Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Yemen biodiversity hotspot harbours ecotourism hopes

Yemen biodiversity hotspot harbours ecotourism hopes

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
An aerial view of fishermen in the water by a boat off Shoab beach in the Yemeni Island of Socotra on February 11. AFP

Yemen biodiversity hotspot harbours ecotourism hopes

With its lush landscape, distinctive trees, unique animals and turquoise waters home to dolphins, Yemen is hoping its Socotra archipelago will become a dream destination despite the country’s nightmarish conflict.

Lying in the Indian Ocean some 200km off the Yemeni coast, the four islands and two rocky islets are home to some 50,000 people and have remained relatively untouched by the war that has devastated the mainland.

While most of Yemen is embroiled in a conflict that erupted in 2014 between Huthi rebels and the government – plus the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic – adventurous travellers are showing a growing interest in visiting Socotra.

Many set off from the wealthy UAE, which is close to the authorities that control the islands.

Local travel agency Welcome to Socotra said: “Fortunately, Socotra has never been affected by the war dynamics of the Yemeni mainland.

“No tensions or fights have ever been reported, hence there is no reason for tourists to worry.”

Since flights resumed with a chartered Air Arabia aircraft once a week from Abu Dhabi, the agency has received “hundreds” of requests, it said.

Yemen, already the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula even before the war, has for years been trying to develop the archipelago into a hub for ecotourism.

But despite the reassuring words and the lure of the pure white beaches, Socotra hit the headlines in June when Yemen’s UAE-trained southern separatists seized it from the government.

The two sides have since established a power-sharing deal, substantially dialling down tensions in the south.

Socotra is located just 250km from the Horn of Africa, and 1,000km from the southern city of Aden where Yemen’s government is based.

It is famed for its unique biodiversity – nearly one-third of its 825 plants and 90 per cent of its reptile species are considered unique to the island, according to the UN’s cultural agency UNESCO.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Dragon’s blood (Dracaena cinnabari) trees at the top of Dixam mountain in the Yemeni Island of Socotra, a site of global importance for biodiversity conservation. AFP

The unique and spectacular vegetation, such as the Dragon’s Blood Tree (Dracaena cinnabari) with its distinctive umbrella-shaped canopy and red sap, has earned it a listing as a World Heritage Site.

UNESCO says on its website: “Socotra is of particular importance to the Horn of Africa’s biodiversity hotspot.

“As one of the most biodiversity rich and distinct islands in the world, [it] has been termed the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean’.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Research key to Kanitha’s rep for expertise

    Sok Kanitha is used to weighing in on controversial issues using a confident approach that signals expertise and authority, and a recent video she made was no exception. Her “Episode 342: The History of NATO” video went live on January 16, 2023 and immediately shot to 30,000 likes and 3,500

  • Cambodia maintains 'Kun Khmer' stance despite Thailand’s boycott threat

    Cambodia has taken the position that it will use the term "Kun Khmer" to refer to the sport of kickboxing at the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, and has removed the term Muay from all references to the sport. Despite strong reactions from the Thai

  • Knockout! Kun Khmer replaces ‘Muay’ for Phnom Penh Games

    Cambodia has decided to officially remove the word Muay from the programme of the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games 2023 in May. “Kun Khmer” will instead be used to represent the Southeast Asian sport of kickboxing, in accordance with the wishes of the Cambodian people. Vath

  • Artificial insemination takes herd from 7 to 700

    Some farms breed local cows or even import bulls from a broad for the purpose of breeding heavier livestock for meat production. One Tbong Khnum farmer has found a more efficient way. Hout Leang employs artificial insemination to fertilise local cows. Thanks to imported “straws”

  • New int’l airport nearly half complete as travel industry returns to life

    Construction of a new airport that is slated to serve the capital has passed the 43 per cent completion mark, raising prospects for a proper recovery in the civil aviation and tourism sectors as international travellers return to the Kingdom in increasingly large numbers. The figure

  • Chinese group tours return to Cambodia starting Feb 6

    Cambodia is among 20 countries selected by Beijing for a pilot programme allowing travel agencies to provide international group tours as well as flight and hotel packages to Chinese citizens, following a three-year ban. As the days tick down until the programme kicks off on February 6,