Looking west from our house we can see three islands, each with different profiles. The closest one is flat, like a green pancake with a white fringe. In the clear morning light the beach is a distinct disc on the ocean, then as the sun moves westward, the glare and heat haze obscure the island to the point where it can disappear. It is a twenty minute speed boat ride from our village, yet is visited infrequently. Due to the lack of fresh water the island is uninhabited, save for the occasional fishermen who camp out in crude shelters on the leeward side. Sea snakes are the most common guests, coming onto land at night, leaving their undulating patterns in the sand.
The landscape is reminiscent of the Kimberley or Northern Territory, with scrubby pandanas, the occasional stunted coconut palm, and spiky grassland. Without grazing animals, the under storey supports small succulents and grasses that we don't have at home, where the free range pigs and goats make short work of any green tuft. It is hot, harsh, and dry; the kind of place you imagine being shipwrecked, or the imaginary island of childhood maps, where spot x marks the hidden treasure. We walked across the middle then back around the beach to the boat. I picked up shells and bleached urchin skeletons, while Aquaman found a beautiful slab of driftwood destined to become an occasional table in our living room.
The island was crown land until a 15 hectare block was bought by a wealthy and influential Indonesian businessman. Remember these photos - things are about to change.