THE PIRATE GALAPAGOS
Where: Hadibo, Yemen
What: Seeking out Dragon's Blood on Socotra Island
Some 150 miles off the Horn of Africa, Socotra is a naturalist's dream, an ancient wonderland of biodiversity, home to 700 species of plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth -- including forests of frankincense, myrrh, and the fabled dragon's blood tree. Yes, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a bit harder to get to than most: The few flights to the remote island pass through Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, whose impoverished citizens are among the most well-armed in the world and do a healthy business in kidnapping. But Socotra is peaceful. No larger than New York's Long Island, it boasts jagged mountain ranges, brilliant white beaches, and craggy cliffs that fall into the turquoise sea. The locals don't speak Arabic, but Socotri, a native language unique to the island. You might want to think twice, though, about chartering a skiff to the nearby archipelago -- the waters are crawling with Somali pirates. If you're planning to join the few thousand or so bird-watchers and sun-bathers who make the adventurous journey there each year, the main town of Hadibo has a handful of decent hotels. But you'd be wise to move fast: Apparently, both the U.S. and Russian navies are considering the island as a possible base for fleets operating in the nearby Gulf of Aden.