Robinson Crusoe Island - October 2008


 While investigating sightseeing tours from Santiago I discovered tours to Robinson Crusoe island.

Located a little over 400 miles from the coast of Chile, with 700 or so people living on the island, it seemed a great adventure.

Scotsman Alexander Selkirk made the island famous after he was left on the island in 1704.   For four years and four months he survived alone until in 1709 another British privateer arrived at the island.

 Selkirk's account of the ordeal sparked the imagination of Daniel Defoe, who used it as the basis for his famous novel, Robinson Crusoe.

How could I resist visiting such a remote island?

A small 8 seat plane flies there when there are enough people or cargo to make the trip, depending on weather conditions.

I had expected an early departure to Robinson Crusoe Island from Santiago on Lassa.  However the flight was changed to a 12.30pm departure.  Arriving at the small airport I discovered that the flight had been further delayed and wouldn't be leaving until 4.30pm. A few others, including a couple from San Diego, were also flying out.

We were taken to a restaurant to eat while we waited for the flight.  Eventually we were taken to the plane for the 2 hour flight to the island.

Arriving at 6.30pm we unloaded our luggage and made our way from the airstrip to the jetty to take the open fishing boat to the village.  The airstrip is located at the opposite end of the island and the boat takes 1˝ hours to make the journey from the airstrip to the village.

As the sun set it became really cold as the wind clawed at my body.  It seemed the little boat was struggling through the waves as the the engine droned and the darkening sky merged into the grey sea.  After what seemed like an age we saw the lights of the village and after landing we were taken to our accommodation, the Refugio Nautico.

I was freezing, and so attempted to take a hot shower before dinner.  However the water was reluctant to heat up and it took an age before I could coax enough hot water from the system to be able to take a shower.  After some hot food I retired to bed.

The weather was cold and windy the next morning, and I found that there was no hot water so a  shower was out of the question.  At breakfast my spirits were to take another knock as there were a group of birdwatchers staying at the Refugio.  Unfortunately I find birdwatchers to be extremely boring and true to form these guys had only one topic of conversation, the endemic Juan Fernández Firecrown hummingbird.

Our guide arrived and explained the program for the next couple of days.  We were supposed to have been taken on a tour of the village yesterday, but as we had arrived so late that was obviously not possible and the tour was changed to fit the shorter schedule.  

Actually the planned excursions were nothing like I had expected. The tour quoted "Following a hearty breakfast, you'll visit the Guardia Rabanal: Walking toward the southeast of the island to ascend the Centinella Hill for a magnificent view. For photographers, this is the best place to take panoramic pictures." but our guide said they no longer bothered with that walk.

The day was spent hiking through the varied trails on the island.  Unfortunately I felt cold and dispirited.  After dinner that evening the water was still cold and in desperation I called the 'management'.  After half an hour of running the water they decided that it was 'a problem of pressure' (I was on the top floor) and there was nothing that could be done.  Downstairs the birdwatchers were playing hummingbird DVDs.

The next morning I could feel I was getting sick so as a plane was returning to Santiago I grabbed the chance to return to the mainland.  I'm pleased I visited Robinson Crusoe Island but the experience was not at all what I had expected.


A view of the island as the plane approaches

The sun sets as the fishing boat negotiates the rocky coastline

The rocky coastline of the island by day

A view of our accomodation, the Refugio Nautico, on the left

The fisherman stop to collect some lobsters

Another view of the island as the plane heads home