Experience the Omo Valley like never before with Ayzoh! and Baregota Travel

Join us on a truly unique journey, delving into the heart of southwest Ethiopia to live alongside the Hamer, Surma, Karo, and Mursi People.

This isn’t just a typical tourist excursion: it’s an authentic cultural immersion marked by friendship and profound respect. Our small-group experience ensures an intimate connection with these indigenous communities, allowing you to witness ancient traditions firsthand and capture breathtaking moments through your lens, sketchbook, or memory.

This isn’t a budget trip, but — as it is part of an editorial project by Ayzoh! — it’s not excessively expensive either. Whether you’re a photographer, documentarian, researcher, or passionate traveler seeking an authentic and transformative experience, this is your chance to embark on an unforgettable journey into the magical Omo Valley.

How to book your spot

Contact us today to secure your spot and be part of this extraordinary adventure: info@ayzoh.org or info@baregotatravel.org


Details

Duration:

21 days

Period:

1st trip: August 5-26, 2024
2nd trip: September 5-26, 2024

Groups:

Max 4 people per trip

Transportation in Ethiopia:

Toyota Land Cruiser (new)

Accommodations:

Addis Ababa: 2-3 nights in a Four Starst Hotel (with an optional City Tour)
Omo Valley: 18-19 nights camping within Hamer, Surma, Karo, and Mursi villages

Food:

Addis Ababa: restaurant serving both typical and traditional cuisine
Omo Valley: personal chef from Baregota Travel accompanying the group

Staff:

Professional photographer from Ayzoh!
Driver, guide, and chef from Baregota Travel
Local translator for each visited community

Cost:

€2,500 per person + tourist visa + airfare + health insurance


Who It’s For

These two trips are part of a larger community project by Ayzoh! and Baregota Travel, open to all types of travelers and explorers: photographers, documentarians, journalists, bloggers, researchers, and tourism professionals eager to learn narrative processes and techniques for capturing the spirit of a place and its community.

At the end of the two trips, a participatory publication will be created, allowing every group member to contribute with ideas, notes, texts, and images.


Requirements to participate

While these are fairly challenging and intensive journeys, no technical experience is required. All you need is an open mind, adaptability, a camera (any type, including a cellphone is fine), a laptop (recommended but not essential — we can use our laptops for downloading photos), a pen, a notebook, and — most importantly — a genuine curiosity for others and the communities hosting us.


It’s an experience open to everyone

You don’t need to be a professional or advanced amateur photographer. Those interested in photography and/or writing for the editorial project can do so with the guidance of our professionals.

For those simply looking to live a unique, otherwise hardly accessible experience, immerse yourself in every moment of the journey within these hosting communities, allowing yourself to be led through the uniqueness and contradictions of their human experience.


About Omo Valley

The Omo Valley is a captivating and culturally diverse region located in southwestern Ethiopia. This area is home to several indigenous ethnic groups, each with its own unique customs, traditions, and way of life. The valley is characterized by its stunning landscapes, including the winding Omo River, fertile floodplains, and rugged mountains.

The Omo Valley is renowned for its rich cultural heritage, with numerous ethnic communities inhabiting the area. Some of the notable tribes include the Hamer, Karo, Mursi, Surma (Suri), Bodi, and Nyangatom, among others. Each tribe has distinct practices, languages, and beliefs, contributing to the region’s cultural tapestry.

One of the defining features of the Omo Valley is the preservation of traditional customs and rituals. Indigenous communities engage in ceremonies such as bull jumping, stick fighting, and elaborate body painting to mark important life events and maintain social cohesion. These ceremonies also play a crucial role in passing down cultural knowledge from one generation to another.

The Omo Valley’s indigenous groups rely on subsistence farming, cattle herding, and fishing for their livelihoods. Cattle are particularly significant, serving as a symbol of wealth, status, and social exchange. Agriculture is practiced along the fertile riverbanks, with crops like sorghum, maize, and beans cultivated during the rainy season.

