Where is Socotra? What is Socotra? Four hundred kilometers off the coast of Yemen in the Indian Ocean lies the island of Socotra. It's largely unknown, as it is remote, sparsely populated and difficult to access. Nature enthusiasts however usually have some knowledge about Socotra as it is home to so many endemic plants and animals, all bizarre, beautiful and unusual, which has lead Socotra to be called the 'Galapagos of the Indian Ocean.' While Yemen is engulfed in a tragic civil war, Socotra remains untouched by the conflict. In fact Socotra has remained untouched by much of anything in the past few centuries and this is an enormous part of the appeal for visitors. The largely arid island is home to stunning mountains and beaches, forests of endemic species of plants, rivers that wind through the canyons and hills and beckon swimmers and sun bathers. Only 60,000 humans inhabit Socotra, Socotris are both friendly and welcoming to the island's few visitors. The majority of these people live in Hadibo, the capital which is home to the island's only hotel. While we sleep in this hotel the final night, the other nights we camp, though we have camp assistants, guides and cooks to prepare our tents, cook our meals and plan our daily activities as we explore this remarkable laand. Bring your sense of adventure and prepare to be astonished by the island called the 'most surreal place in the world.'
DAY 1: TUESDAY, Feb. 14
Abu Dhabi to Socotra
You’ll depart Abu Dhabi at 9:30 a.m. on the weekly Air Arabia flight to Socotra, arriving in Socotra at 10:40 a.m. Upon arrival at Socotra Airport we clear customs and immigration and then meet our guides and drivers. We then drive to Hadibo, capital of Socotra to exchange money, and then proceed east along the coast and to arrive at Arher, where we camp on the beach in front of spectacular sand dunes which make this one of the most dramatically beautiful areas on Socotra. Here you can swim, bath in the fresh water that runs into the ocean, or climb the huge 100 meter sand dune. Our cook and crew will set up camp, prepare dinner and we spend the evening relaxing. If we are fortunate, a green/blue light known as bioluminescence, produced by plankton and other sea creatures may be visible in the ocean at night.
Overnight: camping at Arher Beach
DAY 2: WEDNESDAY, Feb. 15
Explore Hoq Cave, sunset at Ras Erissel
This morning's walk is the most strenuous of the trip, and one of the most rewarding. After breakfast we drive to the small village of Terbak, where we begin our hike. Uphill into the mountains for 2.5 hours. Passing through groves of bottle trees and other unique vegetation, with excellent views of the Arabian Sea, we arrive at the mouth of Hoq Cave. The immense cave is full of enormous stalactites and stalagmites, and the cool temperature of the cave will be welcome after the walk in the sun. The views inside the cave, of the cave mouth and the mountain, trees and sea are all dramatically beautiful. We return to Arher for lunch, have some time to swim or relax before setting out in late afternoon for Ras Erissel, the easternmost point of Socotra where the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea meet. We stop at the small fishing village where at this time of day fisherman will be returning from their day at sea, and we can observe them as they bring their boats onshore and purchase fish for our dinner.
Overnight: Camping at Arher Beach.
DAY 3: THURSDAY, Feb. 16
Explore Homhil Nature
After breakfast we drive inland, stopping at Socotra's only museum for short visit, then begin our ascent into the mountains. Small villages and groves of date palms give way to forest of frankincense trees and soon we begin to see the famed dragon blood trees. We stop at a small village and begin our walk down and through the canyon to find the trickle of water in the canyon has expanded to a large pool, often termed a natural infinity pool that looks over the Arabian Sea, miles below. The pool is ideal for swimming with its clear blue water. The hike to the pool takes us through stands of ancient dragon blood trees, and among the many curious bottle trees, often called desert rose with their pink flowers (and botanically known as Adenium obesium). We will have local guide to lead us on this excursion, someone from the village who intimately knows the path and scenery along the path and will point out many items of interest. We may encounter children selling frankincense or dragon blood resin along the way. Both are collected without harm to the trees. In the afternoon we drive to Dihamri Beach. The rocky beach is not ideal for swimming, but the reef offshore is good for snorkeling (snorkeling gear can be rented here). We camp on the beach.
Overnight: Camping at Dihamri Beach.
