This Is Described As The Most Alien-Looking Place On Earth, And It's Living Up To Its Reputation

There's a small island that has been called "the most alien-looking place on Earth" so many times that it's impossible to even attribute the observation to a single source.

It's the Yemeni island of Socotra, sometimes spelled Soqotra.

It's part of an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, in between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. 

One-third of Socotra's plants are unique and not found anywhere else on Earth.

In the 1990s, a team of scientists studied the island as part of a United Nations biology survey.

They discovered 700 endemic plants.

This dragon blood tree was named for the red sap it produces, commonly used for red dyes.


These plants are nicknamed "desert roses." Their bloated trunks store their water in times of drought.

For perspective, the only other places in the world that have this kind of biodiversity are Hawaii, the Galapagos Islands and New Caledonia.

Researchers believe that the plant species developed from the island's heat and drought alongside Socotra's isolation - it's 150 miles from the nearest landmass - are responsible for the plants.

The resulting landscape is a combination of semi-desert and tropical desert.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species put 27 of the plant species on the endangered plant list and three on the critically endangered list.

Interestingly, Socotra's only native mammals are bats, although the island has an impressive list of birds and amphibians found nowhere else on Earth.

The island once had larger reptiles and a bigger wetland population, but 2,000 years of climate change have reduced the tiny island to a fraction of what it once was.

Sand gullies now make up the vast majority of the island's 2,533 square miles.


To protect Socotra's ecosystem, companies offer bicycle and motorbike tours of the island rather than car or minibus transportation.

A new airport has made travel to Socotra easier; it used to be inaccessible during summer months because of monsoons.

Socotra's population is only 44,000, mostly indigenous people from the Al-Mahra tribe.

Most of the Al-Mahra work in fishing, animal husbandry and date farming so the area remains very rural.

Because of Socotra's impressive biodiversity, the UN's Development Programme launched a program in the 1990s called Socotra Governance and Biodiversity Project.

This project seeks to support the fish populations and ensure that the native tribe is able to sustain and advocate for the island's interests.

And the project works with the Socotra locals to work for environmental conversation of its precious endemic flora and fauna.

Because a place this incredible is worth saving.

Credit: Earth Porm | Wikipedia

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