Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools
The global site for cruising sailors
Sections
You are here: Home / Countries / Yemen / Yemen, Socotra: An island beyond time

Yemen, Socotra: An island beyond time

By SY Delat — last modified May 22, 2014 06:37 PM
On our way back from a circumnavigation, in March 2014, we started from Uligamu, North Maldives, and headed to visit the Socotra Island in Yemen. We were the first sailing yacht to visit there.

Published: 2014-05-20 23:00:00
Countries: Yemen

Yemen, Socotra: An island beyond time

SY Delta in Socotra: Copyright socotra.info

This report by Andrey Nevzorov of Russian sailing yacht Delta (10 metres, aluminium, crew of two people).
More information about their voyage in English can be found at www.theglonass.com.

Maldives

We had a short stop in the Northern Maldives en-route to Yemen. The check-in payment was
160 USD on Uligamu island. The only store there has a very small choice of food, and water is very expensive at 0.2 USD per litre. Our anchorage was at 07-04.7 N 072-55.1 E. Do not enter the fishermen harbour, it's criss-crossed with lots of ropes under water. Dinghies can be left in the harbour. All formalities take place in a building about 200 m left from the harbour.

Nearby, close to Uligamu, lies the very beautiful uninhabited island of Vagaaru (07-05.4 N 72-52.7 E). Excellent snorkelling, slight pitching in the anchorage, strong current.

Passage to Socotra

On 27.02.2014 we set out to Socotra taking the 270° course with a north wind of about 10-15 knots (beam reach) with good speed. Approximately after 65°E  the wind started changing to east. This allowed us to rise north keeping the beam reach course. After 13 days of navigation and 1150 nautical miles we came to Socotra.

So why did we go to an island, which is highly advised not to visit due to piracy? My friend, Denis Romanov, has been living there for 7 years, developing his tourist business. He assured us that Socotra is a very beautiful, hospitable and safe island with no piracy at all, and locals are very interested in developing tourism and in yacht visits. We decided to check this information.

Approaches to Socotra Island

Near the island the wind changed to east allowing us to easily sail around the eastern extremity of Socotra, dangerous for its sandbanks reaching far into the ocean and strong currents, at a distance of 10 miles. The entrance to the harbour, where the pier and anchorage are located, is safe, and the harbour itself is closed from winds and waves from the north-east, which predominate during the winter season. The guiding landmark to the harbour entrance is a tall sand dune with an oil storage facility under it. Entry at night is possible, but not recommended due to local trade ships anchored with no lights.

From the point 12-41.4 N 054-04.4 E you should navigate visually. To get to an anchorage spot, you need to pass the anchored cargo and fishing ships and drop your anchor at a depth of 5-7 metres about 0.2 miles west of the pier in order not to be in the way of small trade ships coming to the side of the pier. There are moorings, but we haven't checked them, so using your own anchor would be best. Holding is excellent. There are no waves. Dinghies can be parked on a small beach near the western base of the pier by the port security tent.

Formalities

The system of yacht reception is not fully established, so it's better to inform about your visit a few days in advance sending an e-mail to the Socotra Tamam tourist agency at office@socotra.info (Denis Romanov or Ghanem Hassen, tel.  +967-771738887). This agency provides a full range of services to all yachts and crews visiting the island. They will inform officials about your visit and prepare all necessary papers. Furthermore, they can arrange a programme for visiting Socotra.

When you enter the harbour, a security boat will meet you and help choose a place for anchorage. A port official will check the number of people on board, after which you will be allowed to go to shore by dinghy. Port staff will need your passports, ship papers and last port clearance for check-in and visa.  At the same time a customs officer will do a quick check of the ship.

Being the first yacht to come to the island, we got all formalities for free. Future formalities will cost about 200 USD + 100 USD in agent fees.

To get a Yemeni visa you must have a medical certificate for AIDS. We didn't, so they offered us to make vein blood tests in the local hospital. They did it for free, in a modern, European level hospital. The hospital's chief doctor assured us that in the future this requirement will not be applied to yachtsmen. In our case, we had made Yemeni visas in advance, by e-mail (you send a scan of your passport, and when you come, they give you a visa automatically). However, by Yemeni law, you can receive a permit to come ashore without a visa. Immigration authorities collect your passport and give you this permit. The only exception to the rule is the port of Hodeida, where yachtsmen are strongly advised not to go (more on this below).

