The archipelago of Socotra, part of the Republic of Yemen, is located in the north west Indian Ocean at about 240 km east of Somalia, 380 km south of the Republic of Yemen mainland at Mukalla, which now administers the island.
It consists of the main island of Socotra (3625 km2, approximately 120 km long and 40 km wide), three smaller islands Abd Al Kuri (with about 450 inhabitants living in difficult conditions without clean drinking water), Samha (reachable in 4 hours by a fisherman’s boat with about one hundred people living there), Darsah (not inhabited) and small rock outcrops like Ka’l Fir’awn and Sābūnīyah that are uninhabitable by humans but important for seabirds.
The name SOCOTRA may be derived from the Arabic “suqs qutra” (سقطرى) and means the market of dragon’s blood”- a reference to the resin of its most famous tree species, or from a Sanscrit term for the “abode of the blest”.
The archipelago suffered from severe isolation due to its remote geographical position, to heavy monsoon winds and to the lack of suitable harbors. This resulted in very high levels of endemism in many terrestrial and marine groups of organisms, which make the archipelago a site of global importance for biodiversity conservation. The archipelago of Socotra has been included in UNESCO’s World Heritage list since 2008 for its “biological diversity and threatened species”.
Being virtually isolated from the rest of the world for a long period, Socotra remains one of the most fascinating places in the world. Many animals and 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 believed that some of the plants and animals found on Socotra are in fact ancient relics of a much larger land mass which has been preserved here as a result of the fact that the Hagghier 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.
The people of Socotra have been kept away from the rest of the world for centuries and had become almost completely self-sufficient, living in delicate balance with their environment. Until recent times tourism has not been a resource for the island. The preservation of Socotra natural and cultural richness is the only basis for improving the living conditions of its population. Thus, Socotra has been supported by conservation and sustainability programmes, encouraging a responsible ecotourism, rather than a conventional tourism, to protect the environment, the culture and the honor of the local people. Important features of the ecotourism are the honest use of resources from the place, the promotion of recycling, efficient use of energy, water conservation and economic opportunities for local communities.
In July 1999 a new airport opened Socotra to the outside world all year round. Most people still live without electricity, running water or a paved road, but these facilities have increased somewhat since 2002. At the end of the 1990s a United Nations Development Program was launched with the aim of providing a close survey of the island of Socotra, and some development has occurred alongside this program. The whole island and its coasts are under the protection of the Yemeni Conservation and Development Authority that declared the island a “Naturally Protected Area” and, in collaboration with the Yemeni Tourism Authority produces a guide for eco tourism.
Socotra island offers to tourists miles and miles of white sandy beaches and startling clear turquoise blue seas teeming with colorful fish, inland mountains decorated with ancient dragon blood trees and hundreds of other unique species that have not developed anywhere else in the world, beautiful sceneries and the ancient culture of local people in traditional villages.
A basic consideration in visiting Socotra island is respecting environment and local traditions: nature is assuring Socotra of many beautiful sceneries which need to be preserved. You are invited to share with us this remarkable resource: wherever you go, only take pictures and scenes, feel free to leave your foot prints on send but allow the nature to recapture the island!