I’m at the airport in Aden, Yemen, where there is no lounge, no internet and no card payment, and I have a couple of hours to catch a plane to Cairo. This seems like a good time to write something on my almost forgotten blog about my trip to Socotra Island in Yemen. This time in English language, so my friends can understand…
I really have no idea which article I published last, it was so long ago that I have forgotten and there is no way to look it up at the moment, even my PokeFI portable internet is not working. Since I keep my flight tickets in cloud, I can see where I have been everywhere. I’ll start with 2018, because like then, I’ve been travelling with my friend Boris. Then we were in the Solomon Islands and now we went to Socotra. Since 2018, I have been in short:
- UAE/Dubai and a motorbike trip with George in Myanmar (Burma)
- Indonesia and my sweetheart Banda Islands
- Philippines and exploring Panglao Island
- Boat diving in Sudan, moving to Egypt…where it all went to shit (covid) – in 4 days I supposed to fly to Socotra, but they closed borders…
- Return to SK, one plan didn’t work out, so I went to Mexico for half a year to ride a motorbike with George
- Boating in the Amazon rainforest + Kitesurf and a trip up the north coast of Brazil
- Switzerland + Italy
- change of primary living from Thailand to Ikigai sailing catamaran, start in Italy, cross the Atlantic, stay in the Caribbean
- sleep in Slovakia, trip to Madagascar, Thailand and currently Yemen towards…wherever it takes me (pyramids in Kahir, Slovakia, France, Hungary and return to the ship to Grenada)
- I don’t even mention Thailand because I was there most of the time, since I live in Thailand…
How did this idea even come about ? I think it was five years ago that I heard about this amazing island, watched some videos and photos and knew it was my dream to go there. In March 2020 I already had the ticket, the visa, the permission to fly the drone… just everything arranged to go there, but my plans were thwarted by Covid. If I had flown to Socotra then, a week earlier, I would have been locked in Socotra and only knew Covid from the news (they had no problem there).
The thought of going there stuck in my head, so I decided to go there this year – 2023. I asked people on Facebook who would be interested and Boris responded – let’s go! We knew that August was not the best month, that it would be windy, that we wouldn’t be able to dive, but we went to this amazing island anyway.
What’s great about Socotra?
the unique flora and fauna, endemic trees/plants that are found nowhere else in the world in a small area, the island is about 120 km long and 50 km wide, there is almost everything – wonderful beaches, beautiful mountains, sand dunes, diverse underwater life, springs, lagoons, lakes, waterfalls, different climates, trees that one never dreams of, people who have a different origin than the others (they are not from Yemen), unique history…
How to get to Socotra?
I won’t mention the 4 day boat trip, most people will be flying. You can go – and this is the preferred option – via UAE/Abu Dhabi, it’s a direct flight, a return ticket to Abu Dhabi to Socotra costs up to 1000 USD, another option is how I went (only because I had already bought a ticket in 2020, otherwise I wouldn’t have gone that way) – via Egypt / Cairo – transfer in Aden and stopover on the coast of Yemen, a return ticket costs about the same as a ticket via Abu Dhabi. Go via Abu Dhabi, save your nerves 🙂
You need a visa, this will be arranged either by the agent through whom you buy the ticket, or – better – by the travel agency in Socotra, through which you have to go. I was in contact with Samed, from the agency “I Love Socotra” – who I can only recommend. The plan was to go for 2 weeks, the 1st week with him and the 2nd week will work out somehow…a week costs about 1300 USD with everything, but more on that later.
When is the best time to go ?
High season is from October to April, best time to go in February. We were from 20th August to 4th September, we were the only two tourists in the whole Socotra! The wind was blowing, although we had 3 days when it was not so windy. The wind is really strong, the sea is rough, it’s hard to swim, the snorkelling is bad because the visibility is low. Socotra is quite mountainous, so at higher altitudes it was foggy and drizzly. If you can, go during the good season, I didn’t make it because of other things, but I’m still very glad I was there. It’s worth it anyway.
Is the trip to Socotra safe?
The situation in Yemen is variable, the first important thing is that you don’t go inside Yemen. I am in Aden, at the airport, and you don’t even go into the city, there is only a transfer, so yes – as far as the war is concerned, the civil unrest, it is not felt at all. Socotra itself is absolutely fine – UAE and Saudi Arabia have their interests there… Of course it’s good to check the current situation before you go, Samed will help you with that.
