Chile, Conservation, Featured, Islands, Latin America, Sustainable tourism
Comments 13

Why Robinson Crusoe Island Might Just Be the Most Unique Place on Earth.

Robinson Crusoe Island

Quién no conoce el bosque chileno, no conoce este planeta. De aquellas tierras, de aquel barro, de aquel silencio, he salido yo a andar, a cantar por el mundo.

Those who do not know the Chilean forests, do not know this planet. From those lands, from that soil, from that stillness, I have come out to walk, to sing for the world.

Pablo Neruda’s words echoed in my mind as I began experiencing the breathtaking landscapes and biodiversity of Robinson Crusoe Island (earlier called Mas a Tierra), nearly 700 km off the coast of Chile in South America.

Over the past decade, I’ve been lucky enough to slow travel through many unique places around the world. But nothing could’ve prepared me for the month I spent on Robinson Crusoe Island, learning about its endemic species, grasping the challenges of conservation, bonding with the local community and working on sustainability initiatives. Here’s why:

No humans had set foot on Robinson Crusoe Island (Chile) until 500 years ago

A Spanish sailor first arrived arrived here in 1574 – and the Juan Fernandez Archipelago, to which the island belongs, is named after him.

Robinson Crusoe Island chile, Robinson crusoe island
Photo: Callum Thompson @Adventure_cal

So the island’s endemic forests, plants, marine animals and birds evolved in isolation

Many species are only found here in the entire world!

Juan Fernandez Fur Seals

Getting to Robinson Crusoe Isla involves an adventurous journey on a tiny 6-seater plane – not for the faint hearted!

Only 4 people + 2 pilots can fly the 700 kilometers at one time – and only when the weather is just perfect for landing on the short, narrow strip that is the Robinson Crusoe Island airport. Before the pandemic, it was also possible to take a boat over 4 days.

flights to robinson crusoe island chile
Photo: Callum Thompson

The endemic Juan Fernandez Fur Seals greet you at the airport jetty

Declared extinct in the 1800s, a few seal pups were found in a cave in the 1960s. The island community decided to protect them, and the Chilean government finally declared their hunting (mostly by American ships) illegal. Their population has bounced back beautifully in recent decades!

And the boat ride to San Juan Bautista – the island’s only inhabited village – is reminiscent of a scene from Jurassic Park

San juan bautista

Only a 1000 odd locals call the island home

As per the 2017 census, the official Robinson Crusoe Island population is 976!

San juan bautista, robinson crusoe chile

Yet life here is bustling with community activities

Think basketball and football tournaments, hikes for women, triathlons, swimming in the ocean on a full moon night, entrepreneur fairs etc!

plazoleta el yunque

Even though 97% of the Juan Fernandez Archipelago is a protected national park

tres puntas, juan fernandez archipelago, robinson crusoe images
Photo: Callum Thompson

Humans have left a huge footprint on the island

Villagra, robinson crusoe island, robinson crusoe pictures

Invasive species introduced hundreds of years ago

Including rats, rabbits, goats, cows, horses, dogs and cauti (feral cats) – and plants like mora (blackberry), maqui and murtiya.

island conservation chile

Have been crowding out the slow-growing endemic forests

endemic forest chile, juan fernandez chile, robinson crusoe chile
Photo: Callum Thompson

Making it one of the most endangered places on earth

Juan fernandez biodiversity
Photo: Callum Thompson

Less than 500 Juan Fernandez Firecrown humming birds remain here in the wild

Found only on Robinson Crusoe island in the entire world.

And the last remaining Dendroseris Neriifolia tree in the world!

Dendroseris Neriifolia
Photo: Callum Thompson

But Island Conservation, CONAF (Chile’s forest department), Oikonos and other local organisations have been working to eradicate invasive species

The only way to protect the endemic forests and rare species of the island is to eliminate the invasive species – a painful task in every way.

Island conservation, robinson crusoe, juan fernandez
Photo: Callum Thompson

Aided by Lenovo’s smart technology

That enables checking camera traps on the go.

Lenovo work for humankind
Photo: Callum Thompson

Which also allowed me to work remotely

Journaling and documenting the conservation work on my Lenovo Tab 11 Pro.

Lenovo Tab 11 Pro
Photo: Callum Thompson

And initiate new projects with the community as part of the #workforhumankind initiative

Including a pilot community farming project, and a proposal to aid the island’s transition from diesel-generated electricity to solar power.

community farming robinson crusoe, work for humankind
Photo: Callum Thompson

Over a month, I experienced the stark, dramatic landscapes across the island

Tourism on Robinson Crusoe Island has officially been on pause during the pandemic though.

Isla robinson crusoe, mas a tierra

Built beautiful friendships with the island community

robinson crusoe island people

Came face to face with the reality of conservation, climate change and species extinction

species extinction juan fernandez
Photo: Callum Thompson

Witnessed the most magical mornings and moon rises

robinson crusoe island

And found immense inspiration, hope and gratitude to protect the species we’re lucky to share this planet with.

Do you dream of visiting a place as remote as Isla Robinson Crusoe?

*Note: I was invited to Robinson Crusoe as part of the Work for Humankind project with Lenovo and Island Conservation. What an honor!

Connect with me on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter to follow my travel adventures around the world!

ALSO READ:

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7 Years of Travelling Without a Home – and Then a Pandemic

What I Learnt Volunteering on a Remote Island in Cuba

What It’s Like to Travel Solo When You’re in a Relationship

by

Welcome to my blog, The Shooting Star. I’ve been called a storyteller, writer, photographer, digital nomad, instagrammer, social entrepreneur, solo traveller, vegan, sustainable tourism consultant and environmentalist. But in my heart, I’m just a girl who believes in the transformative power of travel.

13 Comments

  1. Rajendra Nargundkar says

    Very interesting. Which language did you communicate in?

  2. Wow, what an adventure. Talk about shaking things up and leaving the mundane behind. I have never heard of this place, but it’s cool that you went to a place so remote with the cultures in tact and most of the ecosystem in good shape. Stories like this make want to take a trip to remote places for an amazing adventure.

    • Shivya Nath says

      Now I’m left wondering how to embrace the “mundane” after experiencing something so special!

  3. I have never seen a humming bird in real. It must have been a wonderful experience seeing and capturing the Juan Fernandez Firecrown humming birds at Robinson Crusoe Island.

    • Shivya Nath says

      One of my favorite moments – thrilling and heartbreaking at the same time, to have the privilege to watch and photograph this species sadly on the brink of extinction.

    • Shivya Nath says

      Thanks; feel so luck that I got to spend all that time on the island!

  4. Wow Shivya, I was just amazed to see those photos and loved each of them. Its your hard work and passion that has brought you to this place, of course it is an honor and you deserve it. Also your work made you fortunate enough to explore places like this where one feels closer and closer to nature. Thanks for taking us there virtually. By the way, I have started to follow you on instagram to see more magical places like this.

    • Shivya Nath says

      Thanks Amit – it’s been quite a journey, and in retrospect, I can see many dots connecting to finally lead me to this island. Glad to be connected on Instagram and look forward to hearing more about your own journey.

  5. Pingback: To Chile, With Love. | The Shooting Star

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