If you’re looking for the most alien looking place on planet Earth, look no further than Socotra Island. Located 400 miles off the coast of Yemen, Socotra features about 700 endemic species. That’s 700 species of plants and animals that are found nowhere else on Earth.
What Makes Socotra So Unique?
On any island, isolation is a given, yet Socotra features such incredible biodiversity due to a combination of fierce heat and drought.
Many of the trees are completely unlike any others you or I have seen. They almost look fake, as if they should belong on a Star Wars set for some far away alien planet. 37% of all of the trees on Socotra are unique to the island, as well as many different birds, reptiles, spiders, crabs and bats.
The unique Flora and Fauna makeup of the island is so important that in 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized it as a world natural heritage site. Essentially, this legally protects the island through international treaties because of its historical, culture and scientific importance.
The Dragon’s Blood Tree
The most famous of the unusual trees is the stunning dragon’s blood (Dracaena cinnabari). The strange umbrella-shaped tree oozes red sap traditionally said to have been ancient dragon’s blood, hence the name. It is easy to harvest and is currently used for dyes, paints and varnishes.
A truly mysterious island, Socotra is home to the fifth most endemic species behind only New Zealand, Hawaii, New Caledonia and the Galápagos Islands .
The island is home to about 50,000 residents. Around 1,000 tourists would visit this magnificent island every year up until 2014. In 2015, the Yemeni civil war started and still continues to this day. As of 2019, the death toll from this war has surpassed 100,000.