Despite its cultural richness, the Omo Valley faces modern challenges such as environmental degradation, resource scarcity, and the impact of tourism. Increased interest from tourists and outside influences has both positive and negative effects on local communities, influencing their way of life and cultural dynamics.

The Omo Valley remains a fascinating destination for travelers, anthropologists, and photographers interested in experiencing and documenting traditional African cultures. Its remote location and unique cultural heritage make it a place of enduring fascination and importance within Ethiopia’s diverse landscape.

Hamer People

The Hamer people are a distinctive group inhabiting the Omo Valley in southwestern Ethiopia. Renowned for their unique customs and striking appearance, the Hamer are a pastoralist community primarily reliant on cattle herding and agriculture for their livelihood.

One of the defining characteristics of the Hamer people is their elaborate rituals and ceremonies, particularly the bull jumping ceremony—a rite of passage for young men transitioning into adulthood. During this ceremony, a series of bulls are lined up, and the young man must leap over them while naked, symbolizing strength and bravery. This ritual is not merely a physical test but a deep spiritual and communal event, showcasing the importance of cattle in Hamer society.

The Hamer are known for their distinctive attire. Women are recognized for their colorful beaded necklaces, metal bracelets, and cowrie shell-adorned goatskin skirts. Married women also wear their hair in thick braids covered with ochre and butter, a sign of beauty and status. Men traditionally carry a wooden stool, an important symbol of manhood.

Social structures within the Hamer community are also noteworthy. The society is organized around age sets, with men progressing through various stages of life, each marked by specific responsibilities and privileges. The Hamer also place a strong emphasis on social solidarity and mutual support, especially evident during tasks such as herding and harvesting.

Despite their deep-rooted traditions, the Hamer people face modern challenges. Encounters with tourism and external influences have impacted their way of life, bringing both opportunities and pressures. Nonetheless, the Hamer remain proud custodians of their culture and continue to uphold their customs in the face of change, making them a unique and fascinating group within the rich tapestry of Ethiopia’s Omo Valley.

Surma People

The Surma people, also known as the Suri, inhabit the remote and picturesque landscapes of the Omo Valley in southwestern Ethiopia. They are a culturally distinct group renowned for their intricate body adornments, elaborate rituals, and unique way of life.

One of the most striking features of the Surma people is their traditional body painting and scarification. Both men and women decorate their bodies with intricate patterns using natural pigments derived from local plants and clay. Scarification, which involves creating raised patterns on the skin through controlled cutting and healing, is a significant form of expression and identity among the Surma.

The Surma are predominantly pastoralists, relying on cattle herding as a primary source of sustenance and wealth. Cattle play a central role in Surma society, serving not only as a source of food and status but also as a symbol of social and economic stability. The Surma place great value on their cattle, and livestock are often exchanged during important ceremonies and negotiations.

Like other communities in the Omo Valley, the Surma have preserved their traditional customs and ceremonies. One of the most notable rituals is the Donga, or stick fighting, which is a form of ritualized combat practiced by young Surma men. Donga serves as a way to settle disputes, showcase bravery, and attract potential suitors.

The Surma people also have a rich oral tradition, with storytelling and songs playing a vital role in passing down cultural knowledge and history from one generation to another. This oral heritage reinforces the sense of identity and unity among the Surma.

In recent years, the Surma way of life has faced challenges due to external influences such as tourism and modernization. However, the Surma continue to maintain their unique cultural practices and strong sense of community, embodying resilience and pride in their rich heritage amidst a changing world. The Surma people remain a captivating and resilient group, adding to the cultural diversity and allure of Ethiopia’s Omo Valley.

Karo People

The Karo people are known for their distinctive culture and artistic traditions. They inhabit the banks of the Omo River and surrounding areas, living a semi-nomadic lifestyle primarily centered around agriculture and cattle herding.

One of the most recognizable aspects of the Karo culture is their intricate body painting and scarification. Karo men and women adorn themselves with vibrant patterns using natural pigments derived from local materials like clay and plants. These decorative practices are not only aesthetically striking but also hold significant cultural and symbolic meanings within the Karo society.

