Tour of Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somaliland

“The Horn of Africa mixes dramatic vistas of salt, molten lava and desert with colonial towns and prehistoric rock art.”

Highlights

Djibouti | Lac Assal | Lac Abbe | Lake Afrera | Afar Desert | Erta Ale lava lake | Ahmedela salt mines and camel trains | Dallol | Hargeisa | Las Geel and Dhagax Khoure rock art | Berbera | Addis Ababa

Description of Tour of Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somaliland

The horn of Africa is a fascinating mélange of cultures, a hotbed of influences from nomadic herders to Arabian traders. It is also home to some of the continent’s most remote and breathtaking landscapes, where the taste of the wild is in the air for intrepid traveller to savour.

From Djibouti, we head for Lac Assal - the lowest point in Africa (-150 m) plus the most saline body of water in the world (40%) - as well as the spectacular Lac Abbe, a vast salt lake whose tall limestone chimneys belching gas served as a backdrop for the film Planet Of The Apes.

Crossing into Ethiopia, we delve the Afar desert and its once-feared people. You'll witness one of nature's fiercer sights here too, hiking up the Erta Ale volcano to marvel at one of the world's few lava lakes. Next, visit the hot springs at Dallol - the hottest place on earth - and look out for camel caravans carting blocks of salt across the desert.

From Addis Ababa we fly to Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland bustling with friendly markets. The second part of the trip also features two of the world's finest prehistoric rock art sites, at Las Geel and Dhagax Khoure, meeting nomadic communities en route.

You'll also visit the wonderfully atmospheric coastal city of Berbera and explore streets of an old quarter packed with Ottoman architecture. It's yet another little-explored wonder in a region full of distinctive adventure.

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Check dates

2018: 11 Nov
2019: 10 Nov
2020: 8 Nov
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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Tour of Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somaliland

Environment

This tour travels through some very remote regions, many of which have barely been touched by the presence of humans, and we strongly believe in maintaining their pristine nature. Somaliland’s desert regions are fairly fragile environments and we are careful to use tracks (where they exist) to avoid disturbing the flora and fauna of the region, which includes leopard tortoises, dik-diks, gerenuk and other creatures.

We visit the Foret du Day National Park on this trip, a rare example of forest environment in an otherwise arid land which provides a habitat for locally rare and endangered species. We are careful to use tracks (where they exist) to avoid disturbing the flora and fauna of the region. Travellers are briefed on appropriate behaviour within the park and other areas. As well as this, the presence of tourism here provides a financial incentive for local communities to maintain the environment, as the park provides jobs for some.

We visit two very special rock art sites on this trip; Dhagax Khoure and Las Geel. Travellers are briefed on the sensitivity of these sites; we advise against using flash photography so as not to damage the images, as well as instructing our travellers not to touch them. Although Dhagax Khoure has no formal protection or recognition, the fees that we pay for Las Geel help to ensure that the Somaliland government has an incentive to preserve the site for the future.

Somaliland has one of the worst litter problems that we have ever seen – there are few formal waste disposal facilities and the common practice is to throw it away indiscriminately. Although it may seem like fighting against the tide we implement a strict no litter policy on our tours and educate drivers and guides to follow this; by doing so we can help to set a small example which we hope in time will become better established.

In conjunction with our local team we work with the hotels to help them to implement best practice in terms of environmental issues, from energy conservation to waste disposal.

Community

This tour spends much of its time traveling through the remote Danakil Depression, an isolated area that is home to the Afar people. The Afar have traditionally been rather wary of outsiders and we feel that it is important that we respect their traditions and behave appropriately here; thus all travellers are carefully briefed on this. Where we stop to visit communities we ensure that our presence is welcomed – we do not want to treat the Afar as an exotic exhibit just to be photographed, but consult with tribal elders carefully. Photography can be a sensitive subject and so we ask all travellers to respect the wishes of local people in this respect.

We also sometimes offer donations to settlements and family groups – not financial but rather material goods which they may need and appreciate, and which can be hard to come by in the desert regions, such as tea and sugar.

We employ local Afar guides for part of this trip, meaning that this community is able to benefit financially from the presence of tourism in their homeland.

As head further into Ethiopia we visit a number of monasteries and religious sites. Again, appropriate behaviour here is key to ensure we do not offend local sensibilities.

Somaliland’s tourism is virtually non-existent; tainted by its association with neighbouring Somalia the tourist industry here is miniscule. As one of the first operators to run tours in the country we recognise that we have a special responsibility to help implement responsible tourism.

We work in close association with a local partner to train guides and drivers to provide quality services to our clients. Through our efforts we hope to help in building a viable tourist industry in Somaliland that will provide economic benefit to this emerging nation.

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