Ingrid's feedback about the Erta Ale-Dallol expedition Nov 2015
Erta Ale's active lava lake
Crocodile in Awash river
Savannah on the way into the Danakil
Our driver Jonny
Lake Afdera camp
"I find it very difficult to express my feelings and thoughts about this trip, which was by far the most adventurous experience I have ever done.
Selfie at the lava lake
Although I had prepared it as well as possible and had seen many photographs of this area and read feedback from previous participants, it was really still a surprisingly big and unique moment when I stood next to the lava lake, traveled through the Danakil Desert, saw the giant salt planes, spotted for the first time crocodiles, vultures and orex in their natural habitat,
swam in a salt lake under a star-filled night sky, camped for three days on the crater rim of a volcano without any running water or electricity, ...
All in all I think that the trip is very well organised and thought through and that our unique approach - sustainable tourism, taking time to get adjusted to the climate, exploring the area, wildlife, geology and culture in more detail and experiencing Erta Ale´s lava lake and other volcanic phenomena at your own pace - clearly stands out amongst the other Erta Ale and Dallol tours on offer!
The opinions of the other participants (there were 9 of them) were equally impressed and satisfied:
"No photograph or video can truly do justice to this awe-striking and unique place, you just have to come here to see and believe for yourself´´ (about the lava lake)"
"It was an absolutely fabulous place and brilliant experience with an amazing group of people"
"I really had a very memorable trip that was exactly the kind of thing I've been looking for in vain for several years."
"I have some phenomenal memories and it was such a pleasure to get to know you all."
Here are some links to public blogs/website pages/YouTube channels with some of their photographs/videos made a few weeks ago - as you can see we were very lucky with the level of the lava lake being the highest since its overflow in 2010, offering a very close viewpoint to the constantly moving and changing lava lake´s surface :-)
www.bakerattlenroll.com/2015/11/ (a small selection of images - and a ´´Ode to Erta Ale´´!)
www.jimkeir.co.uk (lots of images with some explanation and linked to the exact locations)
www.youtube.com/channel/UCud18Xr1Yx43B_UjJl7J0MA (a number of videos of the lava lake, the Erta Ale caldera area, the camel caravans)
Despite the fact that it was a great experience and I´d go back in a heart beat, there are a few things that I know now about this tour, and which I think is good to know on beforehand:
- The Danakil Depression really is the hottest place on earth with permanent human inhabitants (annual average day temperature is 35°C), which is why National Geographic named it the cruelest place on earth - and why even hardened Australian mining geologists said it was the harshest environment they had ever been in ... so one really needs to drink enough (8L of bottle water per day is provided per participant) as well as daily take electrolytes, and cover/protect from the sun as much as possible.
Despite this I still got dehydrated (the first time ever - failure #1) but our local guide knew what to do and so it was only a minor bump in the road for me.
Yet it is good to be prepared for some likely discomfort due to the heat, as well as the very poor hygiene of the local Afar people - 8 out of 9 of us eventually had had some stomach bug by the end of the trip. Bringing hand sanitizing gels, and washing one´s hands after every hand shake with the friendly locals and before eating helps - and if this still fails, be sure to bring some medication against vomiting/upset stomach and diarrhea.
- As you camp for about 7 days in the East African rift area without electricity, it is vital to make sure to bring plenty of batteries for your camera, and make sure to charge them all before going up Erta Ale to avoid having no more battery power when spending 3 days on the volcano (as I did - failure #2)
- Despite the harsh conditions without electricity or running water for most of the time, the camping was surprisingly comfortable - we had camping beds, mattresses, proper chairs and table - and the best cook ever, everyone agreed on the importance of her skills!
- Ethiopia is such an interesting and beautiful country, both from natural and cultural point of view, I had no idea--- (failure# 3) so I was pleasantly surprised with the ever changing, beautiful and impressive landscapes, the wildlife we saw in Awash National Park as well as in the dessert, the variety of little stops at geologically interesting places to break the long drive, the beautiful old churches, the completely different life style of the Afar people that inhabit the Danakil depression, ...
Sadly enough, more and more people seem to realize this, and now that the road network is improving, there are more and more tourists that go visit the Danakil depression - so although none of them explore the area as thoroughly as we do nor in such a small group of travelers, there are an increasing number of visitors coming to the ´´highlights´´ to have a look, take a picture, and go on - so the uniqueness of the area will sadly deteriorate soon, in some places you can already feel/see the impact of large numbers of tourists passing through.
(Ingrid Smet, Belgium about going to the Danakil in Nov 2015)