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Socotra Tour 2020 (& Cairo, Egypt)

So you want to REALLY travel? To go to places where there are no tourists? To places so beautiful, but yet still so untouched? The world is running out of those places fast. Don’t worry, I have one for you in 2020. Socotra Island, Yemen. Local guest houses, camping under the stars, white sand beaches stretching with not a solitary person on them, and of course the famous ‘upside down’ Dragon Blood trees.

In 2017 I became the only tourist in Yemen, but I had to hitch a ride on an illegal Indian cement cargo shop for 4 days to access it. Now though, with the contacts I made, I’m going back. And I’m inviting you guys to come with me (but this time, we’re flying!).
Yemen was my second last country, number 196/197, and I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to experience. Socotra Island, a Yemeni island off the coast of Oman, Somalia and Yemen mainland, is perhaps the most beautiful place in the world.

Socotra Tour, Yemen
Socotra Tour, Yemen

Is it Safe to Visit Yemen? Isn’t it dangerous?

I know visiting Yemen may sound crazy, but don’t worry, Socotra is much, much safer than mainland Yemen. The war with Saudi Arabia is heartbreaking, but thankfully it’s never made it to the island of Socotra, and Socotra has no history of extremism or terrorism, so we’re all set for a Socotra Tour. During my attempts to enter Yemen, I became friends with Yahyha, a Yemeni refugee in Oman, who then helped me visit Socotra, he recently asked me to come back. So I obliged, but this time with a group, supporting his business and getting to visit a place like no other.  Besides, everyone told us we would never be able to visit Baghdad and Babylon in Iraq as a group, but we did it, and it was epic! And we’re off to Damascus and Homs in Syria in October. So let’s make a Socotra trip that we never forget.

Socotra Tour 2020
16 of us in Baghdad, Iraq in 2018!

So, Socotra is pretty safe. We want to support local businesses and stimulate tourism in a place drowning in poverty. We want to experience countries that few others are brave enough to. Travel makes us feel alive, and 2 weeks in Thailand just doesn’t cut it sometimes. So Socotra it is. And besides, you’ll get to see this stuff..

Starting to get convinced? I’ve traveled quite a lot, and I can’t think of anywhere more beautiful than Socotra. But the feeling of being one of the few people to have visited the island in the last 5 years or so is a feeling you have to experience for yourself. Sure, the Galapagos is pretty cool, Palawan is gorgeous, Malta, Phuket, Ibiza – all amazing islands. But you have to share them, and understandably so. If somewhere is that amazing, people flock to it. But not Socotra, Socotra is ours, for the time being. So jump on board and take a trip you can tell your grandkids about.

Hang on, Where Is Socotra again?!

It’s here. Off the coast of Somalia, Yemeni mainland and Oman. In the Arabian sea. Pretty cool, right?

How Will We Get to Socotra?

We’re going to fly! Since the authorities dubbed Socotra as safe, a local airline has been allowed to fly in once a week from Cairo, Egypt. The flights aren’t bookable online, but each Wednesday they ply the Cairo-Habido route. So you don’t have to waste 4 days on a boat (although that was an epic trip to be honest!). With the convenience of flying though, comes the price. Currently $1250 for the return trip, with an increase to $1500 on the horizon. Ouch, I know.

Right now, we’re going to plan to fly and incorporate the cost into the price. If we get enough people (40+), I will look into organizing a private boat instead, once that will take 1 day rather than 4. The price would be cheaper, and it’d be a much cooler journey, leaving from Oman. Leave that with me. For now, expect to meet in Cairo, and we’ll all fly in from there.

OK, OK, you got me, gimme more info!

