- Detwah lagoon
While an integrated province of Yemen, Socotra has much in common with the East African islands.
Due to its remarkable biodiversity, with over a third of the local plant species found nowhere else, Socotra has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With over 40,000 inhabitants, though, it's not just a nature reserve.
The island is new to tourism, so if you are looking for a luxurious vacation this is not the right destination. Socotra takes pride in their eco-tourism and values their spectacular plant and wildlife that may sometimes be only found on this island. Although the lodging and facilities may not be the same as more modern and developed locations, Socotra is a beautiful and magnificent destination choice. Great care is shown to both guests and the environment.
The long geological isolation of the Socotra archipelago and its fierce heat and drought has combined to create a unique and spectacular endemic flora (which may, therefore, be vulnerable to introduced species such as goats and to climate change).
The known Socotran flora stands at over 940 species, including some 300 endemics, 16 of which are restricted to Abd Al Kuri and another 10 confined to Samha.
Many are strange-looking remnants of ancient floras which long ago disappeared from the African /Arabian mainland.
They create a scene of weird vegetation and make the archipelago the world's tenth richest island group for endemic plant species.
There are certainly many more plant species that have yet to be discovered. For example, in the early years of the 21st century, Dr. Tony Miller of the Royal Botanical Garden in Edinburgh collected the first known specimens of a tiny carnivorous plant, which grows on moist tree trunks in the higher reaches of the Haggier Mountains.
Only in sheltered valleys and higher mountain areas is the vegetation more luxuriant.
Different main types of vegetation can be recognised.
The most distinctive is the open deciduous shrub land of coastal plains and low inland hills dominated by the common shrub, Croton socotranus, and tree succulents such as the bizarre Adenium and Dendrosicyos.The higher altitudes are home of frankincense, Socotran Aloe and wild pomegranate. One of the most famous botanical curiosities of Socotra is the Dragon’s Blood Tree (Draecaenia Cinnabari), whose name is derived from the fact that by carving its trunk it pours out a red resin, it is said by the ancient belief, to be the blood of the dragon, also there is ancient belief that the tree grown on the same place where Cain killed his brother Abel, for this reason the tree called in Arabic (brothers blood's tree).
The island of Socotra has a rich variety of plant and animal species, with a high degree of endemism. 12 mammal and more than 223 species of birds have been recorded here with new species being found every year.
Over 48 of the bird species breed here, while 85 species are regular migrants or winter visitors.
There are eight bird species that can be found nowhere else, such as the Socotra Starling Onychognathus frater, the Socotra Sunbird Chalcomitra balfouri, Socotra Sparrow Passer insularis, Socotra BuntingEmberiza socotrana, Socotra WarblerIncana incana , Socotra CisticolaCisticola haesitatus and Socotra Golden-winged Grosbeak Rhynchostruthus socotranus
About 12 species of mammals are known from Socotra, but all of them have been introduced by man or may occasionally come from the mainland. Further taxonomic studies are needed to clarify the status of a number of forms. The coastal area with the shores, sea-cliffs, rocky slopes, and small mangrove belts appear to be a suitable breeding habitat for sea birds.
Extremely rich and interesting is the reptile fauna comprising 19 out of 22 endemic species. Nesting of sea turtles, probably Green Turtles but possibly Hawksbills, takes place on the north coast.
Ornithologists believe that more detailed study of the ten endemic subspecies will lead to the splitting of some to full specific status. This most obvious bird to the visitor, however, is the ubiquitous Egyptian Vulture, known locally as saeedoh or Al Baladiya Socotri, or Municipal Bird, for its habit of cleaning up everything such as kitchen waste.
However, this unique biodiversity in the island and its marine surroundings enriched with precious fish-wealth, coral reefs and other marine life has become threatened by predators who sniff their prey of such rare plants, animals, and birds. Also the exploitation of the fish wealth exposes it to loss.
Socotra is an eco-tourism system with limited infrastructure and new to the international tourist market, and therefore the hotel accommodations are not quite like other destinations.
There are two information centers at the airport and in Hadibo.
When to go
Climate is an important consideration. And this depends on your interest. Nature enthusiasts should go from early October to late April. The monsoon occurs in July till mid-August (during July in the south east and south west of the island, wind surfing activity can be arranged). Generally, wildlife and natural viewing is best from the end of January through May.
- 1 Socotra Airport. The only commercial airport on the island.
- 2 Pier.
There is a public bus from the airport to Hadibo and from Hadibo to Qalansia. Beside these two buses, there is no public transport, but car rental with driver is available. There is a lot of walking and hiking along with camel back rides available.
Socotra is considered the jewel of biodiversity in the Arabian Sea. Although the region is small, it is characterized by unique land and marine biodiversity.
The interior of the island is dominated by the beautiful and green Hagghier mountains and limestone plateau. While on the outer coastline, breathtaking natural beaches have pure white sand dunes and palm trees. Socotra Island is very rich and is home to many rare spectacular species of reefs, fish, birds, plants, and trees which are not found anywhere else in the world. The limestone plateau and the Hagghier Mountains are the richest areas for endemic plant species, but endemics are found throughout the island in every type of vegetation. One of the most famous plants is the dragon's blood tree "dracaena cinnabara" which exists only on Socotra and nowhere else on the Earth. The tree got its name because if any damage is made to the bark then a dark red liquid oozes out.
