There are few places left on earth so remote and untouched by time. Socotra is one of the world’s last truly wild places with a uniquely diverse and enchanting landscape of surreal beauty. Glimpsing the dragon’s blood trees that mantle the Haghier Mountains, one imagines this is what the world must have looked like millions of years ago.
Situated in the Arabian Sea off the horn of Africa, ruled by Yemen, the island of Socotra is home to over 700 native plants and animals found nowhere else on the earth. Cut off from the rest of the world due to hazardous travel and relentless monsoon winds, the island now has flights from the main land.
Most astonishing are the trees! Living up to 500 years, the mythical dragon’s blood tree with vertical trunk and arching canopy could easily be imagined as an umbrella blown inside out. When the trunk is cut, a scarlet colored resin oozes from the tree prized for its celebrated medicinal qualities. Once a vast forest, these remaining trees, unique to Socotra are now classified as endangered.
Another amazing sight in the bizarre, alien-like landscape are the bottle trees, or desert rose as they are called; plump and leathery, which can grow quite bulbous, storing water as a safeguard against dry spells. Blooming in spring with a flush of pink flowers, they apparently do not require soil, sinking their roots straight into bare rock.
I believe it is through the unique vegetation that the spirit of Socotra is defined, with mythical trees like the dragon’s blood tree or the fabled frankincense trees and the island’s culture so closely linked to nature which sets this island apart from the rest of the world.