Somaliland: Scuba Diving Berbera Coast

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Somalilandsun – With a reputation of hostility, out-of-control drug trades on land, abandoned beaches, and waters plagued with pirates, very few picture Somalia (also called Somaliland) as a vacation destination. And, for the most part, a trip to Somalia is nothing close to a traditional vacation. Experienced scuba divers, however, are among those few who can hear the country’s name and push aside the negative hype, imagining instead the blissfully blue waters and teeming marine life of the Red Sea.

The rarely-visited beaches, surprisingly, are something that off-the-beaten-path travelers consider a plus–the feeling of having the water all to oneself is increasingly rare in this era of global development.

For those with a sense of adventure–especially women, who are a rare sight on most Somali beaches–the Berbera Coast in the Gulf of Aden is one site to consider adding to your bucket list of adventure dives.

Located in the North of Somalia, near the Djibouti border, the trip to Berbera is as much an adventure itself as the diving. Along the ride, travelers will most likely be introduced to the intriguing story of Aw-Barkhadle and pass by the evil mountain where he is entombed–be prepared for sandal slapping or rock-throwing to occur as you approach it. Continuing on your journey, be prepared for a number of stops–there are about a dozen police checkpoints en route to the only dive shop in Somaliland (where you’ll meet “Scuba Steve”). And, once you get there be prepared for an African-style three-mile journey across copper colored landscapes getting to the coral reefs on either the main road or the off-road detour. Excited, yet?

The wrecks, ironically, still lie partially above water and can be seen from the shore. Of the handful of ships that have run aground or were left deserted here, expect to see only about a quarter to a half of each ship under the water’s surface–all masts still tower high in the sky, making for very interesting wreck dives.

The coral reefs, however, are the main attraction–not the wrecks–located off the Berbera coastline. The reefs can be seen from shore in some areas, even by swimmers and snorkelers. By boat, dive sites are accessed with small dinghies by the one or two local guides who dive these waters. One of the main perks include an amazing assortment of shells that line the beaches, which are accessible for the tourists who visit to scoop up by the handful and take home (if Customs in your home country permits, of course). Marine life includes plenty of brilliantly colored fish with bright purple and golden hues. Specific species of marine life includes angel fish, spotted rays, and unmistakable moray eels. The brain coral is outstanding for macro photography opportunities as well.

Conveniently enough, however, the Berbera dive operators are able to accommodate beginner divers and assist with PADI certifications, as the sandy bottom is only about a dozen feet down in the shallows and water temperatures are warm year round (full wetsuits are recommended for winter months). Therefore, Somalia may just be one of the world’s most interesting places to travel and dive for the first time–or your thousandth. Even if you’ve dived in other African countries, the Berbera coast of Somalia seemingly never fails to throw a completely new experience at every diver.

Source : Scuba Divers Travel Network

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