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Filfil – A Hidden Paradise

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The snaking road of the evergreen Filfil Forest

To the northeast of Asmara lies Filfil, or ‘Green Belt’ region, hailed as the most beautiful country side in all of Eritrea.

The area contains the last remnants of Eritrea’s once abundant evergreen tropical forest, home to an impressive array of birds and mammals. Permanently green, it is covered with lush forests and plantations, and the steep road from Asmara winds its hairpin way past spectacular views over the mountains and valleys that reach out to the Red Sea plains.

Hamadryas Baboons

Hamadryas Baboons

After the arid starkness of the surrounding landscape, rises up oasis-like before you: cool, lush and verdant. The forest thrives on the vast, moist escarpment that links the highland plateau withthe burning lowland plains, home to the renowned Rashaida people. There are also plantations of coffee and fruit trees. The forest is evergreen, so it’s good to visit any time of year, but it’s particularly lush from October to February, after the heavy rains.

On the slopes of the eastern escarpment, at altitudes from 2,400 metres down to 900 metres, evergreens abound; with a North-South range of about 20 km. From a vantage point of 2400m the views of the lowland plains and the forested escarpment below are truly inspiring. On a clear day the Red Sea coast is visible, with the coastal plains spreading as far as the eye can see the south.

Filfil is one of the best places in Eritrea to see birds and mammals. The rich bird life here that includes all manners of hornbills, weavers, canaries, owls, eagles, orioles and many more, there are considerable number of mammals to be seen in the forest. Vervet monkeys and hamadryas baboons– the sacred baboon of the Egyptians, are common and easily seen, and other more rare species have been reported. These include gazelles, duikers, bushbucks, klipspringers, kudu, warthog and even leopards.