Bale Mountains National Park is a high altitude plateau that is broken by numerous spectacular volcanic plugs and peaks, beautiful alpine lakes and rushing mountain streams that descend into deep rocky gorges on their way to the lowlands below.
The spectacular road from Goba south to Dolo-Mena crosses the eastern part of the Bale Mountains National Park and the Sanetti Plateau. It is the highest all-weather road in Africa and crosses the 4,000 m contour, and some of the loveliest mountain scenery in Africa that can be viewed from the comfort of your vehicle.
This is what to expect on this stunning drive: the road climbs up from Goba through beautiful juniper and hagenia forest. The road is lined with the orange-blossomed leonotis, and in the wet season the "Red Hot Poker" is blooming beneath the trees and attracting the brilliant iridescent Tacazze and malachite Sunbirds.
You leave the forest and come into vast heather (Erica} moorlands at 3,400 m. Some of the heather grows to 30ft high and have massive roots and branches dripping with lichens. Continue along the plateau, which has numerous shallow alpine lakes, with views to the steep-sided volcanic plug of Konteh Tullu in the south, and the long craggy ridges of Mt. Batu (4,203 m) in the west.
The road continues climbing gently, to the centre of the best area for seeing Semien fox, and on rare occasions small groups of Mountain Nyala. Here, you are at over 4,000 m above sea level, and in pure, clear cool mountain air with views in all directions on a clear day.
The road then skirts around the base of Tullu Deemtu, and continues south to the edge of the Harenna escarpment, forty kilometres from Goba.
The road descends the escarpment through a series of spectacular hairpin bends. The initial heather scrub gives way after a few kilometres to hagenia and St John's Wort forest, then merges into lush podocarpus forest; enormous trees covered in epiphytes mosses, ferns and "Old Man's Beard" lichens.
Mountain Nyala are endemic and the most magnificent sight, particularly the old bulls with their fine-spiraled horns. The body colour of an old male is dark grey, with a line of long hair along the back forming a straggly mane which continues' along the spine as a brown and white crest. Like greater kudu, females do not have horns and they have rather long necks and large ears, which are very conspicuous.
The Semien fox, despite its name, is more common here in Bale than it is in the Simiens. It is found nowhere in between these two isolated mountain areas, and nowhere else in the world.
There are also duikers, bushbuck, reedbuck, klipspringers, wart hogs and rock hyraxes, and a plethora of birds.
Only three primate species have been found in the Bale Mountains. The black and white colobus monkey, is common wherever there is suitable forest habitat. The olive baboon is also found in large numbers in the Harenna forest. Surprisingly one troop exists in the high mountain area in the Lava Flows at over 3,700 m altitude. The small grivet monkey is found only in the Harenna forest at altitudes lower than 3,000 m. They are sometimes seen from the Goba to Dolo Mena road as you drive through.
This is a birders paradise with several endemic birds including the thick-billed raven, wattled Ibis, blue-winged goose, and Rouget's rail.
It is important to visit the Bale Mountains at the right time of year; as is to be expected in a high altitude mountainous region, it is characterized by a high rainfall and periods of damp cloudy weather, interspersed with periods of sparkling sunny weather with brilliant blue skies.
The year can be roughly divided into three seasons; the dry, early wet and wet season. The dry season is the best time for horse trekking and walking and is usually from November to February when there is very little rain. It gets very hot during the day and the nights are star-filled, clear and cold, usually with heavy ground frosts.
The early wet season lasts from March to June, and about two-thirds as much rain falls in this period, as in the wet season from July to October.
Throughout these eight months, days are generally cooler and nights warmer than in the dry season. Despite the wetter weather, the area can still be enjoyed with adequate warm and weatherproof clothing. Bright sunny periods may be experienced at any time. Snow has been recorded, but does not lie around for very long.