Although not the easiest or cheapest of destinations, the islands of the Dahlak Archipelago have to count among the most beautiful, unspoilt and spectacular in the world. Located in the Red Sea off the coast of Massawa, Eritrea, the complete absence of industry or commercialism and a miniscule tourist trade means the reefs are undamaged and the amazing fish are twice the size of those in Egypt. Camp overnight - or better still for a week - in splendid isolation (other than the odd fisherman) safe in the knowledge there is too much fish life for sharks to bother you and pirates can't get up this part of the coast because of the well guarded narrow entrance to the Red Sea.
Google map: bit.ly/Kz4Dcb
No roads, no cars, no cash machines, no hordes of tourists. Perhentian Kecil, little brother to Perhentian Besar could just be utopia. Flanked by a sprawling jungle, pristine white beaches are lapped away by sparkling clear azure waters, the temperature of the most perfectly drawn bath in the world. A water taxi to one of the many secluded coves and beaches fringing the island meant an entire day with the stunning 'Shark Bay' to myself - a once in a lifetime experience. The locals couldn't be friendlier, and during Hari Raya the beachfront restaurants cooked and provided entertainment completely for free, with an open invitation to all on the island. Whether you are a backpacker or on the search for the ultimate paradise island getaway, Perhentian Kecil cannot come more highly recommended.
Speed boat crossings from Kuala Besut leave frequently, charging 70RM pp. The nearest airport if flying from Kuala Lumpur is Khota Baru - one hour's drive by minibus from Kuala Besut.
Google map: bit.ly/z8mNeZ
Antigua has a number of uninhabited islands accessible by boat. Green Island is the classic desert island, with turquoise waters, smooth sandy beaches and a forest of palms and tropical flora.
You can only get there by boat, so choose a slow journey by sail and anchor overnight with the super yachts, or charter a motorboat for a day and have a picnic.
Alternatively enjoy the heavenly view from Harmony Hill Hotel and Yacht Club, an old converted sugar plantation, and maybe cadge a lift across from one of the yachts.
Brown's Bay, Nr. Freetown, Antigua, West Indies
+1 (268) 460-4120
Well known to fishing enthusiasts, the Hallaniyat Island group lies just off the magnificent Dhofar coast. The water is transparent, the pristine white beach is scattered with delicate pastel shells, and the hills look like chocolate layer cake. It was an idyllic place to drop the hook and catch our breath before the impending 1000 mile passage across the Arabian Sea.
Illustrating its draw for anglers, we caught a metre long dorado on the day we left.
Early Late autumn to early spring when vis in the Red Sea is at its best.
North of Salalah on the Dohfar coast.
How to get there:
Hire a local boat from the mainland, or beg, borrow or buy your own.
Lon: 056° 01.0E Lat: 17° 30.0N
Peaceful and remote Majuli Island (the largest riverine island in the world) is home to many endangered birds, and an important wetland in Assam. The 'Mising' tribe, a subsistence farming community, lives here in simple bamboo and palm leaf houses built on stilts.
For a tranquil stay away from India's hustle and bustle, rent a room in one of the Assamese neo-Vaisnavite monasteries which dot the island.
(Not to be confused with Ali G's "Me Julie")
Get the ferry from Jorhat. If travelling with a driver and car ensure the driver books the ferry well in advance, it only takes three cars.
Google map: bit.ly/xnLFXy
It's not deserted, but with only 300 inhabitants it is pretty sparsely populated, and after a couple of days you will have seen everyone on the island.
Less than a mile from the coast of Turkey, Kastellorizo (officially named Megisti) is Greece's easternmost island, and nicely off the beaten track. For fresh home-cooked eastern Mediterranean food try the Olive Garden, in the island's tiny harbour.
A number of boats plough back and forth between Kastellorizo and Kaş, one of Turkey's prettiest fishing towns.
Six flights a week from Rhodes. Several ferries from Rhodes, including a weekly catamaran.
One hour boat ride from Kaş in Turkey.
