Camping and hiking have become increasingly popular as a source of relaxation in recent years, particularly among younger people seeking new forms of entertainment that connect them with nature. Many different hiking and camping groups have emerged to cater to this demand, tapping into a previously untapped market.
These groups organize camping and hiking trips on a monthly or semi-regular basis, allowing participants to disconnect from their daily routines and immerse themselves in nature. The trips provide a chance to hike, camp, and meet new people around the warmth of a campfire, fostering a sense of community and adventure.
Many camping excursions are typically planned outside of the city, often to national parks or similar locations scattered throughout Ethiopia. Past camping groups have frequented popular sites like Suba Menageshia Park, Chebera Churchura National Park, Bale National Park, and Wonchi Crater Lake.
However, safety and security issues in recent years have led to a decline in these types of activities, leaving many enthusiasts unable to enjoy their beloved hobby. Conflict throughout the city, the two-year war in the northern part of the country and the COVID-19 pandemic have all played a part in stymieing this burgeoning activity.
Undeterred, camping and outdoor enthusiast Zadig Serawit sought out alternative ways to pursue his hobby without leaving the city. This led him to the concept of city camping.
Zadig asserts that city camping is a safe and secure way for campers and hikers to enjoy their usual trips. “Through city camping, a person can experience the thrill of the outdoors with a group of other campers and hikers who are willing to seek out spots within the city to enjoy their hobbies together.”
City camping not only offers an outdoorsy experience for campers but also adds a bit of adventure by encouraging them to practice all aspects of camping, from building a tent to making a fire, cooking dinner, hiking, and sightseeing. Sustainability is prioritized throughout, with no trace left behind to preserve the beauty of the surroundings.
Despite the urban nature of the city, Zadig believes that there are still places where people can go to experience camping if one knows what to look for. “All you have to do is seek them out.” Depending on their willingness, Zadig was able to find certain places in Addis Ababa where people can camp.
He says that the hiking aspect of city camping doesn’t have to be limited to mountains or parks. “For instance, hiking can be as simple as a group walk from Piassa to 4 Kilo, or an overnight trek, and so on.”
The point of city camping, according to him, is to use the resources available nearby to come closer to nature and socialize with others.
Zadig recently organized a camping trip for a group of 10 enthusiasts at the Gullele Botanical Gardens. They enjoyed a night of camping followed by a hike through the dense forest within the compound the following day.
Tina Belay, a 24-year-old nature enthusiast who was part of the group, was ecstatic about the opportunity and did not bat an eye lid. “I haven’t been on a camping trip for over a year, and I have been missing the fresh air and the stress relief I always got on those trips.”
The experience exceeded Tina’s expectations, as safety was well-maintained within the confines of the city. Two scouts stayed with the group all night, ensuring their safety and meeting their needs. “They stayed with us all night and made sure that everything was well and all our needs were met.”
The group enjoyed the camping experience, from building the tent and lighting the campfire as darkness fell to cooking dinner and enjoying each other’s company while admiring the beautiful view of the city at night.
Zadig is currently generating interest in the concept of city camping, starting with hiking. He believes that once enough people accept hiking within the city limits, it will be easier to introduce the camping aspect as well.
As awareness of the possibility of city camping spreads, Zadig expects that many people will take advantage of the opportunity and plan similar trips and experiences for themselves.