This was it. After two months of island hopping amongst the charming little islands in the Philippine archipelago and backpacking from the eastern to the western parts of Sumatra, I let my backpack slowly slide off my sore shoulders. I had let a small buss take me along a bumpy ride to the outbounds of the countryside of south Sumatra and suddenly found myself standing in the middle of nowhere. The noisy, and only, road behind me and a beach full of plastic waste was stretching in front of me.

Even though this, sadly, is a common sight in Indonesia, there are amazing hidden paradise islands once you know where to look. That, together with the fact that the Indonesian people is super friendly since remote places like Sumatra has not yet been exploited by westerners yet, makes me come back again and again. Tired and stranded on a plastic beach I had no idea, for the first time after three months of backpacking, where to go or what to do. I headed in to the, one and only, local restaurant to drink a cup of the classic Indonesian Copi, which basically was powder coffee mixed with way too much sugar. The friendly owner, who seemed to understand that I needed a new game plan, started talking about a hidden paradise island with sand beaches and no tourists. Coming from the noisy street, I didn’t need much persuasion before I had agreed to pay him quite a lot of money to take me there and to pick me up one week later.

The next morning we left early with the small wooden boat packed with supplies for me to stay on this deserted island for one week. After one hour of boat ride, there it was, like a beautiful illusion with its smooth sandy beach, banana trees and turquoise water. It was not entirely deserted though, since a nice old Indonesian couple and their friend were living there, together with five dogs and the wild monkeys of course. I gazed at the boat getting smaller in the distant, as to reinsure myself that this wasn’t a dream. I finally had my own jungle island, away from noisy traffic and tourists. I climbed up on the only hill on the island to get a better view of my newly found paradise. In the south, another island stretched out to the sea, looking like crocodile by its shape. My island looked more like an hour glass, with two crystal blue lagoons divided by a white sand strip in contrast of the rest of the island which was covered with banana trees and thick jungle.

One day passed, two days passed, and I as time went by I realised how eased my mind became isolating me from the outer world. My phone had no reception, keeping me off social medias. The electricity was only on for two hours just to get some sort of light on the pitch black evenings. But after a while the darkness didn’t bother me either. I spent the days snorkeling, looking at mighty turtles, funny fishes, venomous sea snakes and beautiful corals. As a conservationist photographer I always make sure not to touch any wild animals or corals, knowing how fragile they are. In the evenings I sat together with the nice old couple and their friend around the bon fire, while listening to them playing guitar and singing old Indonesian folk songs, as the waves rolled onto the beach and the dogs where chasing each other in the distance. The days passed and even though they where quite the same I never was bored. I had a whole island and an ocean to explore.

The very last morning the old lady was calling on me. ”Whale shark, whale shark!” I quickly grabbed my snorkling gear and before I knew it I was swimming towards, what I thought was, a family of whale sharks. Getting closer I could see the huge dark shadow moving in the deep underneath me. It approach the surface some 20 meter from me quite far away from my island, and I could tell that it had a fin on its back. Whale sharks don’t have fins looking like that, I thought to myself. Feeling a bit exposed on the open sea and not quite sure of what kind of whale I was observing, I slowly headed back to the beach, whereas the family of three whale…something where too busy to notice me, chasing supper. I still don’t know what kind of whale I was observing way too close, but I do know that it is an experience I will late forget! Later that afternoon a heavy rainstorm, followed by a warm sunset created a magical light show in the sky, as if the island wanted to say ”you have really had a once in a life time paradise island experience, Lisa”. I gazed, stunned, at the rainbow stretching over the Crocodile island, and silently agreed.


Lisa Sihlberg