Socotra Yemen: An Island Like No Other

Socotra Yemen: An Island Like No Other

Socotra, an island of 50,000 people measuring 82 x 31 miles, is in the Arabian Sea and is part of the country of Yemen.

Socotra Yemen in History

In 52 AD, a shipwreck brought Thomas the Apostle to Socotra. He constructed a church out of his ship’s wreckage and baptized many Socotrans. The population of the island remained Christian until the 1500s.

The Travels of Marco Polo, written in the 13th century, mentions Socotra, stating that “the inhabitants are baptized Christians and have an ‘archbishop'” who, it is further explained, “has nothing to do with the Pope in Rome, but is subject to an archbishop who lives at Baghdad.”

According to The Arabian Nights, Sinbad the Sailor visited the island on his fifth voyage. Unfortunately for him, a pair of huge birds of prey dropped boulders on his ship and destroyed it.


The island is one of the most isolated land forms on earth that did not result from volcanic eruptions. As a result, roughly one-third of the plant life on Socatra is unique to the island. That’s nearly 700 species of plants that are unique to Socotra. One of them is the Dragon’s Blood Tree:

Socotra Dragonblood Tree

Shaped like an umbrella, this tree has red sap called dragon’s blood because of its appearance.  The sap aided in dying fabrics, and today is used as paint and varnish.  The people who live on the island also use the tree sap for medicinal purposes such as general wound healing, as a coagulant, cure for diarrhea, for dysentery diseases, and for lowering fevers.

Another unique plant on Socotra is the cucumber tree:

socotra cucumber tree.jpg

In times of severe drought, islanders cut down these trees, pulp them and feed them to their livestock. Unfortunately, that means that there are some areas of the island almost completely devoid of the trees.


Socotra is just as unique in terms of its wildlife.  The island is home to at least seven unique bird species. In addition, nearly 90% of Socotran reptiles are only found there.  Because of these characteristics in its flora and fauna, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named the island a world natural heritage site in July 2008.


The physical characteristics of the island are just as interesting as its plants and wildlife. There are several caves, with enormous stalagmites and stalactites.  This is Halah Cave:

halah Cave

The bright light near the center of the photo is from a man holding a flashlight.  That should give you an idea of how big the cave is.

And the beaches are just beautiful:

Socotra Coastline.jpg

So, if you’re looking for a getaway that’s a little unique and mostly unheard of, consider going to Socatra.  You will see things most people don’t even know about!

For more information about Socatra and how to travel there, visit the Socotra Information web site.


2 Replies to “Socotra Yemen: An Island Like No Other”

  1. I love the dragons blood tree with its beautiful shape. It looks as if it has been carefully trimmed to that shape instead of being its natural form. However, I think the cucumber tree is equally unattractive. Do you know what kind of tree is shown in the photo of the beach?

    1. It is called a desert rose and also a bottle tree. The trunk is big because it stores water there. When it blooms, it has lovely pink flowers.

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