Socotra Travel Guide

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Sand dunes in Noget, Socotra

Sand dunes in Noget, Socotra

Denis Romanov

Socotra Island is really the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean ( Arabian Sea ). It is the last refuge of the -almost instinct, a remote Yemeni island off the horn of Africa . It is the biggest Yemeni island and its area is about 3650 Km2. It is located to the east Gulf of Aden and it is about 880 Km off Aden city (The Free Zone). The nearest point in the main land to Socotra is Ras Fartak in Almahara Governorate which is about 380 Km. The island is home to many rare species of plants, insects, animals, and birds, which live there, almost undisturbed. It is necessary to safeguard this rare biodiversity in the island and its marine surrounding against the sort of development that has destroyed almost every comparable island in the world.

The island had remained in isolation and off-limits to visitors till president Ali Abdullah Salih opened the island's first tarmac airstrip in 1999. Before that, it used to be accessible only by small turbo-prop planes and only outside the monsoon season. Now, Yemenia two weekly flights by jetliners, one from Aden and one from Sana’a give an opportunity to tourists to visit the island.

Geologically no one knows exactly, when but some millions of years ago Socotra split away from the mainland, Arabia and Africa . It has since evolved in perfect isolation. There are more than 900 plant species in the island and a third of them exist no where else in the world. A trip into the Higher Mountains reveals a bizarre landscape dotted by Dragon's Blood Trees (the Two Brothers blood Trees), shaped like inside-out umbrella. There are about 150 kinds of birds live in the island and six kinds are indigenous and three kinds are globally subjected to extinction.

Historically, the island has been renowned as one of the main producers of Frankincense, Myrrh and Laudanum!! of the best quality. Such commodities were used in temples during the religious rites in the ancient times. Also remedies have been extracted from the island's plants, such as "Cinnabar" (a red substance produces by the Two Brothers Blood Trees) and Taif or Aloe Perry extract.
However, this unique biodiversity in the island and its marine surroundings enriching with precious fish-wealth, coral reefs and other marine lives has become threatened by predators who sniffing their preys of such rare plants, animals, and birds. Also the gross exploitation of the fish wealth exposes it to loss.

Therefore, the island must be protected carefully. The Socotran citizens, the authorities in charge, the environmentalists and the nature conservationists should cooperate in order to vigilantly protect this incomparable natural museum against any damages.