25 November, 2010

Socotra: The Greatest Natural Wonder in the Middle East

No other place in the Arab world or in the Middle East offers such stunning, fascinating natural wonders as what Socotra has. No where else owns this except the wonderful Archipelagao: over 800 of its plant species of which 37 percent can only be found only on the Island. Ninety percent of its reptile species are so unique and can be found nowhere else on Earth. Its marine life is pure magic and so diverse, that it is home to over 250 species of reef-building corals, over 700 species of coastal fish and about 300 species of crab, lobster and shrimp. And it is very relieving knowing that one of the Eight Greatest Natural Wonders of the world, has 75% of its land area set aside as natural sanctuaries and national parks. As Tim Badman - World Heritage advisor of IUCN's Protected Areas Program puts it, Soqotra is "......where you can literally see a slice of history." A slice of history that only a very lucky, few people have been fortunate to see.

UNESCO added Soqotra as Yemen's fourth World Heritage Site - raising the country to the top as the Arab world's country with the most Heritage sites. Over six million years of isolation, protected by sea currents and monsoon winds - has proved a catalyst for natural selection and species innovation. And with its own distinct culture and language; with its stunning and dramatic landscape of rugged mountains, vast tablelands, powder-soft white sand beaches and pristine coral formations; and with only the Galapagos on the far end of the world to compete with - Soqotra is one of a kind. In any language; on any terms - when you speak of natural wonders: Socotra is the natural wonder.

It is the Arab world's greatest natural treasure.  And yet, most surprisingly - very few Arabs, have been to the Island; very few even think of visiting it or know of it.  And the few who have heard of Socotra, know very little about it. Around the world too, except for very few very adventurous travellers, most people are unaware and are oblivious of the Island. This ignorance and the waters around it being infested with pirates, has a very good, relieving side: it ensures the isolation and protection of the other Galapagos: Soqotra.

For more on Socotra: read articles on the International Union for Conservation of Nature, ProtecetedPlanet and do read the most comprehensive and interesting book on the Island:  Socotra: a natural history of the islands and their people.