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Socotra: the island in the Indian Ocean where time stands still

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Located 155 miles east of Somalia and 210 miles south of Yemen, the remote island of Socotra takes the phrase 'hidden treasure' to its limits.

The island is home to over 800 rare breeds of plants and animals, some that can only be found on the island, and as a result many of the landscapes look like the set of a fantasy film like Avatar.

Trees

The island is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its unusual landmarks and climate. Amongst its rare species include several types of bird as well as unique reptiles including legless lizards and chameleons.

Its most famous plant is the dragon's blood tree - so called because of its striking red sap - which can only be found on Socotra. The tree's striking looks are easily recognisable because it looks so different trees found anywhere else in the world and contribute to the island's striking looks.

Dragon blood tree

The dragon's blood tree is the most famous element of Socotra

With an airport, first opened in 1999 and a port providing links from Yemen's mainland to the island, It is a destination for eco travellers and adventurers, but no resorts or hotels exist on the island so it is not possible to visit for a traditional beach-style holiday.

Beach

The island's white sands are unspoilt by holidaymakers

Officially a part of Yemen due to its proximity to the country, Socotra is home to just 15,000 people, although it is six times the size of the far more heavily populated London.

The people of Socotra are traditional, with the main sources of income coming from breeding animals, fishing and growing dates - the island's biggest export. Roads are limited to protect the landscape so it is only possible to get around via four wheel drive or bicycle. 

Goats

A local using goatskins to transport food

Documentary maker Carles Cardelus has made a film about the island, Socotra: The Hidden Land, which is currently being screened in Shoreditch, in East London. He said that visiting the island is "like going back in time."

"The climate is strong. It’s very hot and very windy but it’s a strong desert in the middle of the sea."

He spoke about how the island's people are being influenced by the outside world. "A few years ago fishermen never used money because they shared the fish. Capitalism is going there and this is changing their culture very fast."

Beach
Tree
Dragon tree 2

Words: Victoria Gray, Images: Rex Features

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