There is also the Desert Rose (adenium obesium) which looks like a blooming elephant leg. Also found in Socotra's landscape is the ever-strange and extremely rare Cucumber Tree. In addition there are over 120 species of birds and about 190 species of butterflies. There is so much beauty all around the island, it is difficult not the appreciate to magnificent scenery and wildlife.
Camp: With a bit of water for washing, a good meal and warm sleeping surrounded by virgin nature, camping on the beaches will provide a very special break from the every day routine in civilization!
Socotra Adventure tours can carry all the camping equipment and cooking gear or you can opt for any one of the several campsites like Dihamri and Homhil.
Hiking: The Scant, Tinnera, Firmihin, Dersmotin regions, are the most popular destinations for trekkers. Hiking is for everyone and even for those who are less athletic. However, for more difficult and high altitude trails, it is recommended to be accompanied by a local guide.
Camel back ride: It is an opportunity to get to know and enjoy the spectacular scenery and relaxed the rhythm of ancient time. This is more of a less active adventure. The camel back rides provide a more relaxing ride over plateaus and colorful panoramas and mountains.
Surf: Socotra has excellent conditions for surfing. The best time to come for this activity is during the monsoon season from June up to late August. In July the wind speed can reach up to 60 mph and you have to be aware of such conditions. Since the winds can be very rough it is recommended that only experienced surfers participate.
Scuba dive/ Snorkel: Dive into the tropical warm weather filled with coral reefs. Enjoy swimming among the hundreds of species of fish and marine life such as barracudas, monkfish, dolphins, rays and even mantas. Diving for all ages and levels.
Bird watching tours: This is for anyone who has an interest in birds. Excellent way to view nature and the highly diverse bird population while avoiding harming any wildlife.
Local boat safaris and fishing: Take one of the organized tours and be taken to incomparable destinations. The trip to Shouab beach is a half day tour to discover the beauty of this remarkable destination. With the clear water and white sands you can snorkel and relax. While driving the boat, dolphins can be seen swimming right next to the boat.
Also go on a fascinating fishing experience with some of the locals.
Remarkable volcanic caves: Explore the Hoq Cave with its overwhelming beauty and variety of crystal decorations.
Beaches Shouab, Qalansia, Arher, Noget, Amaq among others
Wadis and fresh water pools Homhil, Wadi Dirhir and others
Socotra is a remote island and therefore their cuisine is limited and simple. Local restaurants often serve fresh fish, chicken, goat, rice, and potatoes. The fish is highly recommended and all meals are typically served with flat Arabic bread.
There are also restaurants at each of the five hotels with a simple menu similar to that of the local restaurants.
Oranges, bananas, cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese, bottled water, and soft drinks can all be bought at shops in town. Vegetables can be bought also but they are more expensive because they must be shipped over.
- If you are camping in Socotra, your driver/guide will be responsible for your meals (typically some delicious freshly cooked fish). Although it's nice to help the driver you don't have to.
- Shabwah Restaurant
- Socotra Holidays and Tours
- Taj Socotra Tourist Hotel
- Hadramout Restaurant
- Ma'aly Restaurant
Because Yemen is an Islamic country, there are no alcoholic beverages provided except at five-star hotels in the big cities on the mainland. Bottled water and soft drinks can be purchased at shops in town.
Bottled water is also available at the campsites, and tea is served with all the meals as well.
There are four hotels in Hadibo: Taj Socotra Hotel, Socotra Tourist Hotel, Heathrow Hotel, Al-Gawhara (Diamond) Hotel and Summerland Hotel. These hotels may not be the most luxurious, but they do provide air-conditioning, televisions, and refrigerators in all of the rooms. Most of the rooms at these hotels have their own bathroom, but there are a few rooms at the Hafijj Hotel and Socotra Hotel that must share bathrooms. There is a restaurant in each of the hotels with simple yet delicious cuisine. Considering Socotra is a fairly new eco-tourism destination, their facilities are decent. In addition, there is another hotel at the airport and several guest houses around the island.
The most popular lodging is camping on the beaches. There are several campsites that allow tourists to barbeque on the beach with beautiful mountain views in the background. Tourists can choose to purchase camping tour packages which include a driver or guide that will show tourists around the beaches as well as provide meals during their stay. It is a fantastic way to enjoy the beauty and wildlife of the island.
- Hotel Heathrow, +966 59 529 2959, on the waterfront in Hadibu
- Taj Socotra Tourist Hotel, +967 5 660 626, on the western edge of Hadibu
- Summerland Hotel , +967 5 660 350
- Hotel Al-Gawhara (Diamond)
Many governments advise against all travel to Yemen, including Socotra. Do not take photos of military installations and equipment and the airport. Comply with orders and searches from Emirati and Saudi Arabian armed forces. Do not instruct your driver to drive quickly as you are approaching an armed checkpoint. You risk indefinite detention by the transitional government otherwise.
Malaria is not common, but malaria prophylaxis is recommended. Cholera is not on the island at all. The US CDC recommends having up to date Polio and Measles vaccinations. Rabies vaccinations are also advised due to the prevalence of Rabies, and because hospitals in Yemen lack adequate stock of rabies vaccines.
The hospitals offer less than adequate service, but pharmacies are located around Hadibo.
- 1 Sheikh Khalifa Hospital, Hadibu.