"Socotra" Top 5 Page for this destination Yemen Off The Beaten Path Tip by traveldave

Yemen Off The Beaten Path: 20 reviews and 19 photos


Socotra is the main island in an archipelago of four islands that is located in the Indian Ocean, off the tip of the Horn of Africa. The other smaller islands include Abd al Kuri, Samhah, and Darsa. Socotra is administered by Yemen on behalf of the Banu Afrar Mahra Sultanate of Qishn and Socotra. The islands are also claimed by nearby Somalia.

Socotra is about 1,400 square miles (3,625 square kilometers) in size, and is 80 miles (130 kilometers) from east to west, and 18 to 22 miles (30 to 35 kilometers) from north to south. Geologically, the island consists of a coastal plain, a central limestone plateau, and the Haghier Mountains. It is one of the world's most isolated islands of continental origin, rather than of volcanic origin. It detached from the ancient continent of Gondwana about 6,000,000 years ago, and has been slowly drifting eastward away from the African continent since then.

Socotra is inhabited by about 45,000 people who have their own distinct language and culture, although they also speak Arabic, the official language of Yemen. Socotra has closer ties to Africa than to Arabia, and many people appear more African than Arabic.

Socotra has been called a "mini Madagascar" due to its large number of endangered animals and plants that are found nowhere else in the world. Botanists have discovered more than 850 species of plants (of which about 270 are endemic to the island), and anticipate the discovery of many more. About 80 percent of the island's reptiles, and many of the insects are also endemic. And the reason I went to Socotra was to see the six or 11 (depending on taxonomy) endemic species of birds, all of which I saw.

Socotra has long been closed to the outside world, but tourists are starting to discover the natural attractions of the island. Many people go for the sun and beaches, but most go for the world-class diving and various eco-tourism activities.

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  • Updated Apr 14, 2011
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