THE ISLAND OF SOCOTRA
2-16 APRIL, 2024
with Jeremy Woodhouse & Luka Esenko
(15 days/14 nights)
The secret of eternal life shouldn’t be something that’s easy to stumble across and by cleverly hiding it out on Socotra the gods have certainly taken that thought to heart. At 3650 sq km Socotra is easily the largest Yemeni island and traditionally one of the most inaccessible. Lying 510km southeast of the mainland, the island has developed in near total isolation from the rest of the world. Rumoured to have once been a refuge for dragons and the Phoenix, it continues to provide a refuge for all manner of extraordinary fauna and flora, much of which is found nowhere else.
“THE GALAPAGOS OF INDIAN OCEAN”
Because of the number of its endemic plants and creatures, it’s been described as the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean’. While this is a little optimistic, there is no denying that Socotra is a unique and otherworldly island. It’s the kind of place where people speak a language unknown to anyone else, where the knowledge of how to make fire by rubbing sticks together is still common and where the elderly recall days when money didn’t exist. – Lonely Planet
This itinerary is an indication of what we will do. It is very flexible and we may change things. Since there are only flights to and from Socotra every Tuesday, our tour will be 15 days long.
Pre-tour: Mon, 1 Apr, 2024—Fly from USA to Dubai
On arrival in Dubai we will be required to have a PCR test the results of which should be available no more that 12 hours later. Only then will we be able to transfer to Abu Dhabi to catch our Monday morning flight to Socotra. More information will be available once you are signed up for the tour.
Day 1: Tue, 2 Apr, 2024—Dubai | Hadiboh | Delisha Beach
Air Arabia 476 10:00 am: Depart Abu Dhabi for Socotra; 11:30 am: Arrive in Socotra
We will pick you up at the airport and transport you to your hotel in Hadiboh. In the afternoon, we will visit Delisha Beach with pristine white sands and its resident army of crabs. Relax while swimming in the sea and in the freshwater lagoon. If you are full of energy you can climb a huge sand dune overlooking the beach.
With around 7,000-10,000 inhabitants and backed by the Hajhir (Haggier) Mountains, Hadibo is the largest town on Socotra and is one of the only places on the island that enjoys such conveniences like hot running water, flushable toilets, stable electricity, cell phone signal, and the occasional slow wifi. Socotra’s only hotels are in the city (the best being the Summerlands Hotel $75-$140 a night), as is most of the commerce.
Delisha the closest sandy beach to the capital city of Socotra, Hadibo. It’s in about half an hour drive along the relatively good paved road.
Overnight in Summerlands hotel
Day 2: Wed, 3 Apr, 2024— Qalansyia | Detwah Lagoon
Today we will drive to the western part of the island to the little fishing town of Qalansyia. It consists of traditional Socotri houses, narrow alleyways, and a long beach full of fishing boats. We will continue to nearby Detwah Lagoon which is a marine protected area renowned for its magical landscape. This is surely one of the best views on the island!
Socotra’s “second city” is home to narrow streets and a popular fishing port with colourful boats and friendly locals.
a stunning bright white sandy tongue stretches out from behind Qalansyia into the turquoise Arabian Sea, while a blue lagoon forms behind it, making Detwah one of the most beautiful parts of Socotra. Excellent for swimming as well as exploring marine life in the lagoon.
Dinner and night in an eco-camp in Detwah.
Day 3: Thu, 4 Apr, 2024—Golden Sands of Shu'ab and Dolphins
After breakfast in Detwah, we will take a boat trip to Shu’ab Beach. We will probably meet some Spinner Dolphins along the way and we will see flocks of cormorants flying by. We will have a lunch at Shu’ab beach and spend the afternoon exploring the area before heading back to Detwah
This remote part of Socotra’s west coast is only accessible by boat or by hiking. Shu’ab Beach is a beautiful white sand beach, and nearby there are plenty of amazing reefs to explore the marine life— large pods of spinner dolphins may be found here as well.
