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


November 10 to 19, 2023
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 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.

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: November 10 to 19, 2023

Duration: 10 days / 9 nights

Number of participants: 6 – 12

Cost per person:
- USD 2790 subject to 10 - 12 participants,
- USD 2990 subject to 8 - 9 participants,
- USD 3250 subject to 6 - 7 participants.

Everything is included except for:
- international flight to Addis Ababa roundtrip,
- domestic flight from Addis Ababa to Jimma and from Jinka to Addis Ababa,
- international medical insurance,
- Ethiopian visa (e-visa for 82 USD. The cost may be changed)

Estimated cost of all flights – from Moscow to Addis Ababa roundtrip, from Addis Ababa to Jimma and from Jinka to Addis Ababa roundtrip: USD 850 – 1100 (Usually bought on your own)

Single supplement: USD 350


Day 1. November 10, 2023. Addis Ababa – Jimma — Mizan

Early morning arrival in Addis Ababa (before 8 am). Drive to Addis Ababa for short city tour, visiting the Ortuhodox Church and National museum with Lucy skeleton. Lunch in the local restaurant in Addis. Transfer to the domestic terminal for catching the flight to the upper Omo Valley, to Jimma.
Flight from Addis Ababa to Jimma. Departure at 15:15. Arrival in Jimma at 16:20.
Omo river starts here from Jimma
small streams and Gebe river which is one of the Omo River Tributary. After arriving at Jimma, we drive by 4WD jeeps directly to Mizan (215 km, 3 hrs drive).
Late arrival in Mizan. Dinner and overnight at Mizan Kashinin Hotel (The new built Salayshe Hotel).

Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation Kashnin Hotel (The new built Salayshe Hotel)

* Recommended flight from Moscow to Addis Ababa:
— with Ethiopian Airlines, direct flight ET-761, departure from Moscow on November 9 at 22:00, arrival in Addis Ababa the next day, November 10, at 6:30 am,
— or with Turkish Airlines, with a stopover in Istanbul, flight from Moscow TK-414 with a departure at 13:50 on November 9 and an arrival in Addis Ababa on the next day (November 10) at 00:45 am with flight TK-676,
— or with Egypt Air, with a stopover in Cairo, flight from Moscow MS-730 with a departure at 17:05 on November 9 and an arrival in Addis Ababa at 3:05 on next day (November 10) with flight MS-852,
— or any other flight arriving in Addis Ababa no later than at 8 am on November 10.

** Recommended flight from Addis Ababa to Jimma:
— with Ethiopian Airlines, direct flight, departure from Addis Ababa on November 10 at 15:15, arrival in Jimma at 16:20

Day 2. November 11, 2023. Mizan — Kibish — Tulgit

We drive straight from Mizan to Tulgit,Surma area (110 km 3 hrs). On our way to Surma we'll have stop to visit the coffee forest of bebaka which has been listed on UNESCO registered site. Afterwards we drive straight to Upper Omo Valley, where we meet Surma tribe, one of the isolated tribes of the Omo Valley. The tribe are originally comes from Uganda due to slave trade, they were settled in South Sudan. In the early 18 century they became living at Ethiopian border.
After reaching Tulgit we'll camp in the Camp site. After lunch we start exploring the Surma culture. We will visit one of the Surma villages to get known of theur unique cultures.
Overnight at campsite in Tulgit.

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

Day 3. November 12, 2023. Surma area

Early morning hike to one of the nearby village or nomadic cattle camp of Surma people where we'll have the chance to see the morning ritual of pastoralist Surma with their cattle trying to drink as breakfast the mixture of fresh blood and milk from live cows.
After sharing this unique culture we'll be back to have breakfast and we drive to another Surma village at Kibish we'll visit there another big village. We camp in Tulgit.

