[10/June/2004] SANA`A, (Saba Net)-Soctara is a unique place, with an extraordinary ecological significance
and, consequently, magnificent ecotourism attractions .
1-1 Endemic plants :
It has a unique and fascinating flora. Of the 850 species of flowering plants and ferns found in the archipelago, about 275 are believed to be endemic. Many of these plants are attractive and interesting, undoubtedly
constituting one of the main reasons for ecotourists want to visit Soctara.
Among the most spectacular species are the following:
o Dragon-Blood Tree( Dam Al Akahawein) Dracaena cinnabar the most spectacular
of the endemic, due to its large size, beautiful shape, old age which it may attain, and its many historical and legendary attributes. The dense forest composed of these magnificent trees found near Dik Sam and Daroho
canyons is perhaps the island's most important as well as attractive.
Since this particular area is a very sensitive one for conservation, strict measures should be taken to ensure preserving this invaluable resource, and all tourism activities should be low-impact ( always in the company of a local, authorized guide), as well as clearly signalized and restricted to a very limited area. Having ecotourists coming in a controlled way to this area could in fact contribute to controlling wood cutting and
browsing of the trees by goats.
o Cucumber Tree (Dendrosicyos Soqotrana), with its peculiar ballooned trunk, covered by white bark Emta tree (Euphorbia arbusnula), which has the overall growth from and shape of the dragon-blood trees, with an erect, stout trunk which ramifies at its end to form several main branches.
o Frankincense trees (Boswellia sp.) of which there are six species on the island, all of which are endemic. No other area in the world has a comparable concentration of Boswellia species, which are locally used for the production of gum resins, utilized as incense or as medicine.
o Sabaar (Aloe Perryi), with attractive red flowers, yields a sap which is used in cosmetics.
o Dirachma Soqotrana considered a living fossil by botanists.
o Punica Protopunica o Helichrysum rosulatum
o Soqotra Aden Rose (Adenium Soqotranum)
o As is well known, bird watching is one of the key categories of ecotourists and the most widespread in the world. Only in the US and Canada it is estimated that there are over 60million bird watchers, of which 24 million
travel from their places of residences to specifically watch birds.
Soctara has much to offer to the bird enthusiast, not so much in terms of quantity but of quality. So far about 120 bird species have been recorded in the island, of which 31 are known or thought to breed. Of these, six
species are endemic to the island:
o Soctara Warbler (Incana)
o Soctara Cisticola (Cisiticola haesitatus)
o Soctara Starling (Nectarinia balfouri)
o Soctara Sparrow J(Passer onsularis)
o Soctara Bunting (Emberiza Socotrana)
These six endemic bird species are undoubtedly the major ornithological draw of Soctara. There are an additional eleven endemic subspecies in the archipelago. Other interesting and attractive birds are mentioned
under complementary attractions.
1-3 Predominance of undisturbed beautiful natural landscape and seascape few large islands in the world covey the impression of a largely undisturbed natural landscape and seascape such as Soctara does. The great beauty
(frequently of an austere character) of its mountains, cliffs, bizarre vegetation, and mangroves, produce an everlasting impression on the visitor to this remote and mangroves, produce an everlasting impression on the
visitor to this remote island in the Arabian Sea. This quality of wild beauty compares with another world famous archipelago:the Galapagos Islands (1000km off the coast of south America, in the Pacific Ocean), which is
the one of the world's most famous natural reserves and ecotourism destinations.
There are many islands around the world with tropical vegetation, warm waters and beautiful sandy beaches, but many of these islands have been overdeveloped and polluted and no longer appeal to nature-loving tourists, which are found in ever growing number around the world. Also, due to the high endemicity of its plants and wildlife, Soctara is a unique place in the planet, and deserves to maintain its rich natural and cultural heritage, within the frame of sustainable development practices, which should give better livelihood opportunities for its human inhabitants.
1-4 socatran unique cultural traditions
Its unique biophysical features do not only characterize Soctara, but also by a singular traditional culture. Although not much is known about the remote history of the island, humans have probably inhabited it for some three thousand years. At least three major waves of immigration seem to have occurred. The isolation of the archipelago has meant the evolution of a singular culture, as exemplified by the people's social habits and
ceremonies, their language (Socotri is totally different from Arabic and any other language in the world, linked to Ancient Arabian languages which have since disappeared), their use of medicinal plants, their customary
land-use and woodcutting practices, dances, and even unique traditional forms of housing (including cave dwellings). The Socotran culture constitutes part of the Arab connection with the ancient Yemeni civilization of the mainland. Socotri language is spoken only in the archipelago (and sparingly, by migrants of Soctara to the Emirates and parts of the Hadhramout coast).
Some semi-nomadic pastoral groups inhabit caves during several months of the year. Perhaps the most impressive cave is that of Deiqyub, located in the escarpment overlooking the Noged plain in the southern portion of the island, with enormous stalactites and stalagmites, and inhabited by shepherds during the winter months. As has been already mentioned, the whole ambience of the cave and its dwellers is quite memorable, but there is much socio-cultural fragility and any planned tourism activities here have to be made with the utmost care. The hospitality of the islanders in general is surprisingly warm and undoubtedly a great tourism asset.