Overnight in Detwah Lagoon
Day 4: Fri, 5 Apr, 2024—Dixam Plateau and Firmhin
After breakfast, we will make our way by 4x4 vehicle to Dixam Plateau. This area is known as a great spot to see the native Dragon Blood trees, the resin of which is collected, used and traded by the people of Socotra. The area is also home to the endemic and rare Socotra Bunting (estimated at 1,000 pairs). We will hike down the Durhur Canyon to the wadi in the canyon for lunch—you may swim in the freshwater pools at the Wadi.
In the afternoon we will hike to Firmhin, the largest forest of dragon blood trees in the world, where we will meet a local couple at their Bedouin-style house. They will show us how they use the resin from the dragon’s blood trees.
this stunning plateau is located near the geographic centre of Socotra and is home to Dragon’s Blood Trees, local bedouins, a Dragon’s Blood Tree nursery, and stunning views into the Durhur Canyon.
This canyon near Diksam is surrounded by walls 700 metres high and boasts a unique ecosystem
This forest just on the opposite side of the canyon from Diksam has the highest concentration of Dragon’s Blood Trees on the entire island.
Dinner and overnight at Dixam home stay
Day 5: Sat, 6 Apr, 2024—Skand Mountain Hike (about 900m elevation)
Today we will make a trek with a local guide to Skand Mountain. This will take approximately 6 hours. From the summit of the mountain you will have views of the sea on both the north and south coasts of the island. There are more that 150 endemic plants in the region and we will be walking by some unusual and beautiful rock formations.
The Hajhir Mountains and Skand Mountain
Located in the center of the island, the Hajhir Mountains are a spectacular range of sharp peaks, the tallest of which is Skand. The scenery is dramatic, and the upper elevations are lush and green. During our hike we will be passing by dragon's blood trees, bottle, and cucumber trees, and we will have a chance to meet locals who live there.
Dinner and Overnight Homestay at Dixam
Day 6 & 7: Sun, 7 Apr, 2024 - Mon, 8 Apr, 2024—Dejuob Dave | Aomak Campsite | Salt Collection | Zahek Sand Dunes
After breakfast we travel to the south of the island with visits to villages along the way. Our first destination is Aomak Beach where we can swim in the clear waters of the Indian Ocean. For lunch we will go to Dagub Cave, which overlooks a scattering of traditional villages below. The cave itself is of interest as there are many stalactites, stalagmites and pools of water that has seeped through the rock over time.
In the afternoon we will visit a local salt production facility where women dig holes to collect sea water for the purpose of evaporation to retrieve the salt for cooking.
The next day we will then witness the colossal sand dunes of Hayf and Zahek which have been pushed up against the mountainside by the seasonal winds of Socotra. If you are feeling especially fit, you can climb the dunes for a view that is truly worth the effort. if you are interested in riding a camel on the sand dunes we will arrange it through our guide. Enjoy spectacular sunset and sunrise from the beach.
Hayf and Zahek Sand Dunes
Where a sea of low lying sand dunes meets the sea, this incredible dune formation in southern Socotra is one of the most intriguing to explore at sunset.
Dinner and Overnight Camp at Aomak beach
Day 8: Tue, 9 Apr, 2024—Ayhaft Canyon
Today we will take a trip to Ayhaft Canyon National Park. In the canyon (wadi), you will enjoy large fresh water pools where you can swim or soak. You will be surrounded by tamarind trees, cucumber trees and a wide variety of birds such as Socotra Sparrow, Socotra Sunbird and both Socotra and Somali Starlings. In fact, Ayhaft is considered by many to be a natural nursery due to its large abundance of endemic trees, plants and birds.
Dinner and Overnight in Delisha Eco-campsite.
Day 9: Wed, 10 Apr, 2024—Dihamri Marine Protected Area
After breakfast we will drive to nearby Dihamri Marine Protected Area. It boasts one of the richest coral reefs on the archipelago. You can relax on the beach in palm leaf huts and swim and snorkel in Dihamri Bay. Snorkeling gear can be hired there. Marine species you will see underwater include: Parrotfish, Moray eel, Rays, Sea urchins, if you are lucky you will meet turtles. Certified divers can also use the services of Dihamri Diving center and go for a dive in Dihamri or other superb diving spots on Socotra.
