10 Extraordinary Islands To Visit On Your Next Vacation

Summer is the time of island vacations. It is time to put as much distance between you and the real world as possible. It is time to stand outside of your everyday life and to see how it all looks from a paradise perspective. Here is a collection of islands for escape – places to recharge, gain perspective and explore. From an island in the land of the gods to a tropical Amsterdam at the edge of an ocean trench, each of these ten destinations provides something extraordinary.


Santorini (Greece)
Abstract: As legends change hands, the stories transform. Storytellers take liberties, moving to impress wide-eyed audiences with tales of glorious antiquity. With each telling, they speak of monsters that grow stronger, of men who grow bolder, of explosions that tear apart the earth and take along with them civilizations that grow greater. These stories come from places like Santorini – a Greek paradise perched on the thin edge of a circular archipelago where the earth once swallowed a city whole.

Maybe that city was Plato’s Atlantis and maybe it was not, but what it is today is one of the most stunningly gorgeous and unique places on earth. Whitewashed villas adorned with oceanic blue domes cling to volcanic rock mountainsides in the most romantic of settings. Greece is the land of old gods, and Santorini is where those gods likely vacationed.

Highlights: Sailing to Volcano Island, hiking from Fira to Oia, and visiting Red Beach
High end lodging: Oia Castle Hotel
Mid-range lodging: Zorzis Hotel
Get there: Fly to Santorini for cheap on Easyjet from London or Milan. Flying from Athens is also a simple and inexpensive way to reach Santorini.

Gili Trawanagan (Indonesia)
Abstract: Gili T feels like the last party at the edge of the world. And it could be so, perched on the precipice of a trench that tears over 5 miles into the ocean floor, the Gilis are an outpost at the edge of a tectonic plate that tore away from Asia eons ago.

Gili Trawanagan is one of three islands in the Gili island chain. Gili T is known for dawdling sea turtles, plush white sand beaches, reggae jams, and mushroom shakes. Reached by just a short boat ride from the eastern coast of Bali, each island is governed by village elders substituting for a proper Indonesian Police force. An Amsterdamian party scene has developed and thrived in the absence of these formal police forces. The Tropical Amsterdam is like an upstart Ibiza with all-night parties and hung-over beach rehab. After partying all night, catch a ride home via horse taxi as no motorized vehicles are allowed on the islands.

High end lodging: Luce d’Alma or Marta’s
Mid-range lodging: Rumah Kundun
Get there: Take a boat from the eastern coast of Bali over across the Lombok strait with Gili Cat or one of the other transfer services.

Abstract: Borneo is an ancient land of wild beasts and peculiar flora. It is one of the largest islands in the world and stocked with mysteries hidden deep within its ancient rain forests. It covers three countries: Malaysia, Indonesia and tiny Brunei. There are mysterious cultures like the ex-headhunting Dayak, massive orangutans and some of the best dive sites in the world. It is also one of Asia’s top budget destinations.

Beyond dusk boat rides in search of Proboscis monkeys or long jeep safaris into the heart of the lost world, Borneo also has some unexpectedly nice beaches. Off the coast of Kota Kinabalu, several islands bask in tropical waters with great reefs and nice sandy shores. For orangutan sightings, head to Sepilok nature reserve near Sandakan. The orangutans in Borneo grow to much larger sizes than their Sumatran brethren. This is supposedly due to the evolutionary effect of an absence of tigers in Borneo. In Sumatra, the orangs must take to the trees to stay safe, but in Borneo, the “orange men of the forest” have no need for tree-dwelling. Sadly, nothing can protect them from encroaching humanity.

Highlights: Climbing Mt Kinabalu, diving Sipidan, exploring the lost world of Danum Valley
High end lodging: Bunga Raya Island Resort near Kota Kinabalu
Mid-range lodging: Hotel Eden 54 in Kota Kinabalu
Get there: Flights to Kota Kinabalu are cheap from Hong Kong, Singapore, or Kuala Lumpur on AirAsia.

Perhentian Islands (Malaysia)
Abstract: These sun soaked islands in Malaysia once served as a stopping off point for Malaysian traders bound for Thailand. Today, The Perhentians are a jewel in the crown of otherworldly Malaysian beaches. It is the kind of place where you could misplace an entire lifetime, bound to the gravity of simple island life.

The islands are surrounded by seas rich with biodiversity and corals, and it is one of the least expensive places to learn how to scuba dive. The snorkeling here is also top notch and some attest to its superiority over diving. Be sure to visit between April and October, when the monsoons are away. Accommodation is pretty inexpensive across the board, and it is easy to get a room for under $25 a night.

