Where to go, what to visit: Socotra Island
Socotra Island is the largest island from a small archipelago of four islands in the Indian Ocean and being located at 380 kilometres (240 mi) south of the Arabian Peninsula and 240 kilometres (150 mi) east of the Horn of Africa, it represents about 95% of the landmass of the archipelago. Socotra is one of the most isolated landforms on Earth of continental origin and it was once part of the supercontinent of Gondwana but detached during the Miocene.
Socotra is part of the Republic of Yemen and became attached to the Hadhramaut Governorate after being for a long time a part of the ‘Adan Governorate.
This island has been described as an alien-looking place and a third of its plant life is found nowhere else on Earth, because of the process known as speciation and was recognized, in July 2008, by UNESCO as a world natural heritage site.
The inhabitants of this land have Somali, Arab and South Asian origins and speak a Semitic language known as Soqotri.
Socotra is considered the jewel of biodiversity not only in the Arabic Sea but in the whole world and because of the climate, the fierce heat and drought and the long geological isolation, Socotra is the home of some amazing and unique endemic flora and botanists rank it as the ten most endangered island flora in the world. One spectacular plant is the Dracaena cinnabari or the dragon’s blood tree with a striking shape of an umbrella and its red sap was sought after by the ancients as a dye and medicine, today used mainly as paint. Other rare plants are the Socotran pomegranate or the Punica protopunica, the cucumber tree Dendrosicyos or the giant succulent tree Dorstenia gigas. The only mammals native to Socotra are the bats and the rich bird fauna includes species such as the Socotra Sunbird Nectarinia balfouri, the Socotra Grosbeak Rhynchostruthus socotranus, the Socotra Sparrow Passer insularis or the Socotra Starling Onychognathus frater and Socotra Warbler Incana incana.
Until 1999 when a new airport opened, with flights provided everyday to Sanna and once a week to Aden by the Felix Airways and Yemen Airways, Socotra stayed isolated from the rest of the world during the monsoon period, from June to September.
Ships connect the only Socotra port, located at about 5 km east of Hadibu, with Yemeni coastal city of Mukalla (Al-Mukalla) and the infrequent minibuses to Qalansiya and to the villages on northeastern coast represent the only existing public transport on Socotra. You also have the possibility of hiring a driver with a 4WD car if you plan in visiting the whole island.
The strangeness of this island can easily be seen from the pictures and I think this a good reason why I highly recommend visiting this unique location.11