The Southeast lower Omo Valley region is a unique place for diversified, indigenous tribes with their original culture. The women of the Mursi tribe cut their lower lips to insert the clay plates which is a symbol of beauty and respect. The Kara, the Benna, the Dassenech, the Bodi, the Arbore and the Hamer are the main tribes living in the south-east lower Omo Valley area. All of them have a unique, characteristic lifestyle that is varied as the tribes themselves. They distinguish one from the other. They are experts on body painting which is designed for ritual initiation and aesthetic reasons to attract the opposite sex. The Hamer, Kara and Benna are known for their Bull Jumping Ceremony a ritual passage for young boys to pass through from childhood to adulthood.
The best time to travel to the Omo Valley is between mid December and mid March as well as July until September as those are the dry seasons. March to May is not recommended due to the high rain season and the rain’s effect on the road condition.
As we will be visiting different tribes they all have different norms and customs. The people of the villages we visit are very kind and hospitable and we need to respect their way of living. We need to concentrate on experiencing their culture and become part of it.

Upper Omo Valley Tour (South-West) / Ethnographic Photography Tour

11 Day Trip – 10 nights
DAY 1- We will depart early heading south west from Addis Abeba to Mizan Teferi which is a 570 km (350 miles) drive. En route we will pass through the beautiful villages of the Gurage and the Oromo people. We will cross the stunning Gibe Gorge and Gibe River. The picturesque scenery on the way is made up of the indigenous forest and cultivated land dominated by coffee and various spices. After a 350 km (210 miles) drive we will eat lunch in Jimma which used to be the capital of the former Kaffa province. In this region the coffee beans have their origin. Jimma is now inhibited by the Oromo, the Kefecho and the Kulo people. On the way to Mizan Teferi we will pass through villages from Kefecho, Yem and Bench ethnic groups. After a full day drive we will spend the night in Mizan Teferi.
#DAY 2- Early in the morning we will get the permission paper from the local tourism office. Afterwards we will head southwest via Tum. On the way we will see beautiful sceneries and villages of the Bench as well as the Menit people who are well known neighbors of the Suri tribe. We will stop on the way to have our lunch enjoying the panoramic scenery. We will continue our journey to Koka. Koka is a place where young Suri men who come across from other Suri villages camp with their cattle. We will spend the night camping close to them. Suri people have a cattle-centered culture, the wealth of a family is measured by the number of animals owned. Usually the animals are not eaten unless a big ceremony takes place. The animals are used for milk and blood which they both drink. Sometimes Suri warriors are preparing a mixture of cattle blood and milk for a ceremonial rite called 'cow bleeding'.
#DAY 3- Today we will spend all day exploring different Suri villages around Koka that can be reached easily by foot. Our today’s focus will be on photographing the fabulous Suri people who are one of the least visited of the Omo Valley’s tribes and one of our main photography target of this tour.

#DAY 4- After breakfast we will continue our journey heading towards Kibish passing through very beautiful mountains and the town of Tulgit. Whenever we see any interesting Suri settings on our way we will stop to capture them. We will finally arrive in Kibish - the biggest settlement in the area mostly by a clan called Chai where we will be camping for the next three nights. If we arrive early before sunset we will visit a nearby village for photography. Kibish is a small town where the Ethiopian provincial administration and army post are settling in, trying to gain more control over the Suri territory. The Suri have always been free and fearless and don't like anyone to rule them, and certainly not something as abstract for them as is the government.
#DAY 5 & 6- We have two full days to explore and photograph the fascinating Suri people. They are pastoralists who spend most of their value on their cattle which they protect vigorously against theft from their tribe-neighbors. The Suris do not make woodcarvings or statues like other tribes of the Omo Valley do. Instead they fascinatedly decorate themselves with ornate which they achieve through painting, scarification and adornment with flowers and other natural objects. Their paintings are dynamic artworks which vary greatly in their design and are truly impressive to capture. To them nudeness is a standard and acceptable part of daily life. No area part of their body is left out for decoration. They are also fascinated by the Western concept of clothing. Suri women are also known for their lip plates. In her early adulthood age, an unmarried woman’s lower lip will be pierced and then progressively stretched over the period of a year. Therefore it is necessary to take out two lower teeth. The plates are made from clay, colored with ochre and charcoal and baked in a fire. Nowadays no one is exactly sure when and why this tradition started, although there are various theories. Nevertheless it is an important sign of beauty and prestige, which is why most girls choose to wear a lip plate even though they are not forced to do so.
#DAY 7- After a scrumptious breakfast prepared by our camp crew, we will make our way to Jebba through the Kibish mountains. En route we will visit the Dizi tribe and be auditioned by their king. After a drive of 10 km from the town Jebba we reach Zilmamu which is a big settlement of the Suri and very close by to South Sudan. People living there are very original and wild originated from South Sudan. We will spend the night camping close to the village.

#DAY 8- Today we will have a full day exploration and photographing different villages of the Suri clans called Zilmamu. Young warriors often spend a long period of time away from the village with their herds. While doing so they eat only milk mixed with blood. To draw the blood they shoot a short arrow into a cow's neck, opening a vein. They also paint each other's naked bodies with white clay. They look beautiful in their decoration but the main reason is to look menacing and command respect. The body painting is also important for tribal celebrations, e.g. the famous Donga fight - a highly prestigious event at which the men demonstrate their strength and skills in fights with long sticks. Overnight we will be camping

#DAY 9- We will continue our tour heading towards Mizan Teferi via Dima admiring very big forests and nice views. On the way we will try to explore the town Dorsha Guraferda which was discovered in the 1970s. It is the home of the Ngimurtuny tribe who also have lip piercing but Hana Mursi semicircular. After passing through Bebeka’s coffee plantation (located about 30km outside Mizan), which is the largest and oldest coffee plantation in Ethiopia we will arrive late in Mizan Teferi.

#DAY 10- Today we will be continuing our north-east routing as we make our way to Jimma. The 240km drive is made up of a mosaic of forest and cultivated land dominated by coffee, tea and various spices, and we will have multiple opportunities to stop and take advantage of any photographic possibility we may encounter. We will spend the night in a hotel in Jimma.

#DAY 11- We will have a full day drive or take a flight (recommended) back to Addis Abeba (350 km).
End of tour.