Yemen, Socotra Island: Totally unique and a great place to stop on the way to the Red Sea
A very interesting report of a visit to Socotra Island which, in spite of the situation on the mainland, appears to be both a safe and interesting stop for yachtsmen.
Published 6 years ago, updated 4 years ago
Custom’s & Immigration March 2017
Agent’s Fee $250 – US.
Immigration: $100 – US Per Person for 30 days.
Boat hire for Agent upon arrival to clear in: $10.- US
Clearing out is free and the agent gives you your clearance papers just before you leave.
We all complained beforehand that the agent was so expensive…but when you have been there and you have met the people and have seen how they help you and how much work they do for you and how much fun you have with them, well, then you are happy you have paid 250 USD…it is absolutely worth it.
Water: There is a water bottle plant in the capital of Hadibo. Water is NOT a problem, is excellent and extremely affordable.
Fuel: You can fill your own jerrycans at the local fuel station. Your driver helps you. There are two stations, the local one that has large lines and a new one installed by the Emirates. Both are the same price.
Shopping: No problem, most things are available and there is a fresh market. It is incredibly fun to shop in Hadibo. Ask for the knife maker.
Hospital: We used a good dentist at the hospital and had an X-ray taken for a bone problem. Both services were subsidized by the Emirates, though we did not pay anything..this could change for foreigners.
Restaurants: There are several local eats that are good and cheap. Vegetable curry, goat or meat, chicken, rice, bread, sweet vermicelli. Foods are limited but well worth a eat!
We used the tourist agency Socotra Tamam, our driver/ guide was Mohamed and we had close contact with his business partner Denis Romanov who goes out of his way to give you a grand time while visiting Socotra. He opened the doors to his home to us for internet access and we shared a couple of delicious dinners on a couple occasions cooked by his wife Anya. They also provide laundry at the house!
If you have surplus equipment like ropes, tools, a bike, outboard engine, paints etc.. you can trade with Denis if he is interested. We did with electrical tools like sanders and planers and he was very happy especially with wine, the island is alcohol-free so bring extra to trade and/or give. We gave the x-ray doctor a small bottle of rum for the check-up.
Because of the war in Yemen, there are good security measures taken for Socotra by the local government supported by the Emirates. There are only two accommodations available in town, one is around 20 USD/night the other around 150 usd/night. Construction was underway when we visited new properties. An all-day trip with Mohammed is 100usd. We did not do any overnight trips so do not know to price.
Mohamed and Denis both have a deep love for nature and wildlife on Socotra and they are knowledgeable. They are great guides/drivers and people. You can’t drive on your own in Socotra as there are few cars on the island and no rentals. The roads are at times very narrow steep mountain tracks and it is better to leave the driving to skilled local guides. They know the way and all the special places. All cars are 4WD. We strongly recommend going on one of those trips organized by Socotra Tamam because you will never see more stunning natural beauty on such a peaceful island and have so much fun with your driver/guide and the local people. Nearly all the 100,000 inhabitants are related one way or another so everyone knows somebody who knows somebody….and they behave like family. Your local guide knows this and has access to everything and everybody, take advantage of that!
At the moment the Emirates are supporting Socotra in many ways. They have given donations (cars), built the islands first fish
factory, roads, hospitals and countless more infrastructure projects. The country was badly hit by two recent hurricanes. More info about that at www.Socotra.info
The Emirates employ 7,000 local men for security/army duty but many are without weapons. They are paid by the Emirates, the unemployment was around 33% on the island so it is a huge relief that so many men now have an income and something to do.. Nothing much is made or grown on Socotra so everything is imported from mainland Yemen or abroad.
There is a ferry service with mainland Yemen, mostly used for cargo on lorries. There are very few tourists using this kind of transportation, but it is possible.
The postal service with Socotra has stopped. If you intend to sail to Socotra it would be highly appreciated by Denis if you could bring something. Send an email to ask what you can do..
email: [email protected]
Denis pays for everything.W e brought inner tubes for bikes so he can start bike tours. If you want to help, you can also take some boxes for him and post them in your next country. All will be paid for. We posted boxes from DHL in Djibouti.
This Island of Socotra is awesome and totally unique with flora and fauna not found anywhere else in the world (and very friendly natives). We were sorry to leave as we had such a fantastic time there but we were already late in the season and one of the last yachts on its way to transit the Suez Canal. It is a super place to stop and re-provision on the way to the Red Sea and I highly recommend taking the time to stop there!
Report from Tony Stubbs