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How to explore the world's greatest archipelagos


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How to explore the world's greatest archipelagos published by Evanvinh
Writer Rating: 5.0000
Posted on 2016-04-05
Writer Description: Evanvinh
This writer has written 733 articles.

5 APRIL 2016 

Readers share their tips on exploring the world's archipelagos. 

This week's winning entry

Escape from modern living

Inspired by your article in Discover, we explored Palawan and the surrounding islands on the only sailing paraw [outrigger] in thePhilippines. This is as remote as travel gets. Described as the last pristine archipelago on Earth, these 1,700 islands are an adventurer’s paradise. Packing a small dry bag with essentials for the five days on board, abandoning the trappings of modern-day living, we experienced a digital detox. Water was to be our luxury, and island time our clock. Sleeping on bamboo platforms ashore, with the stars and moon as our canopy, we saw no light pollution and heard no artificial sound. We were woken gently by the rising sun and the laughter of the young galley hands negotiating with the fishermen. In those brief few days of island cruising from El Nido to Coron, the escape from our fast-paced, cluttered lifestyle was total; the shock of returning a sanguine reminder of the priorities of life.

Endless adventures in the Isles of Scilly

I was 12 years old the first time my best friend and her family took me to the Isles of Scilly. We stayed on Tresco, spending our days cycling, exploring, playing in the sea and getting lost in the bracken. 

Tresco, Scilly

Tresco, Scilly

Because there were five children, we decided to make our own film version of The Famous Five using these magical islands as our set. We stayed up late the night before, plotting our adventure and planning our costumes. The next day we filmed at various places across the island: Apple Tree Bay, The Bird Hide and Abbey Gardens, venturing across to Bryher in our rowing boat to “solve” our mystery. 

Every July since, we have been lucky enough to return to the Isles of Scilly and even now, 10 years on, our film set remains precisely as it was all those years ago.

Arctic frolics underthe midnight sun

I joined a yacht sailing around the Lofoten Islands, an archipelago in Arctic Norway, because I saw a picture of them in my O-level geography book in 1963. 

The Lofoten Islands

The Lofoten Islands

Some 30 years later, the reality was better than that schoolboy daydream. There were picturesque, grass-roofed fishermen’s huts (rorbus), fish hanging from drying racks, idyllic harbours, towering mountains, curious seals, and spectacular seabirds. The 24-hour daylight gives a tranquil and other-worldly feel to the high Arctic. 

While it didn’t pull us down into the Earth à la Edgar Allan Poe, it was nevertheless strange to sail there: a sudden splashing and gurgling and a new violent eddy appeared beside our boat. 

Once it turned out to be a killer whale, as large as the hull of our vessel, but fortunately only curious. Ashore, too, surprises await: golf at midnight; course manager “Frodo”. It was a tuly other-worldly experience.

Andrew McLeod, Dorset

Paradise and solitude off the coast of India

It was a Robinson Crusoe moment. A boat dropped us off on Thinnakara, an island in the remote Lakshadweep archipelago off the coast of southern India, with just an umbrella and a cold box. We were alone, with a whole uninhabited island to ourselves for a day. There was not even a Man Friday footprint on the pristine white beach.

We were alone, that is, except for flocks of redshanks, greenshanks and plovers darting up and down the shoreline. There were also armies of huge crabs marching across the beach, diving into holes and hurling up mounds of sand, and shoals of yellow and grey-coloured fish dancing in the aquamarine water.

Getting to Thinnakara involves an hour’s flight to Agatti followed by a boat crossing to Bangaram, which has one small eco resort on a coral beach lined with coconut trees. Its dictum, “less is more”, means somewhat basic comforts but it’s a small price to pay for a piece of paradise.

Wendy Hampton, Hertfordshire

Unexpected Maldives magic on Kuramati Island

My husband and I tagged on a three-night stay at Kuramati Island in the Maldives archipelago at the end of a busy holiday in Sri Lanka. Not being beach people, we didn’t fancy booking a longer stay. 

An aerial view of a Maldivian island

An aerial view of a Maldivian island

The first thing we noticed on arrival was the quality of the atmosphere. Everything was crystal clear and the colours unusually intense with no pollution to blur the outlines. 

Three days of total bliss followed. Shoes were discarded and the pristine coral sand exfoliated our tired feet, leaving them baby soft. We saw black-tipped reef sharks hunting smaller fish right up to the shore, coming so close to us in the water that we could have touched them, and later watched a local expert feeding stingrays. 

But best of all, among all these delights, was the absolute peace and quiet. We are craving to return – but for a longer stay this time.

Prema Taylor, Lancashire

The perfect setting for a wedding celebration

Gathering for a family wedding, we took a 15-minute flight from Land’s End to the Isles of Scilly and the larger island of St Mary’s, nestled amid crystal clear, turquoise lagoons and white sands. 

The Hell Bay hotel


Self-catering at the tip of the island, we used launches to visit beautiful Bryher, have lunch at Hell Bay Hotel overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and explore Abbey Gardens at Tresco, an exotic paradise with plant species from all over the globe. 

Being nature lovers, we mostly walked the peaceful, unspoilt paths, passing flower farms of scented narcissi, while others sailed, snorkelled and swam with seals.

Midway, we walked in the shimmering sun to Juliet’s Café and in a private room, overlooking the harbour, we celebrated my niece’s wedding, then walking home barefoot cross white sands as the sun set.

Margaret Hardeman, Worcestershire

The archipelago that is pure heaven on Earth

Last Easter, I woke up in a hammock to the sound of waves on an island that had been entirely our own for 24 hours. After a three-day trip fromColombia through the idyllic San Blas islands, off Panama, we had saved the best until last. This pristine tropical atoll boasts crystal clear water, and we had just a scattering of coconut trees and a Kuna family for company. 

The San Blas islands

The San Blas islands

We snorkelled to the neighbouring atolls, watched a pod of dolphins swim by at sunset, skinny-dipped under a full moon and ate fresh lobster cooked on an open fire delivered by dugout canoe.

The San Blas archipelago, comprising 365 islands, is truly heaven on Earth. Virtually untouched, accessible only by boat, and with no Wi-Fi, this is a destination reserved only for the adventurous.

Rebecca Mckee, Lincolnshire



Why the Canaries will always be our family favourites

The Canary Islands may offer cheap budget-style breaks, but this Spanish archipelago also boasts amazing geology (mountains, volcanoes and fabulous beaches) and a rich cultural history (the Greeks, Romans and Africans all visited the islands before the Conquest in the 1400s). Today there are vineyards, gourmet restaurants and rural experiences galore. The best restaurants are mostly in hotels but there are a few family-run local gems to be found. 

Above all else, we have always received a warm welcome and there is the distinct draw of warm subtropical weather all year round, not that far from home. 



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