The Socotra Archipelago – the Galapagos of the East?

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240 miles south of the Arabian Peninsula, separated from all other land for around 250 million years. Can you imagine the types of plants that flourish there?

Rare plant and animal species might not make the top of most people’s list of ideal destination qualities. But the weird and eerie wildlife on the Socotra Archipelago could change that.

Seven hundred totally unique trees, shrubs, flowers, birds and reptiles are endemic to these four islands, which lie 240 miles south of the Arabian Peninsula. The species are so rare that the area has been nicknamed the “Galapagos of the East”.

The island system has been separated from all other land for around 250 million years. Such an extended period of geographical isolation gave rise to the evolution of strikingly bizarre species such as the iconic Dragon’s Blood tree and the Desert Rose. Their respective looks defy description so we’re featuring a few pictures from our Flickr community.

Desert Roses on Socotra
Desert Roses. Photo by image di spencer
Two Dragon's Blood trees and a desert rose on the Homhil Plateau, Socotra
Two Dragon’s Blood trees and a desert rose on the Homhil Plateau, Socotra. Photo by Kate Dixon
Dragon's Blood trees on the Socotra Archipelago
The Dragon’s Blood tree gets its name from the red sap it produces. Photo by twiga_swala
The Desert Rose on Socotra Island
The Desert Rose. Photo by APAWCH

As adventurous places go, Socotra has to be right up there – not least because of its neighbouring territories. To the north lies The Republic of Yemen, of which the archipelago is a part. To the west, 150 miles away, is Somalia. Reports of al-Qaida activity in the former and rampant piracy from the latter have dominated international headlines over the past decade and deterred visitors (see the latest Foreign Office advice on travel to Yemen).

Only about 3,000 visitors see Socotra each year. A visa is required, travellers apply for one in advance from the Yemeni embassy in their home country, but there are several eco-tourism agencies that arrange trips.

If you’re set on going, here is a fantastic Idiot’s Guide to Socotra by Jonah Kessel.

We’ve found some videos that go some way to showing the remarkable beauty of the islands. (Thanks to Gerry & Bonni for the striking featured image)

Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…

The Socotra Archipelago – the Galapagos of the East? was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Brett Ackroyd
Author: Brett Ackroyd (631 posts)

Brett hopes to one day reach the shores of far-flung Tristan da Cunha, the most remote of all the inhabited archipelagos on Earth…as to what he’ll do when he gets there, he hasn’t a clue. Over the last 10 years, London, New York, Cape Town and Pondicherry have all proudly been referred to as home. Now it’s Copenhagen’s turn, where he lends his travel expertise to momondo.com.