A highland mist swirls above a pastel landscape of tussocked heather, glassy tarns, lichen-crusted boulders and prehistoric giant lobelias. The morning air is chilly and gaspingly thin here at 4,000-plus metres on the Sanetti Plateau, the world’s largest remaining pocket of Afro-alpine moorland. As a gap opens in the mist, a coyote-like silhouette emerges, first trotting through a field of red-hot pokers, then approaching more closely to reveal a striking chestnut coat offset by a bold white throat and flanks. This, thrillingly, is an Ethiopian wolf, a critically endangered Ethiopian endemic whose aura of cheerful doggy nonchalance belies its status as Africa's scarcest carnivore.
The lofty centerpiece of Bale Mountains National Park, otherworldly Sanetti, is a vast lava plateau whose upper slopes are studded with ancient volcanic cones that include Ethiopia’s second-highest peak Tullo Deemtu (4,377m). It is also one of Africa’s most unusual and exciting wildlife destinations, though, recommending Bale Mountains to anyone expecting a quick-fix Big Five safari would qualify as an act of wilful spite. But for those seeking a truly unique off-the-beaten-track wilderness experience, this remote 2,200km2 park, with its rich assemblage of highland flora and fauna, comes across as a kind of Serengeti of Quirkiness.