DAY 4: FRIDAY, Feb. 17
MOMI AND DIKSAM PLATEAU
This morning we drive into the central part of Socotra to reach the Momi Plateau and commence our hike to the Killisan Pools, often described as one of Socotra's hidden wonders. The one hour hike takes us into an arid landscape and we eventually find ourselves deep in the wadi (valley) where we encounter a river and series of large pools, full of crystal blue water, fed by waterfalls and backed by smooth white limestone cliffs. This is one of the most unusual and beautiful places in Socotra where we spend a leisurely couple of hours swimming and enjoying the many pools before returning to the summit for lunch. Afternoon drive to Diksam Plateau in the Hajhir Mountains to set up your camp for the night. If we arrive early enough we can explore the nearby village and gaze upon the forests of dragon blood trees.
Overnight: Camping in Diksam.
DAY 5: SATURDAY, Feb. 18
Explore Diksam Plateau and Firhmin Forest
This morning we drive down into the Dirhur Canyon and into the Firhmin Forest, home to the densest dragon blood tree forest. We spend much of the day hiking and driving to different parts of the canyon. At the bottom of the canyon there are more beautiful freshwater pools to see before we continue our exploration of this remarkable green landscape of forest, unique rock formations and views up to the plateau above. Return to the campsite for lunch and in the afternoon explore another dragon blood tree forest nearby the campsite, and then enjoy sunset from the plateau.
Overnight: Camping in Diksam.
DAY 6: SUNDAY, Feb. 19
Diksam to Detwah
Departing Diksam we drive to the western part of Socotra, passing through Qalansiyah, Socotra's second city. Not far from Qalansiyah is Detwah, yet another beautiful Indian Ocean white sand beach. We will camp here tonight, and have much of the afternoon to swim in the ocean and relax. Late afternoon we drive into Qalansiyah town to see some of what Socotris term their second city (which is not more than a town), and then drive to the hills above town to watch the sunset. As Detwah is popular camping spot others will be here and often a beach party with other visitors and their teams develops at night, the vibe of the Socotra beach party is unforgettable.
Overnight: Camping at Detwah Beach
DAY 7: MONDAY, Feb. 20
Detwah to Hadibo
This morning we take trip by boat to Shu'ab Beach, often termed the most beautiful of all Socotra's beaches (and by some the most beautiful beach they have ever seen). En route to the beach jumping pods of spinner dolphins are often seen. Seabirds are present in great numbers and we pass a remnant of the mangrove forests that were once more common on Socotra. After we relax and swim, we return to Qalansiyah, and then drive to Hadibo to check into Summerlands Hotel. Time permitting (and if open) we will visit a local women's collective where clothes and handicrafts are made (and sold) and the dragon blood tree nursery. Farewell dinner this evening.
Overnight at Summerlands Hotel.
DAY 8: TUESDAY, Feb. 21
Departure to Abu Dhabi
After breakfast we then drive to Socotra Airport for your 12:00 p.m. flight, arriving back in Abu Dhabi at 3:30 p.m.
PRICES & REGISTRATION INFORMATION
(Inclusive of 7 nights in Socotra, tented and hotel accommodations, all meals in Socotra, get acquainted/orientation dinner in Abu Dhabi night before trip, ground transportation on Socotra by private vehicle, Yemen visa, Socotra community and conservation fee, services of Socotra guide, cook, camp assistants and drivers, services of USA-based trip leader.)
$2500. (Based on double occupancy)
$2600. (Based on single occupancy)
NOTE: airfare from Abu Dhabi is by special Air Arabia charter flight cost is $880 round trip.
This journey begins in Abu Dhabi, capital of United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi has easy air connections to many cities around the world. Participants are responsible for arranging their own flights to Abu Dhabi (we are happy to assist). Most nationalities do not require a visa for the United Arab Emirates. It is highly recommended that participants arrive in Abu Dhabi at least 2 days before flight to Socotra to allow for any delays or flight cancellation en route. There is only one flight per week from Abu Dhabi to Socotra. Flight from Socotra to Abu Dhabi arrives late afternoon, again it is recommended that you not book onward flight this same day in the event flight from Socotra to Abu Dhabi is delayed.