The Firmin Forest is located on the Diksam Plateau, which is in turn located in the heart of Socotra Island. The latter is located in the middle of the Arab Sea, or more precisely between the Arabian Peninsula and the African coast. They say it used to be part of Africa, but got split from it and is now part of Yemen. And since Yemen has been in the grip of a civil war for years, the island has been left on its own. Whether it’s been for the better or worse, is yet unclear.

First glimpses of Socotra

The nature of Socotra is special. It is full of places that cause sincere astonishment in the regular European. One such place is the Firmin Forest. A protected nature site, it contains the highest concentration of the so-called dragon trees, whose name is actually a “dragon blood” tree. The first may be related to the bark, which looks like dragon skin, and the second – to the red juice that the locals collect, dry and use instead of henna.

The dragon tree from the insideDragon tree bark

In order to reach the Firmin Forest, you need to get on the Diksam Plateau, and for this purpose you must first descend into the canyons surrounding it. In December, when locals think the weather is cool, the sun is already scorching as early as 09 in the morning. That makes climbing among the hot rocks a challenge that is difficult to compensate even by the amazing views. So they usually practice going down on foot and up in 4×4. And since I mentioned the views, you will get the first look of Diksam from the opposite plateau.

First look at Diksam Plateau

The canyons here are called wadi, in Arabic, although there is a local Socotri language, which is less commonly practiced. During the rainy season, rivers flow in the wadi, but in December they are almost dry. In some of the deeper canyons, permanent freshwater pools are retained where you can even swim, but in most of them you will find just occasional puddles. The view is not to be neglected in any case.

In the wadi, on the road to Firmin Forest

At the bottom of the canyon, you will find something more – or rather someone. Especially if the local team decided to serve your lunch right there on the spot, before the ascent to Firmin Forest. They have learned to wait patiently for those non-feathered two-legged strangers to finish their meal as they know they will get the leftovers. In Bulgaria, we do wonders of heroism to convince at least one couple to settle back after we drove them out, and here they just walk around in flocks. My word is about the Egyptian vultures, of course.

Egyptian vulture

As you climb the slopes of the plateau, you will also discover some human presence. Extremely basic homes where the spoiled modern human would find it hard to imagine how any life could be. A cube of stones with just holes for windows and a yard surrounded by a simple fence with more stones. Life on the island is very difficult. It makes you think about many things.

Houses on the Diksam Plateau

But here we are finally in Firmin Forest. It looks unearthly. It may be because of the dragon trees with their bizarre shapes. It may be the absolute silence, only disturbed by ourselves. And it could be because of the ancient stone plate, which covers the plateau and occasionally opens between the trees like an old Roman highway. If you don’t believe it, see for yourselves.

Firmin Forest and the 'Roman' road

The strangeness is completed by the old dragon trees. When the tree reaches the end of its life, it dries out and breaks at the middle of the trunk. I suppose – because of the heaviness of the crown. The upper half rolls to the side, ‘stepping’ on the above-mentioned crown. As Firmin Forest is a protected area, the dried trees are left where they have fallen. As a result, the place is full of the likes of multi-legged spiders.

Young and old trees in Firmin Forest

In one corner of the plateau, they permit camping although there are no facilities. I mean completely wild camping. Even if you are not admirers of it, it gives you the opportunity to see the sunset and the sunrise over the unearthly forest, and this should not be missed. Even if you got up at 05 o’clock for the purpose, only to find your view blurred by clouds. You just can’t regret this decision. This is how it goes on Socotra …

Sunrise over Firmin Forest