My trip to the horn of Africa: Somaliland

(The city Borama is roughly two hours drive from Hargeisa, a peaceful city compared to the capital.) ©Abdurrahman Farhan

When I say Somaliland, what comes to mind? A war-torn country? A country with one of the highest rates of terrorism? A dangerous place to visit? Some people might think of it as a non-existent country, as it isn’t recognized by the U.N, however it is a self-proclaimed country that runs fairly smoothly.

A bit of a background information on Somaliland; Somaliland is situated in the northwest of recognized Somalia. It is bordered by Djibouti to the west, Ethiopia to the south, and Somalia to the east. Somaliland has an 850 kilometers coastline with the majority lying along the Gulf of Aden. 

Somaliland’s climate is a mix of wet and dry conditions. The northern part of the region is hilly, and in many places the altitude ranges between 900 and 2,100 meters above sea level.

The AwdalSahil and Maroodi Jeex regions are fertile and mountainous, while Togdheer is mostly semi-desert with little fertile greenery around. The Awdal region is also known for its offshore islands, coral reefs and mangroves.   (credit: Wikipedia



(A map of Somaliland. credit:

Safety isn’t much of a concern at all, unlike some reports stating that it’s a high-risk area full of ‘kidnapping’ and ‘murders.’ To be frank, that isn’t true, you just have to be diligent and smart when visiting Somaliland, but it’s a reasonably safer place then what’s being conveyed in the mainstream media.

Check out this link to know more about Hargeisa.

In the summer of 2022, I had the pleasure of visiting my motherland for the first time. I was excited to finally see some African nature for myself.

Prior to my flight to Hargeisa, I did some research on the wildlife there. I had to do quite a bit of research as, sadly, there wasn’t much information in the mainstream media. I’ve dived deep into research papers (the most recent one being in 2015) and looked at some ebird data logs.

Luckily, I had a good idea of what birds I would encounter, but information on other parts of the natural world there was scarce. So, with a rather vague picture of what I would expect, I flew to Somaliland.

After a layover and a rather short 3-hour flight from Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, we landed in Hargeisa airport. After getting our luggage, and haggling over the fee with the porters, my grandfather drove us through the city to where he lives.

It was a Friday morning, the city was sleepy and quiet, my tiredness from the flight went away with the refreshing wind blowing. After a 30-minute bumpy ride we reached my grandfather’s house.

My grandfather’s house is located away from the hustle and bustle of the city, as he prefers living in a quiet environment, his house was in the perfect place. It’s surrounded by Prickly pear cactus and the thorny green Mesquite (Prosopis julifora). The neighbors were few and far in between, goats and their herders where the most frequent loiters, along with camels roaming around and feeding on the vegetation.

My grandfather’s living room had a view of a pair of cone-like mountains, called ‘Naso Hablood.’ Other than the intriguing namesake, the scenery was absolutely beautiful; red roofed houses dotted the scene, goats shaded underneath a big Mesquite tree. Which brings us to the first of 2 places I managed to explore in between family visits, dinners and Eid-al-Adha parties.

-Naso Hablood-

(A view of the iconic twin mountains, Naso Hablood.) ©Abdurrahman Farhan

In front of the twin mountain runs a dry riverbed called Maroodi jeex that runs across the Woqyi Galbeed. The region around Naso Hablood mountains is typically a very rocky, somewhat dry place, it has rained there a couple of times while I was there.

The area where my grandfather lives is a perfect place for wildlife to dwell. I spotted a variety of birds as soon as I arrived there, Abdim’s storks (ciconia abdimii) are  permanent birds seen slowly flapping its wings during the day. Madagascar bee-eaters are perched on the electrical lines, swooping down occasionally to nab some bees. Squabbling mixed flocks of Chestnut weavers ( Ploceus rubiginosus), Red quelea (Quelea quelea), and White-headed buffalo weavers (Dinemellia dinemelli) were  covering the top of the Mesquite trees.

( A Leopard tortoise  Stigmochelys pardalis- with purplish color on its shell caused by the juice of the prickly pear which they are partial to.) ©Abdurrahman Farhan

(The capital city Hargeisa in the distance.) ©Abdurrahman Farhan

The mammalians that I spotted were not as numerous compared to the rest of the reptiles, birds and invertebrates that I saw. The mammal you would mostly see in both day and night would be the Abyssinian hare (Lepus habessinicus). The first time I spotted it, I was coming back from a visit, and the car’s headlights were beaming on it, the Abyssinian hare was frozen in place.  

Another encounter with a mammal would be when I was birding, I was crouching down trying to photograph a shrike and just below the log, there was a unstriped ground squirrel (Xerus rutilus) nibbling on some mesquite leaves. It saw me, but it was tame enough, so it ignored me and carried on with its business, unluckily my cameras batteries died so I couldn’t photograph the lifer.

