The Socotra archipelago is an oasis of calm, isolated in the northwest Indian Ocean off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia. It is a land of high mountains, pristine white beaches, and one of the world’s densest concentrations of plant and animal life found anywhere on the planet.
Visitors throughout history have been drawn to the island in search of its natural treasures, not least the otherworldly dragon’s blood tree, revered for its healing powers and used as a paint colour by artists. There are thought to be 825 species of plants on the 3,796km² island, of which 37% are endemic.
From June to September every year, strong monsoon winds hit the islands, contributing to Soqotra’s inaccessibility. This inaccessibility has been a blessing for Socotra's nature in recent years. There have been very low levels of human impact on the environment of the island compared to other global biodiversity hotspots. The island’s population remains small (around 60,000), and was a barter only economy as late as 1990. The island’s isolation also means that Socotra has been insulated from the ongoing civil war on mainland Yemen, making Socotra a safe and welcoming destination for the handful of tourists which make their way to the island each year.
MEET THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Simon Norfolk is a landscape photographer whose work has explored and expanded the meaning of the word 'battlefield'. Eschewing the term ‘photojournalist’, Simon endeavours to show the hidden complexities of conflict regions in stark contrast to traditional conflict photography.
He has been described by one critic as "the leading documentary photographer of our time. Passionate, intelligent and political; there is no one working in photography that has his vision or his clarity." Having visited Socotra previously in 2009 and 2013, he will be able to give insight into any changes that have taken place on the island over time and demonstrate how to capture iconic images similar to his own.
See more of Simon's work at @simonnorfolkstudio
One of the best things about going on an ISHKAR trip is the group of people with whom you travel. Our trips attract informed, critically minded and adventurous people from all around the world.
Some of you will be drawn by the prospect of spending time in the remote wilderness, others will be drawn by the chance to learn about a fascinating and poorly understood part of the world.
We get to know everyone who applies to our trips over the phone. In this way we can curate groups guaranteed to enjoy sharing this extraordinary experience together. What unites everyone is the same curious spirit and desire to get far away from the typical tourist trails.
(c) Simon Norfolk
The price for this once in a lifetime trip is USD$5,890. The price will include all food, transport and accommodation whilst in country, along with all field photography workshops with Simon Norfolk. We will be assisted by guides who know the region inside out, providing access to areas rarely seen by tourists.
Flights to Soqotra - approximately $860
Visa - $150
(c) Simon Norfolk
We are uncompromising when it comes to the safety and security of our travellers and will not hesitate to alter plans or cancel trips due to changing security dynamics. Due to Socotra's remote location, it has been insulated entirely from the physical conflict on mainland Yemen. We do not travel to mainland Yemen.
Through working with our team of local guides we are able to stay abreast of any changes to the security situation if there were any.
Please see our Travel Security page for more information.
(c) Simon Norfolk
Ali has spent the majority of his life on Socotra. After studying in Malaysia, he decided to return to Socotra to work at the nexus of tourism and the environment. He has worked for various international environmental organisations on Socotra including the Environmental Protection Authority and the UN Global Environmental Facility.
Although Italian, Tarim has spent much of his life growing up in Sana’a, where he learned to speak the local dialect near perfectly. From an early age he began routinely visiting Socotra, where he gained a passion for zoology and wildlife conservation. During his time in Yemen, Tarim contributed to renowned international publications such as Al Jazeera, The Guardian and Esquire on the topic of wildlife conservation in the Arabian Peninsula.
(c) Simon Norfolk
ISHKAR Team Member
Your ISHKAR point of contact for the trip is Clare Doolan. If you have any queries about the trip:
Email: email@example.com Book a consultation: Click here.
Clare Doolan ~ Head of Travel
Clare grew up on a big island in the middle of the Pacific (Australia) acutely aware that a bigger world awaited. For the past fifteen years, she has dedicated her personal and professional life to travel, looking for the backstory of places that get overlooked by guidebooks and google maps. Before joining ISHKAR, she spent a decade developing travel experiences for Botswana and Zimbabwe’s high-end safari industry. Though Clare has travelled widely across every continent other than Antarctica, she’s most fond of forays into Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org +44 (0) 7984 102 639 (whatsapp)
01 / Starlit
As the sunlight fades, experiment with night-time photography, using the bizarre silhouettes of the dragon blood trees as foreground subjects under the full moon.
02 / Firmhin
Follow a Socotri ethnobotanical expert into the world’s densest dragon’s blood tree forest to observe the careful harvesting of natural resin and learn about its valuable uses.
03 / Fishing
Help the fishermen haul in their catches at the end of the day, before grilling the fresh seafood over our fire amongst the white sand dunes. Capture the colourful boats and daily fishing routines on camera under Simon's guidance.
04 / Natural
Cool off in the azure waters of Wadi Kalisan, nestled in a deep crevasse in the eastern highlands, and then watch the sunset from the natural infinity pool overlooking the Arabian sea.
Ishkar's trip to Socotra was a truly once in a lifetime experience which we will treasure forever. We loved every minute of it, and wouldn't have changed a thing. Thank you for bringing this place to life for us and for making it so special.
- Kate Bloomer - “Soqotra Flora and Fauna” traveller 2021
Ishkar did a terrific job in providing a truly authentic, safe, and compelling experience in Socotra, a place that is not easy to visit. All the guides were welcoming, helpful, motivated and engaging. They put a lot of effort into creating a unique and memorable itinerary that focused on chasing the best light for photography and showcasing the best Socotra has to offer. We were able to see beautiful landscapes, learn about the diverse and endemic flora, as well as meet wonderful local people and see how they live. It was great to spend time with a group who was so passionate about photography while appreciating and respecting local cultural values, norms and beliefs. I would highly recommend anyone to do this trip!! Definitely one that I will not forget for many years to come. Thank you Ishkar and the entire crew for making it possible!
