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Lizard Island is a slice of paradise

Inspiring getaways found at the ends of the world

What makes an island getaway so coveted amongst harried city dwellers is the promise of peace – of a haven untouched by civilisation, pesky emails and mobile phones alike.

Six luxury escapes, each outrageously more remote that imaginably possible.

What makes an inspiring getaway so coveted amongst harried city dwellers is the promise of peace – of a haven untouched by civilisation, pesky emails and mobile phones alike. We’ve taken that concept one step further in this edition: six luxurious escapes so remote, you can only reach them by plane. 

Skeleton Coast, Namibia

Don’t be daunted by the name: intrepid travellers who travel to this somewhat mythical part of the Namibian coast always return with tales to share. The area is sometimes known as the end of the world, and for good reason. It is largely desolate and barren, but where civilisation is missing, unique wildlife flourishes.

Sleep in the vast open desert at Shipwreck Lodge
Sleep in the vast open desert at Shipwreck Lodge
Exotic animals abound here
Exotic animals abound here

A pilot drops you as close as possible to the area’s only lodge, but from there, it’s an hour-long drive where the only other souls for miles are desert elephants, giraffes, and a list of over a thousand fauna and flora.

The quirky Shipwreck Lodge is a boutique desert camp replete with whimsical touches that reference the area’s storied past: its creators wanted to leave the impression that the lodge was built by castaways using items salvaged from a shipwreck.

The ten free-standing cabins are spaced far apart enough from each other to build on the sense of isolation without ever feeling truly lonely. Rooms are supremely cosy and come with spacious decks that offer uninterrupted views of the sand, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. While the uninhabited desert with its rolling, endless sand may seem daunting to some, it is a hauntingly picturesque sight to behold. shipwrecklodge.com.na

Taketomi Island, Japan

Step back in time to another world in Japan’s lesser-known Yaeyama Islands. Set on the westernmost edge of Okinawa, the archipelago is home to some of Japan’s most remote islands. Taketomi Island is the most striking of the lot, offering visitors a well-preserved escape from the city that’s steeped in local culture, tradition and their love for the green sea.

Step back in time at Taketomi Island
Step back in time at Taketomi Island

The only airport in the archipelago is located on Ishigaki Island, where private charters can land. Thereafter, a ferry will whisk guests away to Taketomi Island proper.

Taketomi Island is known for its carefully maintained traditional Ryukyu village, and the Hoshinoya goes to great lengths to harmonise the resort with its surroundings. Tucked away in a lush forest, villas are designed in the traditional style of the houses on Taketomi Island, albeit with luxuriously understated interiors. Expect to see tatami floors and traditional chabudai dining tables in your room.

For those looking to disconnect from any sort of electronics, you’ll be glad to know that the Hoshinoya’s well-appointed cabins come without televisions, ensuring minimal distractions throughout your stay.

Try your hand at creating your own special blend of tea in the warm, woodsy lounge while a musician strums at a sanshin – a traditional Okinawan instrument – who will gladly regale you with tales of the stories and meanings behind each song.

Local cuisine also takes centre stage at the restaurant, which overlooks a luscious, well-manicured garden. You’ll be served a delectable assortment of Okinawan delights, including usanmi – a type of multilayered casserole – Japanese rice porridge, and yushi tofu, known for its rich flavours and pillowy softness.

The beach is a short walk away from the main resort, and guests are often pleasantly surprised at how serene and quiet the island is. hoshinoya.com/taketomijima

Lizard Island, Australia

On Australia’s northern resort island, Lizard Island, you’ll not only get to visit the Great Barrier Reef – you’ll be staying right on top of it. Fringed with a kaleidoscope of colourful reefs shimmering water and teeming wildlife, Lizard Island is any nature lover’s dream.

Dive with the fishes on Lizard Island
Dive with the fishes on Lizard Island

The island, so named for the unique species of yellow lizard, is best accessible by private charter from Cairns Airport in Queensland. From there, it’s a scenic hour’s flight that will take you over the astounding Great Barrier Reef – you’ll get your first glimpse of the staggering reef from the air, but nothing quite compares to seeing it up close. Its not an exaggeration to say that the Reef is literally on your doorstep on Lizard Island – each of the 40 elegantly designed rooms, suites and villas at the resort are set along the sweeping Anchor Bay, with easy access to the main lodge and any one of the 24 powdery white beaches.

The view from underwater is far more stunning than the gorgeous vistas from land. Some of the world’s most famous dive sites, including the Cod Hole, are located just a short boat ride from Lizard Island’s shores.

