Arrival into Harar in Ethiopia
To do the hyena feeding you’ll need to be in Harar, and as the feeding occurs at dusk (7pm ish – changes depending on the seasons), you’ll need to spend at least a night in the town of Harar. You have to be keen if you want to get there – it’s a long, scary and gruelling bus journey in a crampt and overcrowded mini-bus trust me!
From the capital city, minibuses run from Addis Ababa directly to Harar, but also to Dire Dawa with a connection to Harar. To organise the mini-bus your best bet is actually just talk to locals in the streets and in your hostel and they’ll sort you out. It really is that simple. I booked my mini-bus around 1pm in Addis Ababa and got on my minibus at 8.30pm. The minibus journeys can be long, gruelling and dangerous so be prepared for that. It will be worth it when you rock into Harar. My mini-bus took 15 hours in the end (a story for another post) and cost 300 Birr (which is about 16-17 $US Dollars).
The view over the old city of Harar – a great spot by day and the hyenas come out at night!
Walk to the hyena feeding in Harar – it’s the quickest way.
What price is it?
For me, and the other three guys that did it, it was 100 Birr each. That’s somewhere between $5 and $6 US Dollars. That’s totally worth it, believe me. In fact I’d say it’s a bargain as this is a special travel memory.
What happens at hyena feeding?
Well the story goes that at dusk/nightfall wild hyenas roamed the streets of Harar scavenging and looking for food. The locals decided to befriend them and try to tame them over the years and it’s worked. The hyenas now turn up at dusk and are ready for a live show which they are the stars of. The hyenas, in their innocent lives, are unaware of how popular or cool their activity has become. So after years of nightly hyena feeding by the local “hyena men”, Harar’s people realised the potential of this odd occurrence and as such turned it into a kind of tourist pull. A way for the locals to make money, the hyenas to get fed and the backpackers to get up close and personal to hyenas. Everyone’s a winner here.
An overview of what happens at the Hyena Feeding in Harar?
We headed down the street to feed hyenas.
Within minutes he is whistling out and calling hyenas to appear from nowhere. And they do. They are quick off the mark. One hyena comes and stands a mere 4-5 metres from us. The hyena knows the score. It’s going to get fed raw meat by the humans that are here!
The hyena man goes first so you can see how it’s done. He holds a bit of meat on a stick. The hyena comes up, hungry and eager.
Then the hyena man bites a piece of wood and holds it in his mouth. Meat is put on the other end of it. Again the hyena rocks up, snatches it with its jaw and walks back.
There are 3 main things you will do in terms of positions when feeding hyenas in Harar, and here are the three:
1. Feed them mouth to mouth.
2. Hand to Mouth – Hold a piece of wood in your hand. Put meat on the other end. The hyena comes up, takes it, eats it and walks back.
3. The hyena will jump on your back, in my case he walked up my back digging his paws in and devouring the food. It’s hard to stand still and stay calm when you think about what’s actually happening! This for me was the craziest moment. He jumped right on my back onto my Northern Ireland flag I had draped round me. Then he bit the food right by my ear! It was amazing!
The feeding a hyena by hand is the calmest and easiest part. We’ve all done that before with dogs, kangaroos etc. But the whole experience is just memorable!! I will never forget Harar or the hyena experience!!
How dangerous is hyena feeding in Harar?
Yes, of course. Like a lot of things we do on our travels, it has risks. You don’t sign any documents, there are no tourist tickets issued. It just happens by “the tree” on the backstreets on the edge of Harar. There is no real health and safety in place. But if you’re up for it, DO IT. I highly recommend it.
Are photos allowed?
Of course it’s fine! It’s easy to spot a tourist here. Also – if you’re scared you don’t need to do it – you can just go there and watch it from a distance – no problem. If you do this, it’s honourable to give an amount of money (at your discretion) to the “hyena man”, as he’s working for you and putting on a show.
Overall this is an amazing experience and I totally recommend hyena feeding in Harar.