Gambela National Park is Ethiopia's greatest wildlife show-in-waiting, and being difficult to get to doesn't change that. It has vast herds of migrating antelope species and what are thought to be sizeable populations of predators, so if current predictions are borne out in ongoing surveys, this park – along with Boma National Park across the border in South Sudan – could have wildlife numbers to rival the famous reserves of Kenya and Tanzania. It's also rather beautiful, with savannah, flood plains and riverine forests.
But, for the moment at least, such a bounty remains almost impossible to access. This is a very remote and swampy park with absolutely nothing in the way of infrastructure. Further, the animals are thought to be concentrated in the southwestern parts of the park – the swampiest and hardest-to-reach area. Add to this continued ethnic tensions and a general suspicion from authorities towards anyone curious about a sensitive border area, and the conditions are clearly not ideal for wildlife tourism.
It's an adventure of the highest order, so if you do decide to head out here, you'll need to have a reliable 4WD (preferably rented from Addis) and be entirely self-sufficient in food, water and camping equipment. You will need a local guide, and we strongly recommend that you inform the local authorities of your plans. The Gambela National Park Headquarters in Gambela organises the compulsory guides (Birr250 per day); you also pay your entrance fees here and staff can offer sound advice.