Pour le Mérite
Socotra – The Yang Of Yemen
Mar 12, 2023,13:30 PM
Some may remember me, as it was only three years ago where I went
to the south of Iraq. It was a blast and I haven't been anywhere since.
The world stopped shortly after and travelling became quite difficult.
Some 18 months later I was about to travel Pakistan but cancelled it
just shy of a week before. I was afraid I would miss out on some
subjects of my studies...
months later, here we are. I left my countries soil and went onto
exploring Socotra, an island located between Yemen and Somalia. Some now
might think I'm crazy but this little untouched island is one of the
friendliest and happiest places on earth. Although the island is
welcoming tourists since 2004, it was closed from 2014 until 2019
following the Yemeni civil war.
As part of the
Souther Transitional Council, Socotra is backed and protected by the UAE
and partly Saudi Arabia. During the period from October to May there
is a flight from Abu Dhabi once a week. Locals that need medical
treatment can fly for free as their seats are subsidised by tourists.
For the first time ever, there were two flights a week from Abu Dhabi,
which means there were approximately 250-350 tourists on the islanda and
even though there is barely any infrastructure, let alone for tourism,
it was well organized. I have seen like 20-30 tourists at most and were
seen mainly at the campsites.
Approaching our first campsite.
Massive sand dunes were our company for the first two nights. With ours being 230 m high I actually made the effort to reach the top. It took me 30 minutes to get up and 2 minutes to get down, lol.
Our kitchen crew. Everything was made freshly and tasty with a great variety of rice, bread, sweets, fish, chicken and lamb.
Our daily guest, an egyptian vulture.
A natural spring which stems from the mountains.
Even knowing it's quicksand, the kid inside me had to tap it but I didn't anticipate dropping knee deep into it... Attention, please!
A local village in the Hala reagion.
Hoq Cave located in Hala, at 550 m a.s.l. with an entrance spanning 50 m x 15 m (w x h) and a depth of approximately 2 km, it is the biggest cave in the middle east.
A decent view from the entrance.
Inside you'll find impressive speleothems.
Around 1 km into the cave our adventure ended. Humidity went up by a lot and oxygen become as rare as natural light.
Irsal, the most eastern part on the island and where the Arabian sea and the Indian ocean meet.
The ground is made of porcupine puffers as in 2015 a hurricane brought rage and destruction to the island.
The clarity of the water allows to spot some shiny fish and sea cucumbers.
And also some sea urchins.
Dihamri, a protected area with red corals, green slime and beautiful sea life.
These jellyfish made snorkling quite unpleasant. There were loads of it.
A heart shaped coral spotted in the sand.
Streets are mainly subject to the more costal regions of the island. To reach the middle of the island you have to drive through wadis.
Finally arrived at the Homhil plateu. Our camp and a small village on the right.
A frankincense tree.
Its resin is used for incense.
Bottle trees don't seem to care. They grow were they want to grow.
On our short hike to the infinty pool, we finally spotted the landmark – the dragon blood tree – of the island up close... and a cow proctecting its habit.
The inside of the branches are rather fibrous.
The crimson sap is where its name comes from. Locals extract the "dragon blood" with either knife or a stone.
The resin is then sold as powder or crushed stones. It's used against diarrhea or for make-up.
The infinty pool, a natural basin which allows for a spectacular ocean view. Unfortunately it wasn't fully filled but still deep enough to swim in comfortably.
Amongst many endemic plants, the cucumber tree is the one that stood out the most. It's pretty rare and you can actually eat the cucumbers.
On our way to Dicksam plateu (750 m a.s.l.) we would drive trough the Firmhin forrest, a forrest with dragon blood trees everywhere.
Nights were always pleasant. Stars, falling stars and planets.
Finally being under civilisation again, kids, especially the girls were super curious and happy to see tourists. Despite their religous destiny, some were happy to pose.
Sweets are literally a disease here.
A local pharmacy in Qalansiyah.
Families enjoy the sunset at habor of Qalansiyah.
I did too, just higher up and a tremendous overview of the Detwah lagoon. Our camp is located on the right.
At the next morning last preperations were made for a boat trip that eventually becomes one that people can talk about years later...
One word. Cynical.
The calm before the storm.
Finally arrived in Shoab. A beach as beautiful and empty as everyone dreams.
Porcupine puffer spotted.
On our way back we had to fight against 3 to 4 meter waves, which made it impossible to take any pictures. I could barely see anything myself, with all the salty water splashing into my eyes and not being able to wash it off as I had to maintain a tight grip on the boat.
In Hadiboh, the biggest city of the island, you'll encounter massive amounts of trash.
A football match. Only men are allowed.
Suddenly the match wasn't exiciting anymore...
Potatoes, onions, khat and some bottles of gas. Just the usual stuff for daily needs.
A vegtable garden. Strong peppermint on the bottom left.
Local kids playing football.
They make some delicous bread at a local restaurant in Hadiboh.
An oddity amongst many but a strange one. Soviet T-34 tanks, deployed back in the cold war.
The Kalysan canyon.
A goat proudly representing South Yemen.
A dromedary. Basically all animals are imported although they all roam freely.
The island is rich of fauna. The soctra starling and a blue and a red odonata.
A gas station. Haven't seen many but that is probably why they sell it in bottles.
Time to say goodbye!