This otherworldly place is actually for real and it is right here on the big blue marble. It’s a place called Socotra Island and it is part of a 4-island chain off the coast of Africa that has been geographically isolated for the last 6 or 7 million years. Like the Galapagos Islands, this island is teeming with 700 extremely rare species of flora and fauna, a full 1/3 of which are endemic or as the layman would say, “found nowhere else on Earth.” The name Socotra is derived from a Sanscrit name, meaning “The Island of Bliss“.
Despite a climate that is unforgiving, hot and dry, the most incredible plant life thrives there. Situated in the Indian Ocean the wide sandy beaches rise to limestone plateaus full of caves (some 7 kilometers in length) and mountains up to 1525 meters high.
Getting around on Socotra Island is difficult at best since there are practically no roads to speak of. Despite the fact that this island has around 40,000 inhabitants, the Yemeni govenment put in the first roads just 2 years ago – after negotiations with UNESCO, which has declared this island a World Natural Heritage Site. If you decide to visit there, you can forget about beachfront hotels and restaurants; this island is geared towards eco-tourism and sustaining the local economy and way of life. (Does that mean no coffee ice cream? If so, I’m out!)