With Ben McRae
October 14-24, 2018
Deep in southern Ethiopia live some of the most beautiful tribes on the African continent. Inspired by their environment of wild trees, exotic flowers, and lush vegetation, these tribes use the clay soil of bright yellows, startling whites, and rich earth-reds to paint each other’s bodies. They make bold decisions about their outfits’ hand-crafted from animal skins and decorated with beads, feathers, and shells. They become a walking body of art, known as a living museum to anthropologists. To photographers, they are visually breathtaking. However, more than the photograph is the epic journey of discovery in a place so uniquely different than any other in the world. These tribes live side by side, each with their own traditions and unique appearance, making the Omo Valley one of the most ethnically diverse places on Earth.
Throughout this life-enriching journey, you will be given in-depth insight to the tribe’s lifestyle, beliefs, and ancient traditions to gain a deeper understanding of their world and embrace the true spirit of the people. While visiting the villages, you will not only have the opportunity to document their daily lives photographically, capture stunning portraits, and witness some of their timeless ceremonies, but embrace the experience by spending time with them in their huts, join them in a cup of coffee, or try the local drink.
Rarely offered in other itineraries is the intimate experience with the Kara. A special team will be sent ahead to assemble a proper mobile-tented camp in the shady forested area along the Omo River in the heart of Kara territory, far from the tourist lodges that border this vast region. Not only will you be fully immersed in their world more as part of the community than a visitor, but you can also photograph them in the most beautiful light of sunrise and sunset. This will be a profound experience of a lifetime that most will only experience through the pages of an exotic travel magazine.
This itinerary was designed to give you quality time with these tribes for an experience that goes beyond the lens, rushing to each village, and snapping as quickly as possible. The sheer beauty of these tribes overwhelms your senses. You need time to process the visual overload of what your eyes are seeing and you need time to connect to the incredible people of the Omo. This is when quality images are created over the thousands of snapshots that stream through the internet. Beyond the plethora of stunning images, you will return with memories that will fill your soul.
This photographic journey is limited to only 7 participants for a more intimate experience and better group dynamics. Compelling images are created when you can deeply connect with your subjects, which is much more challenging in larger groups.
Ben McRae spends 3-5 months of the year in remote African tribal areas. His connections with the people traverses the cultures he visits and allows him to build mutually respectful relationships with the tribes and people he stays with. His images are brought to life by the time he spends living with and learning about his subjects and their cultures. His images showcase these people, their stories, their daily lives, and the spectacular landscapes in which they live. His eagerness to share his knowledge and outgoing personality ensures a participant a wonderful experience.
He has won numerous international awards, most notably runner-up in the National Geographic World Nomads Scholarship 2015, Independent Newspaper/ Wanderlust Travel Photographer of the Year 2013 (UK), Shutterbug Award Winner 2012 (AUS), Canon Getaway Gallery Photograph of the year in 2014, Gett Images RePicture award 2015, Runner up in Australia Sony World Photo of the year 2105, and being a finalist for the past four years in the prestigious Travel Photographer of the Year.
Day1 Oct 14, 2018
Upon your arrival at the Bole international airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, you are met by a member of our ground team and transferred to the Radisson Blu by private vehicle. After your long flight/s you will enjoy a relaxing evening in a modern, luxury, hotel, which is the perfect way to rest up for the amazing journey that lies ahead.
Accommodation at the Radisson Blu
Day 2, Oct 15, 2018
You will rise early in the morning to the smell of Ethiopia’s famous Coffee. Enjoy a wonderful breakfast before meeting in a private conference room for a briefing about the upcoming adventure. During the meeting, Ben will present an inspirational slide show of his work and share his philosophy and ideas on how to create stunning images of extraordinary subjects. The group will then depart for the airport for a short flight to Abra Minch in the Great Rift Valley.
Our team will meet your flight and drive the group through the picturesque hills for a visit with the Dorze people, known for their cotton woven cloths, their huge array of uses for the false banana tree, and their beehive-elephant faced huts, which are some of the most distinctive in Africa. This is a great cultural experience and the perfect way to decompress from modern life and sink into the ambiance and rhythm of this magical place. On the way to our lodge, as the sun descends, we will drive through the streets of Arba Minch, hoping to run into the herds of livestock being brought in from the fields.
Overlooking two of the largest lakes in Ethiopia, Abaya and Chomo, the view from the terrace and dining area of Paradise lodge is breathtaking. As the day breaks, this is the ideal spot to capture the beautiful sunrise.
