The remote but fascinating island of Socotra lays in the Arabian Sea over 100 miles off the coast of Yemen and the horn of Africa. It is the number one result If you google “most alien-looking place on earth.” This tiny island has remained remote for many millennia, and one-third of it’s flora and fauna is wholly endemic and cannot be found anywhere else on the earth. The island's geographical isolation, extreme heat, and drought have created this biodiversity gem.
The most iconic living thing on the island is the Dragon's blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari) whose sap is bright red and has been highly sought after for use as a violin varnish, breath freshener, and even lipstick. This beautiful tree has been described as an umbrella or a flying saucer landing on a tree. The island is home to 825 plant species that can't be found anywhere else on earth.
There are no native amphibians and only one native mammal, a bat, but you will find endemic birds, reptiles, marine life, butterflies, and even a blue baboon tarantula.
Socotra is home to about 50,000 people, most of whom are indigenous Soqotri people from the Al-Mahran tribe, along with a small population of Africans believed to be runaway slaves and their descendents. The language spoken by the inhabitants of Socotra is completely unique and predates even Arabic. The inhabitants have followed various forms of Christianity, and the tradition goes that Thomas the Apostle brought them Christianity in 52 A.D.
Socotra has been thought to be the site of the Garden of Eden from the Bible. The name Socotra comes from the Sanskrit word for “paradise.” Its remoteness and uniqueness have made it a place of legend. It became a UNESCO world heritage site in 2008. It has fascinated adventures from Alexander the Great to Marco Polo.