Djibouti: Africa’s Most Unusual Travel Destination

If you are looking for an unusual destination, then look no further than Djibouti!

Not many people have heard of Djibouti, a tiny speck of a country in the heart of Horn of Africa…and yet, with its expansive alien landscapes forged from volcanic rock, salt and sand – and the near-complete absence of fresh water – it is one of the most exciting places I have ever been to! It feels like a whole different planet and could have been a perfect backdrop of a Star Wars film.Regardless of its very small size, Djibouti has the perfect strategic position – it is a getaway to the Souez Canal at the mouth of the Red Sea, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, and it has a bunch of landlocked countries stacked up behind it. Unlike the neighbouring Somali and Eritrea, it is free from the persisting civil conflict and is perfectly safe to travel. Many believe that Djibouti will be the next Dubai in the next 20 years, a magnet for capital and free trade.

Djibouti has Lac Assal, one of the most spectacular natural phenomena in Africa. Lac Assal is the Dead Sea of Africa – it is roughly 10 times saltier than the ocean –  and also the continent’s lowest point at 155m below sea level.  The crater lake with its aquamarine water ringed by huge salt fields, and the surrounding dormant volcanoes constitute one of the most stunning landscapes I have ever laid my eyes on! Because to its otherworldly beauty, it is the centrepiece of the government’s tourist plan.

Las Assal is also one of the hottest places I have ever been to but in a different kind of way – even when the temperature is in the early thirties, the air feels feel oven-hot and the heat is exacerbated by the blinding glare of the salt plains. I suppose you could float in its briny waters to cool off, but we were in a bit of a rush!
The country also serves as is an important military base for many countries, including United States, France, Japan, Italy, and soon China (it will be their first ever military installation abroad), who use this as a base for chasing Somali pirates and to launch soldiers into the hot spots in Africa and the Middle East.Along with many other African countries, the Chinese are investing heavily into Djibouti since it gives them access to the abundance of natural resources the continent as to offer. They are currently financing a railroad leading to the heart of the continent, a massive new port terminal, as well as two international airports and various highway upgrades. The new military base with around 50,000 troops will insure that the investments are protected.Four days is more than enough to explore Djibouti, and being a mere one-hour flight of Addis Ababa, it could be easily combined with a trip to Ethiopia. Another two major draws are snorkelling with whale sharks in the Bay of Ghoubbet in the vicinity of Djibouti city, and visiting another of Africa’s impressive landmarks, Lac Abbé, a salt lake on the border with Ethiopia. One thing to keep in mind, due to the lack of tourist infrastructure, travelling around Djibouti does not come cheap…and yet it is worth it, because you will experience it in its raw, authentic state, before it becomes another hot travel destination! 

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