Monthly Archives: November 2010

Socotra Island, Yemen’s gem !

An island of extreme beauty but somewhat isolated from the rest of the world… that is Socotra Island in Yemen, Middle East.

Justifying its crude beauty, the name of the island is believed to come from Sanskrit word ‘dvipa sakhadara’, meaning – ‘Island of Bliss’.

This is actually a chain of islands… consisting of the main island – Socotra, three smaller islands of Abd al Kuri, Samhah and Darsa and, small rock outcrops like Ka’l Fir’awn and Sabuniyah, which are uninhabitable by humans.

Socotra island group has a fairly rich bird fauna, including a few types of endemic birds. However the only mammals native to these isles are bats. On the contrary, the marine biodiversity around Socotra is rich, characterized by a unique mixture of species that have originated in far-flung biogeographic regions.

Perhaps, the most striking plant in Socotra is the dragon’s blood tree, which is a strange-looking, umbrella-shaped tree. Its red sap was the dragon’s blood of the ancients …  sought after as a medicine and a dye.

Another unusual plant here is Dorstenia gigas …

Socotra is considered the “jewel of biodiversity” in the Arabian sea. Surveys have revealed that more than a third of the 800 or so plant species of Socotra are found nowhere else. Botanists rank the flora of Socotra among the ten most endangered island flora in the world. Overall this island-chain is a site of global importance for biodiversity conservation and a possible center for ecotourism.

This isle beauty was also recognized by the UNESCO as a world natural heritage site, in 2008.

A Natural dual role, the Alpine Park Lake

The Alpine Park in Tragoess, Styria (Austria) which sits at the foot of snow-capped Hochschwab mountains –– a pristine location where Mother Nature’s miracle prowess unfolds… A Park that turns into a Lake for half of the year and vice versa !

On the bed of the emerald green-like lake, underwater explorers will discover fish swimming though the branches of trees, a floor covered in grass, benches, bridges and a landscape that looks like it belongs overground ! And that’s because for half of the year it is over ground.

Throughout the frozen winter months this area is almost completely dry and is used as a county park. It is a particular favourite site for hikers as well.

But as soon as the temperatures begin to rise in spring, the ice and snow on the mountaintops begins to melt and runs down into the basin of land below. Soon the park fills up with ice-cold crystal clear water, which gets its distinctive green colouring from the grass and foliage beneath.

The water levels rise from about one or two metres deep in the winter to as much as 10 metres in the late spring and early summer. The waters are at their highest in June when it becomes a Mecca for divers keen to explore the rare phenomenon, before the waters recede at the end of July. And … the park ‘resurfaces’.

“Changing of the seasons” – Above photo shows, how the park looks during the autumn and winter months with a shallow layer of water at its lowest part …. And the lower photo, taken in summer, illustrates a totally different area where divers flood in to explore the lake.

This amazing Alpine region offers some of the most unique diving experiences in ‘land-locked’ Austria.

A diver swims between two bushes in the crystal clear water…

Who needs roads ? A diver takes his own path through the country park, past an access road…

Image Courtesy: “ExclusivePix”