Services

The capital of Socotra, Hadibo, is 10 km from the port. Attention – there is no public transportation between them. We used transport from Socotra Tamam. In the city, there is a good choice of fruit, vegetables, fish, seafood, you can even find goat’s meet, excellent sweets and bread. Make sure to taste local bananas, papaya and tomatoes. Local goods are very cheap. There are lots of shops with imported basic goods at close to European prices.

Besides regular goods, we recommend to buy on Socotra: natural dried milk (very high quality), ghee, dates, sherbet, halva. And the excellent Mukalla canned tuna.

Fuel (in small amounts) can be bought on a petrol station on the way from the port to the city. If you need more, they can deliver to the pier. Price for diesel is 10 USD per 20 litres, and petrol is at 0.58 USD/litre. You can get fuel from tank truck at commercial prices for cargo ships.

Water can be delivered to the port by tank truck at 20 USD for 1,000 litres. Also you can fill your scuba aqualungs and arrange a bilge cleaning.

As for repairs, you are limited to what local car garages can offer.

Currency and communication

The local currency is the Yemeni rial. The exchange rate is stable at 215 YER for 1USD. Dollars and euros can be exchanged in the city, and there's also an ATM.

Internet connection on Socotra is quite slow. There is only one internet café in the city, open at evening time and charging 10 USD per hour. We used free internet at our agent’s office.

Sightseeing

Socotra is definitely a must see island. After having circumnavigated the world and visited beautiful islands in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, including the Galapagos islands and South-East Asia, we were amazed by the pristine beauty of Socotra and the friendliness of its people.

Socotra is a unique island, it has remained unchanged for thousands of years. The things you'll see there you can’t see anywhere else. There are still not too many tourists there, about 2,500 per year, mainly from Europe, US, Russia, and Canada. For more information visit www.socotra.info where you can find out a lot about
this island.

Hadibo itself is not a place of interest. To see real Socotra you need to go out of the city, preferably for a few days. The optimal amount of time to get acquainted with Socotra is one week. We highly recommend you to order an excursion with the Socotra Tamam travel agency. This guarantees you the best quality and the most interesting and well thought-out programme. Denis, the owner of this company, is also a highly experienced surfer and yachtsman, so you can speak the same language. He knows every stone on Socotra, and will gladly share his knowledge and impressions. Also he can help with transport, shower, laundry, etc. Last, but not least, you can have some good food in his his restaurant.

Unfortunately, our time was limited, so we spent only 4 days on Socotra. Together with Denis we visited the central part of the island to see the famous unique dragon trees. Some of them are as much as 1000 years old. Also we saw frankincense and myrrh trees. After coming down by a beautiful serpentine road we took a bath in a natural freshwater pool, and at sunset we visited the snow-white sand dunes on the island's south shore.

We spent the second day on the north-eastern part of the island where summer monsoon winds form a lot of tall dunes. Denis took with him special boards for gliding on sand – sandboarding, and we enjoyed very fast downhill rides. Sandboarding is amazing, but it's a sport for people who don’t suffer much from panting while climbing.

We regret very much not having had the time to see the unique Hoq cave, the mystical Valley of Dreams, the Shuab harbour, the Lost World where the biggest 'bottle trees' grow, and many more places. But one day we’ll come back.

Transport

There are three regular flights per week from Socotra to Sana'a (the capital of Yemen), which is connected by international flights to the rest of the world. The cost of a ticket is 215 USD. There is also a Saturday flight to Sharjah (UAE).

The piracy problem

We want to point out that we speak about it based on our own experience and after conversations with Socotra officials, fishermen and locals.

There are no pirates on the island nor around it. Locals are very friendly, they don’t have any weapons. Socotran fishermen constantly patrol all waters around the island and up to 52°E to the west, where the Yemen-Somalia border is, until the islands of Samha, Darsa and Abd al Kuri, where a Yemeni military unit is located. In the last few years no locals have seen any pirates.

Departure from Socotra

We left Socotra with an east wind of about 10-15 knots, and took the 254° course to the point 14-31.2 N 052-57.5 E, crossed the safety passage for cargo ships, and followed parallel to it for about 10
miles north to 12-05.7 N 045-00.6 E. We kept in a good radio connection zone with cargo ships, just in case. During our navigation we were constantly followed by coast radar stations of the Yemeni Navy (according to our radar detector). A Yemeni Navy helicopter flew around us three times, and we saw a coastguard ship as well.

