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The great escape

Pirates, pit vipers and panoramic views


A few weeks ago, says Zachary Crockett in The Hustle, Ben Saul-Garner paid around £3,000 to be “abandoned on a remote island in Indonesia”. For 10 days, the 33-year-old Londoner slept in a hammock, subsisted on coconuts and crab, and spent his time foraging for firewood – all in total isolation. “There’s something about just being in nature,” he says, “and going back to basics, that I love.” Saul-Garner booked his trip through Docastaway, one of a growing number of niche travel firms catering to those in search of “extreme isolation”. The company offers two packages: “Survival mode”, in which clients are dropped off with just a machete or a harpoon and have to figure out the rest by themselves; and “Comfort mode”, where a crew is on standby with “food, water, shelter” and other necessities. In recent years, says founder Alvaro Cerezo, Survival mode has become an increasingly popular option.

The tricky part is finding enough remote, but basically safe, windswept atolls to park clients on. “There are lots of beautiful islands in the Philippines, but there are pirates,” says Tom Williams, boss of British firm Desert Island Survival. “In Indonesia, there are pit vipers, and in New Guinea there are green mambas that can literally kill you.” A “risks and dangers” tab on his website elaborates on the various traumas that can be inflicted by “monitor lizards, wild pigs, sharks, jellyfish, pufferfish, stingrays, and other island-dwelling creatures”. And the success of survival TV shows is massively driving up the cost of renting remote islands. A famous YouTuber recently paid $70,000 to rent an island in Panama for a video. “He turned up there with friends,” says Williams, but “there were way too many insects for them. So they left.”