Northwest of the Gulf of Tadjoura, the Goda Mountains rise to a height of 1750m and are a spectacular natural oddity.
This area shelters one of the rare speckles of green on Djibouti’s parched map, like a giant oasis a real relief after the scorched desert landscapes. A few Afar villages are scattered around and merit at least a couple of days of your time to soak up their charm.
It won’t be long before you’re smitten by the region’s mellow tranquillity and laid-back lifestyle.
For outdoorsy types, this area offers ample hiking opportunities.
Getting There & Away: The most convenient way to visit the area is on a tour or with a rental 4WD.
FORÊT DU DAY: Measuring just 3.2 sq km, this tiny pocket of vegetation is an exceptional ecosystem. Situated at 1500m above sea level, the forest benefits from its proximity to Mt Goda. As rain clouds and mist from the mountain drift into the forest, considerable condensation forms.
The soil, as wet as after a storm, releases humidity, which allows the plants and trees to flourish despite the infrequent rains. From December to March, the temperature at night can drop sometimes to just above freezing.
Despite its size, plant life is incredibly diverse (including several endemic and very rare species), and wildlife abundant. The forest is home to the country’s only endemic bird species, the Djibouti francolin, and it’s one of the few places where leopards are still seen.
Common sightings include various species of monkey and deer, and several birds of prey, including Bonelli’s eagle. Tree species include ancient juniper, boxwood, wild olive and various types of fig.
Activities: Guides from the Campement Touristique de la Forêt du Day can take you on beautiful walks in the forest and the surrounding mountains (about two hours return). You can also walk to Bankoualé or Dittilou (three hours one way).
Sleeping & Eating: (Campement Touristique de la Forêt du Day HUTS). If you like peace, quiet and sigh-inducing views, you’ll have few quibbles with this atmospheric campement in the village of Day, at an altitude of 1400m, close to the Forêt du Day.
The traditional huts are welcoming and the toilet block is kept clean. Other draws include the host of walking options available and healthy food.
The green and fertile oasis of Bankoualé boasts one of the most spectacular settings in Djibouti, with staggering mountain scenery, impressive canyons and a few scenic waterfalls.
Sights & Activities: On the way to Bankoualé – just 2km down the dirt road you’ll pass the little village of Ardo, which has a small craft centre run by Afar women. It’s a great opportunity to see the well-known and highly accomplished Afar basket ware. Any purchase you make will directly benefit the community.
A variety of walks will take you up to the waterfalls, streams, fruit trees and little gar- dens around Bankoualé. Don’t miss the walk to the Cascade de Bankoualé (Bankoualé Wa- terfall; about two hours return). It’s not the Niagara Falls, though; in the drier months the volume of the falls lessens and can be reduced to a mere trickle.
Another enjoyable walk goes to the Grotte de la Chauve-Souris (Bat’s Cave; four hours return). It’s also possible to walk to Dittilou (four hours one way) and Forêt du Day (4½ hours one way).
A guide is essential because trails are not marked and it’s easy to get lost. You can organise a guide through the Campement Touristique de Bankoualé. Costs vary ac- cording to the duration of the walk.
Sleeping & Eating: (Campement Touristique de Bankoualé HUTS). If you want to get away from it all, look no further.
This ecofriendly camp (electricity is solar powered) in a scenic location – it’s perched on a hillside and overlooks a deep gorge – is a pleasant place to spend a couple of days, particularly if you’re keen on hiking. Many huts have been recently upgraded and are equipped with traditional Afar beds made of wood and goatskin (fear not, there’s a mattress, too), and the views of the valley are sensational. The ablution blocks are well-scrubbed, and the food gets good reports.
Dittilou, at the edge of vegetation around the Forêt du Day, should not be missed. Set 700m above sea level on the flank of Mt Goda, it features an enchanted landscape of dripping forest and viewpoints swirling in mist. This explosion of green amid a desert land is extraordinary.
You’ll find it hard to believe that Dittilou belongs to the same country as the one you left on the burning coastal road just one hour before.
Activities: Dittilou is a good base for hiking. The owners of Campement Touristique de Dittilou will be happy to suggest guided walks suited to your level of ability. Don’t miss the waterfall of Toha (a three- to four-hour return visit).
Another lovely walk goes to a plane wreck (a six-hour loop). You can also walk to Bankoualé (four to five hours one way).
Sleeping & Eating: (Campement Touristique de Dittilou HUTS). This campement has helpful and friendly management offering a series of well-designed daboytas (traditional huts) brimful of rustic charm. They are set against a lush and peaceful landscape. The laid-back restaurant is chilled and the food is great. The prices quoted include guided walks.