Accommodation at Paradise Lodge –BLD
Day 3-5, Oct 16-18, 2018
This is an exciting morning as you continue south through the picturesque terraced hills of Konso and get your first stunning view of the Omo Valley. En route to the heart of the Hamar territory, you will notice the beautiful tribal people living throughout the region. The Hamar women are striking, wearing beautiful colorful beaded skins, ornate necklaces, and metal bangles around their wrist and ankles. Famous for their hairstyle — a crown of long dread-lock braids covered in ocher — the Hamer women are the most decorated of the Omo people. You will arrive at Buska Lodge in time for a late lunch and to settle in and before heading out on your first village visit. This oasis in the middle of this remote region will be your home for the next three days.
In true expedition style, the itinerary is left open and flexible for the group to take advantage of every photographic opportunity that arises and to spend quality time in all villages. This is the time of year for the bull jumping ceremonies of the Hamar, a rite of passage ceremony where a young man passes from boyhood to adulthood. Staying three days in this location will give you the best chance to attend this incredible ceremony or the elaborate after party celebration.
During these three days, you will also visit the beautiful Daasanach and Arbore tribes. Cousins to the Turkana tribe in Northern Kenya, the Daasanach are a semi-nomadic tribe numbering approximately 50,000. Their clans stretch across southern Ethiopia, Sudan, and down into Northern Kenya. They are very tall and slender, wear red and yellow jewelry, leather headpieces lined with bottle caps, and are known for their unique and ornate hair buns.
The Arbore are a small tribe living in a dry flat area along the Weito River. The young women are striking with their long black headdress and layers of colorful beads. The girls shave their heads to indicate virginity and only start growing hair after marriage. Fascinating is that the men resemble the cultural look of the men in Northern Ethiopia, rather than the tribesmen in the valley. Their unusually tall and spacious huts are made from reeds and grass and have an enclosed front porch. The hills in the distance that surround the villages complete this stunningly beautiful setting.
Accommodations at Buska Lodge – BLD
Day 6-8, Oct 19-21, 2018
Enjoy one last beautiful sunrise visit with the Hamar in the soft morning light. After a good breakfast at the lodge, your incredible journey will continue as you head to the Kara tribe. This will be one of the many highlights of the trip, as we have taken great care to set up a proper private mobile-tented camp in the forested area along the Omo River, in the heart of Kara land, where you will be immersed in the culture. This will allow you to connect with the people on a deeper level, where you will feel more like a friend and a guest than a visitor.
The Kara excel in face and body painting practiced daily in preparation of their dances and ceremonies. They pulverize locally found white chalk, yellow mineral rock, red iron ore, and black charcoal to decorate their bodies, often mimicking the spotted plumage of a guinea fowl. The men create highly decorated clay hair buns, which can take up to three days to complete. Their ornate body scarring, where a cut is made with a knife and ash is rubbed into the wound to produce a raised welt, is also a known characteristic of the Kara.
Over the next two days, you will spend quality time in their villages, documenting their daily lives, creating beautiful portraits, joining them in song and dance, watching them herd in the livestock across the dusty plains, joining them for morning coffee, learning about their ancient traditions and how their world is changing with the pressures of the modern world.
This is an experience that will go to your soul, leaving you with stories you will share for decades.
Accommodations at your Private Mobile Tented Camp -BLD
Day 9, Oct 22, 2018
Enjoy one last sunrise with the Kara tribe before continuing your journey to Jinka, which sits on the edge of the Mago National Park. As you drive through the ethnically diverse town, you may glimpse the infamous Mursi Tribe on your way up the tranquil hidden Eco-Omo Safari Lodge. Nestled in the hills, with the sound of the Neri river below, sitting on the deck of the traditional thatched roof restaurant with a cold drink is the perfect way to relax.
In the afternoon, there will be flexible activities; enjoy a walk through the area around the lodge engaging with the local people you meet, enjoy a stroll through town and visit the shops, street shooting, or visit the wonderful local museum filled with history on the tribes of the omo.
Accommodations at Eco-Omo Safari Lodge – BLD
Day 10, Oct 23, 2018
Rise early and head through Mago National park to visit the exotic Mursi tribe. The most distinctive characteristic of the Mursi is the lip plate. At around the age of fifteen, a mother or another woman in the settlement typically cuts the girl’s lower lip, and it is held open by a wooden plug until the wound heals. It is then the girls’ decision how far to stretch the lip, which is done by inserting progressively larger plugs over several months and years. This was originally said to be done to disfigure themselves to scare off the slave traders; over time, it became a sign of beauty. One of their distinct ornamentations is the wearing of the wart hog tusk that connects to solid metal rings, which is tied to a rope that hangs over their heads. They are also known for their beautiful scarification and body paining. The Mursi are one of the most dramatic tribes to photograph, but also the most challenging.
During the midday, you will have time to review your images from that morning before heading back to another Mursi village to photograph them in afternoon light.
Accommodations at Eco-Omo Safari Lodge – BLD
Day 11, Oct 24, 2018
Rise slowly in the sheer beauty of this lush mountain setting, enjoy a cup of hot coffee, and reflect on the mind-blowing experience. After breakfast, you will have time to pack up before heading to the airport to catch your flight back to Addis. Once in Addis, you will be met by our ground team and transported to the Radison blue, where you will have a dayroom to rest up and clean up for your flights home.
