Socotra is the largest island of a small archipelago lost in the Arabian Sea. This Yemeni territory is located 380km from the Arabian Peninsula and 240km from the Horn of Africa in Somalia. The island is not large, measuring 70km in length and 20km in width. There are a few unpaved roads, and the landscape is almost desert-like. Almost.
On the island, there is a cave where texts left by sailors who landed in the area as early as the 1st century BC were recently discovered. The island itself has been mentioned in various works since the 10th century – in fact, even Marco Polo mentioned it.
Why UNESCO? Well, the island of Socotra is one of the most isolated parts of the supercontinent Gondwana. The part we now know as Socotra separated during the Miocene (well over 5 million years ago) and became an island – unlike, for example, the Galapagos, which formed volcanically. As a result of its separation from the main landmass, the island retained truly incredible forms of flora and fauna – Socotra is generally regarded as a kind of Jurassic Park of the 21st century! Only Hawaii, the Galapagos, and New Caledonia can boast a greater number of endemically occurring species of flora and fauna. On Socotra, you will find over 700 plants and animals that exist only on this small island!
Why is it worth going?
February 19, 2024 – We fly to Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Transfer to the hotel and rest after the journey.
February 20, 2024 – Morning flight to Socotra. At the airport, we will meet our guide and drivers who will take us to a nearby hotel for rest. We will have lunch, and in the afternoon, we will head out for our first excursion to explore the incredible Delisha beach. After the tour, we return to the hotel and have dinner in a local restaurant.
February 21, 2024 – After breakfast at the hotel at 07:30am, we set off for the Dihamri marine nature reserve. The journey will take us about 50 minutes. Dihamri is known for having the longest coral reef in Socotra – this will be our first snorkeling/diving experience on the island! We will dive from the shore/boat with our diving guide. Tanks and weights will be waiting for us on the beach. After lunch, we will do another dive – here we will need to travel a short distance by boat. We will sleep at the campsite in Dihamri – camping equipment will be waiting for us, and the entire camp will be set up by our staff. Our personal chef will prepare all our meals 🙂
Diving in the surrounding waters is relatively easy, and it’s not the underwater conditions but the onshore/water logistics that pose the most challenges. Tourism is in its infancy, the accommodation base is more than basic, but what you can see underwater fully compensates for any inconveniences: the reef here is in excellent condition, numerous ocean currents ensure that local fish species have ideal living conditions – there are even unique hybridizations where species from the Red Sea cross with those from the Indian Ocean, creating new species! It’s no coincidence that the Socotra Archipelago is called the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean!
February 22, 2024 – After breakfast, we head to another reserve, Homhil, famous for its incredible frankincense trees. Boswellia serrata, or frankincense, is a medium-sized tree found in India, northeastern regions of Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula. This plant has numerous health and medicinal properties, making it widely used in natural medicine. Frankincense is also valued for its rich aromatic qualities. Resin, also known as olibanum, is obtained from the bark of boswellia, which, after purification, is used as a medicinal raw material. It contains compounds with anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
We will walk around the area and through the dragon tree grove until we reach a natural freshwater pool! Overnight at the Dihamri campsite.
Perhaps the most recognizable species is the endemic Dracaena cinnabari (Dragons Blood Tree), which is a strangely shaped umbrella-like tree that can reach up to 9m in height. It is believed that this species is a remnant of the ancient Laurasian forests that covered this region in the Miocene, which became extinct in other parts of the Arabian Peninsula due to the advancing desertification of this region. Their red resin (hence the English name ‘dragon’s blood’) was used to dye musical instruments and in folk medicine. Fortunately, we can still admire these prehistoric trees on Socotra, even though they are endangered! Among the many unusual species growing on this amazing island, another endemic, the Cucumber Tree Dendrosicyos, also makes a big impression.
February 23, 2024 – Today, early after breakfast, we leave Dihamri again and head northeast, specifically to the Rosh reserve, where we will do a morning dive. We will go to the diving site by boat – a journey of about 15 minutes.
February 24, 2024 – Today we start very early at 06:00am. We will drive to the easternmost part of the island (about 1 hour) to the fishing village of Irsel, from where we will go diving on a wreck. This place is famous for a large number of sharks – strong currents may occur here :). We return for an overnight stay at the hotel in Hadibo.
February 25, 2024 – We leave the capital and in 4×4 vehicles, we move to the Dixam plateau, famous for its endemic Dragon Trees! Today we will hike in the mountains – there will be many beautiful views and opportunities to take fantastic photos!
A small community also lives here – children are eager to be photographed, and from adults, you can buy products made from the frankincense tree and the “red blood” of dragon trees! Let’s support the local community!
We will have lunch in the shade of one of the beautiful dragon trees, and in the afternoon, we will drive to Qalansea (specifically to the Ditwah lagoon) where we will spend the rest of the afternoon on a beautiful beach 🙂
In this area, there are a lot of rays, so when walking in shallow water, you should wear shoes and tread carefully 🙂
February 26, 2024 – Today, we have an early wake-up call and a boat trip to Shuab, where we will do the last 2 dives of our expedition – also on a wreck. The water in this area is perfectly clear, so the views will be out of this world! Often, in this area, during a boat ride, a pod of dolphins attaches itself and accompanies the boat for a long time, playing on the back wave. Magical! We will have lunch on the boat. In the afternoon, we return to Qalansea, where our drivers will be waiting for us. We will spend the last night at a hotel in Hadibo, preparing to return to civilization…
February 27, 2024 – A morning trip to the Ayhaft canyon, and right after that, we head to the airport to catch our connection to Abu Dhabi. Transfer to a hotel in the city center and a joint farewell dinner.
February 28, 2024 – Morning flight out. End of the expedition.
Trip photo gallery
Information for participants
NOTE, this trip can be extended by an additional week, of which 2 days will be dedicated to exploring the southern side of the island, and the remaining 5 days will be spent on a boat, diving on the other 3 islands of the archipelago – this will be the first diving expedition of its kind in the world – check out the next offer to see how you can combine both expeditions.
NOTE, this trip can be done flying through Dubai – you can add a few days to explore Dubai and Abu Dhabi – ask us about the possibilities.
NOTE, on this trip, it is possible to dive with a tank up to 30m deep. We will indicate which places are the best and organize diving at a specific location for those interested – the price always depends on many factors (tank transport, distance from the compressor, boat availability, local guide, etc.) but on average from USD 60 to USD 120 per dive. We have dived multiple times all over the island, we know how to do it safely and with respect for all rules. There is an English-speaking diving instructor on the trip, with vast experience in expedition diving.
NOTE, access to Yemen is limited and quite difficult due to the civil war and geopolitical situation. Traveling to Socotra is safe. We arrange entry visas for every participant, despite the fact that officially there are no tourist visas to Yemen.
Frequently Asked Questions:
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