Socotra archipelago awaits ecotourists

SOCOTRA, YEMEN (AFP) – With its lush landscape, distinctive trees, unique animals and turquoise waters home to dolphins, Yemen is hoping its Socotra archipelago will become a dream destination despite the country’s conflict.

Lying in the Indian Ocean some 200 kilometres off the Yemeni coast, the four islands and two rocky islets are home to some 50,000 people and have remained relatively untouched by the war. Adventurous travellers are showing a growing interest in visiting Socotra.

“Fortunately, Socotra has never been affected by the war dynamics of the Yemeni mainland,” local travel agency Welcome to Socotra told AFP.

Since flights resumed with a chartered Air Arabia aircraft once a week from Abu Dhabi, the agency has received “hundreds” of requests, it said.

Socotra is located just 250 kilometres from the Horn of Africa, and 1,000 kilometres from the southern city of Aden where Yemen’s government is based.

It is famed for its unique biodiversity: nearly one-third of its 825 plants and 90 per cent of its reptile species are considered unique to the island, according to the United Nation’s (UN) cultural agency United Nations Economic and Social Council (UNESCO).

An aerial view of Shoab beach in the Yemeni Island of Socotra, a site of global importance for biodiversity conservation, located in the northwestern Indian Ocean some 200 kilometres south of the Yemeni mainland. PHOTO: AP