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If you would travel far out in the Arabic Sea on the way to Somalia, will you reach a small archipelago where the main island is named Socotra.
Located only 380km/240miles of the coast of the African continent, but which is, in fact, part of Yemen.
Socotra is often named the most Alien looking place on earth, due to its scenery and to its strange native tree the “Dragon Blood Tree” which look like something out of this world.
While mainland Yemen has been suffering from war and hunger for almost a decade have Socotra keep calm and stayed away from the problems that have devastated mainland Yemen.
And while Mainland Yemen only received 60! Foreign tourist last year so did Socotra receive around 100 foreign tourists a week before (pre-COVID-19 that is).
Socotra only re-opened for tourism back in December 2018 and has gone from around 300 visitors in the whole of 2019 to the new record-breaking numbers.
A weekly flight leaving every Wednesday from Cairo, stopping in Seiyun (mainland Yemen), and continuing to Socotra has made this possible.
A lot of the standard itineraries have already been made widely available online, as you can see here:
We’ll give a bit of an overview of the places in Socotra when to visit, and how much things generally will cost.
Hadibo The Largest City On Socotra.
Hadibo is the capital “city” of Socotra, with around 7,000-10,000 residents. The city does not have much of an appeal; it’s covered in plastic garbage and goats roam the streets freely.
Besides a couple of good restaurants, the island’s best hotel with hot water and very slow wifi, and the central souq, Hadibo is not worth spending much time in.
There is a fish market on the outskirts of the city that’s worth checking out in the early morning when people go to buy the fishermen’s’ catch of the day.
Hadibo is also the only place you can get money on Socotra.
But be aware that there are no ATMs on the entire island and credit cards aren’t accepted anywhere in Hadibo.
But there are Western Union and Money Gram available in Hadibo with a monthly limit of $2,000 per person.
The northeast is home to mountains, stunning beaches, coral reefs, and wild plateaus full of endemic species. Some highlights include:
Arher Beach— a stunning white sand beach where massive sand dunes have formed against the granite cliffs above the shoreline, a good place to spot bioluminescence in the evenings, and a freshwater creek meets the sea here.
Homhil Protected Area— home to probably the second densest population of Dragon’s Blood Trees in Socotra, this valley is stunning and full of a diversity of plant life, not to mention an incredible natural infinity pool for swimming.
Momi Plateau— located just above Homhil, this stunning plateau is home to Frankincense trees, cucumber trees, bottle trees and sweeping views.
Hoq Cave— easily one of the most impressive features on Socotra, Hoq cave can rival many in terms of size and the sheer amount of unique rock formations.
The cave is at least 3kms deep, and the first 2kms can be explored on foot with a strong torch flashlight or headlamp.
Rosh Marine Protected Area— a great spot for diving or snorkelling amongst Socotra’s reefs and marine life. Also a nice white sand beach for camping and picnics.
Dihamri Marine Protected Area— a great spot for diving or snorkelling amongst Socotra’s reefs and marine life, with a small dive shop with gear rentals set up nearby.
Ras Irisseyl— the easternmost point of Socotra, where the Indian Ocean meets the Arabian Sea and home to a quaint fishing village.
Crab City— near Ras Irisseyl, this beach is home to thousands of sand crabs who build small castle-like structures above their holes during low tide. A fascinating place to visit and observe.
Socotra’s northwest features stunning beaches and lagoons, loads of marine life, and the island’s “second city” of Qalansiah. Highlights of the Northwest include:
Detwah Lagoon— a stunning bright white sandy tongue stretches out from behind Qalansiah into the turquoise Arabian Sea, while a blue lagoon forms behind it, making Detwah one of the most beautiful parts of Socotra.
Excellent for swimming as well as exploring marine life in the lagoon.
Qalansiah— Socotra’s “second city” is home to narrow streets and a popular fishing port with colourful boats and friendly locals.
Shu’ab— this remote part of Socotra’s west coast is only accessible by boat or by hiking. Shu’ab Beach is a beautiful white sand beach, and nearby there are plenty of amazing reefs to explore marine life— large pods of spinner dolphins may be found here as well.
Home to the Haggier Mountains, central Socotra boasts deep wadis, rocky peaks, stunning plateaus and a plethora of unique plants and wildlife. Some of the highlights include:
Diksam— this stunning plateau is located near the geographic centre of Socotra and is home to Dragon’s Blood Trees, local Bedouins, a Dragon’s Blood Tree nursery, and stunning views into the Durhur Canyon.
Firhmin— this forest just on the opposite side of the canyon from Diksam has the highest concentration of Dragon’s Blood Trees on the entire island (and thus in the entire world). It’s a spectacular place for exploring.
Durhur— this canyon near Diksam is surrounded by walls 700 metres high and boasts a unique ecosystem.
Southern Socotra is remote, sparsely populated and ruggedly beautiful. Home to incredible sand dunes and beaches, this area contains several highlights:
Hayf and Zahek Sand Dunes— where a sea of low lying sand dunes meets the sea, this incredible dune formation in southern Socotra is one of the most intriguing to explore at sunset.
Dagub Cave— a large cave that opens to the sea on Socotra’s south coast, not particularly interesting to explore, but it’s worth a short visit.
Omek Beach— one of Socotra’s longest white sand beaches (although not as spectacular as Arher and Shu’ab), it makes a perfect place to body surf, since waves here are normally a lot bigger, and it’s a nice camping spot on the south coast.
