows. Visit of other villages in the surrounding and their day to day rituals inside home.
Early morning hike to one of the nearby village of Surma people, where we will have the opportunity to see the morning ritual of Surma herders, when the herders drink a mixture of fresh cow blood and cow's milk for breakfast. To do this, the cervical artery is shot with an arrow and blood is obtained. The process is completely safe for the animal! We will also visit the Surma cattle breeders' camp (if it is within walking distance) and other villages in the vicinity and see the daily activities of the Surma, inside the huts and outside.
Surma are unsurpassed masters of scarification. The scars on their bodies symbolize social status and past merits. The scars are created by using a blade and camel thorn. To achieve a bulge, a fly larva is planted in the wound, which, among other things, eliminates all possible infections.

Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: camping in Tulgit

Day 5. December 8, 2020 (Tuesday). Traditional Surma villages. Donga stick fighting

Another day we devote to the study of the Surma culture. Today we go to the wildest areas, where also other Surma rituals are practiced. The Surma women, like their Mursi cousins living on the other bank of the Omo River, are famous for their large round (and not only) lip plates worn by women. There are several theories of the wearing of lip plates: disfiguring to prevent enslavement by Arabs in antiquity; protection against the penetration of evil spirits into the body through the mouth; determination of social status, showing the amount of cattle that the groom must pay as a dowry for the bride owning the plate.
Every year, after the rainy season, when there is a surplus of food, Surma men from different clans gather to fight in battles on Donga sticks and define the strongest. Donga is a kind of rite of passage, the ceremony for the boys to become real men, warriors who, in the event of tribal wars with neighboring tribes, will be ready to defend the honor of the tribe and preserve their cattle. However, Surma take part in battles not once in a lifetime, but every year. We get there during the Donga season, we will have great chance to witness Donga stick fighting festival.

Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: camping in Tulgit

Day 6. December 9, 2020 (Wednesday). Tulgit – Yangaten

In the morning we say goodbye to Surma people and drive through Omo Park to the village of Yangaten and visit the Nyangatom (Bume) tribe.
The Nyangatom live on the west bank of the lower Omo River. Their territory extends all the way to the Kenyan and South Sudanese borders and also to South Sudan itself. Like most tribes in the area they are – as they claim – surrounded only by enemies: to the south are the aggressive Turkana, to the north the Surma, and to the east across the river the Dassanech. The Nyangatom were the first tribe in the Omo Valley to use automatic weapons (AK-47) which they obtained from Toposa, their cousins from South Sudan just across the border. They use the machine guns to guard their precious cattle against thieves from neighboring tribes and also to fight the tribal wars. Herds of cows are their most valuable property. Other tribes don't like the Nyangatom (mainly because they fear them) and call them pejoratively the Bume, which translates as "stinking". They themselves say that Nyangatom means "a yellow gun", or also "elephant eaters", make your choice ... They are indeed fierce warriors which is supposedly demonstrated by their custom to scar their chest; one scar for each killed enemy.

* If, due to the road condition (because of the rainfalls), crossing the Omo Park from Kibish to Yangeten is not possible, the return way to the eastern bank of Omo River will take 2 days and will go through Mizan and Arba Minch. This will cut the traditional tribes' exploring program by 1 day, and to be agreed with the team of participants in which manner exactly.

Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: in camping in

Day 7. December 10, 2020 (Thursday). Yangaten – Karo – Hamer – Turmi

Say goodbye to Nyangatom and morning drive to Karo people village on the eastern bank of Omo River. Karo are famous for their intricate face and body painting practices, which they apply on their heads and torso before major events and on the weekly markets. Karo is the smallest tribe of the Omo Valley (about 1,500 people in total) and the only tribe in Omo that remains in the Stone Age. Lacking metal melting skills, they skillfully handle a Kalashnikov rifle. In its origin, language and traditions, the Karo are somewhat close to Hamer and Banna.
In the afternoon drive to Hamer village. Visit Hamer village. Hamer are distinguished by the fact that their women walk in leather skirts decorated with shells, wear several copper bracelets on their hands and heavy iron necklaces around their necks, symbolizing their social status, and their hair is colored with ocher and animal fat. Men, in case of victory over the enemy or a dangerous beast, fix the hairstyle with clay and decorate with ostrich feathers. This hairstyle is carefully guarded - the Hamer sleep with a special borkotos chair under their neck.
Evangadi is a traditional Hamar dance – an action that takes place at night and in which we will take part.
Driving to Turmi and accommodate in Buska Lodge (or Evangadi Lodge).

Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: in
Buska Lodge (or Evangadi lodge) in Turmi

Day 8. December 11, 2020 (Friday). Dassanech – Benna – Jinka

The drive crosses the Omo River at Omorate and transferred to the Village of Dassanech (Daasanach) tribes who live at the southern bank of the Omo river. The Dassanech tribe has a short history. People in the tribe are connected not by kinship, but by a common place of residence. Exiles from tribes living on the northern shore of Lake Rudolph were united to survive in these difficult conditions. For this, some other rival tribes call them Geleba, which means "homeless." Dassanech are traditional pastoralists, but in recent years began to move to a semi-nomadic way of life. When formal boundaries were established between African countries, it turned out that the lands of Dassanech were divided between Ethiopia, South Sudan and Kenya.
The highest expression of male beauty is the vulgar transverse scars across the entire chest and back, resembling crocodile skin. Such scars are inflicted on a body of the warrior who showed himself heroically in battle, who killed the enemy in course of tribal cattle raids.
During the ceremonies men apply to the body clay and the contents of a cow's stomach - not completely digested cattle food. Dung is taken from the stomach of a slaughtered cow.
Daasanach men at the Dimme ceremony, declaring their daughters ready for marriage, after the ritual genital mutilation of the girls, cannot imagine their appearance without leopard skin and a magnificent headdress of ostrich feathers. The skin symbolizes the strength and wealth of the family and a hint at an expensive ransom of the bride, and ostrich feathers identify the father's belonging to a particular clan.
Drive to the north (2,5 hours) where the Banna tribes live. We will visit the village of Banna tribe. Banna – the closest relatives of the famous Hamer, but less visited by tourists. Banna is one of the most beautiful and distinctive tribes of the Omo Valley with a settlement territory north of Turmi and east of Mago Park and Mursiland. The population of Banna is about 45000. Banna is mostly Sunni Muslim. However, many elements of traditional beliefs - animism - have survived by nowadays. They believe that natural objects have a soul. Banna speak Omotic languages.
Here we are going to participate Bull jumping ceremony – the main ritual of the Banna men. It is a rite of passage – entering adulthood, that is, becoming a man. The future man must four times run over the backs of 10-20 cows and bulls. Contester performs the ceremony naked, which symbolizes the childhood that he is going to leave. After successfully completing the rite, the young man is considered a maza - now he has the right to marry. Failure to pass this test makes the boy an outcast, a failure and deprives him of any opportunity to be successful.
Late drive to the north from the Banna area, to Jinka (about 1.5 hours on the way), the area of settlement of the Ari, Bodi and Mursi tribes. Dinner and overnight at Eco Omo Lodge in Jinka (or similar).

Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner
in Eco Omo Lodge in Jinka (or similar)

Day 9. December 12, 2020 (Saturday). Bodi – Jinka – Addis Ababa – flight home

Very early breakfast and we drive (some 1,5 hrs) to Bodi tribe. The women of the Bodi tribe are famous for their graceful beauty. Men, on the other hand, are very plump, with big bellies. The fuller a man is, the more attractive he is to women. Every year in June, the tribe chooses the most prominent member of the tribe, the most obese man. Representatives of the stronger sex who want to take an honorable position in society must be unmarried. Preparation for the event lasts from 3 to 6 months. During this time, men are on a high-calorie diet based on cow's blood and milk. This nutrition doubles, in some cases triples, body weight. Bodi people contain many cows, so they can feed a family. Thus, a fat man among the Bodi tribe is a symbol of well-being. November is not the month when men are fat, but they start preparing.
By noon we drive back to Jinka. In the afternoon flight to Addis Ababa. Late lunch in the restaurant in Addis and visit to amazing antique shop where you can find souvenirs at any choice.
Transfer to the airport and the subsequent international flight back home around midnight.

* Recommended flight from Jinka to Addis Ababa: with Ethiopian Airlines direct flight ET-135, departure at 13:05, arrival in Addis Ababa at 14:15.
* Recommended flight from Addis Ababa to Moscow with Turkish Airlines with short connection in Istanbul, flight TK-677 from Addis Ababa to Istanbul departs at 1:45 am on December 13 (Sunday), flight TK-413 from Istanbul to Moscow departs at 8:50 am on December 13, arrival in Moscow on December 13 (Sunday) at 11:35 am.

