The Ancient Arabian Island of Socotra

Collection with 22 media items created by Serene Yordi

Yemen 01 Nov 2012 22:00

Photos by Juan Herrero

Socotra, an island 250 miles off the coast of Yemen, is one of a kind. This ancient land mass is home to more than a thousand plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth, numbers rivaled only by the Galapagos Islands and Hawaii.

Dragon blood trees, rare birds and fish live among the equally ancient inhabitants of Socotra. The people are considered to be a mixture of African, Greek, Portuguese and Arab, and speak an archaic, unwritten language, which was spoken in pre-Islamic Arabia for many centuries. 

Though the Socotran lifestyle has been very traditional, sustainable and virtually self-sufficient, the island has become more traveler-friendly, promoting eco-tourism that preserves the unusual environment. 

Socotra Yemen Island Gulf Of Aden Arabian Sea Yemenis Tourism Nature Fishing Fishermen White Sands Sea Mountains Haghier Moun... Dixam Plateau

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Arabian Jurassic Park (12 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
01 Nov 2012

Along the deserted north-eastern coastline, the massive dunes of Arher's steep cliffs facing the Aden sea. Crossing between the dunes are fresh water streams that originate in the mountains above, making the landscape even more surreal.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (14 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
01 Nov 2012

Landscape in Skand, the Haghier mountains. Studies have shown that the presence of fog in the highlands is crucial for Socotra's vegetation, as it represents up to 77% of total moisture received. Species like the Dragon Blood tree use their upraised branches to capture the mist. Socotra’s climate has been crucial in the evolution of its flora and fauna, leading to its outstanding biodiversity.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (5 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
01 Nov 2012

Trekking along the range that separates Dirhur and Durhur valleys to the south of the Haigher Mountains. Since a new airport was built in 2002, interest in this remote paradise has grown enormously. Though, even at its height prior to the Arab Spring, only 4,000 or so people visit. The area is attractive for committed travelers interested in ecotourism in exotic places. Nevertheless the traditional ways that have endured for centuries, which have been the keepers of Socotra's outstanding biodiversity, may be irreversibly damaged if the mass tourism and speculation takes over the place.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (4 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
01 Nov 2012

Dragon Blood tree forest facing Dirhur river valley. The Dragon Blood tree is a Socotran icon and one of the most striking plants of the island. This strange-looking tree is one of its countless endemic species. The Dragon's blood’s red sap has been used as medicine and dye for hundreds of years. Experts say the future of the species is threatened due mainly to the climate change and to a series of problems that have lead to poor reproduction of the tree.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (21 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
07 Nov 2012

The hypnotic white sands of Aomak stretch for miles along Socotra's southern coast, creating surreal contrasts with dunes plunging into the azure blue ocean. The winds constantly reshape the contours of the sand, making each view unique. Walking along the wild shore, bones of big marine mammals and tortoises can be found stranded in the sand.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (2 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
02 Nov 2012

Man drinking fermented milk in his hut. Diksam, the Haguier mountains.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (13 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
06 Nov 2012

A fisherman from Matief, an isolated village on the south coast, carries his family all the way to visit relatives in Ras Irsel, at the easternmost point of the island. Along the uninhabited stretch of coast, the beautifully carved cliffs drop off into the waters giving home to a wide variety of sea birds, like cormorants and brown boobys.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (3 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
01 Nov 2012

A house in a little village located halfway between the Dragon Blood forest in Firmihin and the southern coast. The family invited us in for rice, fermented milk, tea and a break from harsh midday heat. Most of the Socotrans who live in such inaccessible areas don't have electricity or running water.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (23 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
07 Nov 2012

Kids from a village on the southern slope of the Haghier mountains. The children of Socotra hold the future of the unique land in their hands.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (10 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
01 Nov 2012

Underwater view in the Dihamari protected area, located on the northeast coast of the island. Some species of rare fish, like the Acropora palifera and Rhincodon, are only found on Socotra.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (16 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
07 Nov 2012

