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Socotra - The World's Strangest Place

Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Socotra
ADDITIONAL IMAGES & VIDEOS
  • Socotra
  • Socotra Vegetation
  • Socotra Watering Hole
  • Socotra Sand Dune
  • View in Google Maps

About 150 miles east of the Horn of Africa, Socotra--the largest of an archipelago of four islands--sits grazing in the Indian Ocean. An exotic "lost world" of sorts ever since its separation six million years ago from the adjacent African continent, the island is often described as one of the most alien-looking places on earth, as well as the Galapagos of the Middle East. Its contrasting landscapes range from sandy dunes to narrow coastal plains, a limestone plateau enriched with karstic caves to the 5,000-foot peaks of the Haghier Mountains, and inland idylls serving glistening sea foam oases to sandy stretches of beach unfurling into the glistening sea itself. For the off-grid adventurer, this Republic of Yemen gem can mean days of trekking and exploring without crossing paths with other tourists--or other humans at all.

Socotra Island's 82 miles in length and 31 miles in width check in as the world's tenth richest in endemic plant species. Over 900 dot the terrain, including the cucumber tree, a rare Socotran pomegranate, native aloes, and the particularly striking Dragon's Blood Tree (Dracaena cinnabari), with its otherworldly umbrella shape and red sap secretions. The sap was once deemed the dragon's blood of the ancients, and sought out for believed medicinal properties.

Alien Spotting in Socotra

If you're one of the few lucky enough to inhale Socotra's strange beauty, you should probably keep an eye out for the aliens who make it so alien-looking. Though many of them are reclusive--or very tiny, green, and difficult to discern with the naked eye due to the island's lush camouflage of flora--they have their local hangouts and favorite hot spots just like the rest of us. With a little attentiveness and stealth, you have a good shot at spotting them at one of the following attractions (interactive map here):

  • The beach of Qalansiya, Socotra Island's second largest settlement
  • The Haghier Mountains and Scant
  • Dicksam plateau
  • Aomak beach
  • Mumi plateau
  • Arher beach
  • Kalysan, the island's largest freshwater pool
  • Wadi Daerhu pools
  • Di Hamri reefs and marine conservation area
  • Detwah lagoon
  • Shouab beach
  • Ayhaft Canyon
  • Hoq Cave
  • Dagoub Cave
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