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Ecolodge Breaks Ground in Ethiopia's Simien Mountains National Park

  • Monday, July 14, 2014
  • Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
gelada monkeys

Gelada monkeys in Ethiopia's Simien Mountains National Park. Photo: Limalimo Lodge.

Funded by African Wildlife Foundation's mission-based investment company, African Wildlife Capital, Limalimo Lodge is scheduled to open in fall of 2015 and bring benefits to area’s wildlife and people

African Wildlife Capital (AWC), a mission-based investment company owned by African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), an African-based conservation organization, has signed agreements with a British–Ethiopian venture to build a world-class boutique hotel in Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains National Park. Called Limalimo Lodge, the hotel will offer high-end accommodation, tailor-made activities, and gourmet cuisine in one of the most beautiful places in the world. The investment will bring tangible benefits to the neighboring Limalimo community by employing locals to both help during the construction phase and to work at the lodge once open.

Speaking from the lodge site in northern Ethiopia, Shifteraw Asrat, CEO of Limalimo Lodge, said: “African Wildlife Capital is the best possible partner for Limalimo Lodge. Together with their parent organization, African Wildlife Foundation, and in cooperation with the Ethiopian Wildlife and Conservation Authority, we can develop long-term, sustainable conservation practices in the Simien Mountains and showcase the potential for well-managed tourism projects in Ethiopia.”

AWC, which invests in small and midsize tourism and agricultural enterprises in Africa, uses a unique mechanism called “conservation covenants” which tie its financial support to a company’s achievement of specific conservation results. As the lodge draws more visitors to Simien Mountains National Park, it will generate much-needed revenue through conservation fees for the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority and establish a financially and environmentally sustainable model for conservation tourism that can be replicated across other parks in Ethiopia.

Listed as a World Heritage Site in 1978 by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, or UNESCO, Simien Mountains National Park offers dramatic mountain scenery with a wide variety of endemic fauna and flora, including the Gelada monkey and the Walia Ibex, a type of mountain goat. It offers excellent trekking opportunities, including up Ethiopia’s highest mountain Ras Dejen. Visitors staying at the lodge will also be able to take part in community visits, enjoy traditional coffee ceremonies, and visit local farmers’ markets. The area, which is under threat from livestock grazing and agricultural sprawl, was put on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger as a result of declines in a number of native species. AWC hopes to improve conservation around Simien Mountains through its investment in sustainable tourism.

“We have seen how lodges like Limalimo can play a key role in the conservation of sensitive areas such as the Simien Mountains National Park,” said African Wildlife Capital Investment Manager Giles Davies. “In Ethiopia, tourism is still in its infancy but is growing fast, and rarely have we been able to engage in a country during this stage of tourism development. The Simien Mountains—a key tourist destination in the country—will benefit, both from a socioeconomic and conservation perspective, from a well-managed and thoughtfully constructed lodge such as Limalimo.”

Solomon Taddesse, the director of the newly established Ethiopian Tourism Organisation, acknowledged the benefits the lodge will bring to both wildlife and people. “This is a tremendous investment for Ethiopia,” said Taddesse. “This public–private partnership will create jobs for the local community as well as improve Ethiopia’s national parks.”

Now under construction, Limalimo Lodge is scheduled to open in fall 2015.

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