“What are you going to do in Yemen?” It is a common question when my friends knew I planned to go to Yemen on a trip called #AnthoJourney (already posted in here). Simply, it’s just because I want to visit Socotra; my dream destination. Then that answer led to another question, “Where the hell is it?” Then I answered “GOOGLE IT!” Hahaha. Yemen is an Arab country in the south of Arabian Peninsula, while Socotra island lies deep in the South of Arabian Sea from the coast of Yemen. Socotra is a home to many endemic species of fauna and vegetation that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. That’s why Socotra is named “Galapagos of the Indian ocean”. One of this endemic vegetation is the magical dragon blood trees. These alien-planet trees are the main reason for me to visit Socotra. In addition, the rugged mountain landscapes make you feel like you are not on the Earth. It’s so unique and beautiful indeed.
Most nationalities need visa to go to Yemen. However some travel agents offer Yemen visa service. You only need to send them a scan of your passport then few days before your departure to Yemen they will send you a scan of your visa. You need to bring this copy of visa until your arrival in Sana’a or Socotra airport. It’s quite simple. I also tried to apply Yemen visa using this service but it turned out not applicable for Indonesian passport holder. Indonesian passport holder must apply visa in Yemen embassy in Indonesia. Sh*t! I phoned the embassy in Jl Subang Jakarta to ask about the visa requirements. Basically, it’s a standard requirement; application form, photos, airlines tickets and a fee of 30USD. What make it not standard are a medical record of HIV and Hepatitis-B negative and also a reference letter from the travel agent you used in Yemen. Sadly, you can’t go to Yemen independently and I still can’t figure it out why they need those medical records. According to my experience, when I was in the embassy, they contacted the travel agent to make sure the document. The funny thing is when I met the ambassador and he said that even as a Yemenian, he hasn’t visit Socotra. When I said I had a blog, he wanted me to promote Socotra. Then here I am. Hehehe
Mass tourism hasn’t reached Socotra yet. This is why going there is quite expensive. One way flight ticket from Sana’a to Socotra costs me 213USD! What a price! This high price is maybe because the flight from Sana’a to Socotra is not daily flight and it’s only; Yemenia and Felix Airways. Luckily, I got some discount from Yemenia airlines. I checked flight from Jakarta to Sana’a and Jakarta-Socotra via Sana’a had the same price! I also got free hotel in Sana’a for stopover! Hahaha. The living cost in Socotra is also expensive. A 4WD car is 60USD per day. You need to pay 30USD for three meals a day, but they will serve fresh fishes, chicken (while in Hadibo city) and local cuisines. For accommodation, you can choose to camp outside Hadibo or to stay in a hotel in Hadibo; it’s 20USD. Since I spent only 3 days 2 nights, I combined these two types of accommodation. A night in a tent by the beach in Qalansiya, well that was great! They have basic bathrooms. This is one example of eco-tourisms.
My journey in Socotra started after a 2 hours flight from Sana’a via Mukalla and landed safely in Socotra’s airport. Radwan, the manager of Socotra Eco-Tours, welcomed me with a warm smile and introduced me to my driver, Ahmed and my guide, Jameel. Then we headed to an incredible beach in Qalansiya village called Detwah Lagoon. Since Indonesia has lots of beautiful beaches, mostly I didn’t impress with other beaches outside Indonesia, but Detwah Lagoon is different. Although the beach is small, it was made of pure white sands, and it goes up to the top of rocky outcrop from the shore. It creates beautiful sand dunes. Since I camped around this area, I played there until sunset. When the night came, I felt like sleeping under the stars! The next day was the day I dreamed a long ago. It was the day I visited dragon blood trees! I saw it by my own eyes! Dragon blood trees only grow on high place so we went to Dixam Plateau where lots of dragon blood trees live. It was so stunning! The dragon blood trees grow all along the valley just like a green carpet. Incredible view! I spent few hours there before we headed back to Hadibo to spend my last night in Socotra. Leaving Socotra was the hardest part after tasting glimpse of beauty it has to offer.
I love Socotra even more after my visit. Why? Because when I was there, Socotra was all for me! Yes, there is no other tourist! Hehehe. So if you want to have a special landscape “all for your own” and if you are annoyed by hordes of tourists congregating at all the same beautiful places, Socotra is the place for you. I really hope that Socotra will stay as it is without being tampered by big hotels, crowds, tour busses, tourist shops and all that.
Complete photos of #AnthoJourney in Socotra can be found in my Google+