Africa Djibouti

Whale Sharks in Djibouti

After wrapping up our time in Eritrea, it was on to Djibouti! It’s a very small country, so we were staying in the very creatively named Djibouti City, which is their capital. Djibouti is an interesting place – it isn’t particularly touristy, but there are a ton of foreigners around because of the military bases. It’s positioned right in the middle of a bunch of regions that frequently have conflict, and it seems like just about every military in the world looked at it on a map and went, “yep, let’s build a base there.”

As you can see, our flight was not particularly busy!

I don’t have a lot of pictures of Djibouti City itself. We did spend a lot of time walking around there, but Alvaro had warned us that locals didn’t like people taking pictures. Which I can confirm, because I wanted to take a picture in the market and got yelled at. And honestly, it’s not that scenic of a city. But the markets were cool to walk around in, our hotel was great, and we had some good dinners while we were there, so I can’t complain. Our last meal of Yemeni food was my favorite. It was also fun to break out my rusty French to help translated when we ordered food.

This mistranslation cracked me up

The first full day, we did the activity I was most excited about on this whole trip, which was snorkeling with whale sharks! I love whale sharks. I’ve seen them in aquariums twice (Osaka and Atlanta) and have been amazed by their size and how beautiful they are. Snorkeling with them in Djibouti was one of my top travel experiences ever. They come up to the shallow waters to feed. We had taken a larger boat to get out to the right area, but we switched to smaller boats to get closer to them. Our guide would point to them in the water and we would all have to jump out of the boat as quickly as possible in our snorkel gear to try to find them before they dove back deep under water. If you were careful and didn’t spook them, you could swim alongside them for minutes at a time. It was magical.

The rest of the day, we had lunch and relaxed on our larger boat. It was such an incredible day and one of my favorite animal encounters.

Our next day, we headed to Lake Assal! This is the lowest point in Africa, at -509 feet. I know myself well enough to know that I am not going to reach the highest point of the various continents but the lowest points feel more achievable. The lake itself reminded me a lot of Salt Lake and the surrounding salt flats – there were mountains nearby as well, so it felt like very familiar landscapes.

We also headed to a volcanic area, which included a spot where you could stand across the rift between the African and Arabic continental plates! Lucy and I saw more of this area on the other side of the border in Ethiopia later in our trip, which was much more scenic than the version in Djibouti, but I still think it’s cool to be on the borders of continents in that way. This is the second continental plate border that I’ve been to – the first one was the Silfra rift in Iceland, and neither has disappointed.

All in all, Djibouti might not be the next tourism hotspot, but it does have some interesting sites and is worth a few days if you’re in the region. Swimming with the whale sharks was absolutely incredible!

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