Video: Why You Should Travel To Socotra Island

Derek Videos, Yemen 106 Comments

Travel to Socotra Island

Few people have even heard of this place and even fewer people have any idea where it’s located. But for those who do know and who do travel to Socotra Island, which happens to be one of the most isolated landforms on the planet, there is only one natural reaction – to wonder aloud why on earth more people aren’t visiting.

Socotra Island is a part of Yemen, however, it is far removed from anything happening on the mainland. The culture is different, the language is different and unlike the mainland, which has had to deal with separatist movements, Al-Qaeda cells and a revolution over the years, life on Socotra has remained as peaceful and quiet as can be.

However, almost nobody makes the distinction between Socotra and the Yemeni mainland and as a result, being a part of Yemen has kept travelers away. Rough estimates (according to several locals involved in the Socotra tourism industry) that in 2013 only about 1000 foreigners are expected to travel to Socotra. Just wait until you see the video below – that number will seem so absurdly low for a place so incredible.

The island is home to approximately 50,000 inhabitants, scattered among dozens of small villages, most of whom never make it off the island. There are more goats than people, hitch-hiking is the most common form of transportation, there is no crime and there’s only one internet cafe in the capital village that acts as their connection to the outside world.

This is truly a destination unlike any other and when I recently spent a few days on Socotra Island, it was the first time in my 13 years of travel that I felt as if I was on another planet altogether. It’s that magical, that bizarre, that stunning, that unbelievably remote of a destination.

And that’s why more people should travel to Socotra Island! You can even fly there directly from the United Arab Emirates so that you bypass the mainland of Yemen altogether. And once there, I guarantee that you will not want to leave.

Just have a look at this highlight video I put together from my own visit:

Note: As a I stood on Erher Beach during my last day on Socotra, looking all around me at the most beautiful water, the most beautiful sand and the most beautiful mountain landscape I had seen in a long, long time, it should be no surprise that I came up with an idea…

Announcing the “Wander Across Socotra” Tour!

I’m still working out the details but the tour, part of Wandering Earl Tours, will take place either over New Year’s (for the most unique New Year’s celebration you could possibly have anywhere) or sometime in January 2014. And since this tour will have limited space, if you might be interested, let me know so that I can add you to the list!

*For more information on travel logistics, have a read of the following written by my friend and fellow travel blogger Anil from How to Travel to Yemen and Socotra Island

*You can also listen below to the podcast I did over at Amateur Traveler about Socotra Island and Yemen in general:

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Comments 106

  1. Itiel

    Derek, did you know that the background music that you put to the video is of a famous Jewish-Yemenite-Israeli singer? (Ofra Haza).
    I was surprised and happy to listen to it!
    The video is amazing

    1. Post

      Hey Itiel – I didn’t know that when I made the video but one of my other readers told me the same thing when they heard it! Really hope you get a chance to visit at some point!

  2. devanathan

    Hi Earl,
    I am india and interested to tour Socotra.I have a few questions.

    To travel to socotra it needs to be done via tour operator or it can do individually.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Nikki – I don’t know of any tour group that goes here…most people just organize their trip through a Yemen-based agency that provides the driver/guide. You could check with Eternal Yemen as they are a great company.

  3. Shachina

    I was just trying to read up about women solo travellers to socotra Island… You are the 1st person I ve come across on the internet… (hoping to hear more experiences) .. I was planning to travel here alone and was not sure how safe it is for female solo travellers… Any kind of tips or advice will be very helpfull… Thanks in advance…

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Shachina – Socotra is perfectly safe for all travelers, nothing ever happens on that island. The only thing is that you do need to use an agency to organize your transportation and accommodation on the island or else it is very difficult to move around. There is no public transportation and you’ll be very limited as to where you can go or what you can see if you don’t have a jeep with driver while on the island.

  4. Renuka

    Sounds wonderful! No crime, goats more than people….and so much of untouched beauty…I definitely want to head to Socotra Island someday…

  5. frankiethefrank

    Just an observation, but… there is not a *single* woman shown in this whole video. Personally, I’d love to go to Socotra, it looks great, but I doubt I’d be able to convince my fiancee.

    Any comment to make on this?

    1. Wandering Earl

      It’s just that the women were quite shy and didn’t want to appear on video or in photos, something that is quite common throughout the Middle East given the culture. But when you’re in the villages, there were women of course and you could interact with them without any problems at all. This island is much more laid back than the mainland and foreign women could even wear swimsuits on the beach and dress in shorts and t-shirts while visiting the island and it would be fine.

      1. JulieR

        What Earl says is very true. Further to that, as a woman, you are welcomed into ares that men cannot go, so your fiancee would be able to sit with either you and the men, or with the women. They are usually very excited to meet new people, despite the language barrier. I traveled there as a solo women just before Earl’s trip last year and I not only had few problems, I also had a great time 🙂

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  8. vanja

    sorry person, but your comments are ridiculous and malicious. if you wish to live in a stone age then go and live so, but don’t impose on other people how they should live. roads are certainly not built only for the purpose of tourists but it is certainly easier for locals to go around their island on the built roads.
    the guide didn’t “show us a good time”, but he showed us beautiful nature spots why we actually came to visit socotra. and what is wrong that he makes money on travelers and tourists?! the local agency that we were is also employing other local people, like for example for cooking meals, lodging, guides to certain spots, drivers… and that is good, because they can earn money for their families.
    why do you have a job, why do you use technology, computer if you thing is so bad?! why don’t you go and live in the nature when you think it is so fantastic and romantic?! you are far off reality.

