Socotra island has been divided into several areas with different levels of conservation. The so called Socotra Zoning Plan was introduced in 2000, designing four key types of zones.
- National Parks are intended to protect the ecological integrity of the unique ecosystems of Socotra. They cover 72,6 % of the total island’s area
- Nature Sanctuaries are protected areas of highest level. They cover only 2,5 % of the island’s surface and the most strict conservation regulations are applied there. Nature sanctuaries can be described as undisturbed and unmodified habitats without significant human activities that retain their natural character. When people speak about “Protected Areas” in Socotra they usually refer to the Nature Sanctuaries.
- Resource Use Zones are areas providing a sustainable flow of natural products and services to meet community needs. They are for example all waters within the 12 nautical miles around the archipelago.
- General Use Zones are areas with significant modification of original habitat and certain level of resource exploitation that is required for economic and social development of local community. There are only three General Use Zones altogether occupying 1,4 % of the island’s surface, located in Hadibo, Qalansiya and around the airport.
Nature Sanctuaries (Protected Areas)
Nature Sanctuaries are the most interesting places to visit provided you stick to strict nature conservation rules. There are 37 Protected Areas in the Socotra Archipelago including 26 marine and 11 terrestrial.
Six of the Protected Areas have been managed by local village communities with eco-tourism services provided. You will find an eco-camp with basic accommodation and food, tourist guides, souvenirs, boat and other equipment rentals. The Protected Areas are a source of income for local villages and money earned is used for the community development.
You can stay overnight in five Protected Areas: Dihamri, Rosh, Homhill, Skand, Aomak, Ditwah Bay. Launch of a new managed protected area in Wadi Ayhaft is planned in the nearest future.
What to do in Protected Areas?
You are visiting a remote island and one of the poorest and most disadvantaged areas of Yemen. The pristine nature needs your special care. There are some essential rules you should follow to leave as small footprint on the island as possible:
• Do not collect, remove or damage any material, living or dead from the Protected Areas including birds, plants, fossils etc. Keep in mind that export and import of any biological material from or to the island is strictly prohibited.
• Support the island and its people by hiring local guides, using local services and buying goods from local shops. You are more than welcome to buy local products such as dragon blood resin, frankincense resin, aloe sap, palm tree products, honey and handicrafts. They are nice souvenirs and safe to export.
• Camping is only allowed in designated camping areas. All visitors must leave the Protected Area by sunset unless staying in a designated campsite.
• Do not cut live trees as they are living fossils. Use only dead wood picked from the ground for campfires. Local campsite keepers will provide you with lamps so think twice if you really insist on making a fire.
• Avoid touching or damaging corals and do not feed the fish as it may cause changes in their behavior. If you are fond of fishing, always go with a local fisherman in his boat.
• Stay away from nesting sites of turtles and birds. Do not camp in these areas and try to keep your behavior as little intrusive as possible. A guided visit with a conservation specialist from the EPA (Environment Protection Agency) is highly recommended.
• Hunting is not allowed as it may endanger endemic birds and animals. If driving, pay high attention to wandering goats.
• It is prohibited to drive off tracks and to drive on any beach. Off-road driving causes severe damage to the environment.
• Keep the marked hiking tracks to minimize damage to vegetation.
• Do not litter. Take your rubbish back to Hadibo for proper disposal. At campsites, collect your rubbish and hand it over to a campsite keeper for further disposal. Set a good example to local people.
• Importing qat has been banned on the island for a while. Do not encourage qat smugglers by buying from them.
• Please take note of any instructions posted in the Protected Areas.