Sokotra – literally “island of happiness. Yemen. Indian Ocean.

Socotra Island

Socotra Island is the largest piece of land of the eponymous archipelago, located in the northwestern part of the Indian Ocean on the territory of Yemen. The main town on the island is the settlement of Hadeibo (Hadibo). The name “Socotra” comes from Sanskrit and means “Island of Happiness. The archipelago is the crown jewel of Arabia, as it has preserved the unique flora and fauna. The pristine nature of Socotra attracts scientists, eco-tourism enthusiasts and relaxed vacationers.

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Video: Socotra Island

Geography and Climate

Socotra Island is 130 km long and 40 km wide. Its central and eastern part is dominated by pointed mountains. The highest of them is Hajar (1570 meters). There are mountain hiking trails, which travelers can be shown by a local guide. Uplands alternate with real green oases of plains, which stretch along the coast and at the foot of the peaks.

On the whole, the scenery in Socotra is very diverse: limestone plateaus, precipitous cliffs, lush palm groves, and deserted tropical beaches washed by salty waves. It is a great place for hiking, camping, and water sports.

Experts classify the local climate as tropical semi-desert and desert. Rainfall is more abundant in winter, but affects mostly the mountainous areas of the island. During the monsoons, you can see high waves blown up by the strong winds. The average temperature during the year ranges from +25 to +32 degrees Celsius, but during the summer period, it often reaches the mark of +42 degrees.

You can come here practically at any time of year, because the water temperature never drops below +24. Winter and summer are drier, but in the spring and autumn precipitation is quite high.

The Pearl of Socotra – its unusual trees In the interior of the island view of the ocean

History

Supposedly in the 1st millennium BC, representatives of the South Arabian tribes arrived on the islands and became the discoverers of Socotra. Seven centuries later, the Greeks arrived, and closer to the A.D. mark, the Indians settled here. The Portuguese tried to take over Socotra in 1507, but were defeated and retreated.

T-34 tank of World War II The beach with white sand

For a long time, the island of Socotra was in complete isolation. This is largely responsible for the preservation of natural and cultural uniqueness. The first scientific expedition came here only in 1880. The head of the British group of scientists was Isaac Balfour. The research results just stunned the scientific community: in less than 50 days on the island it was discovered about 200 new plant species. Until now, the flora and fauna of this place have not been fully studied.

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From the end of the XIX century to 1967, this land was a British protectorate. Today the archipelago is part of the state of Yemen.

Among travelers this destination is not yet too popular, so the island has avoided the ruinous impact of the great flow of tourists.

The mountains of the island surrounded by lush vegetation

Flora and fauna

The biodiversity of the archipelago is its main wealth and attraction. Several tens of millions of years ago, Socotra separated from the African mainland and has been virtually isolated ever since. That’s why many relict species have survived here that are found nowhere else on Earth. For example, 95% of land-dwelling molluscs, 90% of reptiles, over 70% of birds and 30% of plants exist only on the archipelago. This haven of unique species is sometimes called the Galapagos Islands of the Indian Ocean.

Cinnabar Red Dracaena (or dragon’s blood tree)

An old Indian legend says that long ago, on the island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea, there was a bloodthirsty dragon that attacked elephants and drank their blood. But one day an old and strong elephant fell on the dragon and crushed him. Their blood mingled and soaked the ground around it. Trees called dracenas, which means “female dragon,” grew on that spot.

In 2003, Socotra was listed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Travelers have the opportunity to observe the rarest varieties of animals, birds and plants in their natural environment: the cucumber and dragonblood tree, giant aloe, nectarberry and so on. Some of them live only in limited habitats in the interior of the island. For this reason, tourists are not allowed to export or import any biological objects, to destroy plant communities, to drive cars outside paved roads.

Recreation

Socotra’s coastal waters are unusually rich in tropical fish, corals and plants. Several major ocean currents bring here a cocktail of marine life. Scientists have recorded at least 253 species of corals, more than 700 varieties of fish, 300 different crustaceans. Among the larger inhabitants are whale sharks, morays, stingrays, long-finned whales, bottlenose dolphins, sperm whales.

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You can admire this living diversity during scuba diving. On the coast it is not difficult to rent all the necessary equipment. February and March are the most suitable months for fans of this type of recreation. During this period, the sea is very calm, the monsoon winds subsides, improving visibility at depth. The easiest way to get a permit for diving, if you already have experience diving. Local authorities strictly control the tourist activity in the region, so it is important to follow all the rules.

For organization of diving is best to contact local guides or excursion services. The cost of diving off the coast of Socotra is quite high, since it includes a fee to the settlement, near which you will dive, the commission to the tourist center and the state fee.

Sunset on Socotra Qalansiya Village

For windsurfing enthusiasts, the best time to come here is during the summer, June-September, when a steady monsoon begins to blow from the southwest. The speed of these winds often reaches 30 meters per second. The beaches near Calancia and Hadibo, the headlands of Shaub and Ras Arcel, and the southeastern tip of the island are considered the best spots for fans of this sport.

In winter, the monsoon blows from the north-east and this creates favorable conditions for kiting. The northern coast of Socotra Island is considered the best spot.

Despite the prevalence of extreme sports, most tourists prefer a quiet holiday: swimming in the warm tropical sea, excursions to the picturesque caves and canyons, mountain walks, acquaintance with the most striking representatives of flora and fauna.

