Socotra, South Yemen – The Galapagos of the Indian Ocean

Socotra is an island in the middle of the Arabian Sea and belongs to Yemen. The island stands on coral banks and probably in the past was connected with the African and Arabian mainlands.

Socotra inhabitants differ from mainland Arabs and are believed to be a mixture of Greek, Portuguese, African and Arabs. Their language is a version of the ancient Himyarite language which was spoken in pre Islamic Arabia for many centuries. They are engaged in fishing and in small part in agriculture, nomads keep cattle and goats are very common.

Saeed, our guide by a beautiful Desert Rose, the Bottle tree

Socotra flora includes several species and among them the two most important are the Dragon Blood Tree and the Bottle shape tree, the desert rose.

The Socotran Bottle Trees, with its beautiful pink flowers, are the most mysterious and bizarre trees, they grow only here, having roots in mostly hard limestone rock on vertical cliffs and mountain plateaus.

The particular shape of these trees are linked two special drought adaptations to retain as much water as possible during adverse periods.

Men in Socotra wear the above kind of skirts called Ma’awiz, made from patterned fabrics. It is worn around the waist like a wrap and it is fixed on the body by folding the top. Some people wear usual belts or Jambia belts like in inland Yemen.

The Dragon Blood Tree with its peculiar umbrella shape, grows in rocky grounds and on high locations. The red resin which is obtained from this tree is considered till today be a panacea and used for many purposes: lacquering wood, in medicine, in cosmetics and in dyes. The tree produces also a red honey, which is considered the best honey in the world with many health benefits.

Dragon Blood tree branches from bottom to top

Socotra is a paradise, hard to reach, but the fatigue to reach it is indeed worthwhile. It has been an unforgettable trip to this pristine island. Well organized and tailor made trip according to our needs and interests, the 15 days tour gave us the opportunity to visit all spots in the island and discover the culture and traditions of Socotri people. We never felt unsafe during all tour, also when in remote spots and alone. Socotri people are very friendly, generous and curious to know about you and your culture.

The tourism season is quite short, from October to beginning of May. On other months strong winds, dust winds, monsoon rains make the island impossible to visit.

The limited adventurous eco tourism, not mass tourism, allowed Socotra to remain relatively unspoiled in comparison to many other islands in the world.

Endemic plants and animals can be found all over Socotra, sometimes uniquely found in the highlands or in the mountains. Socotra is very important for the biodiversity conservation because of its rich flora and fauna. Out of 825 plant species, 308 are endemic; this means that these species can be found only in Socotra and nowhere else in he world.

Socotra was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 due to its rich flora and fauna most of which, as said, is endemic.

We appreciated the beautiful breathtaking landscapes, sand dunes, lagoons, caves and cliffs, forests and long large beaches.

Qalansiyah beach and our camp site by the beach

Enjoying white sand dunes

Children in Socotra are friendly and curious but humble and mannerly. Never pressing you to buy little things they have nor asking for money. They have beautiful smiles and deep eyes.

Abdullah, the cave man in Detwah lagoon. A 2 hours walk from our camping site in Qalansiyah took us to Detwah lagoon where in the morning we had to pay visit to Abdullah, better known as the Cave Man. Abdullah’s family lives in Qalansiyah village, but, he says, he prefers to spend most of his time in this quiet cave. We add: this allows him to gain some money during the tourism season, as tourists flock to his cave to meet him and enjoy a nice plate of fresh fish food. This excursion is part of the Socotra trip and all tourists who visit Qalansiyah want to go there and meet him.

Abdullah in his cave

Socotra Food: most of our meals were based on fresh fish, usually bought early in the morning directly from fisherman. Fresh fish, delicious, is accompanied by rice and sauce with potatoes and vegetables. Rarely we had meat, and when if it was goat always accompanied by rice. Tea is always available at any time of the day. You will always find a hot thermos of prepared tea ready to drink.

More views of beautiful Socotra



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