The Karo are skilled farmers, cultivating crops like sorghum, maize, and beans along the fertile banks of the Omo River. They rely on seasonal flooding to replenish the soil and ensure successful harvests. Cattle are also central to Karo life, providing meat, milk, and serving as a form of currency and prestige.

Ceremonies and rituals are integral to Karo social life. The Hamar people are known for their ceremonial dances, songs, and rituals, which are performed during important life events such as weddings, initiation rites, and harvest celebrations. These rituals strengthen social bonds and reinforce cultural identity among the Karo community.

Despite their unique customs and close-knit traditions, the Karo people face challenges from external pressures such as tourism and modernization. However, they continue to preserve their cultural heritage and way of life, adapting to changing circumstances while retaining a deep connection to their ancestral lands and traditions. The Karo people exemplify resilience and cultural pride in the face of evolving dynamics, adding to the rich tapestry of the Omo Valley’s diverse indigenous communities.

Mursi People

The Mursi people are renowned for their distinctive cultural practices and striking physical adornments. They live in small villages scattered across the arid landscape, relying on subsistence farming, cattle herding, and seasonal migration for their livelihood.

One of the most notable aspects of Mursi culture is their unique body modification traditions. Mursi women are famous for wearing lip plates, a practice that involves inserting progressively larger clay or wooden discs into a pierced lower lip. This tradition is considered a symbol of beauty, identity, and social status among Mursi women, with larger lip plates signifying maturity and eligibility for marriage.

The Mursi are predominantly pastoralists, with cattle playing a central role in their economy and social life. Livestock are prized possessions, providing milk, meat, and serving as a form of wealth and status. Cattle are also exchanged during important ceremonies, such as marriages and initiation rituals.

Mursi society is organized around extended family units, with social cohesion maintained through reciprocal exchanges and communal activities. Village life revolves around communal decision-making and cooperative labor, especially during periods of planting, harvesting, and cattle herding.

Despite their cultural resilience, the Mursi people face challenges from external influences and environmental pressures. Increased tourism, changing land-use practices, and climate variability pose threats to their traditional way of life. However, the Mursi continue to uphold their rich cultural heritage, adapting and navigating modern realities while preserving their unique customs and identity.

The Mursi people’s distinctive practices and resilient spirit contribute to the cultural diversity and allure of Ethiopia’s Omo Valley, attracting interest and admiration from visitors and researchers alike. Their enduring traditions and deep-rooted connections to the land underscore the significance of indigenous cultures in shaping Ethiopia’s cultural landscape.


Why Travel with Ayzoh! & Baregota Travel

All the trips and participatory reportage proposed by Ayzoh! aim to represent the intertwining, consolidation, and integration of our differences across various conditions, cultures, and latitudes.

We’re not seeking the exotic, a concept now outdated. We seek the familiar that unites us and the extraordinary that distinguishes us.

We want to understand which elements—still capable of returning a true sense of community in the 21st century—persist. This sentiment, born of belonging to a place or group, yet nourished through diversity, paradoxically seems to give way to an ideology viewing humans as fearful individuals needing fences for protection and security.

In such scenarios, the Other is supplanted by the Uniform, and communities morph into closed circles: ghettos inhabited by timid, aggressive, resentful, and sorrowful individuals.

Each journey aims to be an act of resistance against this destructive trend.

This resistance manifests through participatory photography and the creation of publications where images often harmonize with words drawing heavily from literature, poetry, anthropology, economics, sociology, psychology, as well as neuroscience and evolutionary biology.

We understand that we’re not doing anything new or revolutionary. For centuries, social sciences and arts have shown that humans are naturally empathetic creatures toward all their fellow beings.

We also acknowledge that both in Italy and worldwide, there are many similar projects, some of exceptional quality and importance.

However, we believe that what Ayzoh! and all who support us are doing is a small yet significant contribution to constructing shared spaces among different worlds.

We explore where we live, and we explore where we don’t: intercepting what unites our diverse tribes.