Sunset view from Skand peak in the Haghier mountains. The remains of an old Dragon Blood tree silhouettes against the dusk. The Dragon Blood tree is a Socotran icon and one of the most striking plants of the island. This strange-looking tree is one of its countless endemic species. The Dragon's blood’s red sap has been used as medicine and dye for hundreds of years. Experts say the future of the species is threatened due mainly to the climate change and to a series of problems that have lead to poor reproduction of the tree.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (9 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
09 Nov 2012

The characteristic socotran greeting is one more feature of the island people's uniqueness. The inhabitants of Socotra are different from the mainland population, they are considered to be a mixture of African, Greek, Portuguese and Arab. They speak an ancient, unwritten language, which was spoken in pre-Islamic Arabia for many centuries. The Socotran lifestyle has been very traditional, sustainable and virtually self-sufficient for all primary needs throughout their story, given the limited contact with the outside world.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (1 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
02 Nov 2012

In Skand area, the Socotra's highest peak (1525 m) is to be found among a series of micro-climates which have developed many different kinds of atmospheres, from humid rainforests in the high lands of the Haghier mountains to the open savannah-like prairies which lead the way through mysterious valleys to the crisp blue ocean. The young sharp mountains of Skand form a massif of vertical cliffs where Dragon Blood trees and a variety of endemic plants grow in impossible ways. Small ruins of ancient constructions dot the landscape.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (17 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
13 Nov 2012

Walking through the Haghier Mountains, a butterfly decided to take a rest on my boot. The Glass-Tip Acraea (Acraea neobule socotrana) is easily distinguished from all other species by the transparent wingends. Socotra is home to more than a thousand plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth. Nevertheless, the effects of climate change and the increasing impact of the human beings are threatening this delicate ecosystem.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (15 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
07 Nov 2012

Nestled high on a plateau between the Haghier mountain range and the Arabian Sea, five Socotrans gather in a stone hut devoid of electricity, running water and all but the most essential supplies. After a fire-cooked dinner of goat, rice, and tea, the men of the Dixam plateau settle in for a standard night of song, poetry and discussion about their island’s future.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (11 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
07 Nov 2012

Fishermen handling the shark they captured in Ras Irsel, the deserted easternmost point of the island. Fishing from small boats has been traditionally the primary occupations of the people of Socotra along the coasts. The waters of the island are crammed with all kinds of fish and some rare species, like the Acropora palifera and Rhincodon, only found on Socotra.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (20 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
05 Nov 2012

Underwater view in the Dihamri protected area, located on the northeast coast of the island. Some species of rare fish, like the Acropora palifera and Rhincodon, are only found on Socotra.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (24 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
06 Nov 2012

Descending from the humid rainforests of the Haghier mountains, still far from the southern coast, sky and land open in a hotter savannah-like landscape with small stone villages scattered throughout. In most cases these consist of a few clustered houses shared by extended families. Two men from the mountain villages lead our way to a house, where we share a meal of goat and rice, as well as find shelter from the cold night.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (8 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
01 Nov 2012

Landscape in Skand, the Haghier mountains. Studies have shown that the presence of fog in the highlands is crucial for Socotra's vegetation, as it represents up to 77% of total moisture received. Species like the Dragon Blood tree use their upraised branches to capture the mist. Socotra’s climate has been crucial in the evolution of its flora and fauna, leading to its outstanding biodiversity.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (18 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
31 Oct 2012

Humid forest area high in the Haghier mountain range. Studies have revealed that the importance of fog present in the highlands is crucial for Socotra's vegetation as it can be as high as 77% of total moisture received. Species like the Dragon Blood tree use their upraised branches to capture fog water. Socotra’s climate has been crucial in the evolution of its flora and fauna, leading to its outstanding biodiversity.

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Arabian Jurassic Park (7 of 24)
Socotra, Yemen
By dustweare
01 Nov 2012

View from Dirhur valley. The omnipresent Dragon Blood tree is Socotra's icon, one of the most striking plants of the island. This strange-looking tree is one of its countless endemic species. The ancients thought its characteristically red sap was dragon's blood, and used it as a medicine and dye for hundreds of years. Experts have stated that the future of the species is threatened due to its poor reproduction under the climate change conditions.