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

Day 4. November 13, 2023. Surma area. Donga stick fighting festival

Early morning visit to Surma village to explore their lifestyle and culture in more details.
If we get into the season of the Donga festival, we will certainly witnesses stick fighting. 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 (and re-prove) 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.
We will also witness body painting on the river bank, where young men apply the chalk onto the bodies of each other.
Dinner from the chef and overnight in camping at Tulgit Surma.

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

Day 5. November 14, 2023. Kibish – Yangaten (Nyangatom tribe) — Karo tribe

In the early morning, we drive through Omo Park to the village of Yangaten and visit the Nyangatom (Bume) tribe (250 Km in, 6-7 hrs).
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 say themselves 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.
Rather short driving (38 km, not more than 1 hr) to Kolcho, the village of Karo people at the eastern bank of Omo River where we stay overnight in camping.
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 Benna.
Dinner and overnight in tents, camping in the village.

Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: camping in Karo Kolcho village

Day 6. November 15, 2023. Karo tribe — Dassanech tribe — Hamar tribe

We start early morning. Morning visit to
Karo people. Drive (115 km, some 1,5 hour) crosses the Omo River at Omorate and transfers to the village of Dassanech tribe who live at the southern bank of the Omo river.
There is an opinion that 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 harsh 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. Dassanech 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.
Proceed to Turmi area (70 km, 1 hour) and visit Hamar village. Hamar are distinguished by the fact that their women wear 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 Hamar sleep with a special borkotos chair under their neck. Search if there is Bull jumping ceremony – the main ritual of the Hamar men, which is a rite of passage - entering adulthood, that is becoming a man.
Visit Hamar village and stay overnight at the lodge in Turmi.

Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner Accommodation: Turmi Emerald lodge

Day 7. November 16, 2023. Turmi — Dimika — Arbore tribe

After spending night in the Turmi Emerald lodge we will drive first to attend the colourful market of Dimika (28 km, 30 min drive).
At this market most of the Hamar tribe people gathered for weekly market day. For this tribe market is not just buying stuff and selling goods - it's also meeting place to them, so most of the women we'll be dressed well. Young boys will be looking for women for their love companion.
Afterwards we'll seek another adventure to witness. We drive straight from Dimika to Arbore tribe (95 km, 1.5 hrs).
Arbore tribe inhabit the shores of Lake Chew Bahir in the southern part of the Omo Valley. Arbore borrowed a lot from the tribes of the Omo Valley, as well as from the tribes inhabiting the Konso Highlands. The most notable in their appearance are black veils, which is mandatory to wear for unmarried girls. A clean-shaven head is a sign of the beauty and innocence of its owner. Massive aluminum jewelry, as well as sandals made from used car tires, are widespread Arbore decoration. Arbore look very special and for sure are the desired models for photographers.
Visit Arbore village. Stay overnight in tents nearby the Arbore village.

Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: tents nearby the Arbore village

Day 8. November 17, 2023. Arbore tribe — Benna tribe — Jinka

In the morning we'll drive straight to Benna from Arbore (160 Km, 2,5 hrs).
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.
Most of the Banna tribe bull jumping happen on Friday. Today afternoon we try to catch and witness Bull jumping ceremony – the main ritual of the Banna men, which 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.
Proceed to Jinka (62 Km, 1 hr). Overnight at Jinka Eco Omo lodge.

Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: Jinka Eco Omo lodge

Day 9. November 18, 2023. Jinka — Mursi tribe — Bodi tribe

In the morning we'll drive straight to Mursi tribe (70 km, 2 hrs).
We devote half day to the study of the Mursi culture. The Mursi women, like their Surma cousins, live 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.
Mursi are unsurpassed masters of scarification. The scars on their bodies symbolize social status and past merits. The scars are created by using a razor blade and camel thorn. To achieve a bulge, an ash or a fly larva is planted in the wound, which, among other things, eliminates all possible infections.
Afterwards we drive (some 35 km, 50 minutes) to the area of 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 fatter 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 have many cows, so they can provide food for the whole family. Thus, a fat man among the Bodi tribe is a symbol of well-being. November is not the month when Bodi men are fat, but they start preparing.
Evening arrival and meeting Bodi. Photography, dinner and overnight in camping.

