“The Most Alien-Looking Place on Earth”
April 23, 2012 9 Comments
Socotra Island is the complete opposite of anything that is considered “normal” for a landscape on Earth.
This Yemeni Archipelago consists of 4 islands that rest deep in the Indian Ocean. It supposedly split off the horn of Africa about 6 million years ago, leaving it completely isolated from the rest of the world (Most isolated landforms on Earth).
Socotra Island is one of the oldest inhabited regions in the world. Its isolation from the rest of the world has preserved the islands way of life, which hasn’t changed since the middle ages.
The beaches of Socotra Island rise to limestone plateaus, which are full of very deep caves. Above the caves are mountains that reach up to 1525 meters high.
Its most popular feature is the Flora, or plant life that exists on the island. The climate is extremely hot and dry, but these amazing “alien looking” plants still found a way to survive and grow for the past 20 MILLION years (mainly because of the islands geological isolation). 215 of these plants are endemic, meaning they cannot be found anywhere else on the planet.
The “Dragon Blood Tree” is probably the most famous aspect of the island. Its thousands of branches scatter towards the sky making it seem like the tree is floating. Visitors of the island compared the tree to “a bunch of flying saucers hovering in the sky.” This beautiful tree is the home to many endemic birds of Socotra Island.
In my opinion, the most amazing plant on Socotra Island is the Dorstenia Gigas.
This plant does not require any soil. The roots simply just sink straight into bare rock. It almost looks like the plant is just hanging there, connected to nothing at all. It may not be as attractive as the Dragon Blood Tree, but its attributes are amazing.
Then there is the Cucumber Tree. There is nothing special about this tree, other than being one of the rarest plants in the world.
With the amazing plant life comes an even more amazing wild life.
Socotra Island has more endemic species than any other place on the planet.
The monsoon winds have caused most of the species to evolve accordingly, preventing them from blowing away at sea. Most of the insects have very small wings, which help them avoid getting blown far away from their home. The centipedes stretch to over 20 centimeters long, and they have a pinch that hurts more than a typical bee sting.
Socotra Island is the home to some of the biggest spiders in the world. The spiders are not rare, but their webs are different from any other. The webs that they spin form a bright yellow color and are much stronger than any spider anywhere else. It is simply amazing. With a strange place comes strange organisms.
80% of the reptiles on Socotra island are endemic, including its most famous chameleon, the Chamaeleo calyptratus. This chameleon arguably has the best camouflage in the world.
Most birds living on Socotra Island are also endemic.
These birds include the Socotra Bunting, Socotra Starling, Socotra Sunbird and the Socotra Sparrow. One of its visiting birds is the reason for the islands amazing hygiene. The Al Baladiya or “Egyptian Vulture” eats anything and everything it can find.
Traveling around this strange place is difficult because the lack of transportation, but this does not seem to bother the natives. With all of the beautiful scenery, traveling by foot does not seem that terrible.
The current rush of tourism to this island has forced the natives to start building roads just two years ago.
If you are looking to get away from planet Earth and not actually leave the planet, Socotra Island is that strange place to go to. It is a dream destination that shares a way of life which was lost millions of years ago. Socotra Island or ” Island of Bliss” is in fact The Most Alien-Looking Place on Earth.
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