14 September, 2014

Socotra, the Lost Paradise -- in Pencil

The Indian Ocean has the most enchanting islands of all: Zanzibar, the Comoros, Mauritius, Seychelles, Reunion, Maldives -- and the other larger ones like the very spectacular and wonderful Indonesian and the Philippine islands. But there is one island (an archipelago, to be precise) that is completely unique and different to all these other islands. That is: Socotra. Peaceful, exotic, beautiful, unvisited, enchanting -- remote Soqotra. The Island's animal and plant life are found nowhere else; it has some of the most pristine and most spotless beaches; its landscapes are so spectacular and so dramatic that a first time visitor can easily imagine on being on another planet; to add to all these wonders, the Island's people have a unique, ancient local language that has no written script. Socotra is a lost paradise, with almost no tourists on it.

The beaches and the sea on Socotra are: pristine, spotless and empty. And many. The blue waters surrounding the Island are just as pristine, turquoise and very clear.
The most fantastic, spellbinding sight is a spectacular landscape filled with some of the most alien trees and vegetation one can imagine; in all sorts of odd shapes and sizes, most of which are unique and endemic to Socotra.
Socotra has over 200 species of birds: most of which are migrant visitors passing through the island from/to Africa, Asia and Europe; about a quarter of the island's birds are resident. Soqotra has about ten species of endemic birds.
Astounding. Wonderful. Spectacular. Dramatic. Extraordinary. Unique. Exotic. Astonishing. Are some of the words one can use to describe the Island's amazing landscape.
Rugged. Hot. Along the coast - humid. Inland - dry. That is Socotra. A place where there are some of the rarest and most unique plant life. About three hundred of the archipelago's sparse flora and fauna species are found no where else except here. The Archipelago is sparsely vegetated and is mainly dominated by xenomorphic (drought resistant) plants and trees which are well adapted to the harsh conditions of sun and wind.

For, sailors, few places are as feared as the waters around the Socotra Archipelago: the waters around it are known for their dangerous shoals and ferocious storms. And there are the terrifying pirates who have turned the horn of Africa in to one of the most dangerous places for sailors. The Island's population is divided between the inhabitants of the mountainous interior and the Islands’ coastal regions. Along the coast are mainly the fishermen. Many along the coast have Somali/African origins. While, beyond, inland, in the mountains and in the valleys are herders of goats, sheep and cows -- of mainly Arab descent. They also harvest date palms and some cultivated land. 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 this wonderful Archipelago: 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.