What to expect on Socotra?

 

Keep in mind: you are visiting a remote island and one of the poorest and most disadvantaged areas of Yemen. Therefore you will find only basic services and basic hygiene facilities there and only within the capital of Hadibu. The pristine nature needs your special care during your stay in the Archipelago. There are some essential rules you should follow to leave as small footprint on the island as possible:
 
• Do not collect, remove or damage any material, living or dead from the Protected Areas including birds, plants, fossils etc. Keep in mind that export and import of any biological material from or to the island is strictly prohibited. The ban applies also to parts of tree branches, roots, seeds, bulbs, shells and corals. Don’t put yourself into trouble, you and your luggage will be checked when leaving the island.
The Archipelago has been under the protection of the Convention on Biological Diversity that the Government of Yemen signed in 1992.

 
• Support the island and its people by hiring local guides, using local services and buying goods from local shops. The prices are pretty affordable on the island. You are more than welcome to buy local products such as dragon blood resin, frankincense resin, aloe sap, palm tree products, honey and handicrafts. They are nice souvenirs and safe to export.
 
• Camping is only allowed in designated Camping areas. All visitors must leave the Protected Area by sunset unless staying in a designated campsite. (for details see Protected Areas)
 
• Do not cut live trees as they are living fossils. Use only dead wood picked from the ground for campfires. Local campsite keepers will provide you with lamps so think twice if you really insist on making a fire.
 
• Avoid touching or damaging corals and do not feed the fish as it may cause changes in their behavior. If you are fond of fishing, always go with a local fisherman in his boat.
 
• Stay away from nesting sites of turtles and birds. Do not camp in these areas and try to keep your behavior as unintrusive as possible. A guided visit with a conservation specialist from the EPA is highly recommended.
 
• Hunting is not allowed as it may endanger endemic birds and animals. If driving, pay high attention to wandering goats. A fine as high as 10 000 YR is charged for hitting a goat.
 
• It is prohibited to drive off tracks and to drive on any beach. Off-road driving causes severe damage to the environment.
 
• Keep the marked hiking tracks to minimize damage to vegetation.
 
• Do not litter. Take your rubbish back to Hadibu for proper disposal. At campsites, collect your rubbish and hand it over to a campsite keeper for further disposal. Set a good example to local people who have been facing waste management problems only since opening the island in 1999.
 
• Importing qat has been banned on the island. Do not try to bring any since you and your luggage will be checked upon arrival. Do not encourage qat smugglers by buying from them.
• Please take note of any instructions posted in the Protected Areas.
 
 
 
Make sure you respect local people and customs. They will reward you by staying kind and welcoming. Pay special attention to issues described below:
 
• Since Socotra is a Muslim island so you should consider carefully what clothes you wear there. Long sleeves and trousers are highly recommended – they will also protect you against sunburn. Shorts for men are not appropriate, they are perceived as underpants. Women should wear loose blouses covering their buttocks. Headscarf will be appreciated.
 
• Muslims pray five times a day and your local guide will obey this rule. The morning call for a prayer will wake you up at 4 a.m. During the day, you will make a prayer stop at noon, at 3 p.m., after 6 p.m. and around 9 p.m. Since it is important to wash properly before praying, your guide will sometimes stop by sources of water well before these times. Be patient and don’t be angry for the delay which won’t take longer than 15 minutes.
 
• No alcohol is allowed on the island.
 
• Meeting local people always starts with formal greeting ceremony. Shake hand with every person present including children. Omitting someone would be considered as rude. Some people however prefer not to be touched. Let them take a lead and don’t insist on a handshake. On departing, greeting with everyone is required again.
 
• When invited to a Socotri house, take off your shoes before stepping in.
 
• You can accept food you are offered but paying a contribution is highly recommended. Most of local people cannot afford hospitality in such extent they perform. Usually, a visitor is served food and the family eats leftovers after.
 
• Don’t take pictures of people without asking for permission. Especially photographing women is a sensitive issue.
 
• When selecting a campsite, do not choose a spot beside the local water source. Your presence is likely to make the women and girls whose job it is to fetch water feel nervous.
 
• Do not wash clothes or yourselves unless you are invited to do so. Remember that any body of water is likely to be the main source of drinking water for neighboring villages.

 

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Did you Know

The islandís aloes were famous in ancient times, to such an extent that socotrine aloes became a concept in pharmacy.

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