Kalisan Canyon— this is a hidden gem tucked away in the remote southeast corner of Socotra. Surrounded by rolling hills and mountains, many of which also have Dragons Blood Trees, Kalisan is an incredible water wadi made up of numerous freshwater swimming pools, waterfalls and rock formations.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH SOCOTRA
But what about the lesser explored, off-the-beaten-path places in this already off-the-beaten-path island?
The Hajhir Mountains are the heart and soul of what makes Socotra special and unique. They generate unique weather patterns that, in turn, helped create Socotra’s endemic species.
The mountains rise to a height of 1500 metres, spanning central and eastern part of the island, and are composed of dramatic stone peaks, lush green valleys, and outstanding water wadis.
Trekking through the Hajhirs is my favourite activity in all of Socotra, and the best trek takes you from Hadibo through Skand and to Dkisam in about five days. There are tons of new valleys and peaks ripe for exploration here.
While northeast Socotra is commonly visited for its fantastic beaches and mountains (Arher Beach, Rosh Beach, Hoq Cave and Homhil Protected Area), the southeast is a remote, spectacular part of the country.
Roads here are rough (unpaved), and if you want to fully explore, you’ll need to do it by foot, but for those who do, there is a real treat to seeing this part of the island.
Vast water wadis great for swimming in crystal clear water, mountain slopes with Dragons Blood trees not visited by tourists, and remote villages abound in this part of the island.
Far West Socotra.
The far west of Socotra in the Shu’ab village area (south of Shu’ab Beach) is strikingly beautiful.
Stone mountains hit the sea, white sand beaches provide spots for local fishermen to reel in their catch, and tourists rarely make it further than the main beach at Shu’ab, which is accessible only by boat from Qalansiah.
Spending time along the far west and southwest (there’s a dirt road leading to Shu’ab village) gives you a chance to see a tranquil, unique side to coastal Socotra.
Abd al Kuri Island.
Described by a German rescue officer in 2006 as “A hellish place, where time stands still, and one can feel completely alone in the world.”
This remote off-shore desert island is part of the Socotra Archipelago and is almost never visited by anyone.
However, it is populated and has a main village called Kilmia where people are dependent on fishing, as the island is not suitable for agriculture nor much animal husbandry.
Abd al Kuri also has its own endemic species of plants, reptiles and birds, as well as mountain peaks reaching 700 metres in height.
The island can only be reached by a specially chartered fishing vessel from Hadibo capable of making the 105km crossing.
Best Time To Visit Socotra.
Socotra has four seasons to be aware of, a rainy season, a rainy monsoon season, a long dry season and a windy monsoon season.
LONG DRY SEASON– mid-January through May
The best time to visit the island, the weather is all around pleasant, dry and the oceans are calm and good for snorkelling and diving.
WINDY MONSOON SEASON– June through mid-September
Extremely unideal time to travel to Socotra– expect high winds, dust and sand storms, and hot temperatures.
RAINY SEASON mid-September through mid-November
A mix of rain and sun brings bright green colours to the island. It’s normally a great time to travel, especially to the mountains in the central and eastern regions of the island. Conditions are unideal for aquatic activities due to large ocean swells.
RAIN MONSOON SEASON mid-November through mid-January
Expect heavy rains, road blockages, and difficult conditions for travelling. Rains can last for a week or two straight, and then suddenly stop completely for a week or two.
Travelling during this time requires a bit of luck. Conditions are unideal for aquatic activities due to large ocean swells.
Prices and Money On Socotra.
Remember there´s No ATM´s and credit cards are not accepted anywhere on the island, so be sure to bring enough cash.
For local tourism prices, you can expect the following:
Ground costs (rough camping) per person: $950 per person per week (minimum two people). This includes camping, basic meals, guide, 4wd vehicle, and driver. Inertia members can get 10% off this cost.
Yemeni visa: $150
Camel rental (if trekking): $100-$200 per person
Tips for local guides: $100-$200 per person
Nightly hotel rate at the Summerlands Hotel: $75 / $140 (sharing/single)
Single supplement on ground costs (if travelling solo, i.e. one person group): $950 extra
Anticipated personal spending (additional food, shopping): $50-$100
Dragon’s Nest glamping bell tent and mattress/blanket/sheets/pillow rental: $100 per unit per day.
Inernet Acess Socotra.
As you could expect in a remote place like this so are internet a rare thing, while the Summerlands Hotel in Hadibo has WIFI is it both slow and unreliable so is it your only option for WIFI on the island.
There´s a slow 3G network on the island which you can connect to with most of the major international networks providers, you will be roaming, so be sure to check the price with you local network provider, but one thing is sure it won´t be cheap for you to check your Facebook or post on Instagram.
How To Get To Socotra.
To book the Yemenia flight from Cairo or Seiyun, you will have to go through their office in Cairo or Kuwait City. (Inertia members are able to access this information from their membership document.)
Ticket prices (subject to change) are listed below. The earlier you book, the cheaper the tickets tend to be.
Cairo-Socotra-Cairo: $950~$1250 plus bank fees.
Cairo-Socotra-Seiyun: $600~$800 plus bank fees.
Seiyun-Socotra-Cairo: $600~$800 plus bank fees.
Seiyun-Socotra-Seiyun: $300~$400 plus bank fees.
For a more comprehensive travel guide to Socotra and to learn how to get in and out safely, check out the complete guide here: https://inertianetwork.com/inertia-content/2019/4/23/the-inertia-travel-guide-to-socotra
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