About 260 km from Addis Ababa and 40 km from Hawassa, lies the unique village of Yergalem. A place that is often skipped by travelers, but definitely worth a visit. The village itself is not that special, but the surrounding nature is. Gigantic coffee and banana plantations, mixed with the jungle. In Ethiopia it is difficult to visit the jungle, but in Yergalem you get a taste of it.
Stay at the Aregash Lodge
Aregash Lodge is the place to be in Yergalem. The lodge is right at the edge of the jungle surrounded by coffee plantations. The perfect place to relax. There are different types of houses available. Dinner is at the restaurant. All the food comes from the garden and is freshly prepared. Around 6.00 P.M a coffee ceremony is held. A very special one. During the ceremony, hyenas are fed. Almost every day, they come from the jungle to get their snack. There are guards to ensure your safety. It is a good possibility to see them up close. Of course, there is no guarantee to see them. They are wild and sometimes not hungry. Or in my case, there was too much rain, so they stayed in the jungle.
The jungle of Yergalem
The easiest way to get around is with one of the guards of the Aregash lodge. They are always willing to go with you and show you around. They know the jungle very well and can tell you about the history of Yergalem. Since this is the place where hyenas live, it’s not advised to enter the jungle alone.
Meet the locals
We all have an image of Africa in our heads. The more South you go, the more it looks like what you have in mind. Round huts, made of clay, in the middle of nowhere. From the Aregash lodge it’s possible to walk around. You will find the most cute, small villages. The local kids will come to say hi, and with some luck you will get invited for a cup of coffee.
Yergalem is surrounded by coffee plantations. Ethiopia is where coffee finds its origins. So, it is fun to explore the plantations for a few hours. It is possible to do this on your own, but a guide comes in handy. I asked one of the guards from the lodge to join me. The jungle, coffee plantations and the village took me a full day to visit. At the end of the day I payed the guard 4 USD. This might sound cheap, but is a lot of money for them. For you a very cheap tour, for them some extra income.
How to get to Yergalem?
By bus! This is the only option to get to Yergalem. The roads are relatively good. From both Hawassa and Arba Minch it is possible to take a small bus. These run the whole day. From Hawassa it will take about 1,5 hours. From Arba Minch six. They cost almost nothing. Maximum 2 USD. From the bus station in Yergalem you have to take a tuk-tuk to the lodge, since the lodge is just outside the town. Whenever they see a foreigner, they know where you want to go to.
So, there is not much to do in the village itself, but Aregash lodge is amazing. Just to enjoy the peace, nature and wildlife is fantastic. Besides the hyenas, there are hundreds of monkeys. Many roads are covert with huge cacti which is an amazing sight to see.
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Did you visit Yergalem? Find it as awesome as I did? Share it in the comments!