Google map: bit.ly/xxbntP
With luxurious sandy beaches, archaeological sites, cetacean spotting and shark fishing, the Isles of Scilly are the UK's own tropical paradise. Don't just stay in one place, though, use the excellent boat service to explore all the islands, several of which are uninhabited. You'll find rare birds, seal colonies, pre-historic remains and the UK's most south-westerly lighthouse, Bishop Rock.
Nature walking tours:
Walks start in late March and finish mid October, numbers and weather permitting.
Katharine Sawyer leads archaeologial and historic walks round the islands between April and September
Google map: bit.ly/AlTA1D
There are 887 reasons to see the world’s most remote inhabited island: the mysterious carved stone figures known as Moai.
If you love solitude this island feels uniquely special. From mid-afternoon onwards you can picnic alone at the Rano Raraku Moai quarry, surrounded only by hundreds of giant lichen-blotched faces and beyond, the blue Pacific Ocean. I don’t believe anywhere is more magical.
By the time Captain Cook accurately charted the island’s location many of the Moai had been wilfully toppled in favour of the Birdman cult. What happened, no-one knows, but turning over your breakfast roll reveals - baked into the crust - the sinister figure of a crouching Birdman.
Google map: bit.ly/RanoRarakuMoai
B&B Chez Oscar Av. Pont
+56 32 255 1261
By far the most spiritual, calming, friendly and awe inspiring place I have ever had the fortune to visit. As three intrepid travelling girlies we stayed with Elvira in her guesthouse. One of us was lucky enough to return six years later and we were still remembered (in a good way) even after only staying four days. Rapa Nui gives you everything, sandy beaches (Anakena) three vivid green breath taking volcanic lakes, rocky heather highlands, caves to have a little sleep in, stories of death defying acts of boys becoming men taking part in the birdman ceremony illuminated with petroglyphs, locals turning up to Hanga Roa for a concert (imagine a village hall) not in the loudest car with the biggest exhaust but by horseback, being serenaded by our guesthouse owner Elvira's son in Polynesian, Rapanuian and Spanish. Hitching a ride back into town after a long walk on a horse with no saddle cor blimey that hurt! That is even before I mention the Moai. If you are ever lucky enough to have the opportunity spend a some time on this remote island, do it, it will stay strong in your mind forever.
Fringed with pristine deserted beaches of pure white sand and surrounded by the sparkling Indian Ocean, Quilalea Island is a hidden gem. This 35 hectare island is set within a national park and offers seclusion and privacy.
From the magnificent beaches you can reach some of the best coral reefs in the world that provide a habitat for an abundance of marine life. Feeding and nesting grounds for the population of sea turtles, dugong, dolphins, sharks and whales can be found here.
It is the undiscovered nature of this island’s beaches that make it so special. Snorkel the island’s shores, kayak the mangroves or relax in a hammock beneath the giant baobabs on the island beaches. Quilalea is a tiny untouched paradise. Difficult to reach, this is the ultimate African beach retreat for an offbeat getaway.
There are few places to stay on the island - the newly refurbished lodges at ‘Azura’, a luxury ‘eco’ boutique retreat which has all the facilities you need, while being a perfect beach hideaway, is worth a visit.
The quaint city of Pemba has an international airport, for the Quirimbas Archipelago in Cabo Delgado Province, Northern Mozambique. From here you travel by light aircraft, helicopter or speedboat to the island.
+27 (0)767 050599
Family run cottages with marine biologist owner and qualified dive master. There are communal dinners from freshly caught fish and home grown veg which allow you to chat to other guests and compare marine life you've spotted. They can organise trips to nearby reefs (all four types of reefs are found in these islands) and deserted islands allowing you to explore the region and visit the bajo sea gypsy's. Fantastic snorkelling off the jetty. The family were lovely and friendly, taking us to see the local village and school and on nature walks to see hornbills and monkeys on the island. They also have a few homemade canoes you can borrow to paddle around the island. It cost around £10 per night per person for three meals a day and accommodation in May 2011. As there are only 10 cottages, it's never busy and we could often have the whole beach to ourselves. We planned to say four days and ended up staying two weeks!