Meals: breakfast, lunch
Accommodation: no

* The program can be changed in the interests of the expedition according to weather conditions, depending on the road conditions or depending on market days and days of the ceremonies.


Сергей Мердишов
отзыв опубликован на сайте
У меня был неудачный опыт поездки в одном из путешествий.
Ради чего поехал, так и не увидел. Хотя по программе все было включено.
И поэтому я стал искать с кем можно поехать в очередную поездку. В интернете наткнулся на MZUNGU EXPEDITIONS. Тогда меня интересовало племя Короваи, как раз у них намечалась такая поездка. Написал Алексею. Стали с ним общаться.
Переписывались по почте очень долго, из-за боязни, что и в этот раз пойдет, что-то не так, как по программе. Алексей терпеливо, доходчиво отвечал на все мои вопросы, даже когда был в какой-то очередной поездке. А таких вопросов было не мало.
Группа к Короваям не набралась, но у меня уже был запасной вариант к племенам долины реки Омо в Эфиопию. И опять у меня появились вопросы к Алексею, понимая, что и без меня у него проблем хватает. Но на все вопросы я получал ответ.
И я Алексею поверил и не ошибся.
Спасибо Алексею за его терпение при переписке и в поездке.
Как для меня…, то мне было интересно с Лёшей путешествовать по Эфиопии.
На протяжении все поездки немало было проблем из-за дождей, но Алексей с гидом Аби старались, чтобы у нас всё получилось. И получилось! И все было здорово!!!
Да и вся группа была в восторге от всего увиденного. А увидели даже больше, чем планировали. Впечатлений море, воспоминания на долгие годы.
Конечно, в экспедиции всякое может произойти, тем более, когда такая сложная логистика, какая была в Эфиопии. Но если Вы хотите увидеть то, что Вам предлагают в MZUNGU EXPEDITIONS - не раздумывайте, будет интересно !!!
отзыв опубликован на сайте
С Лёшей была в Эфиопии в ноябре 2019. Интересная программа, отличная организация на протяжении всей поездки, не отказал в посещении интересного события, не входящего в программу. Профессиональное оперативное решение непредвиденной нештатной ситуации. Надеюсь, еще не раз попаду в команду Mzungu!
Cost includes:

- Accommodation in hotels and lodges based on twin/double accommodation
- Accommodation in tents based on single accommodation
- all transport as per program: 4WD Land Cruisers 70 with AC and experienced drivers
- 3 times a day meals
- Drinking water and soft drinks with coffee, tea
- All entrance fees
- Experienced English speaking local guide
- English speaking team leader ethnographer Mzungu (Alexey Kolbov), translation into Russian
- all permissions
- tribal fees, tribal guides
- government tax

Cost excludes (to be additionally paid):

• International air tickets to Addis Ababa (roundtrip),
• Domestic flight from Jinka to Addis Ababa one way
• Medical Insurance
• Visa of Ethiopia
• Alcohol beverages,
• Video filming and photography fees,
• Tips and items of personal nature like laundry, souvenirs, etc
• All not mentioned in the "Price includes" section

To take with:

- sets of clothes suitable for the weather conditions, including lightweight clothes (shorts, T-shorts), and warm clothes (hoody, light jacket), long sleeve clothes
- sun hat/panama
- swimwear
- raincoat
- comfortable trekking footwear, light footwear (sneakers)
- sleeping bag for warm weather
- tourist mattress
- mosquito net
- personal hygiene items
- individual medical kit (analgesics, antiseptic, antibiotic, antiviral, intestinal, multivitamins, rehydron, court plaster, your personal medications)
- anti malaria prevention pills (up to you but recommended)
- sunblock set (cream, spray)
- repellents
- sunglasses
- big backpack for stuff
- small backpack for radial walks (25 – 30 L)
- headlamp
- favorite meals (chocolate, nuts)
- Photo and video camera, extra batteries

Southern Ethiopia

Best season: October - May

4WD jeeps' journey to the Omo Valley – the heart of the Great African Rift, with its vast natural and anthropological diversity

Donga stick fighting festival, where men on long sticks determine the strongest warrior

Surma cattle breeders, famous for wearing lip plates, living on the rarely visited right bank of the Omo river.

Bulls Jumping Ceremony – initiation ceremony for the Banna tribe

The traditional tribes of Nyangatom, Karo, Hamer, Bodi and Dassanech, each with their own unique traditions. Chance to witness other tribal traditions and ceremonies that take place in the beginning of dry season.

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