Top choice in Djibouti

Weary of the hustle and bustle of Djibouti City? Have a soft spot for endangered species? The well-organised wildlife refuge Decan is about 10km south of Djibouti City (in Douda, on the road to Somaliland), an easy two- to three-hour excursion from the capital. It’s not a zoo, but a small nature reserve, with its own ecosystem. You’ll see eight endlessly appealing cheetahs, four lions, as well as ostriches, turtles, Somali donkeys, caracals, squirrels, antelopes, kudus, zebras and porcupines.

Run by a French vet, Decan was set up as a rehabilitation centre for various species that have been orphaned or illegally caged for trafficking purposes. There are plans to extend it from 30 acres to 600 acres, down to the coastline, which would encompass a mangrove area. Birders, rejoice: a dedicated birdwatching area was under construction at the time of writing – expect to see flamingos, ibises, herons and spoonbills. Decan also runs education programs for customs officers, the police and school kids. Watching the big cats being fed (usually around 5pm) is just one of the many exhilarating moments at Decan. Volunteers are welcome. The only practical option for getting here from Djibouti City is by taxi (DFr3000, including waiting time).

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Djibouti attractions

1. African Quarter

3.83 MILES

The vast Place Mahmoud Harbi (aka Pl Rimbaud), which is dominated by the minaret of the great Hamoudi Mosque, Djibouti City’s most iconic building, is…

2. Les Caisses Market

3.96 MILES

Spreading along Blvd de Bender are the stalls of this popular market. Crammed with every type of souvenir from woodcarvings to clothing, it’s a colourful…

3. Hamoudi Mosque

3.98 MILES

The vast and chaotic Place Mahmoud Harbi (Place Rimbaud) is dominated by the minaret of this imposing mosque, Djibouti City’s most iconic building.

4. European Quarter

4.05 MILES

The focal point of the European Quarter is Place du 27 Juin 1977 (Place Ménélik). With its whitewashed houses and Moorish arcades, this vast square is a…

5. Cathedral

4.35 MILES

The cathedral has been recently restored and is one of the most eye-catching buildings along Blvd de la République.

7. Plateau du Serpent & Îlot du Héron

4.74 MILES

These adjoining neighbourhoods north of the centre are residential areas where you’ll find many of the foreign embassies and residences, as well as lavish…

8. L’Escale

4.86 MILES

In the early evening, the walk along the causeway northwest of the centre makes a very pleasant stroll. The Moorish-inspired presidential palace (not open…