Highlights: Snorkeling with sharks, jungle trekking, and finding an appropriate stretch of white sand to waste a day or three
High end lodging: Perhentian Tuna Bay Island Resort
Mid-range lodging: Abdul’s Chalet (book early as they fill up way in advance)
Get there: Take a speed boat from Kuala Besut, which can be reached by bus from Kuala Lumpur

Tasmania (Australia)
Abstract: One of the last stops before Antarctica, Tassie is Australia’s wild frontier island. With about 40 percent of land being national parkland, Tasmania is a well-protected gem boasting fascinating wine regions, gigantic kelp forests and some of the most perfect beaches in the world.

While visiting, rent a car and explore the Tasmanian countryside. Be sure to spend a few days checking out the Bay of Fires on Tasmania’s northeastern coast. While it is winter down under from June to August, it is possible to enjoy off-season rates. But, if you really want to enjoy the beaches, wait until winter hits the northern hemisphere. After all, the Bay of Fires sandy curves have recently been named one of the best beaches in the world. The crystalline turquoise waters and pillow-soft sand beaches welcome travelers with their unencumbered magnificence and laid back vibe. Inland, waterfalls, mountains and Tasmanian devils await intrepid travelers.

Highlights: Bay of Fires, Tasmanian Devils, and road trips through old forests
High end lodging: Islington Hotel (Hobart) or Saffire Freycinet (Wineglass bay)
Mid-range lodging: Fountainside Hotel (Hobart)
Get there: Fly to Hobart non-stop from Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane

The Maldives
An ethereal water-nation where the highest point is less than 8 feet, the Maldives defy imagination, budgets and reality with their perfect islands and hyper-luxury resorts equipped with private yachts and planes. The islands are the kind of place where work seems unimaginable, and the “real world” feels as though it must, too, be on hold somewhere out there thousands of miles from these sun-bathed atolls.

Few places deserve a distinguished “The” prior to their name, and the Maldives are almost never uttered without the obligatory distinction. This is because they are a place unlike anywhere else. They are THE Maldives.

Highlights: Snorkeling with sea turtles, diving with Manta Rays, exploring Maldivian villages and finding the perfect beach
High end lodging: Cocoa Island Resort
Mid-range lodging: Kurumba Maldives
Get there: Flights are possible from Dubai, Colombo, Kuala Lumpur and London (Gatwick)

Galapagos (Ecuador)
Abstract: Great thinkers and artists throughout time have all had their muses. Darwin had these islands in the Pacific Ocean. Filled with giant tortoises, swimming iguanas and warm weather penguins, the Galapagos are a last bastion of wilderness smack dab in the middle of nowhere.

With new restrictions year after year, the Galapagos will continue to become less accessible and more expensive. As one of the top eco-locations globally, these wild islands hold natural treasures that can be found nowhere else on earth.

Highlights: Cruising around the islands, swimming with sea lions and bird watching
High end lodging: Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge or book a live-aboard tour with Cheeseman’s
Mid-range lodging: Book a cheap live-aboard cruise by arranging a tour locally, though the available boats are generally sub par. Organizing a trip through tour companies in Quito is a good middle ground for value.
Get there: Flights can be arranged from Quito or Guayaquil

Corsica (France)
Abstract: This French island is Europe’s sleeper destination. With snow-capped mountains, white sand beaches, old world citadels and the legendary GR 20 hiking trail, Corsica does many things at once and does them all incredibly well. Known as the island of beauty, it holds up this moniker with particular strength from its sandy shores to the almost 9,000-foot-high Monte Cinto.

The GR 20 hiking trail is a 15-day-long distance trail that takes travelers through some of Europe’s most stunning vistas. Walk through clouds along the backbone of Corsica, passing small refuges and bonding with other travelers. At the seaside, Corsica’s aquamarine waters do not disappoint and boast some of the best shores in Europe, including the beaches of Plage de Saleccia, Palombaggia and Santa Giulia.

Highlights: Calanche Cliffs, the perfect little island of Iles Lavezzi, trekking the island’s interior, and beaches – lots of beaches
High end lodging: Demeure Loredana
Mid-range lodging: Rocca Rossa
Get there: Take a ferry from Nice or Marseilles. In the air, Easyjet flies to Corsica from Geneva, London and Paris.

