This is not a completely uninhabited wilderness. Despite the wildness of the islands, there are about 44,000 people living here, mostly in the main town of Hadibu. The population is Muslim and speaks an ancient language that is unique to these islands.
I’m a bit unclear as to the current political situation on the island itself. All trip reports indicate that the people of Socotra are welcoming and there have been no security concerns at all. However, other sources have indicated that the population of Socotra is not pleased by the limitations on development that have been put in place to preserve the island. There has also been more general discontent with the actions of the government of Yemen toward the islanders over the years. This discontent is broad-based, including the woeful economic condition on the islands as well as the required use of Arabic (instead of the local language) in the school.
To date, Socotra has been developed as an eco-tourism destination, although it also attracts budget-minded beach tourists from Europe who come strictly for its pristine beaches. Most visitors come to hike, dive, and camp, eager to explore the diversity of the island. There are no luxury resorts here – no resorts at all – just a few primitive eco-lodges and campsites. I’m generally not big on camping, but there are places where camping is the way to go. Socotra seems like one of those places.
It is now possible to travel to Socotra from Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. This means is it possible to travel to the island without transferring through mainland Yemen (a fascinating country that has become very dangerous for western tourists).
This is not a sailing destination, as it is well within range of Somali pirates.
The Socotra Governance and Biodiversity Project is, in essence, the successor organization of the Socotra Conservation and Development Programme. Most articles on Socotra have (dead) links to the previous program.
Sites with good general travel information (as well as tour company contacts):
- Conde Nast Traveler from 2010
- New York Times from 2007
- National Geographic Traveler 2012
- Viajerong Pinoy’s blog entries 2009
Public Radio International has a beautiful video on the island and the threats it faces.
Have you been to Socotra or thought about traveling there? I'd like to hear about your experience!
The Travel Dream List