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
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'