What to take on the trip?
You’ll be in warm weather, so a couple of t-shirts, slacks, shorts, swimsuit, trekking shoes, a few medications just in case, sunscreen, universal adapter, diving mask and something to keep you entertained, in my case an iPad helped.
How’s the internet?
Forget the internet. It’s not there as we know it. Everything is connected via 4G, there are two networks, the Yemeni one, which you just can’t get a sim card for, and the UAE’s Etilasad, which we had but the network is so stretched, even if you have a great signal it doesn’t mean the internet is working at all. The only good internet we had was in the Heathrow hotel by the airport on the last day. A ping of around 600-1000ms is considered a fast 🙂
What to expect from the trip?
The trip is not for those who demand comfort. Basically, the first and last day you sleep in a hotel in the capital Haden city. There are not many hotels, so there is no choice – for 40 USD (they want to change price to 50 USD per night) you get a basic room, where wifi doesn’t work, you don’t get a towel or soap. But at least it has air-conditioning, which can start to overflow at night, here and there some cockroaches. Normally you wouldn’t go to such a hotel. There is a better hotel for 130 USD a bit outside the city, where we also went to see. The alternative is the Heathrow hotel by the airport, which is a stacked and converted container – we stayed there before we left and it was the best (within reason, especially the internet was working, breakfast sucked in low season…)
And now … the story as you like it 🙂
Enough with the facts, I’ll break it down as if I’m telling it to someone else face to face. I traveled to Socotra for 3 full days, that’s for another story. I printed my visa paper, in Yemen, Aden at 3am the customs officer started to say I didn’t have the original paper – I wasn’t alone. We tried to call Samed (haha), finally it was solved and the customs officer was 5 dollars happier, but it can be done without bribery. Again – go through Abu Dhabi, because you will save your nerves in Egypt, where it’s really a problem to cross with a drone, I have experience…and also in Aden.
There is a flight from Aden to Socotra, but it has intermediate stop, which I didn’t know, so I got off the plane tired, of course the only “white” and no one speaks a word of English, so I figured out that this is not yet a destination where I should get off and I got back to plane in last moment 🙂
Upon arrival I was met at the airport by a smiling Boris and Samed, we said hello and went to the hotel. There is a restaurant in the capital of Socotra, where we went to eat a couple of times, for dinner and breakfast. The choice was fish or chicken. We preferred fish.
The plan was to spend the first week going around the island with a 4×4 car with a driver and a guide. Greetings to Mohamed and Abdudllah 🙂 Second week free program – we wanted to rent a car and drive it ourselves, but in the end we found out that the car is only with a driver and yes – it is better if we also have guide Abdullah with us. Before the trip the guys will make a big shopping, we will camp, sleep somewhere and go exploring.
A classic day looks like waking up in the tent around 6:00 am, breakfast is made by the guys, we had basically the same thing all the time – eggs, beans and simple bread with tea, some vegetables, for lunch and dinner there was flavored curry fish or chicken, grilled fish, crabs, mussels, vegetables… the food is simple, but tasty. Around 8:00, after packing everything on/into the car, we were off to the given place of interest – wrecks, trees with dragon’s blood, cucumber trees, beaches, dunes, canyons, lakes, waterfalls, lagoons, incredible views, etc.
It gets dark relatively early, so at 18:00 we were eating and sleeping around 21:00 after a game of chess…
We were out of season, so many services were not working. Most people go for a week, we went for two weeks and we didn’t regret it at all, every day was packed with a program and basically we saw everything and did things that even our guide didn’t know about, like climbing to the highest peak with a height of 1600m above sea level. I recommend going for two weeks if you can.
- you have never seen such a diverse landscape, enjoy it to the fullest!
- When we were eating, vultures flew in immediately, which are really numerous there. Not to mention the raw goats and cats. There are no dogs on the island
- Forget about alcohol, bring it with you (if you need it), there were no major checks we were happy to have sausage, salami, cheese and pate with us. You probably won’t need them, but we really needed them.
- You will be surprised by the mess the locals leave behind, there are plastic bottles and rubbish almost everywhere
- unreasonable prices for diving (one dive from the shore for 100 USD), unreasonable prices for snorkelling with a boat for 2 hours – 100 USD
Classically, I wrote the article, I’m publishing it much later – coincidentally, I’m at the airport (what a surprise) and the plane to Nice is in the morning, so – no better time than now.