Inside Dogub Cave. South of Socotra Central Island Vegetation A natural harbour in the north A lake in the middle of the Rocks

Culture

Special mention should be made of the local population. The Socotrians are of mixed ancestry, inherited from the Arabs, English, Ethiopians, Greeks, Indians, Somalis and Portuguese who came to the archipelago at different historical periods. Here they speak their own language called Socotri, which has very ancient Semitic roots, as well as Arabic. Most guides and other tourist workers speak English.

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Although the Sokotri language is unwritten, it has been the medium for the development of a rich poetic as well as musical culture. Researchers consider it as interesting as classical Arabic or Akkadian.

A local guy with a camel in camp

The Socotrians are friendly and cheerful people with an optimistic outlook. They treat their lands with care: they don’t cut down living trees, strictly follow the rotation of pastures and cattle grazing. Largely thanks to this attitude to nature, today we can observe such a rich world of the archipelago. Traditional occupations of the inhabitants are fishing, cattle breeding (goats, sheep), cultivation of some rare plants, which are used by pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies around the world.

Interestingly, trade routes and various sea routes leading to India and Africa have passed by the islands since ancient times, so sophisticated divers can see many shipwrecks. The most difficult reefs lay near the Cape Ras Arcel, so that here there are many remains of ancient ships. Near the coastline of the city of Calencia on Socotra Island rests the ship Sunrise, split in two, which long ago became a home for many sea creatures.

The Underwater World of Socotra

Tourist Information

The tourist infrastructure of the islands can hardly be called very developed, but the requirements of the average traveler will be more than satisfied. Accommodation in a hotel or campsite of your choice is available to all comers. You can get to Socotra not only as part of organized tours, but also on their own.

Getting here is easiest by direct flight from Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, or Dubai (UAE). There is also an occasional boat trip to Oman. Most travelers come to the island from the Yemeni side, which is the best route. The airport is only in Hadibo, so you arrive directly to Socotra island.

A flock of dolphins off the coast of Socotra

It is worth taking into account that the military and political situation in Yemen is not always stable, so the transport of tourists to the archipelago may be irregular. Nevertheless, the situation on the island itself is calm, and it will not be affected by distant military action. Today there is talk about the isolation of Sokotra into an autonomous province with the right of its own visa control. But the authorities of the island and Yemen assure that this will not complicate the movement of travelers, so your trip to this extraordinary tropical region you can plan without fear.

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Tourists have a unique opportunity to see the rarest natural beauty on Earth, so to visit the islands of the archipelago is definitely worthwhile. Planning a trip on your own is not difficult, but it is worth taking care in advance about obtaining a visa to Yemen. Your efforts will be repaid in full – nowhere else in the world will you see what the island of Socotra holds in itself!

Socotra is an island paradise with unique plants, which are found nowhere else.

If a tourist wants to see with his own eyes an extremely beautiful nature, he should definitely visit the island of Socotra. This is the largest area of land in the archipelago, consisting of 4 islands and 2 rocks. Nature of the island is fabulously beautiful and unique, because in this place you can meet more than 200 species of plants, which can not be found anywhere else in the world.

  1. Geography and Climate
  2. Island history
  3. World of plants and animals

Socorta Island, which is home to rare plant and animal species

Geography and Climate

Socotra Island is located near the state of Yemen, in the northwestern part of the Indian Ocean. It is an elongated stretch of land, 40 kilometers wide and over 130 kilometers long. A distinctive feature is the diverse vegetation that extends along the coastline and high, sharp mountain peaks, the foothills of which are thickly dotted with palm trees.

It is an elongated stretch of land, the width of

Average temperatures throughout the year range from 25 to 32 degrees above zero. The temperature during the summer period can reach +42 degrees, but do not despair if your visit to this island will fall in the winter time, because during this period the temperature in the ocean does not fall below +24 degrees. This climate can be described as desert-tropical.

The name of the island of Sokotra is translated as “Island of Happiness. And the capital of this unique piece of land is the city of Hadibo.

Island history

According to historical data, around the first millennium BC on the land of the future of the island of Sokotra stepped foot people South Arabian tribe. They are registered as the discoverers of the “Island of Happiness. Almost 700 years later, the Greeks came to the shores of Socotra, and a little later, the Indians. The military, who came from Portugal, tried to appropriate this unique place, but were forced to sail away with nothing.

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For quite a long time, Lucky Island was inaccessible to people.

For quite a long time, the “Island of Happiness” was inaccessible to people. This fact contributed to the fact that to this day there are preserved ancient species of flora and fauna.

The first scientists under the leadership of British Isaac Balfour visited the island of Socotra only in 1880. They spent about 50 days on the unique island. The data they obtained just shocked the whole research team. In such a short period of time, the scientists found more than 200 previously unseen plant species, and it is believed that so far not all the flora of Socotra was fully explored.

From the late 19th century until 1967, “Lucky Island” was considered a British possession, and today is part of the state of Yemen.

Tourism in the area is not very popular, but only because Socotra is not too well known to the surrounding area.

World of plants and animals

The calling card of the island is its unique flora and fauna, which is fundamentally different from mainland Africa and the rest of the world. The diverse flora and fauna of Socotra Island is certainly the main value of this piece of land. It is believed that the landmass of Socotra broke away from Africa tens of millions of years ago and lived completely autonomously. It is here that the rarest species of mollusks, reptiles, birds and plants live.

In this regard, in 2003, the “Island of Happiness” was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Therefore, in 2003, the Happiness Island was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The most impressive flora of Socotra for tourists are: the cucumber tree, the giant aloe, the dragon’s blood tree and many others. Many rare species of animals and birds, such as the nectarine live exclusively in the interior of Socotra, and therefore travelers are not allowed to drive outside of paved roads or to take or bring in any species of plants or animals.

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