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THE LAND OF THE DRAGON’S BLOOD TREE

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THE LAND OF THE DRAGON’S BLOOD TREE
A Jack Wheeler Adventure
Friday, April 04 – Sunday, April 13, 2014
$4850

 

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This is the Dragon’s Blood Tree, Dracaena cinnabari.  It can be found in only one place on earth, a remote island called a Lost World for its uniqueness, the "most alien-looking place on our planet." 

Yet the Dragon’s Blood Tree (named for its bright red sap that has medicinal properties) is only one of over 300 plant species that can be found here and nowhere else – like the Bottle Tree, Dorstenia gigas:
 
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And the Cucumber Tree, Dendrosicyos socotranum (yes, it’s related to the pickles in your refrigerator):

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Although it’s known as the most alien, strangest, weirdest and bizarre place you can go to in the entire world, it’s also completely safe and incredibly beautiful. Anybody who comes here returns saying, "You have to see it to believe it."  That’s just what we’re going to do.  What is this place?

It’s the World Heritage Site of the island of Socotra, the "Galapagos of the Indian Ocean," 240 miles off the coast of Yemen to which it belongs.  It’s hidden, remote, and far away – yet we’re going to get there (and someplace else that’s amazing) from your home and back in one incredibly memorable week.  Ready?  Here we go – and yes, the pictures are real.

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Friday, April 04

Depart US (or wherever you may be) for Dubai, UAE.  Emirates (whom many travelers consider the best airline in the world) has non-stops from JFK, LAX, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, Toronto, and many other cities around the world.  For example, Flight 202 departs from JFK at 11:00pm Friday evening, arriving Saturday evening at 7:45pm (Dubai is +9 hours from New York).
 
Saturday, April 05

Note:  Everyone is responsible for being in Dubai no later than Saturday evening as we have an early flight on Sunday morning. 

Arrive Dubai.  Check in to the Dubai International Airport Hotel inside security/passport control of Terminal 3.  There is no need to go through security.  I will meet you at the hotel lobby.  After dinner, get a good night’s sleep.
 
You are free, of course, to visit Dubai earlier and stay wherever you wish.  The way above is the quickest and most convenient.
 
Sunday, April 06

We board Emirates flight 961 at 6:55am, arriving in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen at 8:40am.  Transfer to the Mövenpick Hotel:

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The Old City of Sana’a, at least 2,500 years old, is a World Heritage Site.  Its ancient architecture is uniquely exotic.  As we explore it, we’ll be accompanied by an American photojournalist living in Sana’a, Alex Kay Potter (unless she’s on assignment elsewhere).  We have lunch at Yemen’s most famous restaurant, Hadda Shaybani.
 
Then we head for Wadi Dhahr on the outskirts of Sana’a where we find Yemen’s landmark, the astounding Dar al-Hajar, the Rock Palace built by King Imam Abbas in 1786:

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We get to explore it all the way to the roof.  Then we return to the Mövenpick at the end of the day to enjoy its pool, gym, and good food.

Monday, April 07

We’re up early for our flight to Socotra, departing at 7:00am, arriving 9:45am.  We quickly transfer to the island’s best place to stay, the Summerland Hotel in the main town of Hadibo.  Then we head up into the nearby Ayhaft Gorge where we’ll find a forest of Frankincense Trees (Boswellia socotrana).  Its aromatic resin was one of the three Gifts of the Magi to the Baby Jesus.

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Ayhaft has an entrancing series of oases and pools.  We’ll linger at one of them for a swim:

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We’re soon off to explore Socotra’s north coast, from palm-strewn lagoons…

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To remote fishing villages, where we’ll have a just-caught grilled lobster for lunch…

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To Dir Hamri Bay for the island’s best snorkeling – the coral reefs are immediately off shore and swarm with colorful reef fish –

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A sunset dinner awaits of grilled fish and young goat upon our return to Hadibo.
 
Tuesday, April 08

We’re off early this morning to head way up into the mountains (on a nice paved road) to the Dixam Plateau and its Fermhin Forest of countless Dragon’s Blood trees. 

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It will take a while to get our photographic fill of these wonder trees, unlike anything else on our planet.  Then we make our way off the plateau and down into the spectacular canyon of Wadi Derhur:

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Bottle trees line the canyon walls:

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While the canyon floor is filled with palm oases and clear natural pools inviting us in for a swim:

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We reach the south coast to find another wonder, the blindingly white sand dunes of Hayf and Zahek:

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We’ll camp for the night on Amak Beach near Dogub Cave:

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The campsite has palm-leaf shelters with beds, bathrooms, showers, and even solar power for recharging camera batteries.  Oh, yes, and lobsters for dinner!

