Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternatives (TESFA)

Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternatives (T.E.S.F.A.) are working with local communities in Meket to develop accommodation camps for tourists and trekking services for guests along an escarpment just south of Lalibela.

All sites consist of at least 3 bedrooms; with two beds in each (at least one is a double). There is also a dining tukul, eco-toilets at all sites, and most have a simple shower facility.

Mequat Mariam (Photo: Mark Chapman)

Mequat Mariam, a remote parish based around the church of St. Mary’s of Mequat, was the first community site to begin hosting guests in 2003. The tukuls (thatched round cottages) are set on a promontory of the Meket plateau with staggering views to the west and south. A small troop of Gelada Baboons patrol the escarpment, and a troop of Vervet monkeys sometime come up for a visit. Lammergeyers, vultures, buzzard, kites, ravens and many other birds soar over the site.

Mequat Mariam boasts a ‘rock bar’, a smooth sheltered ledge that is warmed by the afternoon sun and invites guests to sit with a sundown drink a watch the golden glow at the end of the day turn red as the sun sets over Mount Guna.

Wajela (Photo: Mark Chapman)

The second community-run site is Wajela, which began hosting guests in 2004. This quiet village sits just below the plateau top on a fertile ledge. The spot chosen for the tukul camp overlooks an intriguing cave complex and the old church of Werketa Mariam set amongst Juniper (a large indigenous pine tree) woodland. Wajela also boats an old acacia wood, besides which they have built a small church.

This cozy site is set alongside a village, and community life goes on around the tukuls.

Aterow (Photo: Mark Chapman)

In 2006, the community at Aterow finalized their tukuls, and have since had a steady stream of guests. The site chosen for the tukul camp overlooks a gentle valley that comes from the plateau top and then below the site drops into a dramatic gorge. The river in the valley takes the plunge and although the resulting falls are not visible from the camp they can be reach by taking the short steep way down into the valley below.

This is a great place to see Gelada baboons, which come up from the cliffs and gorge below. There are always birds of prey on the thermals too, and with some luck you will see the little Rock Hyrax warming in the sun in the morning.

Yadukulay Community (Photo: Mark Chapman)

The Yadukulay community began receiving guests at their tukuls in 2007, set on a small twin peaked hill in a valley just off the escarpment. It is near the village of Taja, about 50km south of Lalibela.

The land around is irrigated from streams coming off the escarpment to the south, and there are great 360 degree views of the escarpments around. Trekkers visiting here will need to be prepared for a climb up to or down from the neighboring sites with some steep sections. The walk to Aterow is not too long, but the walk to Boya is a hard day’s walk. The walks are all varied and interesting – well worth it if you are fit enough.

Additional sites on the Meket escarpment are now ready: Boya Mikael and Aina Amba.


TESFA (Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternatives) was registered in Ethiopia in 2003 as a non-profit making, local Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), the status of charities in Ethiopia. TESFA is committed to helping communities in Ethiopia to provide a service to tourists to enable them to make additional money.

A group of development professionals envisaged the concept of a network of community run tourism enterprises that would allow tourists to trek across the remarkable landscape, getting closer to the real culture of the Ethiopian highlands, and at the same time put precious money into the local communities for whom farming is becoming ever more precarious a livelihood.

Please visit TESFA’s website to find out how you can help –

Source: TESFA