The small town of Yabelo in southern Ethiopia is the capital of the Borana people. Travelers rarely visit the town itself but use it as a base for excursions to Borana National Park - Yabelo Wildlife Sanctuary. Originally created to protect Ethiopia’s endemic Swayne’s hartebeest, the 2,496 square kilometer wildlife sanctuary now draws keen birders hoping to catch a glimpse of the rare Stresemann’s bushcrow and white-tailed swallow, both endemic to the country and only to be found within a few kilometer radius of Yabelo.
On the border between Ethiopia and Kenya a black volcanic lake spans the inside of the crater El Sod. For centuries, the Borana people have harvested high quality salt from its depths, drawn up by abled bodied men and later sold across East Africa. The crater’s Amharic name is suitably Chew Bet, meaning “salt house”.
The lake is a fascinating geological attraction situated in a stunning setting, offering beautiful views for those who are up for a strenuous hike. The trail follows well-trodden paths frequented by caravans of mules carrying the precious salt in their cargo. Hiking from the rim down to the lake takes roughly 3 hours round trip.
The Singing Wells in Borana land are a sight (and sound!) to behold. The pastoralist Borana people live in dry regions where water is a scarce commodity. For the livestock and people to survive during the dry season the Borana must dig deep wells (sometimes up to 30 meters) and perform the very dangerous work of bringing the water up manually with the aid of buckets. They are known as singing wells because when the Borana fetch the water they form a human chain on the lowered ladders and pass up buckets between them, all the while singing to keep the rhythm.