Travel Special: NEW ISLANDS
Sunday 12 January 1997
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.
TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies
Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
- 2 Indian woman creates 'Marriage CV' after parents put her on dating site: 'Definitely not marriage material. Won’t grow long hair, ever'
- 3 World Book Day: Boy 'excluded' from school after dressing up as Fifty Shades' Christian Grey
- 4 Bad Jews poster 'censored' on London Tube
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
The 9 rules every Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoon had to follow are wonderfully pedantic
Toy Story 4: Pixar promises a romcom storyline 'separate' from the much-loved trilogy
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Bad Jews poster 'censored' on London Tube
World Book Day: Boy 'excluded' from school after dressing up as Fifty Shades' Christian Grey
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Elif Shafak: Turkish author warns against rise of British nationalism
Ex-head of MI6: 'We shouldn't kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy'
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests