The cold, windswept Sanetti Plateau is the largest contiguous afroalpine area in the world. It is an otherworldly scene. If the planet Mars were to be terraformed, it might look something like the Sanetti Plateau – volcanic, cold, and treeless, except for some strange-looking giant lobelias. The scene is brushed with lots of silvers, blues, greens, and grays from the low-growing vegetation, tarns, and basalt columns, that contrast with the red volcanic soil. The largest native inhabitant of this strange landscape is the rarest wolf, the rarest canis, and even the rarest canid in the world, the Ethiopian red wolf. Though there are only a few hundred left in various afroalpine islands scattered throughout Ethiopia, the Sanetti Plateau hosts over half of them and virtually guarantees a sighting. There are sweeping views along every trail framed by basalt outcrops and highlighted by countless tarns stretching out towards the horizon, such as the Crane Lakes. But this is not all there is to the park.
Below the Sanetti, in the misty afromontane forests, lives the mountain nyala. This regal, spiral-horned antelope can reach up to 300kg and 1.35m in height up to the shoulder. It is majestically marked with two white collars around its neck, thin white stripes tracing down a few ribs from its spine, a wavy row of white spots running from the front to the back on each side, and white patches on its legs.
While the forest on the south side of the Sanetti Plateau is not as favored for mountain nyalas, it is a treat in itself. This is because it is made up almost entirely of giant heather trees. Below the heath forest lays the Harenna Forest bamboo jungle.
From the park headquarters in Dinsho, there are easy day hikes to the surrounding forested hills, with plenty of wildlife to see quite easily, including mountain nyalas and other bovines, as well as giant forest hogs, bushpigs, and warthogs. A gentle hike out to the Weyb Waterfall traverses lush meadows and native grassland, where various types of mega fauna can be seen browsing. The falls itself is a peaceful place to picnic. There are also three main hikes from Dinsho to the Sanetti Plateau. The long but easy way is to drive far to the east where the road then heads south to Robe and Goba before continuing up to the plateau. This way, it is possible to hike the plateau with fresh legs, having skipped the ascent to 4,000m via motor transport.
The most direct route heads due south from Dinsho. After passing the Worgona Campsite, situated between a series of peaks and the Worgona Valley, the trail splits, with one trail passing by each side of the second-highest mountain in the Bale Mountains, Mount Batu, which tops out at 4,203m. This mountain is actually more rewarding to climb than the highest mountain, Tulu Deemtu, which has a communications tower accessible by vehicle from the Sanetti Plateau. The trail running along the southeastern side of Batu leads to two campsites among myriad afroalpine lakes up on the plateau – Garba Guracha Campsite and Sanetti Campsite. The southwestern trail on the other side of Batu heads to the Rafu Campsite, where lava flows have left purpose built-looking pillars of stone above the Harenna Escarpment.