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6–13 February 2024

As a result of their long isolation, having split from Africa over six million years ago rather than being of volcanic origin, Socotra has an amazing level of endemism with 270 plant, 29 reptiles, 1 mammal, numerous insects and 11 currently-recognised bird species. This tour will be exploring the stunning landscape for 10 out the 11 endemic birds (the other being the Abd Al-Kuri Sparrow, a long boat trip away).

This tour can either be taken as an extension to our United Arab Emirates tour or, as a standalone tour.

Day 1 Morning flight from Abu Dhabi to Socotra Island and transfer to our hotel in Hadibo for lunch. The islands are officially part of Yemen but, are currently administered by the authorities in the United Arab Emirates who have a military presence there so are entirely safe for tourists. In fact, the islands (there are a total of four but two are little more than islets and the fourth one, Abd al Kuri, is extremely remote), have a closer affinity to Africa from which they split around six million years ago. The main island measures 125 x 45 kilometres and we will spend the afternoon exploring the nearby coastal strip where both Brown-necked Ravens and Egyptian Vultures are common. Black-crowned Sparrow-larks inhabit this coastal strip and many wintering waders and waterbirds can be found including numerous Sooty Gulls. We will almost certainly find our first endemic bird here as well, the charming and abundant Socotra White-eye as well as Socotra Sunbird before returning to the hotel for dinner.

Days 2–7 These six days will be devoted to exploring the island taking packed lunches with us every day. Most of Socotra’s endemic birds are found in the interior mountains amongst the stunning scenery of the Haggier Range rising to over 1,700 metres and the Diksam Plateau. Here, the iconic Dragon’s Blood Trees can still be found in good numbers but unfortunately, their very survival is threated by large numbers of goats. Some of the birds are easier to find than others but we will persist and with the knowledge of our local guide, should see the eight of the nine remaining endemic species which include Socotra Buzzard, Socotra Cisticola, Socotra Warbler, Socotra Starling, Socotra Sparrow, Socotra Golden-winged Grosbeak and Socotra Bunting, the rarest of the endemics. A further two endemic subspecies will be looked for as they are both possible future splits; Socotra Pipit (from Long-billed Pipit) and Socotra Shrike (from Great Grey Shrike) although the taxonomy of both species is currently unresolved. The final endemic species, Socotra Scops-owl, is both widespread and common so one or more evenings will be spent looking for these birds and, with luck, we may also find the much rarer Nubian Nightjar. As well as the endemic birds, there are other resident species with much wider ranges but, still sought-after as they are difficult to find in other places including Somali Starling. Other resident species we should see include Osprey, Common Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Cream-coloured Courser, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover, Laughing Dove, White-browed Coucal, Forbes-Watson’s Swift, Pale Crag Martin and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting. We will also spend time ‘seawatching’ from various points around the island where possible species include Socotra Cormorant, Red-billed Tropicbird, Brown and Masked Boobies, Brown Noddy, Greater and Lesser Crested Terns, Persian Shearwater and Jouanin’s Petrel. There are a wide variety of wintering waders, mostly in small numbers, which include Common and Pin-tailed Snipe, Grey and Pacific Golden Plovers, Greater and Lesser Sandplovers, Common Greenshank, Common, Green and Wood Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel and Eurasian Curlew.

Day 8 After a leisurely breakfast, we will return to the airport for the flight back to Abu Dhabi at the end of the tour.

General Information The climate will be warm to hot with rain unlikely; mornings can be chilly. The pace of the tour is moderate with generally easy walks although there are rocky hillsides and wadi’s. Long days will be spent in the field with early starts and some late evenings. There are no special health requirements and the country is largely insect-free. Accommodation standards and food are both good. Visas are required and can be arranged for you with the current cost around US$65.

Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 8; maximum group size: 16. There will be three leaders irrespective of group size.

Socotra Golden-winged Grosbeak

Socotra Golden-winged Grosbeak

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