DATES:

February 17th* to 26th, 2020

COST:

EARLY BIRD BOOKED BEFORE JULY 31st: £3070GBP/$3899USD

STANDARD PRICE: July 31st: £3230GBP/$4099

*$ NOTE: $100 off if you’ve visited Iraq, Syria or Japan with me in the last 18 months! $*
  • 15% non-refundable deposit (£472.50/$600) to secure your spot. Refunds, minus fees and exchange rate costs, will, of course, be issued if the trip is canceled due to security issues, or the flights to Socotra are canceled and a boat can’t be organised as a replacement.
  • Full balance to be paid 2 months before the trip (December 19th, 2019).
  • PAYMENT PLAN: Monthly payments are accepted too – 15% deposit this month, followed by 5 monthly payments (August to December) of £535.50/$ December 2018 to May 2019. Message/Email/Instagram/Facebook me and we’ll work it out.
  • Price based on per person sharing. Single supplement is available.
Qalansia Beach, Socotra Island
Qalansia Beach, Socotra Island

ITINERARY:

Arrive in Cairo anytime. We’ll meet in the lobby at 4.30pm for a trip briefing and then go for a group dinner at a rooftop restaurant to get to know each other.

Cairo downtown
Cairo downtown

Time to explore the biggest city in the Arabic world, Cairo. With our local guide, we’ll be wandering the streets, bartering with the artisans, and exploring the nooks and crannies of the Khan el-Khalili bazaar. Hear all about Egypt’s history, both ancient and new, while we wander through the ancient Mosques and take pitstops to drown ourselves in local coffees and teas. In the afternoon, we’ll finally lay eyes on the main attraction, the Pyramids of Giza.

It’s truly astounding just how close to the city centre these ancient wonders are, spend a couple of hours mesmerized, and keep your claustrophobia at bay as you delve deep into the centre of the biggest Pyramid. That evening, we’ll have another group dinner before we organise our departure for Socotra.

Giza Pyramids
Giza Pyramids

The day has arrived. After stuffing your face with as much hummus for breakfast as physically possible, we’ll make our way to the airport outside Cairo reading for our anticipated flight to Socotra Island, Yemen. The island has been hurting for years with the international sanctions, it’s been cut off internationally, so flights running from Egypt are a huge bonus to the community. Get excited, we’re nearly there.

Downtown Habidou
Downtown Habidu

3 or 4 hours later, immigration taken care of (thanks to our fixers, we’ve got you covered!), we’re off to town, a short 12km drive to Hadibu Capital city for our local guest house check-in, followed by a late lunch in a local restaurant, and time permitting, a visit to Wadi Ayhaft surrounded by breathtaking Hajher mountains, dotted with endemic species of trees. Back to the hotel for dinner and we’ll overnight in Hadibu.

Wadi Ayhaft
Wadi Ayhaft

After breakfast in the town, we’ll make our way in the 4X4s to the northeast of the island lies, to the spectacular plateau of Homhil. We’re right in at the deep end here, instant beauty. Homhil is a protected landscape, covered in frankincense, myrrh, and the mythical Dragon Blood trees. The area is also rich in bird species, reptiles and insects. No half measures here though, we’re going straight to the top, so leave your flipflops in your bag.

Homhil Socotra
First Dragon Blood tree sighting, pose!

After the climb, you’re rewarded with the most incredible panoramic ocean-view. After posing with the Dragon Blood trees, we have a beautiful 1.5-hour hike to reach our drivers in the nearby seaside village, where we continue driving to Dihamri marine protected area, a natural sea reserve, the underwater paradise offers some of the best snorkeling in the middle east.  The Dihamri Reserve is inhabited by an enormous variety of fish species and magnificent coral reefs. Googles and snorkels are available.

Tonight is our first-night camping, you couldn’t ask for a better location. Hope someone brought some speakers!

Homhil views
Homhil views

Waking up in paradise. Our local guys will make breakfast for us, then we’ll go for a dip with some snorkeling in Dihamri.

After drying off, it’s a quick drive to the bottom of Hoq Cave. Get your sneakers back on and soak up the 1.5hrs hike to the cave entrance. Looking back at the Arabian sea as you climb is always a great excuse for a breather, we’re in no rush, don’t worry.

From the entrance, we can hike 3kms deep inside the cave (make sure you have your head torch and proper shoes), we’ll have a local guide with us, so we won’t get lost. After returning, we’ll hop back in the jeeps, and head towards Archer, home to the Socotra’s monumental sand dunes, complete with the crystal clear river flowing from the mountains, illustrating the true uniqueness of the area. A magical place for camping, where we can chill, or if you’re still feeling energetic, hike up one of the dunes. The view of the coast from the top is pretty epic.

