The burgeoning resort town of BISHOFTU, 40km southeast of Addis Ababa, is often referred to by its former name Debre Zeyit (“Mount of Olives”). It is strongly associated with the Ethiopian air force, which relocated here from Bole in 1946, but for tourists its principal sources of interest are the four pretty crater lakes strung around the town, and the hotels and resorts that overlook them. Most central is Lake Bishoftu, which lies immediately south of the town centre, its shore accessible from the crater rim along a steep cattle path.
About 1km to the north, Lake Hora is the largest of the lakes, and arguably the most beautiful, thanks to the limited development on the forested cliffs that enclose it. Boats (with captains) can be rented for 40–60 birr per excursion, depending on how long you go out for. Another 1.5km further north, the smaller lakes of Kuriftu and Babogaya used to feel more isolated, though the gradual expansion of the town, and blossoming of new resorts around their shores, has done little to enhance their natural beauty.
Although Bishoftu’s crater lakes, Hora in particular, support a varied avifauna, the most rewarding venue for birders is usually the non-volcanic Lake Chelekleka, which borders the town centre to the northwest. Shallow and prone to seasonal fluctuation, Chelekleka often hosts impressive aggregations of flamingos, together with a wide variety of resident and migrant waterfowl and shorebirds.