A drop of paradise in the middle of the ocean like no other…
200-sq-km and surrounded by a clear emerald blue ocean, with waters filled with live coral, schools of fish and manta rays. The land is wild and rugged, homing many endangered animals that have been left to roam freely and grow to giant proportions. With waterfalls, temples and natural pools connected by hiking routes throughout the island, it’s quite honestly an adventurers dream! This is all complimented by almost annual sunshine and little rain. The temperatures stay high over night so what’s to stop you from sleeping under the stars! Sounds pretty good right? It gets even better, the beauty of it is that nobody really knows about it… yet. It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful islands in the world but we’re not telling you where it is. Here’s why…
Why is it the most beautiful island in the world?
If you’re lucky enough to find your way to this magnificent part of the world, you’ll do so on a rickety boat with locals who bring fresh supplies from the mainland. The waters are so clear it seems as though you can see the ocean floor for the entire journey. Even the port has schools of fish swimming happily.
Jumping off the boat and the coastline is incredible – if you’re patient you might even be able to spot some dolphins! Rare species of sea life take refuge in the waters around the island, dazzling the coral with their bright colours, and at the right times of year you can see nesting turtles on the beaches. On land critically endangered species of birds live in communities after being driven out from neighbouring islands. Coconut and palm trees fringe the coast whilst further inland dense jungle and bush home pythons, cobras, spiders and monkeys!
Within this beautiful mash of wilderness and wildlife are an unbelievable amount of natural sites which will blow your mind! Hidden waterfalls and secret beaches, coral drop-offs and natural infinity pools, all dotted around the 200-sq-km island. Don’t expect a map! A lot of these hidden gems are many kilometres away from the closest navigable road, with no signs or directions. And make sure you take a good pair of shoes because the dirt track will only get you so far!
The beauty is not in the destination but in the journey
In this case the journey makes the destination even more incredible. Spend the day hiking, climbing and scrambling to your calling point. When you dive into a secluded pool after hours of adventuring you’ll remember what travelling is all about. Take a tent or a hammock and sleep under the stars. Use the sounds of nature and the sun rising as your alarm clock!
If you’re going near the water make sure you pack some snorkels. Wade out and become immersed in the beautiful underwater world.
I’ll bet your picturing scenes of Leo in The Beach right now, right? Well, honestly this is one of the last few places where you may get a glimpse of that. Like the movie shows though, tourism comes with serious consequences. This island, however, has not experienced those consequences. Despite it’s size and blistering amount of natural beauty the island is relatively undiscovered. Small fishing communities and seaweed farmers live in harmony on the coastline, catching enough to feed their families and trade in the local market. These locals lack greed and financial incentives, living in balance with the island instead of selling it out.
The waves of tourism which have savaged many other parts of the world have had little effect here. This has helped keep a natural balance and unlike many other lands, the signs of human life has added beauty rather than take away. You can watch the locals in the underground temples giving offerings of flowers, petals, water and incense to the island.
Infrastructure on the island is low. There are markets and a few shops at the two small ports but the rest of the island has nothing more than dense nature running through. One paved road leads from the main port and finishes shortly after. Besides this small communities are linked by uneven, gravel clearings if anything at all. Motorbikes are easily hired but a 5 km journey can take hours (that’s all part of the fun). Guidebooks haven’t caught on yet. If the island is featured, fortunately, they don’t sell it for what it truly is – paradise.
Why Are We Keeping It a Secret?
This island continues to live in unadulterated beauty, like how I imagine many islands were 100 years ago. Whilst everybody wants a piece of paradise, we think it’s important to keep this paradise a paradise. Save it from the booze cruises spewing petrol into the waters, road infrastructure tearing through natural habitats and tour buses filled with thoughtless visitors on the way to overbooked hostels advertising happy hour!
What’s baffling is that it’s not happened already. The surrounding islands have felt the effects of mass tourism and their locals are starting to feel the tragedy of the commons. Perhaps the lack of water on the island has been a saving grace? Perhaps it’s the good nature of the locals who haven’t had the desire to sell their land to investors. I do know that times are definitely changing. Will the island we visited years ago still be the same?
After many conversations with locals we were told that development was on the horizon. We saw areas near the port beginning to be cleared for roads and plots of land expanding. We also had a long debate with an investor from Singapore who had come to buy land to develop ‘luxury’ accommodation. Local dive and snorkelling companies, with their trampling customers, had already impacted the local corals and ecosystems and levels of nesting endangered birds are slowly dropping. The local government is debating how to protect the island, right? Wrong. They are debating whether to develop a major tourist area or a limestone mining site!
There is Hope!
For many incredible islands like this one the future can seem pretty dark. BUT, I believe there is a great opportunity to move in the right direction. Although the forces of finance and capital are trying to claim and exploit every beauty this world has to offer, people are fighting back!
In the water the island has officially become an Marine Protected Area. This international agreement is to limit human activity in the waters and increase conservation. This limits numbers of tourists visiting to dive and snorkel and puts pressure on the operators to ensure responsible tourism. Local conservation groups are working to strengthen and redevelop coral and mangrove communities around the island and local groups have created incentives for locals to continue to farm and fish responsibly. Turtle monitoring projects are helping the nesting variety of species and are working with the coastal communities to limit the impact of fish and seaweed netting.
On the land grassroots groups are working to restore habitats and protect wildlife. They also work to promote alternative sustainable livelihoods for local people while providing education. Designated bird sanctuaries are helping to maintain critically endangered species and huge tree reforestation programs have taken place! Come on eco-warriors!
This is one of the most beautiful islands in the world, however, like many other, it has an uncertain future. If you are lucky enough to discover this incredible place (and remember you are lucky) then treat it with respect! Help to contribute to the islands conservation rather than it’s downfall. Preserve these beautiful places rather than treading it into non-existence. We as humans have quite a bad track record of not being respectful guests, this is why we are keeping the most beautiful island in the world a secret!
Have you ever been somewhere so beautiful you want to keep it a secret? Let us know in the comments box!