- Eva Ho - “Socotra x Simon Norfolk” traveller 2021
Ishkar and the local on-the-ground team did an amazing job making a remote island accessible. The staff was great, friendly, helpful, and knowledgable; the arrangements were logical and practical, and the experiences and guests were fun and unique.
- Scott Blanksteen - “Socotra x Simon Norfolk” traveller 2021
If Socotra is part of Yemen, is it safe to travel there?
The island’s remote location has insulated it entirely from the physical conflict on mainland Yemen. You may notice military bases on Socotra, but these are not involved in the fighting.
At ISHKAR ensuring the safety of our travellers is at the heart of what we do. For more information surrounding our approach to security read this page.
What is the situation on mainland Yemen?
Yemen’s internationally recognised government (supported by a Saudi led military coalition) and Iran- backed Houthi rebels are fighting against each other for control of the country. This conflict has been ongoing for 7 years and is often referred to by analysts as a proxy war; Iran against Saudi Arabia. The conflict has displaced more than one million people and has resulted in what the UN has called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
The USA is involved in attempts to broker a ceasefire in the country and more recently Iran and Saudi Arabia have held direct talks in Iraq. The talks aimed to open up diplomatic channels and therefore reduce tension in the region
How will Covid-19 affect the trip?
In order to protect both our travellers and those that our travellers come into contact with, we mandate a strict set of COVID-19 protocols which include social distancing, usage of hand sanitiser and the wearing of face coverings. Our COVID-19 procedures are based on up to date advice from the World Health Organisation in addition to following local requirements. Along with our security information, we ensure to send out our COVID-19 procedures document to every traveller.
All travellers (regardless of vaccination status) are required to obtain a negative PCR test result within 72 hours prior to departure. Within 24 hours prior to departure travellers (regardless of vaccination status) must also obtain proof of a negative rapid antigen test result. Proof of both these tests must be sent to ISHKAR prior to departure, and its cost will covered by the traveller, not ISHKAR.
Should ISHKAR decide to cancel a trip as a result of COVID-19 or should a traveller be unable to take part in the trip as a result of COVID-19, you will be offered options including a full refund as per our COVID-19 Travel Policy. Any further questions, please take a look at our COVID-19 Travel FAQs, and our generic COVID-19 Protocols, or contact a member of the team: email@example.com
What is the weather like in March?
Socotra has a tropical desert climate, influenced by the monsoon winds that blow from the north-east in March. The monthly average rainfall is 14mm over an average of 3 days (very low). It’s mostly dry, but there may be intermittent showers. Temperatures can rise to 30 °C during the day and drop to 15 °C at night in the mountains.
Where can I see the exact itinerary?
We do not publish our itineraries online. We will give further information about the itinerary upon enquiry. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org to request the trip information pack.
What is included in the cost?
The cost includes all accommodation, guiding, road transport, breakfast, lunch and dinner and entrance fees. It does not include international flights into and out of Socotra, visa fees, insurance, excess luggage charges, cameras, alcohol, additional food and drinks, medical expenses, tipping.
Flights to Soqotra - approximately $860
Visa - $150
When do I need to book?
As early as possible, this trip is likely to be booked up fast. A deposit of $650 will secure your place, and the final balance needs to be paid 60 days prior to departure. You can pay this online, or via bank transfer directly to us.
How easy is it to get a visa?
We will apply for your visa on your behalf - the standard cost of the visa is $150 per person.
When do I need to book my flights?
If you are thinking of applying, please email us at email@example.com and we will send you the flights you will need to book, in order to ensure that all travellers’ arrivals are coordinated for arrival into the UAE prior to our flight to Socotra.
How much does the return flight cost from the UAE - Soqotra?
The return flight costs $860 per person. ISHKAR will arrange for this flight, however you will be invoiced separately for this along with your visa.
Do I need special insurance?
You are required to have full travel insurance specific to the region and the activities.
If you are unsure if your existing travel insurance policy will cover you, we can suggest specialist insurance companies.
Recommended insurance providers include Battleface, Trawick International and High Risk Voyager.
Will I be able to travel on my own?
We will stay as a group for the duration of the trip. You may choose to travel on your own before the start or after the finish of the trip, but whilst travelling with ISHKAR you are requested to remain with the group.
Do I need any vaccinations?
Socotra is often considered in line with Yemen, however is not currently facing the same health risks as the mainland. Please speak with your doctor to ensure you have the correct vaccinations for remote travel on Socotra.
Please consider being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before travelling in order to protect those on the island.
What do I need to bring?
We will send you a more detailed handbook before leaving, including recommended reading and clothing.
Where will we be staying?
We will be camping throughout the trip - all camping equipment will be provided, but you may wish to bring your own sleeping bag.
Can I come on my own?
Yes of course! Individuals and small groups are equally welcome. Personally, we also think this could be the perfect trip to experience with a friend, parent, child, or partner!
Can I book even if I don’t live in the UK?
Yes of course, our travellers always come from a mix of different countries. You will just need to arrive in the UAE in time to catch the flight to Hadibo.
Do I have to be a keen photographer to take part in this trip?
No, absolutely not. There will be plenty of opportunities to explore the region without your camera, and Simon will be happy to provide tips only if you wish to have them.
Do I need to have a good camera for the trip?
No, feel free to bring any camera you wish, including just using the camera on your phone.