With only 40,000 people, this young city is still the largest in southern Ethiopia. Considered the gateway to the rural riches of the south, Arba Minch is one of the few commercial centers in a region known for traditional lifestyles and wildlife.

The city is made up of two smaller town centers, Shecha and Sikela, separated by just over two miles. Shecha, the administrative “uptown” sits high on hill, while commercial Sikela bustles below.

With Arba Minch as your home base, you can strike out into some of Ethiopia’s best scenery. The city got its name from the numerous springs that feed a groundwater forest, and the Kulfo River, which drains into Lake Chamo. Boat rides onto Lake Chomo are a popular excursion from the city for those looking to spot crocodiles among the lake’s abundant population.

The “Crocodile Market” is a must-see gathering of massive crocodiles at the terminus of the Kulfo River where it empties into the lake. Here the reptiles congregate to sun themselves while hippos, eagles, and shore birds mingle nearby.

Separated from Lake Chomo by the “Bridge of God,” an isthmus covered by Nechisar National Park, Lake Abaya is Ethiopia’s second largest lake. The isthmus is a popular spot for wildlife viewing, and your private Ker & Downey guide will ensure that your excursions are rewarding.  While fascinating and beautiful in its own way, Lake Abaya draws fewer day trips, as it’s reddish brown waters and more aggressive crocodiles make it less accessible for casual viewing.

Also just outside of Arba Minch is the Dorze Village, where the locals have constructed a hive-like structure of buildings that work with animals and plants to create an entirely sustainable existence. Visiting the hospitable local craftsmen, and walking among the picturesque hills gives a new appreciation for these people who dwell at one with the earth, as well as an enriched understanding of the diverse cultures that make up Ethiopia.