Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

January 19, 2022
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island envy

Adventure, romance, rest or retirement — the world's hottest islands have everything your heart desires

Top island to see a volcano
Montserrat This idyllic haven in the West Indies has become a modern-day Pompeii. Eruptions destroyed the southern half of the island, including the capital, and massive ash clouds blackened the skies and everything below. After a decade of this upheaval, the volcano seems to be in a state of calm — on good days at least — and you can get up close by touring the Exclusion Zone. You'll see the remains of a golf course and deserted million-dollar mansions. You can even walk through a hotel that looks like it was evacuated yesterday. If the smell of sulfur gets you giddy, take in all the drama from the safety of the northern half of island, which has a volcanic observatory, affordable villa rentals, quaint restos, deserted beaches and amazing hiking — a rare opportunity to live under the volcano from a safe distance. [AS]

Top three islands to experience the call of the wild
Galápagos Islands, Ecuador: 13 main islands and six smaller ones boast some of the world's rarest and most colourful species as well as 30 great dive sites. Get up close and personal with penguins, sea turtles, dolphins, sea lions, sting rays, manta rays and swordfish, as well as hammerheads and whale sharks.

Honshu Island, Japan's Jigokudani National Park is one of the only places in the world where you can observe snow monkeys in their natural habitat and watch them bathe in hot springs. You may even get a visit from one of the macaques while you're bathing in an outdoor hot spring-fed pool at Korakukan, a traditional inn just outside the park.

Kangaroo Island, Australia, specifically Finders Chase National Park, is where some of our favourite furries, like kangaroos and koalas, as well as bandicoots, wallabies, possums, fur seals and sea lions, call home. If you're into slimier species, they've got frogs and snakes too. [CC]

Top island to rekindle romance
Bora Bora, French Polynesia Calm splendor is its main attraction. From watching the sun set over the island's two volcanic peaks, Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia (the sunset cruise is highly recommended), to touring the island by foot or bike, everything can be enjoyed at a lovers' pace. The slopes and valleys blossom with lush hibiscus, palms encircle lagoons and perfect white-sand beaches give way to emerald waters filled with brightly coloured fish swimming in coral gardens. From the dramatic scenery to the seclusion and amenities of over-water bungalows, everything in Bora Bora is a perfect 10 on the love scale. [AS]

Top island to eat like a king
Sicily, Italy A world unto itself, Sicily abounds with seafood, olives, citrus, sweet peppers and hot chilies, artichokes, apricots, figs, almonds and pistachios, and durum wheat. Cooks here have an instinctive understanding of technique — they know when to deep-fry, roast, grill or steam. So pull up a rickety chair in a courtyard pizzeria (by far the best in Italy) and enjoy a caponata (eggplant salad) and pasta con sardine (with sardine sauce). Finish off with the local specialties — cannoli, tiramisu and cassata — and a midnight stroll through ancient cobbled streets. [AS]

Top two islands to see underwater
Saba, Netherlands Antilles The beaches aren't much, but Saba has some of the Caribbean's richest marine life. The astounding underwater view at its 38 official dive sites includes lava flows, black sand and black coral, millions of fish and mountaintops towering 30 metres below water.

Peleliu Island, Palau What better place to tour below the waves than a South Pacific nation made up of 343 tiny islands scattered in 700 kilometres of open sea? World-class dive sites cluster around Peleliu, where reefs start a few centimetres beneath the waves and plunge hundreds of metres down. You'll find four times more coral species than in the entire Caribbean and shark sightings are almost guaranteed. [SL]


Top two islands to explore the rainfores
Grenada This Caribbean isle's towering mahogany and teak rainforest is perfect for hikes past astounding waterfalls and volcanic lakes to a bird's eye view from the top of jagged peaks. Colourful tropical birds, mona monkeys and mongooses are par for the course.

Koh Chang Island, Thailand Go where the Thai go to escape the tourists: an island of spindly limestone mountains with deep valleys covered in virgin mangrove rainforest. Elephant treks or day hikes through rubber and coconut plantations are the best way to take in emerald pools, waterfalls and fascinating caves. [SL]

Top three festivals that have to be seen to be believed
Trinidad and Tobago Everyone spills out onto the streets in multi-coloured costumes complete with beads, sequins and feathers — some of which give new meaning to the words itty bitty — to "jump up" to calypso, reggae and soca music, as well as the sounds of the steel pan, for the islands' famed Carnival.

Cheung Chau Island, Hong Kong It's a bird, it's a plane no, it's a sweet bun! For centuries, 20-metre-tall bamboo towers were covered in buns and villagers scampered up to snatch as many lucky pastries as possible. After a 25-year hiatus, the Taoist tradition is back — this time on sturdier metal towers. Chinese operas, lion dances and a procession featuring children seemingly balanced on their fathers' hand are all part of the colourful fun.

Mauritius To celebrate Cavadee, Hindus dress in fuchsia, smear themselves with ashes and pierce their tongue, forehead and cheeks with needles, hooks and spikes. They then dance to a temple carrying the Cavadee, a wooden arch decorated and flowers and a pot of milk at each end. [CC]

Top five islands to retire to
According to the July/August issue of Islands magazine, here's where you'll want to end up. All have stable governments, welcoming people, Internet access, a city 60 minutes away and more natural beauty than you've seen in a lifetime.

Isla Mujeres, Mexico This tiny Mexican island 13 kilometres from Cancún is as authentic as it gets. It's also where $235,000 — Canadian! — will buy you your expat dream villa (that includes four bedrooms and a pool). Post-Wilma rebuilding and recovery are already well under way; it won't be an issue by the time you're ready to move in.

Exuma, Bahamas Though it's only 400 kilometres from Miami, Exuma is slow and barely developed. The average villa goes for $677,000 Canuck dollars. If you buy a house, for $US500 you and yours can apply for residency, which gives you access to the country's liberal tax laws.

Hvar, Croatia This island off the Dalmatian Coast — the Adriatic's answer to the Côte d'Azur — is safe and affordable. You'll live surrounded by old stone houses, gorgeous vineyards and fields of lavender. The average home goes for $329,000.

Koh Samui, Thailand Spend your days soaking in tropical Thailand without the crowds. You can still find a beautiful home for under six figures.

Vanua Levu, Fiji Surrounded by coral reefs and some of the best diving in the world, this is the second largest Fijian isle. $177,000 buys you a piece of paradise. [AS]

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.