10 Uninhabited Islands Around the World

Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park includes 42 islands in the Gulf of Thailand
Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park includes 42 islands in the Gulf of Thailand.

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People have long been fascinated by deserted islands. Famous literary classics have inspired the imaginations of generations of readers — long after the world map was filled in. While there may not be unmapped islands to discover, there are many uninhabited places in the far corners of the world's oceans. Some of these places have never been occupied by humans while others were deserted long ago. Unlike the typical tropical island paradise, these are places where nature is left to thrive.

Here are 10 uninhabited islands around the world.

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Parts of the Maldives

aerial view of one of the Maldives Islands

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Sitting in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is made up of an archipelago of more than 1,000 islands. Only a fraction of these landforms are inhabited, and only a handful of these have populations in the thousands. The sandy beaches and tropical foliage of the Maldives give them the kind of scenery often associated with deserted islands.

A number of five-star Maldivian resorts have their own private islands where they provide the kind of luxury desert-island experience that draws honeymooners and the super rich. However, virtually every resort and tour company in the Maldives provides tours of the surrounding desert islands, with overnight tent camping options available.

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Henderson Island

Henderson Island in the South Pacific

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Located in the South Pacific, tiny Henderson Island is virtually uninhabitable by humans — it has steep sea cliffs and no freshwater source. What it does have, however, is a population of animal species that are not seen anywhere else on Earth. Four endemic bird species, a number of unique plant species, and even unusual butterflies and snails call Henderson home. The island also has huge phosphate reserves that have never been touched. Located between Chile and New Zealand, Henderson, an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, is one of the Pitcairn Islands.

Sadly, even though humans don't live here, their presence is still apparent on Henderson Island. An estimated 37.7 million pieces of trash clutter the island and water — the highest levels of plastic pollution in the world.

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Ang Thong Islands

Some of the Mu Ko Ang Thong islands in the Sea of Thailand

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This group of islands in Southern Thailand, not far from the popular beach resorts of Koh Samui, Ang Thong offers a different kind of tropical experience. The islands, all but one of which are uninhabited, are made of limestone and covered with lush tropical foliage and stunning rock formations. Many have narrow beaches that are only accessible by boat.

Thailand's southern islands have long been popular with adventure-seekers and budget backpackers, so there is a steady stream of tourists seeking day-trip excursions to the beaches of these islands. Fortunately, the entire archipelago is part of a national park, so access is controlled.

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Jaco Island

View of Jaco Island in the distance with white, sandy beach in the foreground

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Situated one half-mile from the mainland, this uninhabited island is part of East Timor. Jaco's fine sand beaches, bright turquoise waters, and coral reefs draw tourists seeking untouched paradise in this southern corner of Asia.

The island is part of Nino Konis Santana National Park, East Timor's first national park. Since no one lives on Jaco, there are no accommodations. However, Jaco is popular among tourists. Local fishermen provide rides to visitors who want to spend the day snorkeling or enjoying Jaco's pristine beaches.

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Aldabra Islands

Calm waters off the coast of Aldabra Island

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The Aldabra Islands are located in a far-flung corner of Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. Comprised of four coral islands surrounded by a coral reef, the islands—or atolls—circle a lagoon. Aldabra is the second-largest coral atoll in the world. The islands host the world's largest population of giant tortoises (estimated to be around 152,000).

Aldabra has long benefited from an impressive conservation effort, and there are no permanent human residents on the islands. They have successfully prevented attempts to build military bases or permanent settlements on the islands.

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Phoenix Islands

Tatiman Passage in the northwest of the Atoll is the only navigable entrance into the lagoon of Nikumaroro, Phoenix Islands, Kiribati.

Angela K. Kepler / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The Phoenix Islands sit in the middle of the South Pacific. Though they are officially part of the island nation of Kiribati, these islands are nearly 1,000 miles away from the country's capital. The entire island chain is part of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area. Encompassing over 157,000 square miles, it is the largest marine conservation area of its kind in the world.

Birds, trees, and marine species thrive here, almost completely untouched by humans. Most people arrive in the Phoenix Islands area by ship. It is a long journey from virtually anywhere, and a single airstrip on Kanton is mainly used for supply flights, not commercial air services. A few researchers, conservation officers, and caretakers live on Kanton Island, which has the chain's only permanent residents. There is no tourist infrastructure to speak of, so these are remote islands in every sense of the word.

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Tetepare Island

Tetepare Island with white beaches and palm trees in the distance as viewed from across the Pacific Ocean

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The largest uninhabited island in the Solomon Islands, Tetepare Island was not always deserted. Until about the mid-1800s, humans thrived on the island, speaking a unique language, and living in several large villages. However, for reasons that remain unknown, these people all left Tetepare. The descendants of Tetepare's former residents established an organization to oversee conservation activities on the island. This group offers some ecotourism experiences and makes sure that Tetepare's landscapes remain pristine and untouched. 

With a diverse ecosystem of lowland rainforests and reefs teeming with marine life, Tetepare is home to numerous bird, reptile, and mammal species.

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Devon Island

Devon Island in Radstock Bay

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Not all deserted islands are located in the tropics. In fact, the largest uninhabited island in the world is located in the Arctic. Canada's Devon Island sits in Baffin Bay. People have lived on Devon in the past; however, the last permanent residents left in the 1950s. The topography is such that the island has been used by astronauts to test equipment and to train for future missions to Mars. The island also hosts a huge crater: The Haughton Impact Crater, measuring over 12 miles in diameter, was formed 23 million years ago.

Devon's austerely beautiful landscapes are also home to musk oxen and bird species. Plant life thrives in the island's lowland areas, which have a microclimate that features more hospitable conditions compared to the windswept highlands and coastal areas.

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Clipperton Island

Clipperton Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean

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Clipperton Island sits in the Pacific Ocean west of Mexico and north of the Galapagos. A barren coral atoll with scattered clumps of grass and small groves of palm trees, most of the land here is only a few feet above sea level. Shipwreck survivors have been marooned on the island in the past, surviving on coconuts and water from Clipperton's freshwater lagoons.

Officially an overseas territory of France, Clipperton has a remoteness and history that attracts a unique set of visitors: ham radio operators. Groups of academics and radio enthusiasts have come here over the years to make radio transmissions and to make contact with other operators from around the world.

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Surtsey Island, a volcanic island off the southern coast of Iceland

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Located 20 miles off the coast of Iceland, the island of Surtsey doesn't have a long history because it simply didn't exist before the 1960s. The island was formed by underwater volcanic eruptions, so it's of special interest to scientists who want to witness the formation of the island's ecosystem firsthand.

Mosses and fungi were the first living things that grew in the volcanic soil, with a number of migrating birds, plants, and even insects now thriving on this young landmass. Because of its scientific value, Surtsey is heavily protected and remains off-limits to tourists, but there are regular sightseeing flights over the island.