As photographers, we’ve long documented divisions and injustices of all kinds. Today — through these participatory narrative projects — we aim to focus on discovering what we have in common, without fear of turning our backs on rampant cynicism, and without the fear of seeming utopian, naive, banal, or sometimes even a bit rhetorical.

This is the essence of our journeys: alongside our fellow adventurers and in collaboration with the communities hosting us, we aim to intercept a flow of stories — small or grand, near or far — capable of narrating “a dream of ancient hope”: to unite and include rather than divide or separate.

That’s it. And that’s what the oft-invoked “let’s stay human” means. It means never losing sight of a sense of commonality among the diverse. We believe this is the only way to truly feel secure.

We are bound by a common idea: every image and every word produced within us must contribute to (re)discovering, evoking, and affirming our shared humanity. Always. We believe that — today more than ever, in this era of rising walls, borders, and selfishness—this is an act of necessary resistance.


Photography and storytelling workshop

If you are a photographer, a documentarist, a journalist or a researcher, Ayzoh! and Baregota Travel professionals are delighted, at no extra cost, to share their experience with those who wish to make the most of these trips to learn, firsthand in the field, how a genuine editorial and/or tourism community project is born. This can happen through three stages:

1. Considerations on managing effective visual storytelling:
  • Completeness: researching information and accessing sources.
  • Concreteness and conciseness: producing only the content that is truly necessary and including only pertinent material for the project.
  • Consideration: focusing on ‘you’ and ‘you all’ rather than ‘I’ and ‘we.’ The ‘heroes’ are others: forgetting one’s own ego.
  • Respect: building the necessary trust to engage with subjects. Exploring and understanding customs, limits, taboos, and possibilities of the host place.
  • Technique: how to best use the available equipment, turning technical or financial limitations into creative opportunities.
  • Clarity: crafting effective, readable, and understandable sentences, paragraphs, and sequences of images.
  • Accuracy: verifying the accuracy of facts, words, and images.
2. Ethics and responsibility toward individuals and communities:

Often, documentary or social editorial projects address particularly sensitive topics involving disadvantaged or vulnerable individuals, groups, or small communities.

During this phase, we will discuss the ethical challenges and considerations posed by such work, particularly examining all the stereotypes perpetuated by mainstream media when addressing humanitarian issues.

Finally, we will seek to understand how to interact with the people and communities that host us to make them the driving force of the narrative rather than mere passive subjects.

3. Image creation:

Based on the script and working in the field with an Ayzoh! professional photographer, each participant — following their sensitivity and using their camera (whatever it may be) — captures the images they believe most appropriate to bring the story they want to tell to life.


Additional workshop upon return:

At the end of the trips — on October 2024 — we offer an additional module for photographers, documentarians, and researchers (€250 per person for 4 online sessions of 2 hours each).

4. Image editing:

All participants’ photographs are discussed and selected. The chosen images won’t necessarily be the most ‘beautiful’ but rather the most useful and suitable for telling the story.

5. Image post-production:

The selected images move to the post-production phase. Here, we make all necessary corrections to publish the photographs on the project’s medium (print, digital, web). We will use Adobe Lightroom software (industry standard) and/or Capture One, following ethical standards of photojournalism and quality humanistic photography.

6. Publication design and production:

The images are appropriately assembled and coherent with all other elements composing the story: texts, graphics, diagrams, maps, etc.

Considering the project’s nature, the objectives to be achieved, and the tools available, we will use the most suitable systems to create a quality editorial product in the simplest way possible.

This is perhaps the most technical part. The challenges to be faced vary depending on the participants’ level of preparedness and the specificities of the medium we intend to use—print, digital, or web (in decreasing order of difficulty and required experience)—or the distribution platform.

7. Project distribution:

Based on the chosen medium, we explore the most suitable distribution channels for an independent and low-budget editorial project, whether in Italy or abroad, well-known or less known, free or paid.


How to book your spot

Contact us today to secure your spot and be part of this extraordinary adventure: info@ayzoh.org or info@baregotatravel.org