Centered on the pretty green town of Jinka, South Omo is Ethiopia’s most culturally and linguistically diverse administrative zone, supporting 16 different ethnic groups who all staunchly keep to their unique traditional costumes, customs and beliefs.
The Mursi, inhabitants of South Omo are remarkable for their body art. Hamer women are notable for their long-fringed, hennadyed dreadlocked hairdo, while the men must perform a unique bull-jumping ritual as an initiation into adulthood. The Karo, who live alongside the Omo River as it flows along the zone’s western boundary, are celebrated for their colorful ritual body painting.
The best way to explore South Omo is to visit a few of its small towns on their specific market days when a diverse mix of colorfully-adorned villagers can be seen buying and selling wares.
Also within South Omo, the little-visited Lower Omo UNESCO World Heritage Site, set close to where the Omo River empties into Lake Turkana, protects a number of important paleontological sites.
What to See?
If you want a cultural experience that you will never forget, then plan a trip to the Lower Omo Valley. Here you can connect with one of more than a dozen indigenous peoples that live in the region. This is one of the only places in the world where you can still find indigenous people that haven’t been influenced by the outside world. The valley is dependent on the Omo River to live as it feeds the dry savannah that supports the local communities. Each of the villages has their own customs and language and have lived basically the same lifestyle for centuries. The Mursi and Hamar are proud people who adorn themselves in unusual body art and jewelry and cattle are vital to their existence.
Practical information before your trip to
Lower Omo Valley
The South Omo zonal administration seat Jinka is the gateway to the tribes of the Omo Valley. Jinka is found 710 km from Addis Ababa. If you opt flight Ethiopian airlines has a daily flight to Jinka.
Tours of the region can be arranged through any tour operator in Addis Ababa. Taxis and local guides are readily available in all larger towns.
There is one standard lodge in Jinka which can accommodate any travelers.