Photo Essay

Santa Cruz del Islote, Colombia, the most crowded island in the world

Family shelling crabs

If you asked New Yorkers what is the most crowded island in the world most would probably say Manhattan. The Japanese thought that they had claim to that title until they found out about Santa Cruz del Islote, an island located in the Caribbean, in the San Bernardino Archipelago, off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia. They went there, they measured and counted, and voilà  the island did indeed have claim to the title. To 'save face' on the town plaza they built a three story community building with hospital on the third floor for the islanders.

Santa Cruz del Islote is so small (about 1,250 people live on .012 square kilometers) that people have to walk through each others kitchen to get from one place to another. There is a small town square (about the size of a tennis court) next to the new hospital building. The people have to bury their dead in a cemetery on another island. To play football (soccer) the residents go to nearby Mucura Island. Fishing is the main industry, but many of the islanders work at Hotel Punta Faro on Mucura. Some of the people raise fish in small ponds to sell.

To gain more space the people started expanding the island using a fill composed of coral shards. The Colombian government put a stop to the practice. You still see the coral scattered around the edges of the island.

The island was first settled by fishermen from the mainland who used it as a base for their fishing expeditions because there were no mosquitoes. After a while they started to bring their wives along, then decided to stay thus starting the settlement.

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Santa Cruz del Islote Island is about a two-hour boat ride from Cartagena, Colombia. It can be reached in about 20 minutes from Hotel Punta Faro on Mucura Island. The hotel will arrange tours to the island.

To see an aerial view of the island, go to Bing Maps, click on aerial view and zoom in.

Hotel Punta Faro, Mucura Island (the hotel will arrange round trip boat transportation from the mainland (Cartagena))

Tourism Information


Colombia South America

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1 response


    PINAKI SARKAR gave props (14 Aug 2013):

    very interesting story. It is strange how human settlement develop and spread around the world.

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