A place so far removed from the more familiar premises of what makes up the dimensions of the huge mass of the planet that we inhabit that the moment you step into this land exotic in the true sense of the term, you envision indeed being transported to some otherworldly destination. Isolated to such extremes in its locational setting that makes a third of its plant life exclusively unique to this realm of all peculiarity is this original Garden of Eden, so striking indeed in all strangeness that as led it to be singled out as “the most alien-looking place on Earth”. And yet it is in such eccentricities of its being that make it still the resplendent beauty that it really is that the intriguingly astonishing island of Socotra has been recognised as a World Heritage Site.
Once part of the supercontinent of Gondwana from where it emerged to embody its continental origin is the Socotra archipelago of which the namesake island forms the biggest part. Considered the Jewel of Arabia or more appropriately as the jewel of biodiversity in the Arabian Sea, this is an island paradise marked in its vision of numerous weirdly beautiful floral uniquities most particularly the unmissable aesthetics of what the dragon’s blood tree encompasses in an identity quite ‘unbecoming’ of what otherwise makes up the greens of the world. But Socotra indeed is another world of its own and asserting this diversity in more than exquisite an array of prominence are the region’s many a standout features both in its archipelagic landscape and the many a varied expressions of nature it fosters thereupon.
In existence since times back of antiquity and now a part of the Republic of Yemen, it though is still the Dragon’s Blood tree that asserts its utmost dominance when characterising every other reference to this mysterious land still nestled in isolation. As Yemen’s Dragon Blood Island, Socotra is identified in this strange looking visage of what the umbrella shaped plant oozing a sap red enough to invoke a reference to dragon blood appears as, symbolic also in the very connotation of its cure all status across the Socotran existence. In its upturned, densely packed crown sitting atop a trunk red in the crimson of its resin, the dragon’s blood is a very veritable identity of the island, so much so that has earned it commonplace awareness even in definite uniqueness. And yet, this vision in all distinction is just one of the many surprising entities that shape up forever the wonderland that is Socotra.
In its unique amalgamation of biodiversity though lies a charm of Socotra that goes beyond its exuberance in unparalleled beauty. A enchanting wonderland long dwelling in isolation, the island’s unique and spectacular endemic flora owes their captivating magnificence to such conditions of fierce heat and drought that naturally governs its environment. And it is along the exploration of such a range of greens and greenery diametrically diverse and different than what finds blossoming in other parts of the world that has led to the prevalence of such suppositions of mythical nature that further exalt the otherworldly allure of the Socotran landscape. Believed to be the place corresponding to the mythological allusion of the Garden of Eden is this island the very name of which means paradise in Sanskrit. No wonder, this Arabian Galapagos emergent from the northern end of the Indian Ocean encompasses within it many a elements of fascinating dimension- from the breathtaking pink desert roses to the invigorating aroma of many a rare frankincense and equally vivid presence of endemic cucumbers and pomegranates and aloes, this hotspot of biodiversity stands up to the legend of it being a place straight out of the fables. Helped indeed in pursuance of this belief of Socotra being indeed the proverbial Eden expanse in all exemplariness of it is its locational setting on the edge of Yemen’s Gulf of Aden that which itself finds mention in ancient Sumerian tales as the paradise called Dilmun.
The extravagance of life splattered across the Socotran landscape might be what earns it validation as one of the world’s most biodiversity rich and distinct islands. But even in its territorial expanse of such exquisite harbouring lies a beauty as assertive of the distinctive identity of it. An elongated stretch of land strategically sitting in the middle of the Indian Ocean, cradled somewhere between the Arabian Peninsula, the country of India and the continent of Africa, every facet of this African hinterland governed by Asian forces unfolds in reiterations dramatic beyond measure. Essentially isolated since forever and continuing still with such adages of exclusive standing that is what has endowed it its remarkable rarities, it indeed is intriguing that the island hasn’t been once taken over by the sea even in all its massive flares for at least a hundred million years, making it a landscape of such exuberance that is what has established its dwelling in a UNESCO heritage status since 2008. Continuing with such incredible span of it across centuries is the island coursing through its own curious way forward with virtually no roads to tread upon, even as mysterious seeming caves and eerie sensing shipwrecks remain strewn all over its considerable expanse marking therefore a world as alienly striking in its geography as in its biodiversity.
Within the ambits of its biodiverse richness as well, it isn’t just the flora that sets apart this haven of ambient nature from the resplendence characterising other such cradles of greenery. Equally diverse is its rich treasure of wildlife that boasts also of a handful of endemic species, both in avian and mammalian assertion even as amphibians and reptiles abound all over the island. Not just on its surface though, Socotra is also as much a wonder to behold in its rich coral reefs that are as diverse in their oddities as what essentially shapes up the otherworldly allure of the rest of this idyllic indeed island. Idyllic indeed in its every hue and harmonious juxtaposition across all explorations of nature is the Socotra physiology that is marked by distinct diversity also in its topography. With coastal plains making up a part of the island otherwise eked out by a limestone plateau and the Hajhir mountains with towering granite spires offering also opportunities galore of hiking and climbing, the landmass that shapes up Socotra is as undulating as its distinct repertoire of endemic life forms. No less spectacular are the waters that enthuse the island in shade of blues and silvers with of course extravagance in flora and fauna still a dominant characteristic along its every fore of ambient existence.
Despite such steeping in the multifarious musings that nature has so amply doused Socotra in, in all captivating glory of the unusual, it isn’t just the exquisite presence of variety that makes this paradise a dweller in its own uniqueness. Equally rich has been the island’s coursing through history in such assertions that though owe still its legacy to its bountiful endowance. Immensely integral has been this exclusive land of surreal indeed essence in setting sail the shipping industry along the watery expanse of the Arabian Sea. Even earlier though, Socotra had still been as important in it being the core across which the silk and spice trade flourished between the regions of the Arab world and the continents of Asia and Africa. And continuing this legacy in no uncertain terms in contemporary times is the distinction of Socotra as being at the heart of the world’s most prominent channels of oil trade. But even in its commercial cauldron across which conjures such dealings of diverse capacities, it still had been the natural abundance- read diversity of the island that has forever been nurturing its fame of the riches. Scouted out by the world since times immemorial is this isle in isolation, boasting of a whole world of healing and aromatic resins, endemic plants gums, the world’s best aloe, amber, musk, pearls that rendered it indeed as essential to trade as the exuberance of them did in furthering its allure across the spectrum of the biodiverse. Resident in such charms of many a disparate interests, in extents of them extreme enough to warrant a whole different world of delightfully deviant identity is this isolated landform of mass mavericks the world scouts out still in all stupor that spells out as Socotra.