A list of the top 10 things to do in Djibouti, from swimming with whale sharks, the world’s largest fish, to exploring the apocalyptic landscape of Lac Abbé.
10 things to do in Djibouti
1. Swim with whale sharks: Swimming with whale sharks in Djibouti was one of the greatest wildlife experiences we’ve ever had. These magnificent creatures – the largest known fish in the world – are bewitching in both beauty and behaviour and it was an utter privilege to share their space.
2. Lac Abbé: Located 140km southwest of Djibouti City on the Ethiopian border, Lac Abbé may as well be on another planet. Lac Abbé is both desolate and apocalyptic. Seeing this eerie moonscape is a surreal experience like little else on Earth.
3. Lac Assal: Lac Assal is wickedly deceiving. At first, it appears as a glorious expanse of blue-green water and blinding white sand, easily mistaken for a Maldivian beach. Behind the facade, however, lies a painful lesson: the vast white plain is not sand at all but salt: jagged shards that bristle on skin and leave you itching for water.
4. Dive in the Gulf of Tadjoura: Diving in Djibouti doesn’t appear on many bucket lists, but as we learnt on our trip to the country, it can be even better than Mauritius or Tahiti. With calm, warm water and a breadth of submarine delights, Gulf of Tadjoura is particularly good for underwater pursuits. There are a number of reefs and wrecks to explore including Orchard Reefer, an enormous 135m-long cargo ship at a depth of 10m to 28m.
5. Decan wildlife refuge: Decan wildlife refuge, which stands for DÉCouvrir et Aider la Nature (discover and help nature), is located just 20 minutes outside Djibouti’s dusty capital city. The refuge is home to an array of species including cheetahs, lions, ostriches, tortoises, Somali donkeys, caracals, squirrels, oryx, antelopes, kudus, zebras and porcupines.
6. Djibouti City: If you have a few hours spare, wandering the capital is worth the time. As you will no doubt be told during your stay, Djibouti City is virtually crime-free given the heavy military presence and is therefore largely safe to explore on foot .
7. Plage des sables blancs: Popular with day-tripping expats 7km east of Tadjoura, is the country’s only real resort at Plage des Sables Blancs. A very tranquil spot boasting a gorgeous setting, greta facilities and a long stretch of white sand provides an excellent place for secluded sunbathing.
8. Goda Mountains: One of the only places in the country where you will find lush green landscape. The Goda Mountains rise to a height of 1750m and provide a cool palce to hike – an oddity for Djibouti.
9. Abourma rock art: Only recently unearthed by a team of French archaeologists in 2008, this excellent archaeological site showcases well-preserved rock engravings from the Neolithic times. The engravings depict a range of animals including giraffes, cows, antelopes, kudus, oryxes and ostriches – many of which can no longer be found in the area – as well as some human figures.
10. Les Allols: The best way to explore Les Allols is by foot, hiking across the depression. The geological feature is not as popular as Lac Assal or Lac Abbé, but the Les Allols depression is still an astonishing natural site showcasing an array of ancient lava, folds, faults, salt fields and igneous black rocks.
Lonely Planet Ethiopia & Djibouti includes a comprehensive guide to the things to do in Djibouti, ideal for those who want to both explore the top sights and take the road less travelled.