Continental Yemen Stopovers

We had a very negative experience in the Hodeida port, where we needed to drop off Denis who sailed with us from Socotra to the Red Sea. The Hodeida commercial port is absolutely not suited for yachts and small ships. Entering the Hodeida port, you risk to spend 1,500 USD for two days of mooring by a broken pier without any conveniences and without a chance to go ashore, since the port is a restricted facility. Better forget about it.

But we have information that in the port of Aden the situation is opposite and there is no problem for yachts to enter. Our friends (sailing at the same time on a ship called Anima from Oman to the Red Sea) visited Aden for food and diesel. They paid about 200 USD in fees, and had no problems whatsoever.

Summary

In our opinion, navigation from India, Sri-Lanka or the Maldives to Bab-el-Mandeb with a stopover on Socotra is a good alternative to navigation with stops in Oman and continental Yemen. Also, stopover on Socotra is recommended for those, who navigate from Red Sea to Indian Ocean.

Captain of sailing yacht Delta
Andrey Nevzorov

Read more about the Socotra Archipelago at http://socotra.info/general-information-about-socotra.php#.U35Dc16JWhA

Share |
Countries
Albania
Algeria
American Samoa
Angola
Anguilla
Antarctica
Antigua & Barbuda
Argentina
Aruba
Ascension Island
Australia
Azores
BIOT (Chagos)
Bahamas
Bahrain
Barbados
Belgium
Belize
Bermuda
Bonaire
Bosnia
Bouvetoya
Brazil
British Virgin Islands
Brunei
Bulgaria
Cambodia
Canada
Canary Islands
Cape Verdes
Cayman Islands
Channel Islands
Chile
China
Christmas Island
Cocos Keeling
Colombia
Comoros
Cook Islands
Costa Rica
Croatia
Cuba
Curacao
Cyprus
Denmark
Djibouti
Dominica
Dominican Republic
East Timor (Timor Leste)
Easter Island
Ecuador
Egypt
El Salvador
Eritrea
Estonia
Falkland Islands
Faroe Islands
Federated States of Micronesia
Fiji
Finland
France
French Guiana
French Polynesia
French Subantarctic Territory
Galapagos
Gambia
Georgia
Germany
Gibraltar
Greece
Greenland
Grenada
Guadeloupe
Guam
Guatemala
Guinea-Bissau
Guyana
Haiti
Hawaii
Heard, McDonald & Macquarie Islands
Honduras
Hong Kong
Iceland
India
Indonesia
Ireland
Israel
Italy
Ivory Coast
Jamaica
Japan
Jordan
Juan Fernandez Islands
Kenya
Kiribati
Kuwait
Latvia
Lebanon
Libya
Lithuania
Macau
Madagascar
Madeira
Malaysia
Maldives
Malta
Marion & Prince Edward Island
Marshall Islands
Martinique
Mauritania
Mauritius
Mayotte
Mexico
Monaco
Montenegro
Montserrat
Morocco
Mozambique
Myanmar (Burma)
Namibia
Nauru
Netherlands
New Caledonia
New Zealand
New Zealand's Subantarctic Islands
Nicaragua
Niue
Norfolk Island
Northern Marianas
Norway
Oman
Palau (Belau)
Panama
Papua New Guinea
Peru
Philippines
Pitcairn Island
Poland
Portugal
Puerto Rico
Qatar
Reunion Island
Romania
Russia
Saba
Samoa
Sao Tome and Principe
Saudi Arabia
Senegal
Seychelles
Sierra Leone
Singapore
Sint Maarten
Slovenia
Solomon Islands
Somalia
South Africa
South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands
South Korea
Spain
Spanish Virgin Islands
Sri Lanka
St Barts
St Helena
St Kitts & Nevis
St Lucia
St Martin
St Pierre & Miquelon
St Vincent & the Grenadines
Statia
Subantarctic & Southern Ocean Islands
Sudan
Suriname
Sweden
Syria
Taiwan
Tanzania
Thailand
Tokelau
Tonga
Trinidad & Tobago
Tristan da Cunha
Tunisia
Turkey
Turks & Caicos
Tuvalu
US Virgin Islands
USA
Ukraine
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
Uruguay
Vanuatu
Venezuela
Vietnam
Wallis and Futuna
Yemen
Add/Update Your Business
If you would like your business to be listed, or the details are wrong, please update your business