Dinner and over night in an eco-camp in Dihamri.
Day 10: Thu, 11 Apr, 2024—Qaria Lagoon | Homhil Protected Area
Today’s destination is Homhil, a protected area with gorgeous landscapes. En-route we will stop at Qaria Lagoon. It is the largest lagoon on the island and we will hopefully see a variety of waterbirds, including flamingos, herons and greenshanks.
The trek to Homhil starts at the bottom of a spectacular ravine at sea level. The trek is of medium difficulty and shouldn’t take more than 1.5 hours. From the summit you will have expansive views. Once at Homhil you will most certainly be accosted by local children who will want to sell you dragon blood resin and frankincense. Our trail leads to a viewpoint where there is a natural infinity pool for swimming.
Homhil Protected Area
Home to probably the second densest population of Dragon’s Blood Trees in Socotra, this valley is full of a diversity of plant life
Dinner and night in Roush Beach
Day 11: Fri, 12 Apr, 2024—Hoq Cave | Rosh Marine Protected Area
This morning, we will make an early start to drive to the base of Hoq cave in Terbak village. Before the sun gets too hot, we will walk up to the entrance of the Cave. It is more than 3km long with a water pool at the end and it holds a wealth of Socotri history. Inside, you will see ancient stalactites, stalagmites and crystalline formations. Ancient writings on the cave walls, and also what appears to be a picture of an old trading ship, have been preserved over the ages by a calcite “glaze”. There is also evidence to suggest that the cave was once used for ritual purposes due to the presence of mysterious “alters”.
Overnight in Arher beach.
Day12: Sat 13 Apr, 2024—Arher Beach
After breakfast we will trek to the North-East of the island and will have our lunch in a small cave. The rest of the day we will spend at Arher Beach where a fresh creek, emerging from granite cliffs, meets the sea water on the beach. If you feel fit, you can climb a huge sand dune to get a fantastic view over the expansive coastal landscape.
A stunning white sand beach where massive sand dunes have formed against the granite cliffs above the shoreline
Dinner and overnight in Arher Beach
Day13: Sun, 14 Apr, 2024—Ras Irisseyl
Drive to Ras Irisseyl, the final beach on the northeast coast of Socotra. There you will visit a fishing village where you may see the fishermen repairing their nets or bringing in their boats. You will also see a skeleton of whale which brought by waves from Indian Ocean.
The easternmost point of Socotra, where the Indian Ocean meets the Arabian Sea and home to a quaint fishing village.
Dinner and overnight in Arher
Day 14: Mon, 15 Apr, 2024—Daburk | Kalisan | Momi Plateau
Today we drive to the eastern Plateau of Momi. At Daburk we will photograph an impressive waterfall and you will be able to swim in the pool. Next we drive to the Kalisan down to a wadi where we will meet a hermit who lives in a nearby cave. He will demonstrate how he calls his goats and he will show us how he milks them. Finally, we will drive to end of the Momi plateau for sunset views over the sea.
Located in the remote southeast corner of Socotra, and surrounded by rolling hills and mountains, many of which also have Dragons Blood Trees, Kalisan is an incredible water wadi made up of numerous fresh water swimming pools, waterfalls and rock formations.
Located just above Homhil, this stunning plateau is home to Frankincense trees, cucumber trees, and bottle trees.
Dinner and overnight in Summerland hotel.
Day 15: Tue, 16 Apr, 2024—Departure from Socotra | Abu Dhabi
After an early breakfast, we drive to visit a botanical garden where they are raising endemic plants to replace those that have been threatened by human encroachment. Afterwards you will have the opportunity to do some shopping in Hadiboh to buy local honey or souvenirs. We then transfer to Socotra airport for our flight back to Abu Dhabi.
