Whilst assessing Socotra on the map, it’s difficult to imagine that such a small island may have the capacity for so many different landscapes. Though the reality is, with little room to transition between each terrain, the progression provides spectacular beauty in itself. From giant sand dunes, forests of Dragon Blood Trees, craggy peaks to clear turquoise waters; it’s no surprise that it’s known to be one of the most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world! From the many wonders of this island, you should know the best things to see on Socotra.
The Socotra archipelago lies around 250 kilometres from the horn of Africa, though the land is classed as part of Yemen. It consists of four islands: Abd el Kuri, Samha, Darsa and the largest of the few, Socotra. That being the case, Socotra is rapidly gaining a global reputation for being a gateway to a natural paradise for tourism.
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Best Things to See on Socotra
Shoab Beach (Shu’Ab)
Request an early morning fishing boat from Qalansiyah to skirt around the coastline to one of the best beaches on the island. You’ll pass many interesting rock formations and an abundance of birdlife, but keep and eager eye on the waves to be the first to spot the playful pod of Spinner Dolphins.
Shoab Beach is a long, remote white sand beach that most will likely enjoy with few other tourists. However, visitors should arrive prepared with their own protection from the sun, as there isn’t many shaded areas.
Zahaq Sand Dunes
Rolling from the sea, the soft sand dunes of Zahaq shift with the wind and change colours throughout the day. As soon as you arrive, the immense urge to jump from their peaks, or roll down their hills, will take over. The dunes grant permission to every traveller to run around childlike and free across the soft and rippling textures, although you might find it a million times more difficult to climb back to the top.
Zahaq is located on the southern side of the island. You will not have far to walk as 4WD vehicles can be driven to the edge of the dunes, but once you retreat back to your car, you will – no doubt – be covered head-to-toe in a layer of sand.
Detwah Lagoon (Protected Area)
Detwah Lagoon is a popular camping spot on the northwestern side of Socotra Island. The site has multiple showers and toilets, with shelters for cooking and eating too.
Be mindful of what’s beneath your feet as you stroll along the waters of Detwah Lagoon. There can be many small rays, urchins, crabs and puffer fish. Talking of which; Detwah mightn’t be the best place to swim with its shallow waters, but it is home to the island’s celebrity resident, the Caveman.
Qalansiyah Beach Viewpoint
Qalansiyah Beach is located on the northwest coast of Socotra, along from the second largest town on the island, Qalansiyah. It is also within walking distance of Detwah Lagoon. The bay is popular with the locals during sunset, as they compete within multiple matches of football and attempt to drive motorbikes across the sand.
For stunning aerial views, it is possible for 4WD vehicles to summit the small rocky mountain that overlooks the jaw-dropping views across Qalansiyah Beach. I’d even recommend closing your eyes during the journey (unless you are the driver) to allow yourself a surprise reveal of the phenomenal panoramic view. It is undoubtedly one of the best things to see on Socotra!
Journey into the heart of the island to immerse yourself in the highest concentration of the island’s iconic tree. Dragon Blood Tree’s are one of the main attractions on the island, so take your time at Diksam Plateau to walk and drive through the endless forests of trees, and across canyons to many viewpoints too. The best time of day to be at Diksam Plateau is during sunset as the silhouettes of each tree stand gloriously against the orange glow of sunset.
Dihamri Nature Protected Area
Dihamri is a small peninsula on the northern coastline of Socotra. The Marine Nature Sanctuary is the best location on the island to snorkel over colourful coral reef. Snorkellers could even admire the diverse sea life along the coastline beneath the water by day, and climb the small rocky viewpoints by evening to watch a breathtaking sunset dip behind Hadiboh.
In recent years, Dihamri’s shelters that once stood alone have been upgraded to accommodate and shade resting snorkellers. There is also a kitchen and bathrooms that are equipped with showers. Some tour groups choose to camp within the confines of these buildings to enjoy the surrounding nature.
Drive inland, and walk approximately 45-minutes, to find the beautifully clear Killisan Canyon and Pools. This is an off-road drive and a hike with an incline, but I promise you, your efforts will be rewarded. Enjoying a cool impromptu dip in freshwater inland pools, will be exactly what the doctor ordered upon your arrival.
Homhil National Park
WARNING: The ‘Inifinity Pool’ in Homhil National Park has recently been without any water. Therefore, it mightn’t be worth visiting at this time. Check with a local before you make the journey.
As you hike for approximately 1.5 hours through a valley of Dragon Blood and Bottle Trees, you will find a very photogenic ‘infinity pool’. This natural pool of freshwater is situated at the edge of a mountain, so visitors will have a stunning view overlooking the coast.
Raw Erisel is the meeting point of the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Keep your eyes peeled, or even arrive prepared with some binoculars, as there is often plenty of marine life to be spotted at this location.
Located around the corner from Hadiboh, Delisha Beach is characterised by a recently beached shipwreck called the Gulf Dove. There have been no efforts to remove the large ship since it was abandoned in 2019, but the young crowd of local kids keep a watchful eye in case any visitor dares to enter. This is one of the best things to see on Socotra that hasn’t been handcrafted by nature itself.
Arher Beach is arguably one of the most scenic locations on the entire island; it is often a visitors’ favourite. The 300-metre high sand dune is backed by a dramatic cliffside overlooking Arher Beach. Beyond this, the clear turquoise waters are frequently visited by pods of dolphins, or less frequently lit by bioluminescence at night. It would be difficult to even paint a more stunning combination of landscapes and nature.
Hoq Cave is the largest cave that has been discovered on the island of Socotra. Unfortunately, the often scorching hike will take around one hour, but once you’ve arrived, there are up to two kilometres of cave to explore. Bring a head torch to be able to find you way amongst the captivating display of stalactites, stalagmites and columns.
There is nothing but small villages dotted around Socotra. Even the island’s capital, Hadiboh, feels like a big village. Though it isn’t the reason many would visit Socotra, the town is still an interesting cultural experience.
Did You Know…
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