The Omo Valley is virtually free of human habitation but it is rich in palaeo-anthropological remains. According to research conducted by the University of California at Berkeley, hominid remains from the Omo Valley probably date back more than four million years.
Much of Africa’s volcanic activity is concentrated along the immense 5,000 kilometres in the earth’s surface known as the Rift Valley. It is the result of two roughly parallel faults, between which, in distant geological time, the crust was weakened and the land subsided. The valley walls 97 daunting blue-grey ridges of volcanic basalt and granite – rise sheer on either side to towering heights of 4,000 metres. The valley floor 50 kilometres or more across, encompasses some of the world’s last true wildernesses. Ethiopia is often referred to as the water tower of Eastern Africa because of the many rivers that pour off its high tableland, and a visit to this part of the Rift Valley, studded with lakes, volcanoes and savannah grassland, offers the visitor a true safari experience.
The Omo River tumbles its 350 kilometres way through a steep inaccessible valley before slowing its pace as it nears the lowlands and then meanders through flat, semi-desert bush, eventually running into Lake Turkana. Since 1973, the river has proved a major attraction for white-water rafters. The season for rafting is between September and October when the river is still high from the June to September rains but the weather is drier.
The river passes varied scenery including an open gallery forest of tamarinds and figs, alive with colobus monkeys. Under the canopy along the riverbanks may be seen many colourful birds. Goliath herons, blue-breasted kingfishers, white-cheeked turacos. Emerald spotted wood doves and red-fronted bee-eaters are all rewarding sights, while monitor lizards maybe glimpsed scuttling into the undergrowth. Beyond the forest, hippos graze on the savannah slopes against the mountain walls, and waterbuck, bushbuck and Abyssinian ground hornbills are sometimes to be seen.