Limalimo Lodge is the result of Shiferaw Asrat and Meles Yemata’s vision to bring sustainable and community focused tourism to Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains National Park.
Shiferaw and Meles both grew up in Debark, the gateway to the Simien Mountains. As mountain guides who in turn both set up their own trekking companies, supporting hundreds of visitors to see the beauty of the national park, they wanted to find a way to open up the benefits of tourism to households and communities within the park boundaries, as well as offer visitors an alternative way of experiencing the UNESCO listed site.
And so the concept of Limalimo Lodge was born.
With investments from African Wildlife Capital (the investment arm of African Wildlife Foundation) and individuals from around the world, in partnership with the National Park, we set to work, designing a sustainable and boutique lodge that would offer guests a natural and beautifully designed environment in which to explore the Simiens, open up tourism to a new corner of the national park, and benefit the Limalimo community.
Throughout construction, over 100 people from the local area were regularly employed, working with us to create rammed earth walls, living roofs, rain-water harvesting systems and landscaping. We worked with rammed earth guru, Roland Keable, to upskill the community in this low-impact construction method, and wherever possible employed local artisans to source locally and naturally made items. You can see many of this looking through our photo galleries, including “The Build” and “Meet the Builders”.
The natural and low-impact design of the lodge is of the upmost importance to us, allowing the lodge to fit seamlessly into the environment in which it sits. Through design decisions, we have sought to not only reduce the footprint we have, but pro-actively support the natural environment. Read more about the design and an interview with Paul Robbins, assessing the impact of the lodge on the environment.
We see our role as an important one – we provide employment opportunities to more than 30 members of the local community, source our food from local producers, take guests to visit Limalimo village (bringing an additional income to households) and donate $10 per person per night to African Wildlife Foundation to increase their conservation work in the national park.
Additionally, we have a role to promote the Simien Mountains, it’s wildlife and communities. We have already started work on this, by securing coverage of the national park in international magazines, papers, blogs and travel supplements, as well as working with a photographer to crowdfund the first ever photography book of the Simien Mountains National Park.
We soft opened in early 2016, taking ‘test guests’ while we finished the build. This has allowed us to offer on-the-job training to staff and test run the rooms while securing feedback on what we do well, and what we can do better, so that when we open fully in September 2016, we will be offering outstanding service in a truly spectacular part of the world.
Thank you to everyone who has been part of our journey and to those of you about to join it.