Djibouti Calls: This African Destination Looks Like A Spectacular Martian Landscape Torn Right Out Of Science Fiction
Early morning. An African sunrise breaks above an alien landscape. Ahead of you, the land bends and waves and undulates like crests across the ocean, rising up in towering stacks that swirl up out of the ground like great storms. Just beyond, land gives way to open sea, sparkling in the sunlight. In the distance, great fins break against the surface before slipping away, back down into the deep.
Welcome to Djibouti.
This tiny nation, so small as to have a capital city of the same name, is among the latest African nations to be recognized for its tourism potential. Touted by Lonely Planet as one of the top destinations to visit in 2018, for its natural splendor both above and below the sea, Djibouti is finally receiving well-earned recognition from the international community. It’s okay if you’ve never heard of the country before—it only gained its independence from France 40 or so years ago, and so small is it, cornered on all sides by Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and the Gulf of Tadjura, that it barely shows up on the world map.
What’s altogether fascinating about Djibouti is that it is a country so flawlessly breathtaking but has fallen so far beneath the radar of the international community, never popping up on African travel itineraries as a staple location to visit.
Much of the Djibouti countryside is barren desert so bizarre as to not resemble anything else on Earth, a spectacular Martian landscape torn right out of science fiction. A patchwork of deep blacks and pure whites await at the lava plains surrounding salty Lake Assal, while to the South the land rises in great salt pillars before descending again into bubbling hot springs around the picturesque Lake Abbe.
While flamingos thrive in the salt lakes of Djibouti, the country is not a place for vibrant life, with the exception of the verdant peaks of the Goda Mountains to the North of the Gulf of Tadjura. Hardly a problem, though. The countries’ geological splendor should be enough to hold your attention.
Make it to the Gulf and the wonder continues. Beyond the dryness of Djibouti and down into the sea lies an extensive reef system that runs along much of the desert countries’ short shoreline. Here is where life explodes, a slice of Philippine marine biodiversity halfway across the world, with fish of all kinds navigating the multi-storeyed structures of this underwater Eden. In the cooler months of November through to January, great big whale sharks patrol the waters up above, their spotted hides sparkling like stars in the dim waters.
Djibouti’s natural beauty is further amplified by how seemingly immaculate and undisturbed it appears to be. Tourism was never a big enough thing in Djibouti for it to cause significant long-lasting damage, and the cost of living here is high enough to keep large-scale crowds out. There is little by means of development outside of Djibouti City, and much of what you’ll find out in the wild has an eco slant to it, with ecotravel being the ticket to good tourism in this micro nation. Of course, the coming boom could change all this, so if this article inspires you to visit, remember—leave no trace.
If you’re looking for an adventure so far off the beaten path as to seem almost alien—a traipse through a land that’s bizarre, an African adventure bedecked with geological mystery—then depart on a journey to Djibouti and lose yourself in the beauties of the desert.
Banner photo: Resource travel | Thumbnail Photo: Zhao Power