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Wednesday, April 09

We drive along the south coast, through a pretty valley leading back to the north coast, then up to the Homhil Plateau.  We’ll stop at the Qaria lagoon where we hope to find a flamboyance of flamingos (yes, that’s the collective noun for them):

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We’re sure to find forests of Bottle Trees at Homhil:

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Scads of Cucumber Trees:

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And our now old friend, Dragon’s Blood:

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Homhil’s most memorable experience, however, is at a natural rock pool high above the sea dubbed by visitors as the Homhil Infinity Pool.  Who could resist a swim here?

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On our way back to Hadibo and the Summerland, we’ll see a startling sight – rusting Soviet tanks on the beach:

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The Soviets colonized South Yemen and had a military base here during the Cold War.  The tanks on the beach remain a monument to their losing it.
 
Thursday, April 10

We traverse the northwest coast to reach Qalansiyah, Socotra’s most breathtakingly beautiful beach and the adjacent Detwah Lagoon:

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It is here that Pulitizer prize-winning photojournalist for the New York Times, Jonah Kessel, discovered a new color of crayon for Crayola – a unique shade of turquoise in the water of Socotra he named Socotri Cerulean:

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"The waters around Socotra," Jonah says, "are like the colors you see in magazines, except the saturation slider hasn’t been jacked in Photoshop. And you’re not looking at a book or magazine. You’re actually seeing it." And so will we. 
 
This is a day to relax.  The local villagers will be more than happy to take you fishing with them, and help you catch your own dinner:

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Or you can just leave your own footprints in the sand.  For Jonah, this is one of the world’s most extraordinary beaches – and it’s unknown and crowdless, you have it to yourself.

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We’ll eat, relax, have fun, tell jokes around the beach campfire, and camp here for the night.  We’ll call it the Million Star Hotel.  You’ll have never seen so many.
 
Friday, April 11

There is an isolated fishing village on the remote west coast called Shaub.  It can only be reached by boat.  So we’re off early this morning, for the coastline here is considered the most enchanting on the island. 

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Imagine snorkeling in this Cerulean Sea, surrounded by swarms of multi-colored reef fish:

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What’s more, dolphins abound here.  Not only do they love to swim and jump along next to our boat, but often they come right next to the shore.  If you go into the water with them, they love to play!  (Note the fisherman’s hut on the beach)

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We return to Qalansiya, then along the incredible coast back to Hadibo at day’s end:

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Saturday, April 12

Departure day.  With our experience of Socotra burned indelibly into our memory bank, we board the Felix Airways flight for Dubai at 9:55am, arriving at Dubai’s Sharjah airport at 2:50pm, in plenty of time to connect to Emirates flights out of Dubai International to the US or elsewhere.
 
Sunday, April 13

Arrive early morning in the US, connect to home.
 
THE LAND OF THE DRAGON’S BLOOD TREE DETAILS

Dates:  Saturday April 05 to Saturday April 12, 2014 (depart US/home Friday April 04 – return US/home Sunday April 13)

Cost per person: $4,850

Payment, Cancellation and Refund
*Payment in full – $4,850 – due by February 20, 2014.

*Refund of payment in full on the condition of a fully-paid acceptable replacement for you. Note: you may want to consider trip cancellation insurance.

Cost includes:
*All air transportation from UAE and return: Emirates flight Dubai (DXB) to Sanaa (SAH), Yemenia flight Sanaa to Socotra (SCT), Felix flight Socotra to Sharjah (SAH) 

*All ground transportation, transfers, tours and activities as specified in the itinerary with local English-speaking guides in private air-conditioned vehicles (4WD Toyota Land Cruisers). Bottled water on the vehicles.

*All meals (breakfast/lunch/dinner including bottled water, juice, or a soft drink) from dinner Saturday April 05 to breakfast Saturday April 12.

*All accommodation from the night of Saturday April 05 (at the Dubai International Airport Hotel) through the night of Friday April 11 in Socotra.
 
*Visa fee for Yemen.

Cost does not include:

*International airfare to/from Dubai;

*Meals, services, and activities not with group or in itinerary; personal expenditures, such as laundry, internet fees, communications, gratuities, etc.

Important caveat: Every effort will be made to adhere to the itinerary above. Due to the vagaries of travel in this region and of adventure travel in general, the itinerary may be altered in any way necessary. Participants are expected to accept this, and to maintain a cheerful attitude on an adventure such as this.

To apply for your participation in this extraordinary adventure, please contact us immediately.  Only a dozen people with an adventurous attitude may participate.  Contact Miko: miko@tothepointnews.com or JW: jack@jackwheelerexpeditions.com