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 & Entertainment
TV

Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
music

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit