There aren’t any travel brochures or last-minute deals for getting to the destinations in this article. Most of them, in fact, don’t even have airports. Or ports.
These solitary pieces of real estate are mercilessly remote, extremely hard to get to and, except for the members of certain destination collecting groups (Travelers’ Century Club or Most Traveled People), not listed on too many bucket lists. To get to any one of these is roughly the equivalent of a stamp collector finding an 1856 British Guiana 1 cent Magenta.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that if you can get to these ten places, you will have developed so many desirable qualities that you can either A) apply for sainthood, B) have your pick of the guy or girl of your dreams or C) secure your own television talk show. At very least, you can fire your therapist.
1. Diego Garcia. This British territory that’s leased to the American military and halfway between Africa and Indonesia requires securing a permit, informing the U.S. you’re not a Somali pirate (so they’ll call down their missiles) and making sure the native Chagossians who were evicted from the island in the 1960’s and still not happy about it haven’t hitched a ride on your boat. It’s also considered wise to hire armed guards to make the journey with you.
Why it might be worth the bother: You’ll foster tenacity and possibly be able to encourage one of the 16 commands located on this remote island with the motto: “ONE ISLAND, ONE TEAM, ONE MISSION.” Plus, according to the latest conspiracy theory, you’ll be crowned a hero because that’s where the missing Malaysia Flight 370 landed along with its passengers.
2. Howland Island. Sure, this remote isle just north of the equator in the Micronesian Pacific has a stunning four-mile beach, but it’s windy, has no fresh water supply and hasn’t been inhabited (except by errant sea and shore birds) since World War II. Getting there requires filling out a six-page special use permit request and having the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says, “C’mon Down.” Let’s just say neither happens very often.
Why it might be worth the bother: You’ll develop persistence and be able to say, “na-na-na-na-boo-boo” to the memory of Amelia Earhart. Despite the fact that the U.S. government ponied up $12,000 to build three runways for the famous aviatrix’s 1937 flight around the world, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan never made it to this now-deserted island, creating a mystery that has spawned numerous books, movies and TV specials.
3. Baker Island. This tiny atoll that’s halfway between Hawaii and Australia has an overgrown, good-luck-to-any-pilot-trying-to find-it airstrip and technically qualifies as a Pacific island, but forget any notion of swaying native girls singing “Bali Hai.” It’s economic heyday occurred in mid-1800’s when guano miners, under U.S. federal legislation, took possession of the doo-doo encrusted dot. Back then, guano was a hot commodity used as fertilizer and saltpeter for gunpowder. Today, it’s part of the Baker Island National Wildlife Refuge, uninhabited and only visited by scientists and representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service every year or two. To get there, you pretty much have to know someone and/or be willing to charter an 8-day, $60,000 boat ride from Hawaii. And even then, you don’t want to get too close. The low-lying reef around this island has bested many ships including 11 Navy ships that sank here during World War II.
Why it might be worth the bother: You’ll prove your financial worth, not to mention you’ll enjoy the rare chance to see a sizable colony of both green and hawksbill turtles, several species of endangered birds, the grave of an American seaman and a sad-looking clump of coconut palms established by the four Americans sent there in 1935 to colonize. Evacuated in 1942 during Japanese air and naval attacks, the colonists didn’t leave a Holiday Inn. Take a tent and lots of sunscreen.
4. The Balleny Islands. English whaling captains John Balleny and Thomas Freeman were the first to visit these desolate, frigid and utterly hostile Antarctic islands in 1839. Very few have been there since. Earthquakes are common (eight so far this year), volcanoes are still suspected of being active and they’re only reachable about 28 days of the year. New Zealand, that administers these islands as part of the Ross Dependency, has been attempting to the turn them into a Protected Marine Area, but, because these 160 kilometers of ice and rock are also governed under the Antarctic Treaty System, the proposition hasn’t gained a lot of traction. After all, who needs to protect a place without humans?
Why it might be worth the bother: You’ll achieve fame. Or at least a place in the history books. So far, no one has yet climbed the 1705-meter Brown Peak on Sturge Island. Take crampons.
5. Scott Island. The first difficulty in getting to this tiny island with the two beaches is that there are imposters, a full three other islands with the same name. There’s one in Maine, one in West Virginia and one near Vancouver Island with a ferry service from Chemainus to Thetis, close enough to swim. No, the Scott Island we’re talking about is smack dab in the Ross Sea, a good 505 kilometers from the Antarctica’s Cape Adare and has nothing remotely resembling amenities. Even the two beaches are covered with ice most of the year. The other hindrance is that, until a 2006 mapping expedition, this Scott Island was believed to be 2.3 km south of its actual position. And finally, one of the only boats to ever get close to this craggy island is the MY Steve Irwin, the 19-meter flagship of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society that throws butyric acid and other dangerous chemicals aboard Japanese whaling ships. Not to mention that members of the crew have been kidnapped and tied to “enemy ship” masts with ropes and zip ties.
Why it might be worth the bother: 1.You’ll attain environmental savvy. 2. You could be in the movies. The crew of the MY Steve Irwin and their conservation efforts are the stars of the Animal Planet Show, “Whale Wars” and 3. Apparently, it’s a desirable place to get married. On February 12, 2009, Andrew Perry and Molly Kendall, crew of the MY Steve Irwin, got hitched on top of a rock formation wearing matching orange all-weather Mustang suits with reflective trim.
6. Peter I Island. Located in the Bellingshausen Sea, 450 kilometers from Antarctica, this Norwegian dependency is surrounded by pack ice and nearly inaccessible 365 days a year. First sighted in 1821, it took 108 years before anyone was able to set foot on it. The Russian ship that first spotted it and named it for Tsar Peter I “The Great” couldn’t get within 25 kilometers. Neither could the French. Norwegian whaling ship owner Lars Christensen (the island’s 1640-meter peak is now named after him) financed a couple failed attempts before finally claiming it for Norway.
Why it might be worth the bother: You’ll nurture international goodwill. On a 2006 expedition that was dubbed the most expensive expedition in the world and required getting dozens of financial sponsors, participants drank wine (in the same evening) with Chileans, Russians and Chinese scientists who manned the closest polar bases. They also met Nikolai Litau, an intrepid Russian explorer, who was circumnavigating the Antarctic on a 15-meter sailboat.
7. Eritrea. It isn’t the fact that most Western countries have issued travel warnings. Or that Somali pirates are rumored to have sanctuary. Or even the coup that occurred earlier this year. Getting to Eritrea, nicknamed the North Korea of Africa, is next-to-impossible because the government requires visas, but turns down the lion’s share of requests to obtain them. They happily take your visa application money, but granting the document that’s required for entry into this sliver off the Horn of Africa? Not so much. That might be digestible, sorta like playing the lotto, except that to even apply for a visa you have to have an air ticket which, of course, costs a bit more than the average lottery ticket. It’s also necessary to get permission, even if you’re a diplomat, to travel outside Asmara, the capital.
Why it might be worth the bother: You’ll obtain nerves of steel. Plus, the Eritrean coastline is pristine and untouched, Asmara has a truly remarkable collection of Art Deco architecture and the people, hailing from nine diverse and colorful ethnic groups, are, believe it or not, actually quite friendly.
8. Tokelau. There’s no airport and the nearest land mass, Somoa, is a good 30-hour boat ride away. Luckily, this three-island nation in the South Pacific does have its own boat, the MV Tokelau. But it’s a cargo ship with no cabins and it has a grand total of two toilets. So take blankets (locals do) and an umbrella. Plus, it runs an average of once a month, mostly to bring supplies to the 1411 residents who scratch out a subsistence lifestyle on the three islands, Atafu, Fakaofo and Nukunonu. Even so, Tokelau was the first nation to use nothing but renewable energy. All three islands generate 100 percent of their electricity from solar power.
Why it might be worth the bother: You’ll nurture grit and determination. And possibly win the prize of being the last to say, “goodbye.” This little nation, a mere five meters above sea level, is predicted to become the first casualty of global warming.
9. Nicobar Islands. This group of 19 islands is located in the Indian Ocean, south of the Andaman Islands and requires dealing with one bureaucracy after another. And just when you get the permit from Madras (Nicobar is a territory of India and has military installments), you’ll find the guard has changed or the helicopter is full and there’s no a new government official you need to contact.
Why it might be worth the bother: You’ll nourish your inner doggedness. Plus, in May of 2013, UNESCO named the Nicobar Islands a World Biosphere Reserve.
10. Bouvet Island. Just for the shot to get to this lonely pimple that juts out of the grey, forlorn South Atlantic costs $25,000. And even after you cough it up and board the icebreaker that travels there, your 25 G’s entitles you to but three chances. If Mother Nature fails to cooperate, that’s 25 grand down the drain. And just so you know, it’s 1000 miles further than Tristan da Cunha, the most remote inhabited spot on earth.
Why it might be worth the bother: You’ll develop flexibility and the chance to be one of a few dozen humans to have left footprints there.
For some, that’s enough.