Socotra Discoverer

The remote island of Socotra is a gem of the Arabian Sea and one of Yemen’s best kept secrets. From its miles of glorious sparkling coastline to its fascinating flora and fauna, this short tour showcases the best that Socotra has to offer.

From our starting point in the ‘capital’ Hadibo we travel through its rugged landscapes, gorgeous coastlines and lush lagoons in search of the island’s endemic plant and bird life.

We explore dragon’s blood forests with their iconic trees, climb glorious white sand dunes. Here we have opportunities to snorkel in the island’s pristine coral waters amongst the colourful marine life that exists here.

Travelling by boat to the remote beach of Shuaab, we may be fortunate enough to spot dolphins, and of course we take opportunities to meet local people along the way where we can.

Socotra may not have a huge amount of ‘must see’ sights, but more than makes up for this with its spectacular scenery and sense of otherworldliness.

For those who enjoy the thrill of travelling in untamed and virtually unknown destinations, where local traditions haven’t changed for centuries, Socotra should most definitely be on your list.

Sand dunes by the beach on Socotra Island

Highlights

  • Explore the rugged canyons and mountains of Socotra
  • Swim in turquoise blue waters
  • Look for endemic plants and wildlife
  • Remote villages and traditional lifestyles

Day 1 - Cairo - Socotra – Ayhaft Canyon – Delisha

Fly from Cairo to Socotra. Upon your arrival in Socotra, you will be transferred to the hotel in Hadibo to acclimatise and have some lunch. We then head to Ayhaft Canyon National Park where you can swim in the canyon’s fresh water pools, and see a variety of endemic plants birds. Later drive to Delisha beach, with its pristine white sands full of crabs. Relax, swim in the freshwater lagoon or, if you are feeling energetic, climb a huge sand dune for a beautiful view at the top. Overnight Summerland Hotel or similar. (LD)

Socotra Island
At 3,650 sq km Socotra is easily the largest Yemeni island, as well as one of the most inaccessible. Lying 510km southeast of the mainland, close to the ravaged shores of Somalia, the island has developed in near total isolation from the rest of the world. Rumoured to have once been a refuge for dragons, it continues to provide a home for all manner of extraordinary fauna and flora, much of which is found nowhere else. 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. Until the construction of an airport in 2002, the island remained almost as unknown as it did in the days when adventurers came here to do battle with dragons in their search for the secret of eternal life. Today the dragons might be gone, but the trees are said to still bleed for their memory, and the secret of eternal life remains hidden away in a cave somewhere on Socotra.

Day 2 - Dihamri – Homhil

Drive to Dihamri, one of the richest coral reefs of the archipelago and an important marine reserve. Swim and snorkel in Dihamri Bay, where you may be lucky enough to spot parrotfish, moray eel, rays and turtles. In the afternoon, drive to Homhil, home to beautiful deep ravines, frankincense trees and dragon’s blood trees – the resin of which is collected and used by locals. Overnight Summerland Hotel or similar. (BLD)


Day 3 - Hog Cave – Ras Ersel – Arher Beach

Drive to Terbak village and hike up to Hog Cave, with its crystal decorations, subterranean water supplies, underground animals and archaeological findings. In the afternoon, travel to Arher, a meeting point of fresh water from the mountains and salt water from the sea. Arher is home to another magnificent sand dune, which offers a truly spectacular view from the top. Overnight Summerland Hotel or similar. (BLD)


Day 4 - Wadi Defarhu – Zahek Sand Dunes – Omak – Digub Cave

Drive through Defarhu Valley, passing traditional villages, natural water pools, and a variety of birds and desert rose trees. After lunch,venture to the colossal sand dunes of Hayf and Zahek – these impressive dunes are pushed up against the mountainside and offer a stunning view at the top. We then make our way to Omak, where you can swim, sunbathe and relax in the clear Indian Ocean waters. After lunch, we head to Digub cave which overlooks many traditional villages. Here, stalactites, stalagmites and pools of water have seeped into the rock over time. Overnight Summerland Hotel or similar. (BLD)


Day 5 - Dixam Plateau – Shebahon Viewpoint – Wadi Dirhur

Drive to Dixam Plateau, the land of dragon’s blood trees, an iconic symbol of the island. The gorge here drops 700 metres to the valley floor, and we walk along the edge to see the trees. The Shebahon viewpoint also provides a stunning view of the Daerhu canyon and beautiful rock formations. We then continue to Dirhur Valley, with its lush canyon floor and deep wadi. Overnight Summerland Hotel or similar. (BLD)


