Sitting silently at the confluence of the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, is the forgotten island of Socotra. Officially part of Yemen, but far from the chaos and crisis of the war on the mainland, this isolated island is like something out of Jurassic park.
Exploring the island of Socotra is unlike travelling through any other Middle Eastern region. Whilst the country is possibly one of the strictest religiously I have come across, it still has an island vibe about it and life is chilled and relaxed. The community is one of the friendliest I have come across and with Socotra only 143km long and 35km wide, the population of 100,000 people sounds like a lot, but you often go hours without seeing another soul.
The draw card to the island of Socotra is its endemicity. Known as the Galapagos of Arabia, 5% of all wildlife and 35% of all plant life is endemic to the island. Socotra is often referred to as the most alien place on the planet due its unique species.
From its humble capital, Hadibo, which does not really have much to offer apart from one bank and a handful of basic restaurants, the real beauty is in the islands nature.
The big drawcard is its endemic trees. From the impressive bottle trees, also known as the desert rose when in flower (during Feb and March), certain types of frankincense trees and of course, the – the Dragons Blood Tree. There are over 80,000 dragons blood trees remaining on the island. They are over 500 years old and the new seedlings are unable to grow due to being eaten by goats! It takes almost 20yrs for a small dragons blood tree to reach 30cm tall! There are scientist running a nursery of smaller dragons blood trees planted from seeds to help understand this unique species of tree.
The resin produced by this trees is used for medicinal purposes by locals and when mixed with water and consumed, it is used by locals who have just given birth to stop the bleeding.
Socotra is home to hundreds of caves and sea caves – many of which are still unexplored. One cave alongside Detwah Lagoon, even has an inhabitant! Known fondly as the caveman, Mr Aliyeh has followed three generations of his family living in his families cave. He harvests his own seafood from the stunning Detwah lagoon below and even reconstructed an orcas skeleton in his cave which he found beached in the lagoon and proudly wears its teeth around his neck.
He is brimming with fascinating stories of life as a caveman from faux pas with his English to how he became wealthy from gutting a beached whale and selling its amber.
Socotra is home to many different types of sand dunes. From rolling dunes which resembles those found in a desert, through to mega walls of sand pushed by the westerly winds against the side of the mountains. Both are equally impressive and great locations to take in the sunset.
Socotra’s northern coast line is scattered with former soviet tanks. During the Soviet times, mainland Yemen was still divided into North and South Yemen as two separate countries. The soviets supported the south which also encompassed Socotra. South Yemen was the only Arab communist country under the regime and it stayed this way until the unification of North and south Yemen as one country in 1990, just one year before the collapse of the soviet union.
Being an island, you would have to expect somewhere descent for a swim. If you love wild swimming, then hiking into impressive canyons and swimming in the tranquil wadi’s will tick your box. Most wadis are hidden inside impressive canyons, most of which require a moderate hike to access. The spring water from the mountains make for a refreshing dip as you float amongst sheer cliff faces and smooth boulders.
If the ocean is more your style, Socotra is home to some of the most spectacular beaches on the planet – most of which are untouched and secluded. Shuuab Beach accessible by boat is simply magical and the Detwah Lagoon is another world away. The water is like a bath, the transparency is simply incredible and the colour is brilliant turquoise blue.
A charter flight currently depart from weekly from Abu Dhabi and a visa is required to access this archipelago. There is simply no place on earth like Socotra.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.