S O C O T R A   I S L A N D


Less than 250 kilometers off the Horn of Africa lies the forgotten island of Socotra, for centuries home to some of the world's most bizarre plants. Many people have heard about Socotra, but few people have ever been there or can imagine what it is really like. We have all seen pictures of the Dragon's Blood Tree (below), but the Island has far more to offer than just strange plants. The fact that Socotra lies closer to Africa than it does to Arabia lends this strange Island a unique, hybrid flavor. Known to ancient Romans as Diascordia, Socotra has been coveted, conquered, and colonized by many nations for its strategic location and the valuable incenses that have been harvested there for millennia. Each culture has left its mark in the blood and customs of the people, in their legends, or some other material way.

The birds, plant, animal and sea life are unique and of considerable interest to scholars and amateur enthusiasts. The sandy beaches and the abundant fish in its water offer considerable potential for a tourist resort. The natural history is superb, especially the plant life, and the under water environment is also unique and virtually untouched. Facilities are basic (currently small guest houses and camping only), but there are certainly enough people willing to put up with such hardship -- nothing truly rewarding in life comes without effort, and a little sacrifice!


Socotra Island is the largest island of the Land of Sheba, approximately 120 Km long by 40 Km wide. It has a population of 40,000 people with their own district language and culture; they also speak the Arab language of Yemen. The coastal area is inhabited by fishermen who are primarily of African origin, living in African huts. The Wadis are inhabited by Nomads of Arab origin and the mountains region is inhabited by Nomads & Descendants of an old South Arabian tribe, speaking the old Arabian dialect Socotri related to the Mahari dialect. This cultural diversity makes Socotra a colorful blend of rich and proud cultures.

Socotra is a member of a group of four outlying islands: Abd, Al-Kuri, Samha & Darsah. There are also interesting affinities with other groups of islands including Seychelles & some remote islands of the Atlantic Ocean.

Socotra is more closely linked with Africa than Arabia makes it a unique island of Hybrid Flavor, its separation from Africa is believed to have occurred approximately six million years ago and, as a result, many animals & plants that live today on the island are endemic species (found no where else on Earth).

This island finds itself at a convergence of eras & culture due to its strategic location & valuable incense and trade throughout centuries. It has seen the influence of many African groups & European nations including Greek, Portuguese & British. The native Socotrans are simple, kind, and hospitable to visiting tourists.

Being virtually isolated from the rest of the world for a long period, Socotra remains one of the most fascinating places on earth. An island that provides unique opportunity & challenge, it has Arabia's greatest plant & animal diversity. Many animals & plants that live today on Socotra are found nowhere else on earth. The very high degree of endemism makes the island an important place in terms of global wildlife conservation. It is an unsurpassed paradise for bird-watchers, botanists and anthropologists!

It is believed that some of the plants & animals found on Socotra are in fact ancient relics of a much larger land mass which has all but disappeared. This relic has been preserved here as a result of the fact that the Haghir Massif has not been totally submerged for at least 135 Million years. The absence on any indigenous mammals is reported to be further indication of the island's very ancient origins, possibly from time before mammals appeared on earth!


While the people help make Socotra a haven in a hostile world, the island is also a natural wonderland. From the aqua lagoon at Qalansiya to the snow-white dunes at Ras Momi, from the alpine meadows of the Haggier Mountains to the desolation of Nowgad, Socotra is a land of surprising contrasts. Rising to over 1700 meters, the Haggier Mountains loom over Hadibo, Socotra's administrative capital. The red granite of the peaks has been stained a ghostly gray by the lichens, which grow thickly above tree line. Perennial streams radiate from the misty heights, green ribbons of life teaming with endemic fish and freshwater crabs. Limestone plateaus fan east and west, providing alkaline soils for the iconic Dragon's Blood Tree. Bottle trees grow in such profusion that entire hillsides turn pink following winter rains. Cucumber trees, statuesque relative of the melon, provide fodder for starving animals during times of drought.


Today the known Socotran flora stands at over 850 species, including some 270 endemics. Many are strange-looking remnants of ancient floras which long ago disappeared from the African/Arabian mainland. They create a 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, Dr. Tony Miller of the Royal Botanical Garden in Edinburgh recently collected the first known specimens of a tiny carnivorous plant, which grows on moist tree trunks in the higher reaches of the Haggier Mountains. One of the most famous Botanical curiosities of Socotra is the Dragon's tree, the tree is so named because any injury to the bark results in a deep red liquid excreting from the scar -- compared in the past to the "Blood of Dragons."


Birds, insects and underwater life which are considered very poorly explored areas of this fascinating island has received relatively little attention from the scientific community. There may be also undiscovered species of insects on Socotra. Because of the persistent monsoon winds, many Socotran insects have evolved relatively small wings, an adaptation, which prevents them from being blown out to sea. Other arthropods include immense centipedes which can reach a length of more than 20 centimeters and give a nasty pinch, at least two species of freshwater crabs, and huge spiders which spin yellow webs across woodland gaps, harmless to humans, but intimidating nonetheless. At least 80% of Socotra's reptiles are endemic, and herpetologists believe that there are still several undiscovered species on the island.