Togian Islands are off North Sulawesi. An overnight ferry ride (best to upgrade to get reclining chairs) from Gorontalo. Most resorts meet the ferry and take you back to the island you're staying on for free. Fadilla Cottages (fadhilacottages.free.fr/)and www.sulawesi-info.com/togianislands.html
Google map: bit.ly/A0v4Vr
Isla Holbox is technically a peninsula but you can only reach it by ferry following a three hour bus trip from Cancun. The roads are all made of sand and you get around by golf cart or on foot. On a trip there this past November tourists were conspicuous by their absence and we had the long beach pretty much to ourselves. The Ida y Vuelta hostel provided a good base just a block from the beach - a simple, clean cabana with bathroom cost just $20 a night. You can eat at the food stalls around the town square for next to nothing or splurge $10 on a whole grilled fish for two at Miriam's. Compared to other beach resorts and islands in the Yucatan Isla Holbox is still unspoiled - however the mosquitos can be bad in the wet season and the crowds arrive in the summer for the whale sharks.
It takes a bumpy ride and a speedboat to get there, but Paradise Island is a little piece of heaven in the middle of the ocean. Go with as small a group of people as possible and snorkel - the reef is beautiful, fish pretty and the waters clear.
Google map: bit.ly/xZnPLV
Sleek accommodation on this laid-back, modern-art loving island, with views over the tranquil Sea of Japan, as well as of Kusama Yayoi's giant spotted pumpkin on the seashore. Desert island bliss and a change of pace guaranteed.
I was told that I wouldn’t need a watch when I first visited Sherkin as an 11-year-old and almost 30 years later the situation is very much the same.
Although only a short ferry ride from the Cork coast, the island is at a step out of time. This far west, the Atlantic commands the pace.
One hot afternoon from the cliffs at Horseshoe Bay, we watched through a telescope a yacht head out to the ocean before we descended along a gorse-choked path for a bracing dip in the turquoise shallows.
But as well as the natural beauty the island has other diversions. The story goes that when asked by summer visitors what time The Jolly Roger pub closes, locals joke ‘October’.
Sherkin doesn't fit with the conventional notion of a desert island but then sometimes paradise is right under our noses.
A boat ride through the bright blue Caribbean Sea, dolphins playing in the water beside you, snorkelling the reef and finally, paradise.
From Bocas del Toro in Panama you can take a tour with a number of companies to Cayos Zapatillas, a small group of uninhabited desert islands. The boat moors and you hop out into the warm sea to splash your way to the shore. The islands consist of a patch of jungle surrounded by a border of white sand and clear water and the afternoon is just spent relaxing in and out of the water (or, in the case of some lads on our tour, dashing in and out of the jungle, trying to knock a coconut out of a tree). It literally looks like the scene in Pirates of the Caribbean when Jack and Elizabeth are stranded on a Caribbean island. Except the whole British army aren't looking for you. Thank God, beacause we didn't want to leave!
Halki is a small island five miles west of Rhodes but very far away from the hectic tourist activities of the larger island. There really is nothing to do there which makes it perfect for a relaxing holiday. Until recently there were no cars at all on the island and even now there are very few and the lack of traffic is wonderful. The island is very dry and water has to be imported from Rhodes which helps to explain the lack of major developments. There is one pretty harbour town and two small beaches which are served by traditional tavernas. Once you have walked to the beach of your choice the water comes in many shades of blue and green and is crystal clear. The beaches are never overcrowded as the island cannot accommodate many tourists, Most visitors stay in small apartments or villas in the town or in the new Hiona Art hotel.
Paxos is tiny but perfectly formed, and is less than an hour from Corfu by hydrofoil. The main town of Gaios is where you will find all the swanky yachts, but inland you will find a quiet island covered with olive groves, donkey tracks, and beautiful flowers. Life here is lived at a slow pace, and there is a true sense of community and of things as they used to be. The tiny village of Magazia has a wonderful traditional taverna serving hearty Greek food. Not far from Magazia, in Castanida, is the Sunset Taverna, which does what it says on the tin. There is a shady garden restaurant, or you can climb up onto the slightly precarious plywood roof terrace for an unrivalled view of the sunset.
Google map: bit.ly/lmlWCd
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