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Sof Omar Caves

Sof Omar Caves is the largest cave complex in Ethiopia, and at almost 10 miles long, is one of the most spectacular underground caverns in the world. The caves are named after Sheik Sof Omar Ahmed, who took refuge in the caves in the early 11th century. The caves are known for their sculpted pillars, including the extremely photogenic "Chamber of Columns" near the entrance to the cave. The Web River flows through the caves, sculpting the limestone into incredible shapes.

Where: Sof Omar Caves are located just outside the tiny village of Sof Omar in Ethiopia, not far from Bale Mountains National Park. When: Anytime of year is fine to visit the caves. Different water levels will change your photo opportunities, but you should be able to visit the caves unless their is extreme flooding.

Photography: Wide-angle lenses are especially useful within the caves. Near the entrance, you'll have plenty of light to reveal the full spectrum of colors within the caves. As you explore deeper into the caves, you'll need to rely on longer exposures. Also, as you get deeper, there's a shift in the color of the light that your eyes probably won't notice, but your camera sensor will. If you are using the Daylight white balance setting, for example, everything will be rendered warm in the final photos. You can adjust your white balance to render the scene as your eyes see it, or you can lean into the warm color cast for creative effect. A sturdy tripod is absolutely necessary to photograph the darker parts of the caves.

Learn more: You'll want to hire a guide or a tour company to take you to the caves. There are no facilities or lodging (I camped when I visited). Trip Advisor has some good visitor reviews about Sof Omar Caves, and is a good place to start when considering a visit. © Ian Plant

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