Abstract: With more than 250 islands and roughly 20,000 inhabitants, Palau is a sparsely populated gem of an island chain. While places like Bora Bora and Fiji get all the airtime, Palau idles by humbly, welcoming well-informed travelers to its cerulean waters and sandy beaches perched under dark limestone outcroppings.

Thousands of years ago, a bay on the island of Eil Malk slowly closed off to the surrounding ocean. As a result, the jellyfish in the lake changed. Due to a lack of natural predators in their paradisiacal enclave, the golden and moon Jellyfish of the “fifth lake” abandoned millennia of evolutionary adaptation. The translucent beings lost their ability to sting and as a result, you can swim through armies of bobbing jellyfish as though you just ate an invincibility star.

Highlights: Swimming with friendly jellyfish in Jellyfish Lake, basking on a sun soaked beach, and buying ornately carved wooden storyboards
High end lodging: Palau Pacific Resort
Mid-range lodging: Caroline’s Resort
Get there: Reach Koror, Palau by plane from Tokyo, Manila, Seoul and Guam

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Abstract: The largest of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix beckons travelers with tales of swashbucklers, golden beaches and old, Dutch charms. Since St. Croix is part of the United States, there is no need for a U.S. passport, and getting in is as simple as flying into Christiansted and finding the nearest beach, in which there are plenty. Beaches along Cane Bay and Buck Island are prototypes for paradise.

St. Croix has a number of old world Dutch Forts and much of the Christiansted area is stocked with preserved colonial gems and abandoned sugar mills. At dusk, take to Salt River Bay in clear kayaks not far from where the Columbus expedition ran ashore in 1493. Due to bioluminescent sea creatures, the clear kayaks become fringed with color as the water glows beneath. It feels like rowing through a microgalaxy. Dive into the dark waters and your entire body glows in the dark.

Highlights: Night swimming in the Bioluminescence of Salt River, visiting Buck Island, and exploring abandoned Dutch forts
High end lodging: Palms at Pelican Cove and The Buccaneer
Mid-range lodging: Hibiscus Beach Resort
Get there: Fly in from Puerto Rico, Miami and Atlanta

[All unattributed photos by the author]

Introducing Vagabond Tales: A new series by Gadling

Many travelers spend a disproportionate amount of their time telling stories.

Regardless of if it’s family members over Christmas dinner, friends around the office, or to other travelers who you swear are actually listening to you, stories are arguably the currency of travel. Whether it’s that time you crashed the rental car during your bachelor party in Baja (whoops!) or scored free helicopter rides across New Zealand, there’s bound to be a great travel story behind every day on the road.

Did you hop a train in Italy? Get kidnapped in Borneo? Witness a coup in Ecuador? These things all can happen in the often thrilling, sometimes challenging travels we take abroad.

Similarly, everyone travels for different reasons, and for some of us the stories that arise from our travels are the most precious thing we can take away. Some prefer photographs, others souvenirs, but for many people it’s the long-lasting memories and tales of adventure which stick with us the longest after the credit card has been repaid and the t-shirt doesn’t fit any more.

More than stories, however, there is an intrinsic curiosity that many travelers possess; an individual search for knowledge to see how people do things over the next hill, what type of language they speak around the bend, and an attempt to gain a greater perspective on this fascinating place we call Planet Earth.

In travel there is so much learning to be had, and such an exotic strangeness about a place that’s different from our own. As writers, it’s actually our job to tell stories, which is why I am so excited about “Vagabond Tales”, a new series to be featured on Gadling.

As fellow Gadling blogger Dave Seminara so adeptly (and correctly) pointed out in his ongoing “A Traveler in the Foreign Service” series, “wanderlust is a romanticized concept but it can also be an affliction, a malady that prevents people from becoming settled, productive members of the rat race.”

While I am currently attempting to accomplish those difficult verbs (settle, be productive, etc), what the wanderlust has provided in their place is a laundry list of travel stories and curious global experiences waiting to be shared. When you vagabond for 5 years across 60 countries, you’re bound to see some weird things along the way, and similarly, some weird things are bound to happen.

So buckle up, enjoy the ride, and welcome to the quizzical world of Vagabond Tales.

Solo hiking in Sarawak, Borneo: an exhilarating adventure – by accident

I ended up in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, Borneo, after I had to change travel plans at the last minute. I’d just finished researching a guidebook on the Malay Peninsula and my visa to Myanmar, where I’d planned to go next, got denied, so suddenly I had five days of free time and a day to plan it. A flight to Kuching from Penang was around $60 round-trip on Air Asia and they still had seats, so off I went. I had no clue that I was about to have one of the most tranquil yet exhilarating travel experiences of my life.