  9. vanja

    person, you are totally twisting my words and you are full of prejudice about people and that is very sad. instead of constantly accusing me, you could ask questions what i mean because you are making misinterpretations. i don’t have complexes like you and i don’t think that i live superior lifestyle.
    obviously that people want to have island developed, roads have been built, airport has been built and our guide (local person) told us that socotra needs more tourist but the situation in yemen is stopping it. they have their own websites and facebook pages where they promote their island. also locals have built shelters and eco lodges for tourists as well as few hotels. i think that proves enough what they want and they have every right to it.
    if you want to live exotic life go and do it, but don’t expect other people to live like that forever so that you can come and watch them once a while for your own pleasure.

    1. Person

      Is it that obvious, though? People really want the roads built and all that? Of course your tour guide will tell you that, he makes money off of tourists such as yourself. Next time you go there (if you do), learn a little bit of the local language or even broken Arabic, and speak to the locals. Find out what they think, not the person you are paying to show you a ‘good time’.
      There are over 40,000 people living there, most of whom (99% I’d wager) have no idea about said facebook pages and websites, let alone know what facebook is.
      I’m sure to you, the most subtle of hints are proof enough to argue away whatever point you have, but most of us need a bit more evidence.

      Good day 🙂

  10. Person

    When I say destroyed, I don’t mean in the literal sense.
    Why would you want it to get developed? Because you’ve lived a certain lifestyle that you believe to be superior and thus you want to push it upon what you consider to be a primitive island. The people living there are satisfied with their lives. Don’t push your standards on them.

    You are right that those type of people are found everywhere, but when I say West, I mean the Western ideology, not geographically. The American Dream spread via mass media across the world, thus its effects are found everywhere.

    If you look here:
    There is a map in there that shows emotional stability across the globe.
    I’ve actually done studies on this, fyi. This isnt just bs. Take a sociology class, some history classes, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

    1. Wandering Earl

      If you know me, you would know that I certainly don’t feel my lifestyle or way of thinking is superior at all. That’s quite obvious if you read a few posts on this blog. At the same time, unless you are one of the people living there, it’s not possible for you to know that they are satisfied with their lives. And from the few friends that I did make on that island, who I still keep in touch with now, they absolutely love to meet and interact with foreigners. They don’t want this so that they can earn money, they simply are interested in meeting new people from other parts of the world as it enhances their own lives, just like it enhances mine.

  11. vanja

    because i simply don’t think it will get destroyed. i truly hope it can get developed and benefit locals, of course if it gets developed in a right direction (without commercial contents like casinos for example), but that will depend on the locals. we can’t expect things be frozen in time just for our own sake, because we like it so.
    things i like and appreciate i like to share with others and not jealously guard them to myself. i know how much i have enjoyed socotra so to those who appreciate unique and different nature i wish the same. to socotrans i wish all the best, taking care of their precious nature and scope for better development and better life.
    p.s. american dream is not example for me, but generalizing the west as you do is for me just a pure ignorance. emotionally and socially messed up people you will find in every corner of the world.

  12. vanja

    person, i can’t agree with you. local people would like to see more tourists on their island because they are means of income for them.
    anyway political situation in yemen is unstable so that is already enough to keep the tourists out of the country.
    if you didn’t read about socotra from somebody, you would also never know about this precious place, isn’t it?! and for example iceland has also got a unique nature and is well know in the world. it has much more tourists then socotra but iceland’s beauty haven’t got destroyed. local people are the ones making rules and only they can preserve the place.

    1. Person

      I understand your sentiments, but consider that not everyone wants more income. Some people are satisfied with the way their lives are, and more money ruins them (this is actually true for most people, notice how emotionally/socially messed up the ‘West’ is thanks to ideologies like the ‘American Dream’ etc.).
      If I didn’t read about Socotra, then I would be blissfully ignorant of the place, thus coming back to my point…no one gets hurt 🙂
      Actually, I live near Socotra, so I think I was bound to go there anyway 🙂

      Considering this is the ‘information age’ and all that, especially due to social media, information spreads like wildfire. Sure, a lot of people might be afraid to go due to whatever they may think is happening in Yemen, but consider this: you tell 1 person, 1 person tells 2, 2 people share on facebook, suddenly 30 people are involved, and so on and so on until thousands are now aware. Out of those thousands, lets say a couple hundred actually decide to go.
      It’s called the butterfly effect I believe.

      Anyway, I might sound like I’m a rambling paranoid picayune, but I hope you understand that my heart is in the right place; don’t commercialize and whore out things that are dear to you, keep them a secret (if you like it so much, why would you risk destroying it?).

  13. Siegfried Modola


    Happy to make contact and to discover your writing.

    I am an Italian/British photojournalist based in Nairobi, Kenya. I am planning a trip to Socotra for a photo reportage on the island.

    Could you please send me your email address as I would like, if you are able to of course, to ask you a few questions in regards.

    Many thanks in advance,
    Siegfried Modola

  14. Person

    I applaud your lifestyle as a nomad and to a degree even envy it 😉
    Socotra is indeed a wonderful place, however, I’m going to have to disagree with your ‘go to socotra’ slogan. I’d rather hide it from the world, wouldnt you? People have a way of ruining good things.
    If I can give you one advice, it’s that please stop spreading the word about things that have been kept a secret from the world. Let it be a treasure to those who have come across it, and those who don’t know about it won’t know what they’re missing, thus no one is hurt. If tourists start flooding Socotra, in a generation or two your video will be a glimpse into a lost world.

    See what I’m saying? If you dont tell anyone about it, no one gets hurt (not in the literal sense, obviously). If you do tell people about it, maybe not right away, but in the long run people get hurt.

    Also, look up ‘purpose of life by khalid yassin’, I have a feeling you will enjoy it, considering you’ve seen so much of the world and have a matured and inquisitive mind 🙂

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