The “Other Galapagos” Island

Two-hundred-and-fifty miles off the coast of Yemen, in the Indian Ocean, in an area pointed at by the Horn of Africa, is a rugged island called Socotra.

The number 250 has special significance in another respect: the island has been geologically separated from the mainland for 250 million years. This isolation means that there are over 600 species of plants and animals there that exist nowhere else on earth (a feat beaten only by the Galapagos and Hawaii).

It also means that human development has been slow: roughly the size of Long Island, and with a population of only 40,000, the first paved roads were built there only within the last few years. And don’t expect a ton of new development: 70% of the island has been designated as national parkland. Be sure to plan your trip well in advance, and plan to stay awhile: there are only two flights in and out per week.

Pictures from the island blew me away: dragon’s blood trees (like the one pictured from Harf Zimmermann), frankincense trees on lonely vistas, desert roses, rocky shorelines. (BTW, be sure to check out his other awesome pics on his Web site and the NYT’s piece, and, of course, on Flickr.)