The trip started poorly. As the lone patron of my Hostel World-recommended guesthouse, I wasn’t meeting a soul in Kuching. Although it was filled with temples and delicious seafood restaurants and cut by a winding river out of a Maugham novel, the town offered little in the way of activities and I was getting dispirited wandering around by myself. My guidebook said that Bako National Park was an hour and a half from Kuching and was packed with wildlife. The sleeping options were reportedly grim (“dank bathrooms” and “torn mozzie nets”), but I had to get out of Kuching or I’d start talking to myself. I wasn’t sure I’d meet anyone at Bako, either, but hanging out with monkeys sounded better than feeling like a human loser in Kuching.

After an hour ride to a boat dock in a clunky yellow bus and a wet half-hour in a rusty speedboat, I traipsed from the boat up to Bako’s beach through warm waves, pants rolled up to my knees, backpack on my head. The all-local transport made me feel like an intrepid solo adventurer rather than alone and lost, so already I was happy to be there. Bako’s park headquarters are in mangrove swamps on a gray stretch of sand littered with rubbish; although beautiful, it’s not pristine.

I walked up to the front desk and signed in, then asked the ranger if it was possible to get a hiking guide. She looked at me blankly, as if I was the first person who had ever asked this question.

“Don’t need guide,” she said flatly. “Sign here when leave. Sign when get back. You don’t come back, we go look for you. No one get lost.”

A couple who were signing out at headquarters and about to catch the boat back to Kuching chimed in and told me that they’d been hiking for a few days and the trails were very well-marked. “But what about wild animals and rapists?” I asked. Everyone smiled and said I’d just have to watch out for poisonous snakes, most of which are nocturnal anyway.

With my bags dropped off and no guide or friends to walk with, I decided to trail-test this hike-on-your-own-in-darkest-Borneo theory. After a series of boardwalks over mangroves, the trail went straight up a well-trodden rocky path leading over giant tree roots in the shade of gnarled, vine-covered trees. It was so hot that soon I had saturated my T-shirt with sweat for the first time in my life. I was red-faced, clammy and probably smelling pretty bad, but when you’re alone, who cares?

At the top of the hill was a map with distances to several destinations and each route was color-coded. I took a trail to a beach and soon the terrain changed to treeless and sun-scorched with white powdery soil and low shrubs. I stopped on a bench at a viewpoint and a butterfly landed on my hand. All I could hear were insects and the trickle of a river. Walking again, I started to notice a huge variety of carnivorous pitcher plants and vines in the brush. Without the noise of a chatty companion, I was soaking in every sound, sight and whiff of a breeze. With no one to wait for and no one to keep up with, what became important were the details and sensations of the natural surroundings. It was bliss.

There was a Spanish couple at the beach, so I felt safe enough to put on a swimsuit and go for a swim. The water wasn’t clear but it was warm and soft with little waves that massaged my tired back. Refreshed, I put my sweaty clothes back on and returned to headquarters.

That night in the dorms I met a few other people who had also gone hiking on their own. We ate dinner together and told our stories, but it had been so liberating hiking alone, the next day I decided to go solo even though I’d now met plenty of potential hiking partners. All the other lone travelers had the same thoughts as me and we all went our separate ways, meeting only for meals.

Over the next three days I traversed much of the park, but I saw wildlife exclusively near headquarters. Every morning I’d head down to the boardwalk and sit silently as a family of pendulous-nosed proboscis monkeys foraged for mangrove fruit. Occasionally another person would come and sit with me but we’d just enjoy the close encounter in wordless complicity. One of my dorm-mates showed me where to find pit vipers coiled around branches in the jungle, sleeping off the evening frog hunt. One afternoon I followed a troupe of silver leaf monkeys along the water where they foraged with their babies between the beach trash. One night I joined a guided group hike and saw creepy long-legged, hand-sized poisonous spiders crawling around in a cave. Thieving, mischievous macaques were omnipresent, pillaging the garbage cans and trying to steal food at the restaurant and out of people’s rooms. At night, after the usual torrential downpour, frogs came out to sing.

This was a jungle in Borneo, one of the wildest destinations on Earth, and it felt that way, but somehow, even with the snakes and spiders, it felt safer than a small town and as soothing as an ashram. Perhaps it was the human silence.