Is this trip for you?
This adventurous photographic experience was created for passionate photographers who want to visit some of the most beautiful tribes on the African continent. The itinerary was designed to give you the best opportunities to produce high-quality images. Therefore, we will rise early in the morning for the best light; a few mornings we rise well before sunrise. We will push hard to maximize every photographic opportunity, which means some long days, but you should go at your own pace. These tribes live in remote areas, so there will be driving on dirt roads, but in comfortable air-conditioned 4X4 utility vehicles. If we get lucky, we will be invited to a special event that may require walking; however, a guide can be hired to assist you with your gear.
This photographic experience was created for photographers with a good working knowledge of their equipment, who fully understand the basics of photography, shutter speed, aperture, iso, exposure and how they relate to each other. Having previous experience photographing indigenous cultures will be beneficial, as this can be a more challenging experience. Although, this is NOT a workshop to teach you techniques, there will be a lot of discussion on photography and informal instruction throughout the trip. Ben is always available to assist you with your vision and for any question you may have.
While our trip is designed around producing high-quality images, we believe our visit should be sensitive, respectful, and beneficial to the communities we visit. We build time into our itinerary to interact with the local people that will lead to a richer experience, rather than just racing from location to location and charging in with camera in hand. It is a privilege to visit these unique tribal areas, and we want to make sure it is a positive experience for them. We also believe in empowering the local communities to look after themselves, and we feel the best way to do this is economically. We work with a small successful, fully licensed local operator, and we hire local guides in every area we visit. Our local partners are key to what we do, and these relationships have been built up over many years, many becoming personal friends. Our visit will generate income in the local areas we visit.
As we will be in the remote southern part of Ethiopia, there is no fancy 4-5 star lodging, but we stay at the best accommodations available. Many locations still run off generators so electricity is not on 24 hours a day, but it will be on for several hours each morning and evening with plenty of time for charging. This trip is perfect for those who are flexible, have a good sense of humor, are seeking an amazing adventure, have an open mind, and will embrace this incredible experience!
The price of this unique photographic expedition is $7,295.00. This price is based on double occupancy.
Single supplement is $695.00 ” if available.” Single accommodations are limited.
Due to the limited number of spaces available, if a solo guest will share, and we can match with another guest of the same gender, we will do so. If a solo guest is unwilling to share, then a single supplement will be charged. If we cannot match a solo guest with another guest of the same gender, then the single supplement will be charged
- All 3 meals of the day with mineral water (except on arrival and departure days)
- Tourist standard 4X4 utility vehicle with air-conditioning
- Entry scout fees, villages fees, and road fees
- National English speaking escort guide and local tribal guides
- Gratuities for local guides
- Water, beer, soda, coffee (wine is not included, as it is usually served by the bottle only; premium alcoholic drinks are not included)
- Gratuities for Camp and Lodge staff (outside of Addis)
- Photography fees
- RT Domestic flight from Addis to Arba Minch, Arba Minch to Addis
What’s NOT Included
- International airfare and/or between your home and Addis Abba
- Travel Insurance
- Personal purchases (including shopping, spirits, laundry, telephone calls etc.)
- Gratuities for our main guide and drivers
- Optional extra activities not included on the itinerary
- Extra photo fees
- Pre- and Post- expeditions tours
- Meals or accommodations before or after the expedition (except as noted in the detailed itinerary)
- Meals and beverages on the day of arrival, this is considered a travel day
- USD $1,200.00 non-refundable deposit to confirm your place on this tour
- 2nd payment of $2,995.00 (plus single supplement if applicable) is due on February 28, 2018
- Final payment/balance is due July 15, 2018
Traveling in remote locations can present challenges that may require slight changes to the itinerary. We will always try to run the tour as written in the initial itinerary. In the event of situations beyond our control, such as political unrest, natural disasters, overbookings by the lodge, where a change is required, we will do our best to keep you close to the original shooting location. It is our intention for you to have the best possible experience. We will try to notify you of any changes as soon as I am made aware of them. If, however these changes cause an increase to the price, the increase will be passed onto the participant.
If you are excited to join this life enriching tribal photographic expeirence, now is the time to grab one of only 7 spots. We must receive both your esign registration form and your deposit/s to confirm your spot. Each participant must fill out a registration form, but you may change the quantity on the deposit and make multiple deposit with one transaction.
1. Click this link to access the e-registration form. At the end of the form you will be asked to confirm your email address, which will complete the registration. A copy of your registration will be emailed to you and to Piper Mackay Photo Safaris.
2. Use the button to make your deposit. You do not need to have a Paypal account to use this payment service.