Day 6 - Wadi Dirhur - Qalansiya – Detwah Lagoon

Today we head to Qalansiya, a small, traditional fishing town, before continuing on to the Detwah Lagoon – a marine protected area renowned for its magical landscape. This area has some of the best views on the island. Overnight Summerland Hotel or similar. (BLD)


Day 7 - Qalansiya - Shuaab

Travel by boat to the remote beach at Shuaab – if we are lucky, Spinner dolphins may accompany us. Explore the mangrove area before heading back to Qalansiya to visit the Detwah lagoon. This marine protected area is truly magical, with beautiful white sands and turquoise waters. Overnight Summerland Hotel or similar. (BLD)


Day 8 - Socotra - Cairo

After an early breakfast, we leave the island behind and fly back to Cairo to connect with your onwards flight. (B)


Please note: This is a pioneering itinerary in a region where tourism is only just starting to re-emerge after the conflict in mainland Yemen of the last few years. You will undoubtedly find elements of the trip a little ‘rough around the edges’, and this is not a trip for those who like rigid plans – instead you should be prepared for a certain amount of flexibility to deal with local conditions. Trips like these aren’t for everyone, but with the right approach, travelling in an almost totally unvisited destination is an incredibly exciting experience.

We also do not recommend booking your flights to Cairo until around three months before departure. The flight from Cairo to Socotra is currently scheduled just once a week, and can sometimes be rescheduled to a different day. If this happens then we would need to change the start date of this tour to coincide with the weekly flight.

Dragon's blood tree on Socotra Island tour
Dragon's blood trees on Socotra Island tour
Beach scenery on Socotra tour
Coastal scenery on Socotra tour
Mountain scenery on Socotra tour

What's included?

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

  • Guides

    You will be accompanied by an English speaking guide.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

  • Flights

    From Cairo to Socotra return. Please note that these flights currently make a stop in Seyun, in mainland Yemen, but you do not leave the aircraft.

  • Visa

    Due to the difficulty of obtaining a Yemen visa in your home country, we have included these and will arrange them for you.

What's not included?

  • International flights

    This refers to those flights from your home destination to Cairo, and vice versa. Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.

Visas

All travellers will require a visa to enter Yemen. However at the moment few embassies issue visas. We obtain the visa for you, and to facilitate this you need to send us a scanned colour copy of your passport. We then send you the scanned visa approval which you must print and take with you when you travel. Then, when you arrive, the physical visa is issued in your passport. Entry to Yemen will not be allowed if you have evidence in your passport of a trip to Israel, even if you have a visa for Yemen. This includes not just Israeli border stamps but stamps issued by the Egyptian and Jordanian authorities at borders with Israel. Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information. 

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk. 

Insurance

It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company

Money

The local currency in Yemen is the Yemeni riyal. It is best to bring US dollars for exchange purposes and these should have an issue date of 2006 or later, otherwise you may find it difficult to exchange them.

It’s not difficult to change money in Yemen, either at banks or the hotels and your guide can assist with this. However on Socotra it is more challenging – you need to either change money at Sana’a airport or in Hadiboo when you arrive. Yemen is very much a cash society – credit cards are not widely accepted, and there are few ATMs

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

Please be aware that Socotra only really started to receive tourists from around 2006, and even now numbers are very small. This means that most Socotris are not particularly used to tourism, and while not unfriendly, can be rather reserved. Generally speaking, local people don’t appreciate the sort of casual exploration of their villages that is common in many parts of Africa, for example – your guide and driver, being sensitive to this, won’t generally promote village visits.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO advises against travel to all parts of Yemen, including Socotra.

Should you have any concerns over safety please do not hesitate to contact us and we can address your concerns. Socotra is isolated from mainland Yemen by several hundred kilometres of sea and does not experience the same problems although is usually not differentiated (rather unfairly, in our eyes) by government advisories. Socotra is a rural society that is quite different from the mainland in terms of social issues. We work very closely with our local team and are fully confident that we can operate tours safely in Socotra.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Dragon's blood tree on Socotra Island tour
Dragon's blood trees on Socotra Island tour
Beach scenery on Socotra tour
Coastal scenery on Socotra tour
Mountain scenery on Socotra tour
Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
10 February 2021
Price (PP) -
£3,599
Single Supplement -
£85
Trip Status -
Guaranteed
Date -
20 October 2021
Price (PP) -
£3,599
Single Supplement -
£85
Trip Status -
Guaranteed
Date -
09 February 2022
Price (PP) -
£3,649
Single Supplement -
£85
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
19 October 2022
Price (PP) -
£3,649
Single Supplement -
£85
Trip Status -
Available