About 140 species of birds have been recorded here with new species being found every year. The Socotra Bunting, Socotra Starling, Socotra Sunbird, Socotra Sparrow, Socotra Warbler, and Socotra Cisticola are six species that can be found nowhere else. 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 Al Baladiya Socotri for its habit of cleaning up everything from kitchen waste to human feces. Outside of Hadibo, Socotra is a wonderfully clean place, thanks in large part to these active scavengers.

Few terrestrial mammals live on Socotra although there are some bats and a species of genet. The sea surrounding the island teams with whales and dolphins, however, Sperm Whales, Short-finned Pilot Whales, Spinner, and Bottle-nosed dolphins have all been spotted close to shore. Socotran waters also abound in fish, ranging from tiny bright-reef dwellers to great spotted Whale Sharks more than 15 meters long. Crystal clarity makes this a divers dream.

Its unique character with Arabia's greatest Biological diversity makes Socotra a potential candidate for designation as either a Natural World Heritage or a MAB Biosphere reserve, there is a need to undertake detailed Botanical & Zoological surveys throughout, but most urgent.

Join us for this wonderful adventure to one of the last remaining treasures of Earth's natural past, full of variety and beauty. Socotra is like a dream and visiting this exotic island will form memories that will comfort and entertain you for the rest of your life. You owe it to yourself to see and experience Socotra! Come - join us now. ITINERARY (11 days)

Day 1 (Tues) Arrival at Sana'a Airport. Transfer to Hotel.

Day 2 (Wed) from Wadi Dahar to Thulla to Shibam to Kawkaban O/N to Sana'a

Day 3 (Thur) from Sana'a to Marib to Sana'a OR Sana'a to Manakha to Sana'a

Day 4 (Fri) from Sana'a to Socotra (Flight)
Fly to Socotra and arrive at 1045. Transfer to one of the three simple hotels available there. We don't specify name of hotel here as all of them have only limited rooms and can't guarantee to mention a specific hotel esp. during high season period. We take a rest at the hotel & after lunch we take a sightseeing in the capital of Socotra (Hidaibu) and surroundings.

Day 5 (Sat) to Hidaibu to Nowgad (approx. 55km)
We begin our natural wonderland discovery of the Island as we drive southwards for an interesting visit to Nawgad. Here we see its high mountains, fascinating beaches & wonderful valleys full of palm trees. Explore the area that is famous with gum trees & unique flora. Overnight in tents.

Day 6 (Sun) Nowgad to Ras Momi to Arahin to Hidaibu (apprx. 120km)
Today we head eastwards and visit Ras Momi, famous for its beautiful scenery and variety of valleys. Explore the unique flora and exceptional fauna & enjoy bird watching of the unusual and exclusive species of the Island. On the way to Hidaibu we visit Arahin. Overnight at a hotel in Hidaibu.

Day 7 (Mon) Hidaibu - Decsome to Ayhafat
Our journey to Decsome will take us to the southern part of Socotra Island. Here we explore the Dragon Blood trees district, with its unique flora and see some of the birds which are exclusive to the Island. Most of the people here are Bedouins/nomads and we experience their traditional generous welcome and the typical lifestyle. Proceed to Wadi Ayhafat where we will enjoy fabulous landscape & wonderful valleys full of incense trees and see some of the unique birds on the Island. Overnight in tents.

Day 8 (Tues) Ayhafat to Qalansiya
Driving westwards we get to Qalansiya. Qalansiya is well known for its spectacular clear water beach, the wonderful valleys full of palm trees and we also see some of the unique birds on the Island. People here work in fishing and sea products. Overnight in tents.

Day 9 (Wed) Qalansiya to Ras Shoa'b
Morning by boat to Ras Shoa'b and back to Qalansiya. We enjoy rocky beaches and pass by several fishing villages. We get back to Qalansiya and drive back to Hidaibu for an overnight at our hotel.

Day 10 (Thur) Hidaibu to Ras Arasal to Hidaibu
Driving to Ras Arasal to enjoy landscape, sandy & rocky beaches, swimming etc. Ras Arasal was the point where the Portuguese arrived to occupy the Island in the 16th century. Back to our hotel for overnight.

Day 11 (Fri) Hidaibu to Sana'a
Fly back to Sana'a. Arrival at 1415. The rest of the time may be spent for shopping in the old town. Later at night transfer to Airport for departure to Frankfurt at 0001.


2 explorers: $1330 per explorer
3 to 7 explorers: $1205 each
8 or more : $1140 each
S/S: $95

Above rates exclude domestic flight cost & include:

  • Hotel accommodation
  • Transport of 4x4 Land Cruiser
  • Meals on full-board basis
  • Services of an English speaking tour guide
  • Entrance fees to all attractions visited
  • Transfers

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