Uninhabited Islands

Jan 11, 2001
Outside Magazine

If you're ready to get away from it all and willing to forgo room service, marooning yourself on an uninhabited island can have its rewards. The trick is to ensure you get de-marooned before developing an emotional attachment to a volleyball. Here, some Castaway-style options.

Buccaneer Archipelago, Australia
Exploring the thousand islands in the Buccaneer chain, just off the coast of northwest Australia's Kimberly region, means foraging for fresh oysters and mud crabs, hiking through thick rainforests and along red-rock cliffs to find Aboriginal rock art, waterfalls, and natural whirlpools, and camping on empty beaches. But it's not all fun and games. You're likely to encounter dangerous 36-foot tides, deadly taipan snakes, sharks, and saltwater crocodiles. Best to bring an experienced guide: Hire one in the seaside town of Derby, on the mainland. For details, call the Derby Tourist Bureau (011-61-08-9191-1426; www.wt.comau/~derbytb).
Tobago Cays, Grenadines
Let the Prada set squabble over condos on Mustique. The place for solitude in the Grenadines is the Tobago Cays: Petit Rameau, Barabel, Jamesby, and Petit Bateau-four tiny, undeveloped islands some 20 miles south of St. Vincent. No rock stars or resorts to cast shadows on your beach towel here; just deserted beaches for camping and picnicking, and some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean, on shallow, untouched Horseshoe Reef, which surrounds the cays. For more information, contact Captain Yannis Catamarans on Union Island (784-458-8513; www.captainyannis.com) or the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Department of Tourism (800-729-1726; www.svgtourism.com).

Bacuit Archipelago, Palawan, Philippines
With its striking beaches and dramatic limestone cliffs, this place looks remarkably like the setting of the 1974 film The Man with the Golden Gun. Snorkel and sea kayak in the countless coves on forgotten islands such as Matinloc, Entalula, Shimizu, and Tapiutan, jewels of this 45-island archipelago just off the northeast coast of Palawan island. Hire a boat in the town of El Nido. For more information, contact the Philippines Department of Tourism (415-956-4060; www.tourism.gov.ph).

Los Roques National Park, Venezuela
Make Gran Roque the jumping-off point for your escape to a smaller roque of your choice. Most of the 340 islands and islets of this national park off Venezuela's northern coast are uninhabited, with about 40 large enough to set up camp. Fly from Caracas to Gran Roque (the largest island in the park), rent a boat at the Pez Raton Fishing Lodge (011-58-212-975-0906), and then sail to the sandy scrub-topped pancake of your choice, where you can fish and snorkel your days away. Camping is free, but you'll need a permit from the Inparques office on Gran Roque. For more information call the Venezuelan Embassy (202-342-2214: www.embavenez-us.org).

Ko Tarutao National Marine Park, Thailand
Thailand's northern islands tend to be swarming with rave-happy Europeans, but down south you're more likely to run into the occasional Chao Le (sea gypsy), sea turtle, dolphin, or crab-eating macaque. These 51 protected, little-visited islands, scattered across 575 square miles in the Andaman Sea, are covered with granite hills and snow-white beaches. The largest, Ko Tarutao, houses the park headquarters and is reachable by boat from PakBara, about 14 miles up the coast from Satun. From Ko Tarutao, charter a longtail boat to uninhabited isles like Ko Adang Rawi and Ko Khai. For more information, call the Tourism Authority of Thailand (800-842-4526; www.tourismthailand.org).