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Saudi Birding's Expedition to Socotra

Owing to its high number of endemic flora and fauna, the Socotran Archipelago has been dubbed "the Galápagos of the Indian Ocean". Indeed, the sheer number of life forms unique to the archipelago's four main islands—Socotra, Darsah, Samhah, and Abd al Kuri—puts it in a notable fifth after New Zealand, Hawaii, New Caledonia, and the Galápagos themselves for remote island chains with the highest rates of endemism.

While the bulk of these endemics are insects and plants, including the famous Dragon's Blood Tree (Dracaena cinnabari), Socotra plays host to around 30 endemic reptiles and eleven endemic bird species. It's a chance to see the latter that has fired up interest among international birders and put Socotra near the top of the list for most exciting birdwatching experiences in Arabia.

An endemic Socotra Sunbird, photographed by James Conder during his recent visit. Unlike other sunbirds in the region, the male's plumage is quite similar to the female's.

It's for this reason that I'm excited to announce that I will be offering Saudi Birding's first expedition to the Socotran Archipelago in March 2026.

During this eight-day tour, we'll target the ten endemic birds found on Socotra proper: Socotra Buzzard, Socotra Scops-Owl, Socotra Warbler, Socotra Cisticola, Socotra White-eye, Socotra Starling, Socotra Sunbird, Socotra Sparrow, Socotra Grosbeak, and Socotra Bunting.

If fortune favors, we will also attempt a transit to its namesake island for Abd al Kuri Sparrow, the archipelago's eleventh endemic species.

We'll also be looking to encounter the local populations of Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse, White-browed Coucal, Nubian Nightjar, Great Gray Shrike, and Long-billed Pipit with an eye to potential splits down the line.

Besides these island gems, there will be plenty of other interesting birdlife on offer.

While present-day Socotra is politically part of the Republic of Yemen, geographically it's an extension of the Horn of Africa, the influence of which can be seen in some of the archipelago's other avian delights, such as White-faced Whistling-Duck (vagrant), Bruce's Green-Pigeon, Forbes-Watson's Swift, Red-knobbed Coot, Somali Starling, and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting.

Like Oman, Socotra birding can be further seasoned with a pinch of Indomalayan flavor in the form of White-breasted Waterhen (vagrant), Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Cotton Pygmy-Goose, Yellow Bittern, and Indian-Pond Heron.

Besides the terrestrial birding, we'll have ample opportunities to enjoy seabirds during our visit. If we don't make the crossing to Abd Al Kuri, we'll visit one of the offshore islets for a chance of seeing some pantropical and regional maritime specialties, such as Brown Noddy, White-cheeked Tern, Saunders's Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Great Crested Tern, Red-billed Tropicbird, Jouanin's Petrel, Persian Shearwater, Brown Booby, Masked Booby, and Socotra Cormorant.

While birding will be our main endeavor, as with other Saudi Birding tours, we'll also have opportunities to learn about the history, culture, and language of this fascinating land. Those linguistically inclined might be keen to learn about the Socotri language, one of the group of six Modern South Arabian languages currently at risk of vanishing due to wider cultural and economic pressures in the region. Perhaps if visitors to the archipelago show an interest in the local culture, customs, and linguistic traditions, we may help encourage their preservation as Socotra becomes increasingly accessible to the outside world.

While Arabic is the official language of Yemen, it's not the mother tongue of Socotris. The Socotri language, featured here, is a preliterate language with a rich oral tradition; however, its lack of a formal writing system puts it at risk of extinction.

This is sure to be a fantastic adventure in a truly unique and farflung corner of the world. I hope you will join Saudi Birding for our first expedition to Socotra!

Details in Brief

Dates: March 17 - 24, 2026 (pending official flight schedule) (3 spots remaining)

Arrive: Abu Dhabi International Airport in the UAE well before the scheduled flight to Socotra

Depart: Leave via Abu Dhabi International Airport late evening on the last day of the tour or the following day

Transport: 4x4s with local drivers

Accommodation: Camping at various locations around the island with the final night at a hotel in Hadiboh. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be prepared for us out in the field.

Climate: During the late winter months, the weather in Socotra should be clear and dry. It will be warm by day, but not intolerably so, and cooler at night and in the mountains. 

Physical demands: There will be light to moderately strenuous walking at most of our birding stops as well as an open-water cruise to survey seabird colonies.

Participants: Max group size 8

Tour Cost: $3500 USD per person*; single-room supplement of $80 (*estimated based on current costs; an Abd al Kuri visit, if viable, will entail a price increase)​

  • Price includes the visa fee, round-trip flight from Abu Dhabi to Socotra, ground transport, local drivers and guide, seabird cruise, permits and entry fees, camping gear and bedding, one night at a hotel in Hadiboh, snacks and meals, and tipping of local support​

  • Price does not include international airfare, UAE transit visa (if needed), accommodation and meals in Abu Dhabi, and traveler's insurance

Deposit: 20% to reserve your spot

Click HERE to complete the booking form and select the March 2026 Socotra tour.

Saudi Endemics Pre-tour Extension

Dates: March 8 - 15, 2026

Itinerary: Click HERE to read the writeup for this eight-day tour

Participants: Max group size 8

Cost: $2550 USD* per person; single-room supplement of $350 (*estimated based on current costs)

Deposit: 20% to reserve your spot



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