©Abdurrahman Farhan

©Abdurrahman Farhan

(A truck passes by the smaller of the two mountains.) ©Abdurrahman Farhan

(A Somali bee-eater -Merops revoilii- perched on a branch, I took it while the Hyenas where laughing and calling.) ©Abdurrahman Farhan

Somaliland is generally known for the Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta). I was looking forward to seeing them, as this area had confirmed sightings of hyenas. I unfortunately didn’t have the chance, but one day as I was birding, I heard their eerie cackling at dusk, it sounded like a dozen witches sharing a joke, and it sounded awfully close.

Luckily, I had the chance of seeing a jackal, and I was stoked to see it. The jackal was at the foot of the bigger of the two mountains, it was a couple of hundred meters away, and it was trotting away from me as it spotted me. The only time I went for a walk without my camera I spot a jackal for the first time, typical.

And the last mammal but not the least that I saw was a bit unexpected. It was in the middle of the city Hargeisa; I was in the car and in front of us ran a White tailed mongoose (Ichneumia albicauda)! Somaliland and Somalia in general did and somewhat still has a good variety of mammalians.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to extensively look for reptiles. On an occasion I caught a glimpse of a male Agma (Agama agama) with its fiery orange reddish head and lead colored body. I also caught a glimpse of a Spiny tailed lizard (crossing my path while I was birding). But the reptiles are many, as it’s the perfect habitat for them. Hopefully when I visit Somaliland again, I could focus on herping.

As an avid birder, I went on birding trips many times around the area where I was staying, and as I hinted, there was a ton of Aves flying, singing, foraging, and feeding. I submitted 20 checklists on ebird, and the number of individual species recorded was amazing, there where all sorts of birds to be found.

I also spotted two of the genus  Ciconiidae: Marabou storks and a Abdim’s storks, the abundance of them rather surprised me as the reports show that they are not really numerous in that specific region. There were also a couple of endangered raptors that I spotted and recorded, one of them being the lappet faced vulture.

(Both photos of Abdim’s Stork -C. abdimii-, flying over the my grandfather’s house.) ©Abdurrahman Farhan

I had the chance of recording a lot of sunbirds from the variable  sunbird  to the mouse olive colored sunbird, I also had the chance of recording a lot of lifer species; including Somali Bee-eater and the Madagascar bee eater, both very glamorous, charismatic birds. One bird that struck me was the Yellow and Red barbet, this bird has a curious call and a mindboggling appearance, you bet, it was a lifer.

(A Red-and-yellow barbet -Trachyphonus erythrocephalus-, a strange species to encounter!) ©Abdurrahman Farhan

(A Stridulating Thicktail Scorpions -P. somalilandus/robustus/sp. n.-, spotted it right in front of my grandfather house, they are  highly venomous to Humans.) ©Abdurrahman Farhan

(A White-headed buffalo weaver -Dinemellia dinemelli- carrying-little twigs for it’s nest) ©Abdurrahman Farhan

(Lilac-Breasted Roller -Coracias caudatus-, perched on a wire in Borama, what a stunning bird!) ©Abdurrahman Farhan

( A Somali Fiscal -Lanius somalicus-)©Abdurrahman Farhan

(A Superb Starling -Lamprotornis superbus-)©Abdurrahman Farhan

(Two male Red-billed Quelea  -Quelea quelea- , quite comical looking.) ©Abdurrahman Farhan

(A Thekla’s Lark -Galerida theklae-, known for its beautiful trilling and singing.) ©Abdurrahman Farhan

(A Common Bulbul -Pycnonotus barbatus-)  ©Abdurrahman Farhan

(A Speckled Pigeon -Columba guinea-, hard to miss.) ©Abdurrahman Farhan

(A Madagascar Bee-eater -Merops superciliosus- that nabbed a bee…) ©Abdurrahman Farhan


Click on this link to see more of my wildlife photos.

In the next post I will Insha’Allah talk about my 3-day camping trip in an area called Gacan Libax, which is also in the  Maarodi jeex region of Somaliland. I’ve spotted a lot of… (yep) lifers. I’m looking forward to talk about that region it in the next post.

Stay tuned! And if you enjoyed this post, share and leave a comment in the comment section below, you can also sign up to get email alerts whenever I upload a new blog post.

Till the next post, Asslamu Alaikum!


Abdurrahman is a wildlife fanatic who absolutely loves nature and the outdoors, he is  regularly birdwatching and photographing wildlife. If you can’t find him birding or crouching behind a patch of reeds taking photos of waders, you will probably find him trail-running or cycling in the closest national park.

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