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Socotra Archipelago

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Travel Guide Middle East Yemen Socotra Archipelago

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Introduction

Our boat, our beach

Our boat, our beach

© All Rights Reserved Patrick H.

The Yemenite Socotra Archipelago is a group of four islands in the Indian Ocean, several hundred kilometres south of the Arabian Peninsula. Socotra is the largest of the four islands, with Abd al Kuri, Samhah and Darsa making up the three smaller islands. The archipelago is a territory of Yemen and is well-known for its remarkable biodiversity. Over 90 percent of the archipelago's reptile species and snail species are found nowhere else, and about 37 percent of its plant species are unique to the islands. Much of the islands' land area is occupied by national parks and nature sanctuaries, while it also harbours an abundant and diverse marine life, with hundreds of species of reef-building corals, fish and crab, lobster and shrimp. The Socotra Archipelago was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2008.

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Geography

Socotra is one of the most isolated landforms on Earth of continental origin (i.e. not of volcanic origin). The archipelago was once part of the supercontinent of Gondwana and detached during the Miocene epoch, in the same set of rifting events that opened the Gulf of Aden to its northwest. The archipelago consists of the main island of Socotra (3,665 km2), the three smaller islands of Abd al Kuri, Samhah and Darsa, as well as small rock outcrops like Ka'l Fir'awn and Sābūnīyah that are uninhabitable by humans but important for seabirds.

The main island has three geographical terrains: the narrow coastal plains, a limestone plateau permeated with karstic caves, and the Haghier Mountains. The mountains rise to 1,503 metres. The island is about 125 kilometres long and 45 kilometres north to south.

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Sights and Activities

Socotra is considered the jewel of biodiversity in the Arabian Sea. Although the region is small, it is characterized by unique land and marine biodiversity.

The interior of the island is dominated by the beautiful and green Hagghier mountains and limestone plateau. While on the outer coastline, breathtaking natural beaches have pure white sand dunes and palm trees. Socotra Island is very rich and is home to many rare spectacular species of reefs, fish, birds, plants, and trees which are not found anywhere else in the world. The limestone plateau and the Hagghier Mountains are the richest areas for endemic plant species, but endemics are found throughout the island in every type of vegetation. One of the most famous plants is the dragon's blood tree “dracaena cinnabara” which exists only on Socotra and nowhere else on the Earth. The tree got its name because if any damage is made to the bark then a dark red liquid oozes out.

There is also the Desert Rose (adenium obesium) which looks like a blooming elephant leg. Also found in Socotra's landscape is the ever-strange and extremely rare Cucumber Tree. In addition there are over 120 species of birds and about 190 species of butterflies. There is so much beauty all around the island, it is difficult not the appreciate to magnificent scenery and wildlife.

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Weather

The climate of Socotra is classified a tropical desert climate and semi-desert climate with a mean annual temperature over 25 °C. Yearly rainfall is light, but is fairly spread throughout the year. Due to orographic lift provided by the interior mountains, especially during the northeast monsoon from October to December, the highest inland areas can average as much as 800 millimetres per year and receive over 250 millimetres per month in November or December. The southwest monsoon season from July to September brings strong winds and high seas. For many centuries, the sailors of Gujarat called the maritime route near Socotra as “Sikotro Sinh”, meaning the lion of Socotra, that constantly roars - referring to the high seas near Socotra. In an extremely unusual occurrence, the western side of Socotra received more than 410 millimetres of rain from Cyclone Chapala in November 2015.

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Getting There

By Plane

Socotra Airport on the main island accommoates flights from Sana'a via Al Mukalla. Yemenia Airlines offers one flight per week on Thursday morning. Felix Airways offers two flights per week on Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning. Flight durations are almost three hours.

There are also flights from Sharjah via Al Mukalla.

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Getting Around

There is a public bus from the airport to Hadibo and from Hadibo to Qalansia. Beside these two buses, there is no public transport, but car rental with driver is available. There is a lot of walking and hiking along with camel back rides available.

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Eat

Socotra is a remote island and therefore their cuisine is limited and simple. Local restaurants often serve fresh fish, chicken, goat, rice, and potatoes. The fish is highly recommended and all meals are typically served with flat Arabic bread.

There are also restaurants at each of the five hotels with a simple menu similar to that of the local restaurants.

Oranges, bananas, cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese, bottled water, and soft drinks can all be bought at shops in town. Vegetables can be bought also but they are more expensive because they must be shipped over.

If you are camping in Socotra, your driver/guide will be responsible for your meals (typically some delicious freshly cooked fish). Although it's nice to help the driver you don't have to.

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Drink

Since Yemen is an Islamic country, there are no alcoholic beverages provided except at five star hotels in the big cities mainland. It is suggested for tourists to bring their own alcohol if desired. Bottled water and soft drinks can be purchased at shops in town. Bottled water is also available at the campsites, and tea is served with all the meals as well.

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This is version 5. Last edited at 8:46 on Jul 24, 17 by Utrecht. 6 articles link to this page.

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