Jinbar Waterfall, Simien Mountains, Ethiopia – lammergeyers 4


I like tracking down unusual animals, and lammergeyers had been on my list (as had gelada) for some time. My trip to Jinbar Waterfall, in the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia, would, I hoped, prove the perfect opportunity to spot one of these gnarly, bone-eating scavengers.

Jinbar Waterfall, Simien Mtns, Ethiopia

Climbing into the Simien Mountains, Ethiopia. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Simien Mountains

The Simien Mountains of Northern Ethiopia (the highest peak of which is Ras Dashen at 4,550 metres) are separated from the surrounding lowlands by a prominent 2,000-metre high escarpment.

Jinbar Waterfall, Simien Mtns, Ethiopia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Ascend into the Simien Mountains, and walk to the cliff edge – don’t imagine there will be anything like a guardrail to prevent you from tumbling over the edge – and you will be able to stare 2,000 metres straight down. It’s like looking out the window of a plane.

Jinbar Waterfall, Simien Mtns, Ethiopia

The cliff edge, though hard to see, is there at the bottom of the photo frame. Photo credit: Benjamin White

The Simien Mountains were once inhabited by the Beta Israel (also known as Ethiopian Jews) who retreated into these mountains after being persecuted by the Christian Emperors of Ethiopia during the 14th and 15th Centuries CE. Most of the Beta Israel have since migrated to Israel.

Jinbar Waterfall, Simien Mtns, Ethiopia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

In terms of animal life, the mountains are home to several unique species, including Gelada baboons, and Walia Ibex.

The sure-footed Walia Ibex, a type of mountain goat, relies on the steepness of the 2000-metre high escarpment to escape from predators including leopards, caracal, and the Ethiopian Wolf (another species that is unique to the Simien Mountains).

And the Lammergeyers?

Jinbar Waterfall, Simien Mtns, Ethiopia

Lammergeyer! Photo credit: Benjamin White

Lammergeyers, also known as Bearded Vultures, are a type of scavenger bird that specialises in eating bones. Their diet comprises of up to 90% bone and bone marrow.

In fact they love bone so much they will even spit out any bits of meat they might accidentally ingest when dismembering a corpse.

They are also capable of swallowing a bone the size of lamb femur in one go.

Jinbar Waterfall

Jinbar Waterfall, Simien Mtns, Ethiopia

Jinbar Waterfall. Photo credit: Benjamin White

One of the best places in the Simien Mountains to spot lammergeyers is the majestic Jinbar Waterfall. Which is lucky because I really wanted to go anyway.

Jinbar Waterfall, Simien Mtns, Ethiopia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

Jinbar Waterfall can be accessed via a multi-day trek through the mountains, or by a 15-minute stroll from the Debark to Chennek Road.

We opted for the latter.

Jinbar Waterfall, Simien Mtns, Ethiopia

Photo credit: Benjamin White

And sure enough, there, flying across the face of Jinbar Waterfall: lammergeyers!

Now if only there was a lamb femur around for them to devour. 🙂

Jinbar Waterfall, Simien Mtns, Ethiopia

Photo credit: Benjamin White


Practical information and how to reach Jinbar Waterfall:

The Simien Mountains are 150 km (2.5 hour drive) north of Gondar (a city famous for its castles). The mountains can be explored on a multi-day hike, or viewed from a car seat as part of a long day trip. More transport info here.

All visitors to Simien Mountains National Park must be accompanied by a scout (it’s a condition of entry to the park). The need for a scout with a large gun isn’t really clear – something about threats from bandits, or rebels, or leopards. I’m pretty sure our scout didn’t have any bullets in his gun.

Jinbar Waterfall, Simien Mtns, Ethiopia

Our friendly, gun-toting scout. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Read more on Simien National Park in the UNESCO World Heritage listing.


More on Ethiopia:

Gondar – just like the castles of Camelot?

Lalibela – rock-cut churches? in the ground? please explain!

Gelada, fog, high altitudes, 80s perms – the Simien Mtns

Addis Ababa – walking tour; Lucy, the Red Terror, giant seagulls


My favourite waterfalls:

Semuc Champey, Guatemala – a waterfall on top of a waterfall

Gullfoss, Iceland – Europe’s most powerful waterfall

Iguazu Falls, Brazil – greatest cascades on Earth


More on East Africa:

Kenya:

Old Town, Lamu – 12th Century Swahili port city, caught in a time bubble

Ol Pejeta Conservancy – black rhinos, Grevy’s Zebras, and the elusive oryx

Rwanda:

Hiking amongst the Tea Fields of Gisakura

Kigali – clean, green capital with harrowing genocide tours

Tanzania:

Zanzibar – mystical paradise or cold, hard, tourist trap?

Mount Kilimanjaro / Lemosho Route

Uganda:

Kampala – most liveable city in East Africa?

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4 thoughts on “Jinbar Waterfall, Simien Mountains, Ethiopia – lammergeyers

  • Karen White

    What incredible mountain scenery. The waterfall is amazing, I’m so glad you got to see the lammergeyers!!
    It must have been quite disconcerting to look down from the mountain when it is so high.
    Kazzieandkitty

      • Brian

        Hi Benjamin, Thanks for your great article! My wife and I are leaving in a few days for Addis to kayak the Blue Nile (6wks on the river). We have 3-4 Days prior to leaving and I wanted to head up to see the falls, lammergayers and gelada if we are lucky. We will need to meet the raft group in Bahir Dar which we were planning to fly to from Addis. I have not found anyone speaking about travel up to the falls. What would you recommend?

        thanks alot!
        Brian

        • Benjamin White Post author

          Hi Brian,
          Like you, I wasn’t able to find any information online regarding trips to see the falls, etc. I ended up organising the tour after arriving in Gondar; it was done through the hostel. And it was just a local driver, not a tour company with any contact details I could pass on.
          Sorry I couldn’t be of more use. Best of luck. Sounds like a great trip.
          Ben