Archer Sand dunes, Socotra
Camping at the Archer Sand dunes, Socotra

Get ready to jump back in time today. After morning coffees at camp, Dixam is calling. Found in the central part of the island, you suddenly find yourself in prehistoric times. Plateau and canyons with unique endemic Dragon Blood trees (Dracena). The endless play of shadows and colors in the setting sun portrays bizarre images that are hard to believe. Swimming in a rocky pool in the valley is a reward for a stroll along the stony path of an incredible landscape.

This place is my favourite location in all of Socotra. That night, we’ll camp in Wadi Dirhur

Dragon Bloods Trees, Socotra Island
Dixam Plateau, Socotra

After breakfast in Wadi Dirhur, soaking up the views, we’ll visit the Dragon Blood trees forest in Firmhin, and then return to Wadi Dirhur to continue driving to the southern part of the island where we’ll nip into the Digub cave for a lunch break inside the cave.

Wadi Dirhur
Wadi Dirhur

After lunch, we’re off to Aomak, Noged and Zahek – the most remote areas of Socotra, and the longest beach in Yemen, overlooking the Indian Ocean. A quiet place lined with long beaches with snow-white sand inviting us to relax or explore the nearby villages. Quiet moments by palm tree oasis, where the desert stretches along the ocean coast, there is an incredible scenery of sand dunes for photographers, then return to Hadibu from the old road (read: bumpy road!) for overnight in a local guesthouse.

Aomak Socotra
Aomak beach, Socotra

Today is the reason why one day Socotra will be famous. The most impressive place on the island, Qalansea (Ditwah lagoon). We’ll spend the afternoon here, walking around the lagoon, hiking the central mountain to gain the full panoramic view of the area, swimming in the ocean. After years of traveling, watching paradise being changed to chain hotels, this place will blow your mind.

This evening, we camp near the lagoon in order to take an early morning boat trip to Shuab beach.

Qalansia Beach, Socotra Island
Qalansia Beach, Socotra Island

Taking our local boat from Qalansia village takes an hour or so. We’ll arrive in isolated, incredible location, the sandy Shoab beach with an electric turquoise color. The monumental mountain staring back at us, the remoteness of the beach guarantee peace and a true travel experience. Pop on your snorkel, look for flocks of dolphins, turtles and rare species of birds and enjoy the crystal clear water all the way.

In the afternoon, we’ll return to Qalansia to meet the drivers and drive to Hadibu for overnight in our guest house.

Shoab Beach
Shoab Beach

That’s almost a wrap folks. We’ll have the morning to explore gorgeous little Habido. The bazaar, the fish market, grab a coffee with the locals, then we’ll take our lunchtime flight back to Cairo (expect delays!) in time for a transfer to our hotel in Cairo and one last group dinner. A hot shower, some proper internet and a beer are in order!

Habido, Soctra's Capital
Habido, Socotra’s Capital

Depart Cairo anytime.

WHAT’S INCLUDED:

  • Round-trip International Airfare from Cairo, Egypt to Socotra, Yemen ($1300+)
  • English speaking local guide
  • Johnny will be our international guide
  • 4*4WD and drivers.
  • All Cairo accommodation
  • 3 nights guesthouse in Socotra, Yemen
  • 4 nights camping in Socotra, Yemen
  • Camping materials: Tent, mattress, pillows, blanket
  • Protected areas entry fees
  • 3 meals per day in Yemen
  • Cave and mountain local guides
  • Yemeni visa cost ($150)

WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED:

  • International airfare to Cairo
  • Travel insurance
  • Any additional food or snacks
  • Egyptian double entry visa
  • Airport transfers in Cairo (I can assist you here though)
  • Snorkeling rental equipment
  • Tips
  • Sleeping bags
  • Lunches and dinners in Egypt

WANT TO COME?

Email me on johnny@onestep4ward.com, or send a message on instagram.com/onestep4ward or facebook.com/onestep4ward.

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2 thoughts on “Socotra Tour 2020

  1. Hi Johnny, am interested to hear more about your trip to Socotra in 2020 so please email me once you have date and plans firmed up. I am a 59 year old woman based in Malaysia. Thanks and hope to hear from you
    Regards, mj

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