At Socotra, you can take a trip out of this world and still remain in this world!
- Socotra is a group of four islands, found approximately 355 kilometres (220 miles) off the coast of Yemen of western Asia, in the Arabian Sea, and the archipelago also consists of two islets; and while it sits closer to Somalia, Africa, it comes under the jurisdiction of Yemen.
- Socotra’ also has the spellings ‘suqotra’ and ‘soqotra’, and there are various theories about the origin of the name, though it is generally thought to be derived from the Arabic words meaning ‘market of dragon’s blood’ or from the Sanskrit words meaning ‘island of bliss’.
- The largest island, which is also called Socotra, has caves, mountains, dunes, and sandy beaches, and is 132 kilometres (82 miles) in length, while the total archipelago has a land area of approximately 3824 square kilometres (1476 square miles).
- Socotra is known for its exotic flora numbering over 800 species, with more than a third of these species being endemic to the islands; and there is a diverse range of fauna, with at least 34 reptile and 96 land snail species, almost all of which are endemic; along with 730 fish, 300 crustacean, 4 bat and 192 bird species.
- In 2008, the UNESCO World Heritage Convention listed Socotra as a World Heritage Site, thus making it a protected area, due to the islands’ unique biodiversity and species that are threatened.
Part of Socotra
Image courtesy of Valerion Guillot/Flickr
- Socotra was an ancient hub for trading with people from Rome, Greece and Egypt, selling exclusive medicines; frankincense; and a special red resin known as ‘dragon’s blood‘ that was used as a dye and for medicinal purposes; all extracted from various endemic plants.
- The first sealed road to be constructed on Socotra was built in 2006, and there are only a few roads on the island, in part due to their negative impact on the environment, though transport methods such as bikes, 4WDs and minibuses are used, while an airport also exists.
- The ruins of an ancient city were uncovered on Socotra in 2010 by Russian archaeologists, and there are many caves, as well as nearby shipwrecks, that can be explored.
- As of 2004, Socotra had a population of approximately 44,000 individuals, most of these being indigenous and of Arabian descent living on the main island, and only two of the other islands were inhabited, and housed approximately 550 people between them.
- Industries in Socotra include date growing, pearl harvesting, and fishing; while ecotourism is becoming popular, with an increased number of visitors over recent years, and activities for tourists may comprise of diving, fishing, sailing and other water sports, as well as hiking.