In nature’s lap



The Frankincense trees are appealing and deep-seated, and the road to them is a rough one on the island of Socotra, a Yemeni isle. I had hired the Land Cruiser before I got here in the hopes that it would make for a comfortable way of getting around the rocky island, but from what I sat it was one rocky pile after another, up and over, rinse and repeat. After what was an hour and a half, we had traversed no more than five miles as the driver wrestled the wheel and the terrain.

Frankincense trees

I got out and surveyed the scenery, a riverbed gushing alongside rubble and hunks of limestone. Not far off there were small trees surrounding us, like little pygmies with a woody body. Kamaal, our driver, approached one of the trees and pointed out a marigold like substance oozing out of its trunk. That substance was amber, and its aroma distinctive; it was frankincense. As Kamaal was to tell me, Socotra calls itself home to nine different kinds of the tree and each and every one of them is indigenous to the island.

The sharp, fragrant notes of the amber lit up my senses and its taste on my tongue was like Christmas in my mouth, an explosion of pure joy. Socotra is no larger than Long Island and surrounded by sapphire waters, and it is the largest island of an archipelago 250 miles off the coast of Yemen bearing the same name. Socotra is like a little world unto itself, a gathering of birds, insects and trees that are most unusual and rare. Like their land counterparts, the aquatic life is a diverse hybrid culled from the Red Sea, Indian Ocean and the western Pacific. A UN survey team counted some 700 species of flora and fauna unique to Socotra, and only Hawaii and the Galapagos can top that number.

Socotra Yemen

But of late, an entirely new species has made its presence very conspicuous around these parts; the tourist. You might scoff at an annual traffic of 2,500 visitors, but on an island where there are just four hotels, two gas stations and only a few of flush toilets, that is a torrent of visitors. Socotra in fact avoids the mass tourist approach entirely. Instead, they only have a small number of small hotels and beach campsites. The reward is small numbers but high value in the form of those genuinely interested in eco tourism, eager to catch a glimpse of the Socotra warbler, the loggerhead turtle, the dragon’s blood tree.

Socotra dragon tree

I realize why I was told not to travel without a proper guide and vehicle, and to make preparations for this before I even landed. Getting around minus some local, like Kamaal, is impossible for there are barely any roads and road signs and maps are a rarity. The first roads were built by the Yemeni government not even a few years ago, and they hardly ever see any traffic. Yemen itself isn’t a great holiday destination, but Socotra is far removed from it. Everyone had the wide-eyed excitement of meeting people from an alien culture, me included. It is an eco-tourism destination bettered only by the Galapagos, and it is an ecosystem unfound anywhere else on this planet of ours.

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  1. Yjee says:

    Socotra is an ancient, secluded place, untouched by tourists and indeed the second best after the tropical beauty of Galapagos islands near the equator..
    The white sand, the pristine clearwaters of the sea, and the multi-colored fishes are all yours as it is untouched by tourism!
    It’s actually very easy to go here..First after landing at Sana, the capital of Yemen, which is one of the oldest cities in the world!
    I’ve visited Socotra twice back to back after three months from my first visit! The reason is that Socotra is simply a heaven on Earth..It will make you forget everything from your life in the city..I gave my senses the much needed relaxation on the desert beach..I also went diving and snorkeling alone, the scuba centers were the least crowded..You can do whatever you want, trek, or stay in Hadibo village..
    Its like you are in a completely different world, or gone in your past, combining your modern lifestyle with the sanctity of old islamic traditions of welcoming people from every part of the world..I met many people from Europe, America, Asia and Australia!

  2. Abigail Austin says:

    I’m a lover of sun, beaches and hills..If you got to Socotra you’ll enjoy the pleasure of being alone with nature, develop an appreciation for the simple life there..
    Our life in the city is mostly centered doing unnecessary things..Your urge to be with nature will get fulfilled here!
    There are many organizations in the locality for the technical support of the tourists, they are very capable and affable people! This year end I again plan to visit this place and meet the people I met a few months back again!
    Thanks for the post! :-)

  3. Illeana Ryle says:

    Socotra in Yemen is simply great for any adventure traveler!
    This island is a treasure and we must ensure that whoever visits this place must bear in mind the sacredness of this place!

    Thanks for this post! :-)

  4. Olin Smedes says:

    Illeana Ryle : This island indeed is a wonder on Earth, The scenery is really captivating, and the people are super-friendly!
    I visited the fish market near Halibu early in the morning and it was such a busy and enjoyable experience!
    If you haven’t planned a visit here, you must, especially if you seek beauty and exotica in nature and its wonders!
    Great post! Thanks for the pictures :-)

  5. Linda D'Souza says:

    Socotra islands are a world Heritage site, very precious and sacred, they deserve all care..People who travel here must be careful that all care is taken to cause no harm to the ecosystem here.

    Keep posting! GREAT pictures :-)

  6. Dane Rebello says:

    All these places, the Galapagos islands, the Socotra islands on the belt of the equator are indeed blessed with rich biodiversity..The beach stretches miles long and is all yours to enjoy the warm sun rays, the lovely breeze, the hustling waves of the sea!
    Great place to visit with care to be taken about the surroundings in mind!

    Thanks a lot for this useful post :-)

  7. Freddie Austen says:

    Hi!
    I enjoyed reading your post on Galapagos islands as well as Socotra islands.
    Keep posting! Feels nice to read about such awesome places. I’ll definitely be planning a trip to the EXOTIC locations you’ve very vividly described!
    Thank you so much :-)

  8. Kevin Johnson says:

    I’ve been to this heaven on Earth called Socotra islands! We were first at Old Sa’ana were we went to theQalansiya beach and we felt so lucky to see dolphins on our boat ride to Shoab..We also went to Diksam which had unique plants and trees..After which we headed to Socotra, there was hardly any tourist there..The locals are very amiable and pre-planning your trip is a must , with a guide as the paths are without any signs!

  9. Jacob Curran says:

    I visited the Ras Di Hamri nad the Rosh, where I had a lot of fun time swimming with fish and snorkeling..At Socotra I had the best time of my life!
    Thanks a lot for the post :-)

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