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

Day 10. November 19, 2023. Bodi tribe — Jinka — Addis Ababa — Return flight

Early in the morning we'll have a chance to stay up for morning photo at Bodi tribe. afterwards we'll have quick breakfast from our chef. We leave Bodi for Jinka (110 km 3,5 hrs) to take the afternoon flight to Addis Ababa (departure at 14:15). Arrival in Addis Ababa at 15:35. Transfer to the international airport terminal and take international flight back home late in the evening or in the night.

Meals: breakfast, lunch
Accommodation: tents in camping

* Recommended flight from Addis Ababa to Moscow:
— Turkish Airlines with a stopover in Istanbul, flight from Addis Ababa TK-677 with departure at 1:35 am оn November 20 and arrival in Moscow at 12:20 pm on November 20 with the flight TK-413,
— or Egypt Air with a stopover in Cairo, flight from Addis Ababa MS-852 with departure at 4:05 am оn November 20 and arrival in Moscow at 16:05 on November 20 with the flight MS-729,
— Ethiopian Airlines direct flight, departure at 23:00 on November 20 (THIS OPTION IS 1 DAY LATER. THEREFORE, YOU'D NEED TO BOOK EXTRA NIGHT IN THE HOTEL) with flight ET-760, arrival in Moscow at 8:15 am the next day, November 21.
— or any other flight with departure from Addis Abeba no earlier than at 21:00 on November 20 or in the night from November 19 to 20.

** Recommended flight from Jinka to Addis Ababa:
— with Ethiopian Airlines, direct flight, departure from Jinka on November 19 at 14:15, arrival in Addis Ababa at 15:35.

* The order of visits and excursions can be modified according to local conditions (i.e. state of roads, market days, ceremonies etc.). If some visits and/or tours could not be done due to external conditions, they will be replaced when possible.

** The participant of expedition to Ethiopia must be motivated to be respectful to the culture of local tribes, be aware of the objectives of the trip and possible program changes depending on weather conditions, security conditions and any other reasons, be able to adapt to the new environment and culture.

  • 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 !!!
  • Лилия
    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 lodges, hotels based on twin/double accommodation (the name of the lodges as agreed in the program or similar),
• Accommodation in tents based on single (or double for couples) with mattresses and sheets,
• All transport as per program: 4WD SUVs with AC and experienced drivers (3 clients in 1 car max)
• 3 times a day meals
• Drinking water and soft drinks with coffee, tea
• All entrance fees
• Experienced English speaking local guide
• Team leader, 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 Addis Ababa to Jimma and from Jinka to Addis Ababa
• Medical Insurance
• Visa of Ethiopia
• Alcohol beverages and soft drinks,
• Video filming and photography fees,
• Tips
• 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
- mosquito net
- sunglasses
- big backpack (or travel bag, or small suitcase) for the luggage
- small backpack for radial walks (25 – 30 L)
- headlamp
- sunblock set (cream, spray)
- repellents
- personal hygiene items
- individual medical kit (analgetic, antiseptic, antibiotic, antiviral, intestinal, multivitamins, rehydration, court plaster, your personal medications)
- anti malaria prevention pills (up to you but recommended)
- favorite meals (chocolate, nuts)
- photo and video camera, extra batteries

Southern Ethiopia

Best season: October - May

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

Surma cattle breeders, famous for wearing lip plates, living on the rarely visited right bank of the Omo river. The opportunity to get to the Donga festival, where men on long sticks determine the strongest warrior

Bulls Jumping Ceremony – initiation ceremony for the Banna tribe

The traditional tribes of Nyangatom, Karo, Hamer, Arbore, Mursi, Bodi, Banna and Dassanech, each with their own unique traditions
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