Socotra Stories and Tips

Getting Sick on Socotra

Another Weird Tree on Socotra Photo, Socotra, Yemen

If there was one theme that could summarize my stay on the island of Socotra, it would have to be getting sick. Despite having an amazing visit to Socotra, as anyone would, the three and one-half days spent there were punctuated by people getting sick, including myself. So, I am writing this to give you a glimpse as to how easy you can get sick here. It shouldn't scare you, though, as long as you use some common sense and take precautions.

Upon my arrival, my guide told me that he was tired and feeling a bit ill. So, the first two days of my trip he spent quite a good amount of time resting and sleeping, hoping it would help cure him. But, by the morning of my third day, he was too ill to be my guide. So, as we drove through Hadibu to go to Dihamri, my driver and I dropped him off at the local hospital. I did not see him again until the next day, when he informed me that he had typhoid. Luckily, I had a typhoid vaccine, so I was safe.

On my second day on Socotra I, too, felt ill. But, I knew exactly why. On the first day, when in the village of Qalansiyah, I had drank the "local drink." I never knew the name, but I knew it contained mango, milk, and ice blended together. It was basically a smoothie, and the ice is what got me sick. The ice used local "tap" water, which was not safe for me to drink. Had I used a little common sense and not drank the drink with 'tap" water, I could have been spared the 24 hours of nausea, stomach pains, and lightheadedness that followed.

The first day of my trip on Socotra, my guide and driver invited one of their friends to come with us. I never knew his name, and he knew no English. But, he was friendly, and actually owned the same cell phone as me. Anyway, on the morning of day two, someone phoned him to say his mother was sick. He immediately took a local taxi back from Qalansiyah to his home. Later in the trip, we learned that she was taken to the hospital (where my guide had gone to b diagnosed with typhoid), and that she had fallen into a coma.

With people getting sick left-and-right, I kind of felt like it would be good to leave the island (even though I really did not want to leave). As I waited to board my flight out of Socotra, an ambulance pulled up to the airplane and loaded someone onto the plane. So, again, someone was sick. They loaded the person into the back of the plane, and then everyone else boarded. In Al-Mukalla, the plane de-boarded from the back of the plane. As I got closer, I saw the sick person; a woman who appeared to be sleeping across one row of seats. I then noticed someone looking at me. It was my guide's friend whose mother had fallen into a coma, and it was her mother in the coma on the plane. I said a few words to him, which I do not know if he understood, and gave him my prayers. Most people on Socotra are very poor, and may never leave that island. So, I can only wonder if my guide's friend and his mother had made their first plane ride and trip to the mainland on that day, unfortunately under bad circumstances.

Luckily, I did not get sick for the remainder of my trip after visiting Socotra.

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