In 2002, the island of Socotra was divided into several zones distinguished according to their mode of usage. The Socotra Zoning Plan introduced National Park Zones that cover more than 72 % of the island’s surface, and Nature Sanctuaries with the highest level of protection.
These areas are essential for recruitment of plants and animals into other areas through the dispersal of seeds, eggs and larvae by wind and water. Nature Sanctuaries are also important breeding areas. Therefore they are the most interesting places to visit provided you stick to strict nature conservation rules.
Nature Sanctuaries are usually referred to as “Protected Areas”. There are 37 Protected Areas in the Socotra Archipelago including 26 marine and 11 terrestrial. In recent years, the Socotra Conservation and Development Programme together with the Small Grant Programme have equipped five of the terrestrial Protected Areas with tourist facilities: Dihamri, Homhill, Rosh, Amak, Skand. They have been designed and managed by communities from local villages who use them as a source of limited income. Visitors have to pay an entrance fee to every Protected Area and are subjected to strict rules aimed on protection of nature.
Visitors must leave Protected Areas before sunset unless they stay in official campsites. Camping elsewhere is strictly prohibited. Campsites provide camping gear, food and basic hygiene facilities. More about conduct in the Protected Ares read in What To Expect
Dihamri Protected Area
Dihamri is one of the few places on Socotra with a fully developed community of coral, fish and shellfish. You won’t need to swim further than just a few meters from the beach to see many kinds of soft and hard corals and great parade of coral fish. Even lobsters, turtles and occasional small shark can be spotted.
There is a campsite located close to the beach on the edge of the Marine Protected Area where visitors can stay overnight and get simple food. You can discover the marine life by snorkeling and diving to several great diving spots in the vicinity of Dihamri. Snorkeling gear can be rented from the beach guard, diving gear you need to bring along with the diving instructor.
Dihamri Marine Protected Area
There is a danger of strong sea currents however the sandy beach further east from the headland is safe for swimming. The tidal lagoon to the east of Qaryah village (approx. 5 km from Dihamri) is a good place to spot a large selection of water and migratory birds including flamingos.
Ask the Protection Area guard for information where to enter the sea and other instructions to avoid damaging the environment of Dihamri. Also ask about sea currents for your personal safety.
Homhil Protected Area
Homhil is unique for its richness in special plants and trees. Over 90 species of endemic plants have been recorded in the area of which seven are endemic to Homhil itself. Visitors are especially interested in dragon’s blood trees which can be found on the Homhil plain and on steep slopes of surrounding limestone rocks.
Homhill Protected Area
The camspite is located nearby a village called Homhil. Visitors can stay overnight, rent a camping gear and get simple food. In the Protected Area, four nature trails have been marked and graded in terms of difficulty (easy, moderate, difficult). The trails will lead you through best spots for plants, animals and scenery.
The north western side of the Protected Area is dominated by a mountain ridge of calciferous limestone called Hamad'ero. A very beautiful wadi (valley) runs north under the shadow of Hamad'ero where seasonal water carved contorted shapes into the river floor.
There are two ways to reach Homhil: take a 1,5 hour hike with a guide or climb by 4WD car on a very steep and rough road. It is better to check in advance whether the road is negotiable at all.
Rosh Protected Area
Rosh is one of the marine protected areas with great and unique marine life. It is located in the North-East part of the island opposite to Dihamri. In both these spots you can enjoy diving and snorkeling however, Rosh is the ideal place for divers. Big fish including sharks are very easy to see there.
Rosh Marine Protected Area
A small campsite has been opened only few hundred meters from the coast. Snorkeling gear and diving equipment can be rented as well as local fishermen’s boats to take you out for diving. All facilities for staying overnight are available including food, sleeping mats, toilets, fresh water.
Boats can easily reach Rosh without any troubles with landing. You shouldn’t miss the opportunity to take a boat from there to the marine Protected Area where you can plunge into the colorful underwater life. The other option is to climb up from Rosh to the breathtaking Hoq Cave. The hike takes about one hour and you can get a local guide who will provide torches.
The entrance to the Rosh campsite is located just off the asphalt road heading East from Hadibu, about 40 minutes drive from the capital.
Amak Protected Area
Amak is the only Protected Area with tourist facilities on the Southern coast of Socotra. It is located in the centre of the Nujid Plain mostly covered with sand dunes. Herds of camels wander there among paled date tree plantations. The choppy Indian Ocean and long white sandy beaches create a stunning panorama which you can especially enjoy when arriving through the inland Plateau.
The campsite has been established just on the edge of the sandy beach of Amak. The place is a real paradise with a tranquility of white sands, palm trees and relaxing sounds of the sea waves. Basic meals including fresh fish, bathrooms and camping gear are provided. Snorkeling equipment can be also hired.
Amak Marine Protected Area
Except swimming and snorkeling, there are much more activities to choose from. The campsite keepers will organize a fishermen’s boat for sea tours and fishing. You can also hire a guide for trekking along the coastline and on the Plateau overlooking the Nujid Plain. The area is also more than suitable for bird-watching and camel riding.
You can reach Amak easily by car from Hadibu. It is about one and half hour drive on an asphalt road crossing the central Plateau. Better visit Amak before May because with the arrival of the South-West monsoon the Indian Ocean gets more and more rough and dangerous for swimming.
Skand Protected Area
Skand Protected Area