Socotra: A natural pearl and hidden treasure

Socotra is an island with great tourism potential; it has 600 rare plants, 730 types of fish, 300 types of crabs, in addition to hundreds of land and marine species that distinguish Socotra as a natural pearl just waiting to be discovered and explored.

Imad al-Daini

Socotra is an island with great tourism potential; it has 600 rare plants, 730 types of fish, 300 types of crabs, in addition to hundreds of land and marine species that distinguish Socotra as a natural pearl just waiting to be discovered and explored.

It was officially announced by the UN as a nature reserve with an allocated budget to protect its species from threats posed by poachers.

The al-Balda Tourism Festival 2010 has decided to promote this natural treasure. The Bait Al-Khibra Foundation, [please check!] the event organizer and the island’s local authority have agreed to coordinate and manage between them Zahra Socotra Night as part of the festival that is to begin mid-July. Socotra (318km southeast of Mukalla) is Yemen’s largest islands with an area of 3,650km2. It has an international airport and its population numbers about 50,000 most of whom work in agriculture, farming, fishing and diving. The island is also famous for its many pearl traps.

The island’s undulating terrain features mountains, hills, valleys and coasts. The highest peak on the island reaches a height of up to 1500m above sea level. Socotra’s climate is tropical where the temperatures in the plains and the coasts is 38 degrees in summer and between 25 and 28 degrees in high mountains with seasonal rains in spring and autumn. During wintertime, the island is subject to storms and strong winds.

Unique, breathtaking terrain

The island is distinguished from other Yemeni islands, and even from other islands around the globe because its rare natural and biological diversity, in addition to its somewhat unique and, moreover, picturesque topographic relief.

At about 1000 B.C. Socotra was known as a major manufacturer of “sacred goods” in older religions that used to be used extremely ritualised. Many of these products were produced in Socotran caves. Many caves and grottos are scattered throughout the island, as well as on its satellite islands.

Surprisingly, most of those caves are inhabited, and the most important and largest of these

caves is Di Jobb in which reside several families.

Socotra’s coasts extend for 300 miles. Their white dunes and dense palm trees makes these coasts an ideal resort for recreation and diving, especially after infrastructure and tourism facilities have been established.

The island’s coastal waters diverse fisheries include turtles and are surrounded by some breathtaking coral reefs and pearls, for which the island has been famous for thousands of years.

What makes the already beautiful island even more charming are its magnificent waterfalls, of which the largest is Danjin waterfall.

Most of the waterfalls flow from the high mountains all around the year.

Coral archipelago, bristling with stunning biodiversity

This is a natural history museum due to its rare diversity, with 253 types of corals, hundreds of fishers species in addition to over 60 recorded fisheries that play a vital role in preserving environmental equilibrium.

According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) World Conservation Monitoring

Centre (WCMC), is one of only ten islands rich in unique biodiversity.

The island’s flora

Socotra has a dense vegetation consisting of about 750 species of flora and fauna, including plants which have traditional medicinal properties, and other rare flora, including plants like frankincense tree. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) the following 7 rare species are found on Socotra island: Dirachma socotrana, Aloe squarrosa, Dendrosicyos socotranus, Taverniera sericophylla, Dorstenia gigas, Begonia socotrana, and Punica protopunica.

The island has, according to botanists, one of the largest concentrations of the 600 rare plants in the world. It is also a habitat of thousands of wild animals like civet cats from which civet, a yellowish, unctuous substance with a strong musklike odor, is extracted, and about 145 species of endemic birds have been recorded, eight of which can be found nowhere else including the Socotra Bunting, Socotra Starling, Socotra Sunbird, Socotra Sparrow, Socotra Warbler, and Socotra Cisticola. Socotran birds can be watched with ease because they seem to have no fear of man on this paradise island, and fly remarkably close to visitors, and are often spotted on trees and near water.

The island also has endemic insects too, including 15 types of butterflies and 60 types of moths, and up to 80% of the island’s reptiles are endemic.

In 2000 Socotra was designated as a natural reserve with 23 subreserves, and for all of which

$10 million was allocated from UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Later in 2008, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee announced officially that Socotra Archipelago had been added to the list of world heritage sites.