Traveling Djibouti

Exploring Djibouti Coastline

Let the adventure move us

No matter of plans made nor the volume of research done once the adventure begins you never know where you’ll end up. Traveling through Africa is for the adventurous. The unexpected surprises put pay to the best laid plans. This was abundantly clear to us half way through our trip when the local army refused to let travel any further up the coast.

As we headed out of Djibouti City on day 1 our goal was to travel along the coast around the Gulf of Tadjoura then west almost to the Eritrean border at  the point where the Red Sea starts. That’s the narrowest point between Africa and the Middle East. It’s this narrowing that forms raging currents as the water flows in the Red Sea. The water is warm and deep, ideal conditions for the ocean’s predators  congregate and hunt. Giant GT patrol the islands and drop-offs in this area and offer some of the best GT fishing on the planet.

True to form our best laid plans were destroyed half way through our trip but the result wasn’t any less spectacular. We ended up discovering a hidden gem.

 Exploring Djibouti - Our travels

Map of Djibouti
Map of our travels through Djibouti

After landing at midnight we spent the first night in Djibouti City. The next morning it was up early to fetch the hire car, an old school Toyota land Cruiser, then to the shops for supplies and head out into the unknown.

That first day we drove right around the gulf to the a camp site just outside the town of Tadjoura. It was a 180km drive that would take roughly 2.5hrs if driven straight but we detoured on the way. Our first stop was to Lac Assal, the lowest point in Africa and the second saltiest lake on Earth. If you ever want to feel like you’re on another planet this would be it and is well worth a visit.

Lac Assal
The white salt plains of Lac Assal stretch for miles

From Lac Assal we continued to a derelict harbor at the back of Lake Ghoubet. It was the first time the road had come close to the water’s edge so we decided to get the tackle out and wet a line. We weren’t expecting much but straight away I got smashed but a monster GT. Hooks straightened and left stunned while it disappeared into the deep. A few casts later I landed a good size barracuda. Couple that with follows from bonito, we were off to a good start. With the afternoon winding down we were forced to carry on to our camp for the night.

Night 1 & 2 - Tadjoura

The first two nights we camped at a local run, tourist camp named Campment de Ras Ali. It was a basic but pleasant enough setup, the guy that runs the camp was very friendly but didn’t speak English so communication was an issue. More our issue than his because English is generally not spoken in the country, French is the national language. If you’re looking to stay in this area I’d rather recommend Sable Blanc which is just around the corner on a lovely white beach.

Sable Blanc is the place to stay in Tadjoura

We fished the coast around the camp and caught a variety of fish but it was difficult. A coral reef forms a shallow ledge that then drops off. There were fish around, no doubt, but anything decent just bust us off on the coral. It quickly became an expensive exercise. The best of the fish I landed was a 7kg Grouper on stickbait. For the rest the fish landed were up to 2 or 3kgs and included GT, Napoleon wrasse and a few different species of grouper, bream and trevally.

Campment Ras Ali
The reef around Campment Ras Ali is beautiful to dive but difficult to fish from the side.

Night 3 - Obock

Day 3 was when our initial plans were thrown in the dumpster and plan B was made. Our plan was to continue up to Obock and beyond so we were up early and on our way. Our excitement levels were high as we were finally getting toward the area that we hoped would produce really good fish.

About half way to Obock there was a rocky point we’d identified on Google Earth which we aimed to fish for the morning then carry on. We spent a couple hours trying different roads to reach the point but all were washed away and impassable. The closest we could get was a beach  3km away with a rocky section between that required rock-climbing skills to pass. With that idea halted we decided to carry on up the coast.

Exploring Djibouti - Driving offroad
Traveling off road to try get to the point we’d spotted

The moment we drove into Obock the hairs on our back went up. It was that bad! Its a small disgusting harbour town, dirty roads, buildings falling apart and almost every person high on Khat. Chewing Khat is an almost national past time in Djibouti but Obock takes it to the extreme. We needed diesel so were forced to deal with these drugged up stoners to find a filling station and  let me worn you, there’s only one pump in town. Its built into the wall of a half broken house. You’d drive past it without even realizing it which is what we did three times. With that done we wanted to get out of town asap.

The Infamous Road Block

The roads in Djibouti are generally good tar roads but Obock is where that ends and they turn into non existent dirt roads. Resorting to driving off road through the back end of town we finally made it out the other side, onto a road we had spotted in the distance.

Not long out of town the road was blocked with stones, barbwire and four men with AK’s. Friendly enough, these guys turned out to be the local army stopping people driving further, particularly white foreigners. The area beyond is still fraught with tribal fighting and tribes from Eritrea raiding local villages. They wouldn’t let us past without a local, armed guard. With directions where in town to find a guard we were sent away. We spent a few hours trying to find one of these elusive guards but with everyone stoned out their tree it wasn’t going to happen.

With our dreams dashed we were forced to find accommodation just outside town and make plans for tomorrow. We stayed at Auberge Mer Rouge which run by two local woman and was surprisingly good considering the mess of a town just down the road.

Night 4 - Exploring Djibouti Plan B

With our plans out the window and forced to turn around we now had to decide what to do. It was almost dejectedly that we decided to head back to the point we didn’t reach the day before.

Beach Djibouti
The beach we slept on with our disappointing point in the distance


Back at the beach with the point in the distance we made plans to reach it. With day packs and rods we waded through water and scaled over rocks nearing on a cliff until we made it. Was quite a walk in that heat.

The water looked amazing and I’m sure there’s good fish to be had but we didn’t find them. Very disappointingly we only caught small GT and pick handle barracuda. We caught a few but didn’t get anything big. That night we sleep under the stars back on the beach. At beautiful night and the number of stars you see on a dark night in Africa is spectacular. It almost made up for the slow day’s fishing. The next morning we were heading back down to Lac Ghoubet which we’d passed on the first day.

Rocky Djibouti Coastline
Rocky Djibouti Coastline


Night 5 - Lac Ghoubet

Arriving back at Lac Ghoubet early that morning we were immediately struck by the bait balls and action on the surface. We fished a small section at the back of Lac Ghoubet that day and the next until heading back to the airport. To say the fishing was phenomenal is an understatement. The fishing blew us away. We caught a variety of fish and got stuck into the big GT.

We caught fish, we got bust off, we saw even bigger fish. It was amazing. It was everything we’d hoped for and more. It was the reason we’d come to Djibouti. We’d discovered a little piece of fishing heaven. These last two days deserve an article to themselves to which I’ll duly oblige. Read it see why I’m bubbling about the fishing we found.

Djibouti GT
Djibouti GT, One of the many fish we got while exploring Djibouti


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *