Yabello – Borana

The Borana people are part of the Oromo which is the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. The Borana are pastoralists who travel long distances with their cattle and camels in search for scarce food and water in an arid environment. Their appearance is much more ‘African’ in the way that the women are dressed in the colorful clothes found in many other areas in Africa. Yabello is the largest town in the Ethiopian Borana area, they are also found in northern Kenya. It is a good base to explore the area and the Saturday market is well worth a visit.

El Sod

El Sod near Yabello

The crater lake El Sod is known as Chew Bet in the Amharic language, which translates as ‘salt house’ For centuries Borana people harvest salt from the lake for human and animal consumption The latter is distributed in a wide area including northern Kenya to keep the cattle healthy. The lake is situated in a beautiful setting and offers a short but strenuous hike along the same path the donkeys take to bring out the salt.

Singing Wells

The Borana people live in a semi-arid area where water is scarce. To supply their cattle (and themselves) with this precious liquid when there is no surface water, they dug wells by hand up to 30 meters deep. These wells made it possible for the Borana people to survive for centuries under harsh conditions. It is an impressive sight to see a well operating. Man and woman form a human chain down in the well passing buckets between them to bring up the water. Meanwhile, there is a loud chorus of singing to keep the rhythm going. Animals waiting for their turn to drink.

Borana Singing Well near Yabello

Yabello Wildlife Sanctuary

The Yabello Wildlife Sanctuary was created to protect a small population of the endemic Swayne’s hartebeest. Other species inhabiting the sanctuary, mostly covered by acacia savanna, are Burchell’s zebra,  greater and lesser kudu, gerenuk, Grant’s gazelle, and Guenther’s dik-dik. The sanctuary is of particular interest for birders, two endemic species are limited to a small area around Yabello: Stresemann’s bushcrow and the white-tailed swallow.