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Presenter : Zay Harding

Isolated Islands: The Marshall Islands and the Dutch Antilles


In this programme host Zay Harding travels to two beautiful archipelagos of isolated islands, one in the Pacific and the other in the Atlantic. 

First he explores the very rarely visited Marshall Islands, some of the world’s remotest islands of all, way out in the middle of the vast Pacific ocean.

Subsequently, he heads on to the Atlantic coast of South America, to check out the fascinating former Dutch colonies of Curacao and Bonaire.

testing nuclear bpmbs in the Bikini Atoll

Bizarrely, when he first flies in to the Marshall Islands, Zay has to pass through a US military airport on Kwajalein atoll, which is part of a high security ballistic missile test site. 

Swiftly ushered off the military base, Zay catches a boat to the adjacent island of Ebeye, to dive the wreck of a WWII battleship that sank here as a result of damaged sustained during the USA’s controversial post-war atomic bomb tests on nearby Bikini atoll. 

Attracted by the chance of working at the US military base on Kwajalein, thousands of Marshall Islanders have moved to the tiny island of Ebeye; now hugely overcrowded, it’s been given the unflattering nickname ‘the slum of the Pacific’.  Zay watches the local baseball team playing in the only open space on Ebeye big enough for the game – the rubbish dump.

MArshall Islands by Mr Lyns - Flikr Creative commons

Flying on to Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, Zay visits a project set up to preserve and promote traditional Marshallese canoe-building and navigational skills. 

Zay learns how local sailors have the ability to navigate towards far-flung islands by reading signs from the ocean swells.  Marshallese sailing canoes are the fastest in the Pacific, and Zay joins in a dramatic impromptu race, battered by fierce Pacific winds.

At Majuro dock, Zay meets up with WWII enthusiast Matt Holly, boarding a dive boat to cross 80 miles of open ocean to the small and extremely remote Mili atoll. 


Guns, planes, and other wreckage from the WWII Japanese base on Mili, bombed by the Americans, can still be seen strewn around the island. 

Zay finishes his tour diving a remarkably intact US B25 bomber that crashed in the lagoon during one of the many bombing raids.

Moving on to the Atlantic coast of South America, Zay starts his journey through the Dutch Antilles in Curacao’s capital Willemstad. 

Here he visits the beautiful synagogue, built in the 1730s, which is the oldest in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere.  Elsewhere, much of the town’s old colonial Dutch architecture is being restored, and Zay checks out one of the most attractive restoration projects.   On the site of the town’s former slave market, Zay visits a disturbing museum that documents the brutal history of the transatlantic slave trade.


After sampling the island’s famous ‘Blue Curacao’ orange-flavoured liqueur, Zay heads on to the nearby island of Bonaire.

Here there are huge natural salt deposits, which were worked by slaves until the 19th century, and are still a major commercial business today. 

Zay checks out some very simple ‘slave huts’ here, which are said to have been used by the slaves to shelter from the worst of the midday sun, as the sunlight was so bright against the white salt deposits that it otherwise caused many of the slaves to go blind. Elsewhere on the island, the marine environment is well preserved, and the offshore coral reef has some of the Caribbean’s best diving. 

Above water, Zay kayaks in the island’s dense mangrove swamps, which provide a pristine habitat for much of the island’s wildlife.  The island’s parrot population has plummeted in recent decades, as wild parrots have been illegally captured for the pet trade.  Zay ends his trip visiting two wildlife refuges – one housing former pet parrots in preparation for release back into the wild, and another caring for hundreds of donkeys, the offspring of donkeys who once worked in the island’s salt mines and were then abandoned.  The future of Bonaire’s wildlife, it seems, is in good hands.


Places Mentioned - Bonaire and Curacao, Grenada, Marshall Islands, Turks and Caicos

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Bonaire and Curacao

Central America and the Caribbean

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Central America and the Caribbean

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Marshall Islands


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