Air Arabia Flight 477 1:00 pm: Depart Socotra for Abu Dhabi; 4:00 pm: Arrive Abu Dhabi
END OF TOUR
Dragon's Blood Trees
Dragon's Blood Trees and Bottle Trees
Average Weather in March at Socotra Yemen
- The average minimum temperature (usually the minimum temperature is noted during the night) in Socotra in March is 23.4°C (74.12°F).
- March is a dry month with an average of 11mm (0.4in) rain. It rains on average a total of 0 days. The average maximum daytime temperature lies around 29.0°C (84.2°F).
January marks the beginning of the long dry season. Fall monsoon rains generally tapper off at the beginning of the month, leaving a lush, green landscape throughout the island. Many of the flowers bloom towards the middle and end of the month.
Phone & Internet
There is a slow 3G mobile network available on Socotra and many major international phone service providers can connect to the local network. SIM cards are not available for foreigners to purchase on Socotra.
There is virtually no internet on the island so you'll have to wait till you get back to Dubai before you can share you stunning images with the world. You might be able to check email and use messaging services on the Socotra 3G network when you have signal (available around most of the major towns). The Summerlands Hotel has wifi. It’s slow, but it works.
Money, Exchange and ATMs
For all personal expenses, bring USD cash to the island—once you arrive in Hadibo you can change it on the black market.
There are no ATMs on the island and credit cards are not accepted anywhere, so you must carry cash.
A Yemeni visa is required for most nationalities wishing to visit Socotra. In order to obtain a visa for Socotra as a tourist, you will need to send me a good scanned copy of your passport (no iPhone shots) which I will then forward to our tour operator in Socotra. The visa will be issued through the Yemeni Ministry of the Interior’s Immigration Department in Socotra.
Boycott of Israel
Yemen is one of several Arab League countries that takes part in the boycott of travel to Israel. If you have any Israeli visas, passport stamps, arrival/departure cards, or Egyptian or Jordanian stamps issued on a border with Israel, you may be deported from Yemen.
If you have any evidence of travel to Israel you will have to either get a new passport of try to get a duplicate passport. US, UK and EU citizens may apply for this service.
1 SPOT OPEN $7,500
SINGLE: NOT APPLICABLE
Maximum Group: 9
Since the original tour sold out so quickly, we have added this second set of dates which immediately follows the first tour. The timing is still excellent as the island should be in full bloom.
We advise you to be reasonably fit as we will be hiking outdoors every day photographing landscapes.
Tour Price Includes
- Round trip tickets to/from Socotra
- Yemen/Socotri Visa
- Hotel accommodation
- Camping gear
- 4x4 vehicles and drivers for the whole tour
- English local guide, well trained and experienced guide all the tour
- Food ( Breakfast Lunch Dinner) all the tour
- Local guide for trekking in mountain areas
- Sufficient supply of water and soft drinks all the tour
- Protected areas entry fees
- Boat ride to Shu'ab beach
- Transfers from/to Socotra Airport
Tour Price Excludes
- Covid-19 test
- Meals not mentioned in itinerary
- Tips for drivers and guides
In Socotra, hotels are not available at most places and we will be camping at well maintained campsites. All camping gear (tents, cooking supplies, mattresses, etc,) will be provided and is included in the tour fee.
We advise you to be reasonably fit as we will be hiking outdoors every day photographing landscapes
Electricity is rare commodity in Socotra. We will not have it available every day so bring enough memory cards and camera batteries for at least couple of days. We are assured that there will be a generator at our disposal. You will also be able to charge devices in the vehicles
Camping gear will be provided, but we recommend that you bring your own sleeping bag. Make sure it’s light enough as temperatures on Socotra will be warm.
There is virtually no internet on the island so you’ll have to wait till you get back to Dubai before you can share you stunning images with the world. You might be able to check email and use messaging services on the Socotra 3G network when you have signal (available around most of the major towns). The Summerlands Hotel has wifi. It’s slow, but it works.
We recommend to book at least one night in Abu Dhabi both before and after Socotra photography tour. Abu Dhabi is an excellent photography destination and easy to explore on your own. Let us know if you would like to extend as a guided trip – if enough interest we will organise some amazing photography at Abu Dhabi’s top locations.