Yes, the dorm rooms were in a flimsy wooden barrack-style lodge, but they were clean, fan-cooled and mosquito-free; and yes, the cavernous shared bathrooms with coldwater stalls definitely merited their dank reputation, but they did the job.

All in all, this wasn’t a textbook paradise, but the tranquility and pervasive nature made it live up to that name for me. Thanks to a last-minute switch in plans, I’d found a place I never wanted to leave.

Where to stay
The only place to stay is at Bako National Park headquarters. Reserve by phone, online or in Kuching at the National Parks and Wildlife Centre (in the Sarawak Tourism Complex on Jalan Tuan Hadji Openg). A dorm bed costs RM16 (around US$5) per night and rooms cost from RM50-100 (around US$16-32) per night. The only rooms with attached bathrooms are the RM50 doubles.

Food and drink
There’s a decent buffet-style restaurant at headquarters serving a mix of Western and Malaysian food for around RM7 (US$2.50) per meal. They also sell bottled water, beer, juice and soft drinks.

Getting there
There are lots of organized tours from Kuching, but it’s easy and much cheaper to get there on your own. Buses leave from Kuching’s open-air market to the boat dock at Kampung Bako hourly from 7am to 6pm; the trip takes around 45 minutes to an hour and costs RM3. From here, you need to charter a boat to park headquarters. Boats cost RM50 (US$16) for up to four people and you can usually find other travelers to share the boat. The boat trip takes 20-30 minutes. Arrange a time for a return pick-up with the boat driver and try to coordinate it with the bus schedule back to Kuching.

Standing on Top of Borneo

Think what you will of Borneo, but there are no orangutans at 13,000 ft.

While the tropics of Malaysian Borneo may conjure sweaty images of the Kinabatangan River, or perhaps an exotic proboscis monkey roaming the primate sanctuaries of Sandakan, the air on the slopes of Mt. Kinabalu is too brisk for such jungle fantasies. Riverbanks covered in rafflesia are replaced by frostbitten slabs of granite, and the only real signs of life are the hardy hikers determined to experience the sunrise atop the South Pacific’s highest peak.

For many travelers to Borneo, the chance to greet the day from atop the 13,435 ft. summit of Mt. Kinabalu is the highlight of their Borneo vacation. After climbing 8 hours of trail that resembles a real-life jungle stairmaster, the two-story yellow and brown wilderness lodge known as Laban Rata is an incredibly welcome sight. Situated at nearly 11,000 ft, Laban Rata is the highest lodging in all of Borneo. Offering a full service dinner buffet and a surprisingly well stocked bar, all supplies are hand carried up the mountain by Malaysian porters who embody the speed of a mountain goat crossed with the strength of an ox.Julius used to be a porter, but now he is one of the English-speaking mountain guides who climbers are mandated to hire in order to climb the peak. Stocky and strong, the decades of summiting Kinabalu are evident in his wise and weathered face. We’re supposed to meet Julius outside of Laban Rata at 2am to begin the frigid push for the summit, though between the waves of adrenaline and Laban Rata’s squeaky wooden floors, there really isn’t much sleep to begin with. Coffee is available in the dark dining hall, though the breathtaking blanket of stars is enough to energize even the sleepiest of climbers.

With the glow of a waning moon lighting the narrow path, the steady stream of travelers appear more as a river of ants marching towards a common goal. Needing to cling to ropes on the steeper sections and dodge the occasional icy puddle, Julius deftly navigates around the mountain’s hazards despite the fact we only possess two broken headlamps and what light the moon has left us. Equipment failures aside, with aching lungs and seriously numb toes, a small band of intrepid Borneo travelers eventually stand together atop this desolate, windswept peak.

As the first rays of sun filter over the distant peaks of Indonesia, the profound silence is broken only by a sporadic gust of wind or the well-deserved click of a camera. Content and seemingly warm, Julius cracks a sincere smile as the sun crests from beneath the misty horizon, knowing that for the time being, we are two of a handful of people lucky enough to be standing on top of Borneo.

10 breeds of pirate – Somalis to Vikings to Japanese Pirate Ninjas

A yacht carrying a quartet of Americans was recently seized by Somali pirates, the latest in a string of hijackings that reaches back millenia. According to MSNBC, the seized yacht, the “S/V Quest,” is owned by Jean and Scott Adam – a couple on a worldwide quest distributing bibles. While they no doubt expected to spread the word far and wide, they were certainly not expecting to be boarded by Somali pirates off the coast of Oman in the Arab sea. The waters along the horn of Africa are a hotbed of piracy, and travelling by boat in this region is about as reckless as booking a 2 week holiday in Mogadishu.

