December 2, 2022

Garamba Mountain, Sidama’s highest peak in dire need of tourism infrastructure

City: HawassaTourism Lifestyle

At 3368 meters above sea level, the mountain is home to over a 100 springs, indigenous plants, and endemic animals

Avatar: Eyasu Zekariyas
By Eyasu Zekariyas

Eyasu is Addis Zeybe's correspondent in Hawassa.

Garamba Mountain, Sidama’s highest peak in dire need of tourism infrastructure
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Credit: Social media

Mount Garamba, at 3368 meters above sea level, is located in the Sidama region with 90% of it covered by indigenous trees, making it a popular tourist destination. The traditional huts made of bamboo and split logs in the surrounding area and the community's pastoralist lifestyle also give Mount Garamba its charm. 

Garamba, which is located in a town called Arbegona, got its name from a tree growing on the mountain called "Garambicho" in the Sidamo language.

Mount Garamba, which is located 364 km from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, has more than 140 natural springs around it. African Redwood and bamboo are the common trees grown on the mountain. It is also home to red fox, hyena, African wild dog, tiger, cheetah, wildebeest, and other animals. 

It is located 84 kilometers east of Hawassa city, the region’s capital.

Springs that originate and flow down from around Mount Garamba, such as Logita, Galana, Gidao, Kola, Malao, Laga-Dara and Blate join together to form the Genale River which provides hydroelectric power and is currently generating 254 MW of power.  

From the top of Mount Garamba, you can see the city of Arbaminch in the South Region, which is 280 kilometers away, and you can see Shashamane in the Oromia region, Lake Hawassa, Bale Mountain National Park, Dila and Yirgalem city in Sidama region. 

Visitors who come here are attracted through social media and recommendations from friends who say that it is only 14 kilometers away from the town of Arbegona. But they say there is no infrastructure such as roads, resting places, or souvenir shops. No vehicle can come close to the mountain and it requires visitors to trek long distances. 

We met Million Melaku, a young man from Dila, a town from a neighboring region, along with his friends. They had just hiked up the mountain for the first time. 

"I’ve heard a lot about this place. Seeing it in person gave me a different feeling. It even looks different from the pictures I’ve seen of it,” Million said.   

“The mountain is covered with dense woods. And it has many springs. That’s what fascinated me the most. But the fact that there is no facility around that provides any service is a big problem. We now have to go back to the town to find a place to rest and eat.”  

Garamba Mountain hosts many visitors every year but lacks essential services. As a result, the region is not getting what it should get in terms of revenue. According to the information obtained from the Sidama Region Tourism Office, work is currently being undertaken to make Garamba Mountain a tourism destination.   

Abebe Marimo, the deputy head of the Regional Culture, Tourism and Sports Bureau, and the head of the Tourism Sector, Addis Zeybe: "There must be facilities established to start giving service so the region gets income from Mount Garamba." 

Garamba has more than 600 climbing steps and it is stated by the region’s tourism office that more than 1500 more climbing steps will be made in the near future to make hiking up the hill easier.      

According to Abebe Marimo, a project planned to be completed in the next three years has started to make Garamba Mountain a community-based tourism destination. He said that the project being considered will include a guest house, places for research, and restaurants.

The number of visitors who have come to visit Mount Garamba is not specified. However, 3 million domestic visitors and 25 thousand foreign visitors visited various attractions in Sidama Region in the 2021/2022 fiscal year, according to the information obtained from the tourism office. 

Edited by: Hiwot Walelign