Completely unexpected Djibouti ended up being my last country on my big Africa trip. Because I was refused at the Ethiopian border I had to come up with an alternative and flew from Nairobi, Kenya to Djibouti, my first flight since South Africa. It marked the end of my Africa overland trip! I arrived on Djibouti’s 44th birthday on June 27th, Independence Day in Djibouti.
A couple days before the trip I posted on Instagram if anyone knew anyone that knew someone in Djibouti. Some local help would be cool in this totally unknown country to most people, because who even knows Djibouti is a country? Most Western people literally have no clue I can tell you.
Totally understandable to me, Djibouti is the 8th smallest country in Africa and located in a completely unknown region to most travelers. The horn of Africa is not particularly a holiday destination and actually is regarded as unsafe.
However, that of course is again one of those myths from the Western media and governments. I did not feel unsafe for a single moment visiting Djibouti. Not walking the streets at night, not going to a local gym, not taking random taxis, not watching a football match on the beach, not eating a local restaurants, nor driving through the small narrow streets of the capital Djibouti. Is traveling to Djibouti safe? Well, if you ask me I say: YES!
Life in Djibouti is very slow paced and I am sure that also had to do something with the temperature, as when I was visiting end of June I was experiencing 40 degrees Celsius, almost 100 Fahrenheit. It is located on the Red Sea and most of the country is desert.
In normal times there are already very few people that visit Djibouti for tourism reasons, add up the hot temperatures in summer, the extremely high prices and of course the global pandemic and you can imagine that most local people raised their eyebrows when I told them I was visiting Djibouti as a tourist.
Yes, Djibouti is a fairly expensive country, especially when it comes down to tourism. There are a couple things to do in Djibouti for tourists, which in fact are actually totally worth it. At least from what I have heard of and seen on the internet, because I didn’t go on any tour in Djibouti nor went to some of the best places to visit in Djibouti.
Many years ago, the days before my severe ear problems and while still scuba diving around the world, Djibouti was on my bucketlist to come dive with whalesharks. One of the best places to visit in Djibouti and the main tourist attraction of the country are the Maskali and Moucha Islands, just 1 hour off shore from the capital.
Unfortunately because of the off-season combined with the pandemic, there were only tours to the islands during the weekends and I arrived on a Sunday evening. I told you bad timing! You can charter a boat for about $250, but then what? Going to the islands on my own? Little bit of snorkeling around, flying the drone and then back?
Trust me I have been on a ton of island hopping tours around the world, no need to spent that much money for a private tour. May be some day I will come back and actually swim or even dive with whalesharks in Djibouti. The same for visiting Lake Assal and Lake Abbe. Although Lake Abbe is apparently a super unique place to visit in the world, it also is super expensive. A tour to Lake Abbe is easily costing you $600 USD. Yep! You read that right. It is located on the Ethiopian border on pretty much impenetrable terrain. It is often referred to as moon landscapes. Lake Abbe is a kind of Yellowstone meets Monument Valley, end of the world place.
Lake Assal is a much easier to visit place and known as the lowest point in Africa. Just like the Dead Sea (the lowest point in the world) the water of Lake Assal is super concentrated and the salt water is so dense that one can float in the water of Lake Assal. Lake Assal is about 2 hour drive from the capital Djibouti and seems like an easy place to visit in Djibouti I would say. Roads are well constructed and paved and even lead through a gorgeous canyon with cool viewpoints. I really wanted to do this Djibouti tour however, there were only private tours available and they charged around $200. The water in Lake Assal in summer is VERY HOT, almost impossible to go in and the temperatures these days can rise up to 50 degrees (120 F) during the day.