Visiting Socotra Island can feel a little like leaving Planet Earth entirely.
Sometimes referred to as the “Galapagos of the Indian Ocean,” the island is so isolated from the rest of the world that more than a third of its plant life is found nowhere else. This makes exploring the island one of the world’s most memorable experiences.
Visually, there is no other place in the world like Socotra Island. The biodiversity of the island is almost unmatched. Filled with island-specific reptiles, insects, and birds, every animal is an exciting discovery for a tourist.
However, the species the island is most known for is actually incredible plant life.
Many refer to the island’s plants as “alien-looking,” referring largely to the bottle trees, cucumber trees, and dragon blood trees, all of which give the island its unique appearance.
Bottle trees are fairly short, with wide bottoms and thinner tops, making the tree look more like a vase filled with flowers. The cucumber tree is another short, thick trunk — like that of a cucumber — with flowing green leaves that, unlike most trees, fall straight down, rather than shooting out to the side. The dragon blood tree, named after its red sap, looks a little like an umbrella. It has a tall trunk and a rounded top of leaves, which abruptly cut off in a completely straight line, leaving a visible maze of roots. No other place on the planet has this combination of visuals.
While Socotra Island is officially classified as part of Yemen, it sits hundreds of miles away from the country’s mainland. Traveling to the island requires a 3-hour plane ride, a now-easy feat that wasn’t possible until 1999, when the island opened its first airport. After the subsequent influx in tourism, the island was classified as a World Natural Heritage Site in 2008, which helps promote conservation and protection of its unique biodiversity.
Socotra Island is part of a group of islands, the Socotra Archipelago, located in the Arabian Sea and home to roughly 50,000 inhabitants. The island’s biodiversity is the reason for both local tourism and major conservation projects, two initiatives that did not become common for the area until the 1990s.
As a fairly new tourist destination, tourists should understand that this is not a standard island retreat with amenities on every corner. Journeys on boat can be rough, and the island has very few actual roads. However, tourists who decide to venture to the island are rewarded with stunning views and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.