Santa Cruz Del Islote: The Most Densely Populated Island on Earth
About 150 years ago, legend has it that a group of fishermen living about 50 km away along the coastal town of Baru, were generally looking for new waters to fish when they happen to stumble upon this small coral island, just sitting low in the waters. Because it was already too late to head back, the fishermen resolved to set up camp on the island just for the night and were pleased to discover that the island had no mosquitoes which was really rare in the area. As the story goes, the fishermen slept that night very peacefully that they decided to stay.
Recently, the island has 90 houses, only two shops, a restaurant, a disco and one school, all these packed within a site the size of a soccer field and a half. It’s regarded as the most densely populated island existing on earth. Space is very limited that several of the structures extend onto the water only supported by artificial means.
Some multi-storied building would have mitigated the congestion, but all the houses here are single story. The remaining unoccupied space is a courtyard around half the size of a tennis court, which frequently went underwater in high tides.
Most of the inhabitants are either fishermen or staff working at nearby hotels and resorts on another island. For the most part, fishing was their only livelihood, but recently, fish stocks have declined which forced the local men to find work elsewhere. Much of their economy today depends on tourism. Múcura, a nearby island has a high-end resort and also offers fishing, snorkeling or even diving excursions to tourist, and many Santa Cruz residents are working there.
Regardless of the hard life, locals still describe staying on the island as very calm and peaceful. Doors are never locked since there is no violence or crime. Even the children are described as “docile” and “better disciplined” by their school teacher.
There is a generator which is turned on at seven in the evening and until eleven o'clock there is power on the island. This time was allotted for soap operas on television. For big football games, people will actually need to pool their resources together so that they can buy gasoline to power up the generator for watching the game on TV.
A 66-year-old diving instructor named Juvenal Julio, who also is the great-grandson of one of the original discoverers of the island, hails Santa Cruz del Islote a paradise.
He said, “I will live the rest of my days here. It’s a glorious life.”
Similar for all the island’s twelve hundred residents, Julio will also leave the island when he is dead, because it has no more space for a cemetery.