Jam-Packed

A closer look at the most populated island on earth

Hannah Jiang, Section Editor

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Santa Cruz de Istole, from a distance, appears to be a mass of houses and roads floating on the ocean’s surface. Though it was deemed uninhabitable only a few generations ago, the Colombian island is now the most densely populated island in the world.

With a population of around 1,200 inhabitants, the island is calculated to be only the size of two soccer fields. About 115 houses are crammed within its quarters, some on top of another; nonetheless the island has a peaceful, relaxed way of life. The island gets most of its items by boat, and its economy is based on fishing and other services, such as cooking, cleaning, tourism guides, and more. Residents rely on solar panels to provide them with electricity, and children can be seen playing on streets and attempting to catch fish at a young age. There are no crimes and therefore no police. However, those living on the island can sometime be bothered by the island’s popularity.

“We get annoyed because the media always say the island is more crowded than it is,” Juve Nal, inhabitant of Santa Cruz in an interview with to CNN, said. “But where else in the world is there no need for police, where else can you have an island for just your little community?”

The tiny island’s history spans back to the fishermen from nearby islands spending a night before inhabiting the tiny island, due to the mosquito-free environment it resides in. Locals attribute this to the absence of mangroves and beaches throughout Santa Cruz, reducing availability for mosquito habitats. Tourists visiting the island can’t stay on hotels; there is never any space. Instead, they must spend the night at neighboring Mucura Island, and travel to Santa Cruz by speedboat. Inhabitants, however, don’t enjoy the popularity it receives. Most tourists only have to pay around 3,000 pesos, equivalent to one American dollar, upon arrival. The money gathered by the tourists is used towards buying drinking water, and other factors that go towards day-to day running of the islands.

“We charge something, and we give them a tour, so the tourists realize we are not just here to be looked at, but instead they can learn about our culture,” Nal said.

The islanders of Santa Cruz, however, don’t seek financial help or the pity of others.

“I would not want to live anywhere else,,” Nal said. “Every day I get to wake up to the sound and the view of the sea.”

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