Travel Special: NEW ISLANDS

Legendary habitat of Sultans and spices, pirates and traders, Conrad and Maugham, there are 17,000 islands in the world's largest archipelago in Indonesia - many of them in beautiful backwaters longing to welcome Western tourists.

Recovering from its violent earthquake and tidal wave in 1992, Flores rivals Bali in the beauty of its forests and ravines, though tourism has barely scratched the surface. Ask for accommodation in its remote and idyllic fishing villages, and you'll be directed to a bamboo hut with a beaten earth floor, platform bed and a spade instead of a WC.

Sumbawa is strongly Muslim, but rosy Dutch pantiles top stilt houses of bamboo rattan. Its north-eastern port, Bima, has an air of South Seas piracy; great wooden pinisis, the famous sailing boats of Sulawesi, loaded with seaweed and soy beans are tied up at its quayside. In villages such as Panalung, young lads crash like charioteers through mud and rice paddies on wooden sledges behind thundering beasts during the water buffalo races.

You could be the one of first Western tourists the locals have ever seen, as I myself was, on the tiny pearl diver's island of Adonara, where our boatload was presented with fruit, palm wine and a live chicken. The children laughed delightedly at our pale skin and hair.

The adventurous have already reached the much larger Sulawesi, formerly known as Celebes, though it is still not on the main track for independent travellers in Indonesia. With some of the most remote jungles in the country, active volcanoes and unusual flora and fauna, Sulawesi is not a place to visit in a hurry.

Heading further East, and as an alternative to the increasing commercialism of Koh Samui and Koh Pangang, the 10-by-two mile Koh Chang is one of the least developed of Thailand's tropical islands. Like Koh Samui of 20 years ago, Koh Chang offers the simple life, commuting between more or less empty sandy beaches, jungly virgin rain forests and a scattering of fishing villages.

Still in the Indian Ocean, many travellers make the jour-ney to Zanzibar, but few continue 25 miles north to Pemba, the island of cloves, which is quiet, scenic and with interesting ruins dating from the Shirazi migration from Persia.

James Bond's creator Ian Fleming believed that pirates had left treasure behind on Fregate, the three-square-kilometre private island in the Seychelles. The island's 30 or so inhabitants are greatly outnumbered by 50 species of birds. Six stupendous beaches including Anse Victorin, rated among the world's most beautiful, mangoes, passion fruit, bananas and other tropical fruits that grow like weeds, are other natural ingredients which add up to a spectacular island for holidaymakers. A strictly limited number (no more than 40) will be able to stay in 16 new luxury villas to be opened this summer, promising an unspoilt refuge for environmentally conscious travellers. Who knows, you might find the buried treasure.

Despite outstanding diving, talcum-powder beaches, mountains and jungle sce-nery, Palawan still remains one of the Phillipines' best kept secrets. Described as its last frontier, the long narrow island off Borneo has probably been saved from the hordes by its poor roads and limited accommodation, though it's understandably a favourite hideout for backpackers on a budget.

Also reached via Manila, independent and youth travel specialist STA's top tip for divers is Truk in the Federal States of Micronesia, where travellers can discover some of the most spectacular underwater scenery that exists anywhere in the world.

Flores, Sumbawa, Adon-ara: Flights to Bali or Jakarta, and onward flights or ferries from there. Jakarta from pounds 472; Bali from pounds 610 with STA (0171 361 6262).

Sulawesi: From pounds 587 via Bali or Jakarta.

Koh Chang: From pounds 414 to Bangkok then by boat (STA)

Pemba: Flight to Dar es Salaam, then journey by boat, from pounds 478 with STA.

Fregate: Flights to the Seychelles from pounds 587, STA. Flights from Mahe to Fregate.

Palawan: From pounds 529 to Manila then by boat and air. (STA).

Truk: Flights are available from pounds 1,086 via Manila. Book through STA.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living