Journey to the Ends of the Earth: 6 Desert Islands to Explore | Magazine PONANT

Or how to experience an adventure worthy of Robinson Crusoe

It goes without saying that you need to travel, and a long way at that… But, most importantly, you need to get off the beaten track. There is still a whole host of remote destinations that provide curious travellers with the chance to rediscover their inner adventurer. And there are so many desert islands all over the world that evoke the spirit of Robinson Crusoe thanks to their remote locations and protected wildernesses. Visiting these places at the ends of the Earth is not just a journey but an experience.

1.
San Blas Islands

Lying off the coast of Panama, this archipelago is made up of 365 tiny islands, of which just 60 are inhabited. The Kuna people who dwell here live simply in wood and straw huts. An unpredictable three-hour journey from Panama City, the San Blas Islands are all surrounded by a crystal-clear lagoon and ringed with coconut trees. The food, which mainly consists of fish (and lobster on a really lucky day), the makeshift shelters and the hammock beds put the finishing touches to this picture-perfect image. It takes just a few minutes to walk across each strip of land in this archipelago, and it goes without saying that the least populated islands are those furthest from the coast.

2.
Fernando de Noronha Archipelago

Boasting deserted beaches, warm water and volcanic reefs, this archipelago in northeast Brazil could just as easily have served as Daniel Defoe’s inspiration for his novel. Its some 26 km² of rarity and riches were made a national park in 2001 and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site shortly afterwards, which is why the number of visitors is restricted. You won’t be able to visit these islands at the last minute on a sudden whim. You have to plan an expedition to this paradise. Baía do Sancho offers one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil, and it is used by turtles as a nesting site. And if you climb the cliff overlooking the sea, you can spot dolphins playing out in the water.

3.
The Lacepede Islands

If you head to Australia, off the coast of Kimberley about 120 kilometres north of Broome, there lie four islands largely covered with sand where you’ll come across more crocodiles and sharks than people. Less ‘picture-postcard’ than the islands of the South American archipelago, the Lacepede Islands are a designated nature reserve and Western Australia’s most important breeding habitat for green turtles and seabirds. Humans are only welcome if they tread lightly. Nature there is not just diverse, but resilient too, as the wind carves out the landscapes. The Australian bush has also made a little place for itself in the ochre of the rock formations and the wealth of plant life.

4.
Preikestolen

A different hemisphere provides different feelings. The life of an adventurer at the ends of the Earth does not have to involve the idyllic landscapes of the southern hemisphere. It can be experienced just as well at an altitude of 604 metres on Preikestolen, in Norway. In English, the name of this cliff overlooking the Lysefjord means “Pulpit Rock” or “Preacher’s Chair” after the raised part of the church from which priests preach to the congregation. That says it all. Climbing this iconic rock is an adventure in itself: from the summit, unspoilt, powerful nature reveals 10,000 years of history, as this natural hideout was formed during the last Ice Age.

5.
Eilean Shona

Five hours from Glasgow, where Loch Moidart meets the Atlantic Ocean, you can enjoy Highland spirit at its purest in the splendour of untouched ancestral Scotland. At 5 km², the island is home to mountains that peak at nearly 300 m and dense forests filled with frolicking deer, otters and squirrels. Well-hidden on the western shore, a white sand beach bathed by the turquoise water of the ocean is the realm of a small band of seals. The island offers what you might call a “spiritual detox” where powerful, generous nature reigns supreme.

6.
Campo de Hielo

You can even head to the actual end of the Earth: Patagonia. Located between Chile and Argentina, the Southern Patagonian Ice Field (Campo de Hielo) is the largest continental ice mass in the world after Antarctica and Greenland. It has produced 49 glaciers and offers visitors the chance to go ice trekking, the peacefulness of which soothes the soul. The sun and ice seem to interact with each other. Consisting of white beech trees (‘lengas’) and steppe, the tenacious flora blends harmoniously with the steep peaks and predominately white colour scheme. Crossing this field is both a spiritual and physical experience, and you’ll return having earnt your “white walker” stripes.

There are plenty of other remote destinations to explore and many more desert islands where you can recharge your batteries. Far from the chaos of the world, the soul is revitalised and time stretches as far as the horizon. With your senses reawakened and your internal clock finally running on time, you leave these places refreshed, having enjoyed a rich experience and feeling less alone than ever.


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