The highlands of Ethiopia are divided by the Great Rift Valley and cut by erosions of more than 1500 m.
There are plenty of 2-3000 m high plateaus, up to 4500 m high mountains, isolated mountain ranges. Volcano craters of every calibre, semidesert lowlands, -110 m deep depression, active lava lakes, meandering rivers, huge lakes…
Ethiopian flatlands still keep their rich volcanic soil, but even the slightest slopes can deeply erode from torrential summer rains and reveal the geological wealth bellow.
Ethiopia lays between 5th and 15th degree of latitude north of the Equator and has moonson type of tropical climate. The prevailing highlands have comfortable and healthy conditions for living. Daily temperatures are 25-30°C and at night they drop to 5-15°C. The deep river valleys and lowlands can have 35-45°C during the day.
1: The central and most of the east-northeast part of Ethiopia have two rainy seasons and one dry season. The small rainy season (Belg) is marked with isolated showers around the highest mountains and lasts from February until May. Then after a short pause comes the main rainy season (Kiremt) from June to September. The dry season (Bega) is from October till January. The northern part is drier than the west and south west parts of this area. The lowlands in the eastern part of Ethiopia are considerably drier.
2: The south and south eastern part of Ethiopia have two rainy seasons (March-May and September-November) separated by two distinct dry periods (June-September and December-February).
3: The west part of Ethiopia is the wettest and has one long rainy season (May-October). The duration of the rainy season decreases from south to north as it follows the migration of Inter Tropical Convergence Zone.
The highlands in Ethiopia work like local “Heat Low” systems, they attract and trap migrating moisture. This amplifies instability and suppresses the surrounding lowland areas.
The main weather factors during the small rainy season (February-May) are the position of Arabian anticyclone, the formation of troughs in the westerly winds over Sahara and their development toward south, the southward bend of Sub Tropical Jet Stream.
The main weather factors during the main rainy season (June-September) are the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, the south-west Indian Ocean anticyclone (Mascarin High), the local Heat Lows, the Low Level Jet and the south Atlantic anticyclone.
During the dry season (November-February) the weather seemed to be influenced by North Africa and Arabia high pressure systems, separated by the Red Sea Heat Low.
Pressure disturbances determine if Ethiopia will have dry north east winds bringing North African air masses, or wetter and fresher east and south-east winds bringing Indian Ocean air masses. Often the east and north-east winds are split – the northern part of the country gets dry airmass from Sahara while the south part of Ethiopia gets fresher airmass from Indian Ocean.
The beginning of the dry season seems to be influenced by the local accumulation of moisture in soil and vegetation.
You might be surprised to see in highlands plants which are similar to southern Europe and the Mediterranean. There is also a big variety of endemic species like wild coffee trees (coffee originates from Ethiopia) but the countryside prevails with agricultural farmlanda, very few forests (locals plant and use the imported from Australia eucalyptus tree), thorny bushes in the semi desert areas, green grass pastures in the flooded lands. Still you can enjoy exotic coloured flowers and smells.
You’re unlikely to see a snake in the highlands. Probably, because local farmers kill them all. The colder climate is also not good for scorpions or other scary insects. The lowlands and deep river valleys are different and also serve as a shelter for hyenas, wolves, foxes and leopards, which often hunt in the neighbour highlands during night. Locals keep their domestic animals closed inside, which should be a sign of not camping outside.
In the lowlands of south and west of Ethiopia, there are crocodiles, hippos, elephants, giraffes, zebras, antelopes, lions, mambas, cobras and all these cute animals which can make cross-country adventurous. Apart from some national park areas, Ethiopia is densely populated, so you can easy find shelter or fenced area for the night.