On land, Lizard Island boasts over 1,000 hectares of protected National Park space to explore. Take part in any one of the numerous daily guided tours of the surrounding area: from the inner and outer reefs, the Research Station located on the island, or even to the peak of Cook’s Look, there’s no shortage of scenic spots to soak in the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef at your leisure. You can even embark on your own expedition to chart out all of the island’s colourful creatures. Try to spot one of the island’s iconic reptiles, or any one of the whopping 40 unique bird species that make Lizard Island their home. lizardisland.com.au

Islas Secas, Panama

Panama has its canal, its light-coloured Montecristi Panama hat, sugarcane distilled SecoHerrerano, vibrant nightlife and colourful beaches. To the west, on the Pacific side, the country also has the secluded haven of Islas Secas, a 16-island archipelago that welcomes just 14 guests at any given time.

Islas Secas is a haven for fishermen around the world
Islas Secas is a haven for fishermen around the world

The lodge offers direct private air charter service from Panama City, whisking guests off to the island in a quick 90-minute flight along Panama’s stunning Pacific Coast before coming to land on Islas Secas’ private runway – or, if you so wish, on water.

Islas Secas is a fisherman’s paradise. Almost every species in the Pacific can be caught here all year-round – including black marlin, sailfish, wahoos, and even hulking yellowfin tunas. The nutrient-rich waters of the Gulf of Chiriqui is thus well known amongst anglers worldwide, and with top-notch equipment provided by the resort – including Shimano rods and reels and 34 feet SeaVee boats – guests are guaranteed a sizeable haul every time.

After an exciting day at sea, guests can return to the sanctuary of one of several intimate Casitas, each complete with its own plunge pool and thatched-roof cabana where they can relax and enjoy unparalleled views of the Pacific. Louvred slats, sliding panels and earthen tones blend for a soothing stay, unperturbed by the fussiness of civilisation. islassecas.com

Banwa Private Island, Philippines

If you truly want to escape with Robinson Crusoe firmly in mind with no compromise on all the bells and whistles of 5-star living, there’s always the option of outright chartering your own private island. The newly opened Banwa Private Island is located in the Palawan region of the Philippines, a sprawling archipelago of over a thousand islands – no island’s more remote, or more pristine, than Banwa.

A word of advice: you won’t be able to find Banwa on the map just yet. Given how remote the island is, getting to Banwa is surprisingly efficient. All it takes is a two-hour seaplane ride from Manila before you’re transported to your own personal haven.

Six magnificent beach-front villas – each with their own infinity pool and Jacuzzi deck on the water’s edge – offer both privacy and panoramic views.

A luscious wellness centre and restaurant that prides itself on its freshly grown and caught ingredients ensure that Banwa is a self-sufficient island. There are also a slew of activities to take part in – from Hobie cat sailing, diving, and even paddleboard yoga, there’s no shortage of things to do on Banwa, despite its remote location in the Philippines.

There will be nothing and no-one to nudge you from your tranquil cocoon here – no hum of planes, buzz of phones, or chatter from other guests – just the pleasing sound of the waves on the shore, the rustle of the leaves, and the sound of your quiet thoughts. banwaprivateisland.com

Nosy Ankao, Madagascar

Once a haven for transient fishermen, then later a hideout for pirates looking to evade the law, Nosy Ankao’s lush forests and powdery sands belie a storied history. The island – just off the coast of Madagascar, is today a protected archipelago thriving with ecological wonders.

A gorgeous view of the sea
A gorgeous view of the sea

Nosy Ankao is also home to the Time + Tide Miavana, a luxurious eco-resort that combines the best of an exciting safari expedition with the peace and tranquillity you’d find on a beach getaway. Though Madagascar may be tricky to get into, a private charter plane from the nearby Diego Suarez Airport will see you to the island in just several hours.

Lemur treks are one of the unique activities on offer all year-round at the Time + Tide Miavana. The playful critters will leap and bound overhead in the dense jungle foliage: see if you can spot the endangered Golden Crowned Sifaka, recognisable by its light coat and distinctive golden head markings.

The pristine reefs that ring the island make for superb snorkelling expeditions – but if you’d prefer to stay dry, you can always charter a day trip to watch whales and dolphins frolic in the azure waters of the Indian Ocean.

Whether you choose to spend your days traipsing about the lush forest or swimming with schools of fish, a trip to Nosy Ankao isn’t complete without witnessing the stellar sunset over the Madagascar islands. All 14 villas open directly onto the beach, presenting a beautiful, picture-perfect setting to finish off your day. timeandtideafrica.com/miavana

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© This article was first published in Apr-May 2019 edition of World Travel Magazine.

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