The Somali pirates are the modern day face of an enterprise that has existed for centuries. Piracy has been part of seafaring culture since man first took to the open water. As early as 1400 BC, Lukka sea raiders from Asia Minor began committing acts of piracy throughout the Mediterranean. These early pirates were known simply as the “Sea Peoples.” Aside from these early innovators of seaward sabotage, many groups and clans have sailed under the banner of terror on the high seas. The Vikings innovated the craft, the Barbary corsairs elevated it to an art, and the pirates of the Caribbean made it famous. Many other groups, operating in the shadows of history, took to piracy on the high seas. From dark age plundering to modern day terrorism, some of these groups of pirates include:The Vikings
Hailing from Scandinavia, the Vikings pillaged much of western Europe and northern Africa. The Norsemen covered a range from Russia to Newfoundland in their graceful longships, and pioneered piracy in the middle ages. They were the original world explorers – helmeted plunderers with a thrist for adventure.

The Wokou
Around the same time Vikings were wreaking havoc in Europe, these Japanese pirates, known as Wokou, began terrorizing the Chinese and Korean coast. Most of these pirates were Ronin, merchants, and smugglers. Allegedly, some were even ninjas, throwing a paradoxical spin on the classic “pirate versus ninja” debate. Why choose when you can just be both?

Barbary Corsairs
In response to the moors being ran out of Europe, many took up residence in northern Africa. Some of these displaced seamen became pirates and raided towns and vessels in Spain, Italy, France, and beyond. The infamous Redbeard, Oruc Reis, was a notable Barbary Corsair, and sacked many coastal Italian towns.

Madagascar Pirates
Off the eastern coast of Africa, Madagascar was a lawless place during the golden age of pirateering. Since no European countries colonized Madagascar, the island was an ideal spot for pirates to lay low and plot the next heist. Allegedly, the pirate utopia of “Libertalia” was located on Madagascar. According to pirate lore, “Libertalia” was a communist colony governed by pirates for pirates, where all shared in the booty.

Orang Laut
Originally from the Spice Islands and settling in modern day Malaysia, these sea gypsies began raiding the strait of Malacca over 500 years ago. Eventually, they fell into a protective role, policing the waters for the Sultanates of Johor and Malacca. Unlike many pirates that called solid ground home, the Orang Laut lived exclusively on the water.

Classical Carribean Pirates
The pirate cliche is the Caribbean pirate, and the spokesperson is Johnny Depp’s character in Pirates of the Caribbean. The Caribbean pirate era began when Aztec gold bound for Spain was seized by pirates in the early 16th century. This escalated into the golden age of pirateering in the 17th and 18th centuries. Most Caribbean pirates came from European origins.

Bugi Pirates of Sulawesi
The term boogeyman originated from the orchid shaped island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. The Bugi pirates of southern Sulawesi were so feared that Dutch and English sailors brought home tales of horror to scare misbehaving children. The Bugianese were among the first to explore Papua New Guinea and northern Australia.

Sea Dayak of Borneo
Notorious headhunters, the sea dayaks terrorized the waters of the South China Sea, targeting vessels passing from Hong Kong to Singapore. In the mid nineteenth century, James Brooke and an army of Malays wiped out many of these pirates. Today, these people are known as the Iban and live in the old rainforests of Borneo.

Chinese Pirates
The most powerful pirate ever was a Chinese woman. In the early 19th century, an ex-prostitute named Cheng I Sao commanded a fleet of more than 1,500 ships – larger than many navies. According to CNN, she was an adept business person and controlled her fleet via a proxy named Chang Pao. She developed spy networks, created economic agreements with mainland farmers for supplies, and generally revolutionized the piracy business model. Her crews stalked the waters of the South China Sea.

Somali Pirates
The modern pirate hails from Somalia – a crossroads of the derelict. With more warlords than laws, Somalia is a disaster state. The government has been more a fleeting idea than a real thing for the last 20 years, and it shows. Warlords control fleets that operate out of coastal towns, amassing ships, arms, and wealth. The pirates use small boats and assault rifles to board both passenger and cargo ships, taking hostages, booty, or both.

Piracy causes roughly $15 billion in losses worldwide per year. The most trafficked areas for modern day piracy include the South China Sea, the Gulf of Aden (off the horn of Africa), the Niger Delta, and the infamous Strait of Malacca.

flickr image via cesargp