Life On The World’s Most Densely Populated Island That’s Home To 500 People

Source: Flickr/solido studio / Lucy Sherriff

What would you guess is the world’s most populated island? Some may say Japan as it’s an island with 125.7 million people. In reality, the title goes to a barren place called Santa Cruz del Islote, located in the Gulf of Morrosquillo.

Source: Flickr/Maude Bardet

How many people live in this “heavily dense” location? 200 million? 150 million? Nope! A mere 500 People. Shocking! So why’s it called the world’s most populated island? Join us as we explore this unique story.

It Might Be Small But It’s Working

Islands are typically small, with a handful of people living on them. But that’s not the case with this famous location. Santa Cruz del Islote is located in the Gulf of Morrosquillo and has an active population.

Source: Flickr/Hotel Punta Faro

But how big is the place? Surprisingly, this island is only about 12,000 square yards. For context, it’s almost the same size as two football fields combined. This is smaller than most communities around the world. But how many people live there?

A Small Population Of 500

Most communities have over 1000 inhabitants and aren’t considered dense. This is because the location is vast enough to accommodate these numbers. So, how many people can live inside two football fields before it becomes too cramped?

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Vaido Otsar

The answer is approximately 500. Essentially, only a handful of people burden Santa Cruz del Islote, not millions. Yet still, the small population is thriving from such humble beginnings.

Santa Cruz Del Islote Humble Beginnings

This dense island was once uninhabited less than 150 years ago. It was even smaller back then. During that time, some fishermen took refuge from storms on this small patch of rock. Over time, it grew.

Source: Flickr/Juan esteban Castano

A few years passed, and people moved into Santa Cruz del Islote. Why? One famous reason is its rich sea and lack of mosquitoes. Later, they built homes and foraged sand, tree trunks, and other materials to expand the island.

97 Houses And 47 Permanent Families

What started as a resting place for local fishermen is now home to a vast community. How big are these settlements? As of 2017, there are about 97 houses and 47 permanent families.

Source: Flickr/oooOOC

Some estimate that there could be up to 1,200 inhabitants living in these homes. But in reality, recent estimates show only 500 permanent residents.

‘So Tight That We Dream The Same Dreams’

One problem with a dense population is limited privacy. You almost breathe the same air; everyone lives so closely together. One of the locals humorously said everyone lives so close that they have the same dreams at night.

Source: Flickr/Zefer Foto

Further analysis also shows the problem with this tightness. Every inch of the island is covered, which makes it four times as dense as Manhattan. For context, Manhattan has 72,918 residents per square mile, making it one of the world’s most populated places.

What About The Demographics?

Another way to imagine life in Santa Cruz del Islote is its demographics. This describes the population and its characteristics. So, what’s this island’s demographics? Studies show Santa Cruz del Islote has a younger audience.

Source: Flickr/Diego Fernando Vargas Giraldo

Approximately 65% of the 500 permanent residents are under 18. This statistic is good since a younger population keeps the community thriving. For context, Japan struggles with an older population of around 29%.

The Problem With No Space

As previously mentioned, Santa Cruz del Islote is struggling with space. There’s barely enough room for the people to bury their loved ones. But the problem is more alarming. The island has no toilets or sewage system. So, people have to find creative ways to do that.

Source: Flickr/German Blanco

Food is also scarce. There’s nothing to eat on this island except the fish caught by fishermen. Other items, drinking water, and medical supplies are brought to the island by boat. It’s not a paradise for people there.

‘The Cartagena Government Doesn’t Care’ – Fernando Jaramillo

It’s worth noting that Santa Cruz del Islote isn’t an isolated place. It’s under the Cartagena Government. So why don’t they receive aid? The same question puzzles Human rights lawyer Fernando Sanchez Jaramillo.

Source: Flickr/Juan esteban Castano

Jaramillo commented in an interview that ‘the Cartagena government is failing the island.’ For example, the place is supposed to receive water and waste management weekly. However, the delivery doesn’t come for weeks or even months.

What About Electricity?

Electricity is essential for rural areas. This lets them store food with fridges, power communication devices, and more. Sadly, Santa Cruz del Islote struggles with electrical power from the government.

Source: Flickr/Victor Beltran

At first, the locals relied on one diesel generator. Sadly, it only runs in the evening, limiting its use. Afterward, the government installed solar panels on the island in 2015. However, residents say it’s still insufficient to power their appliances reliably.

School Is Also Limited

The island also relies on a single school. This can be stressful for the teacher as they may be unable to handle the large young population. However, even if they manage to keep up, there’s a bigger problem.

Source: Flickr/SergioSalazar10

Reports show that the school in Santa Cruz del Islote only ends in the 10th grade. Therefore, anyone seeking more education has to leave the island. Sadly, it costs too much to leave the island and settle elsewhere. So, some stay behind and fish.

Tourists Are Helping

News of this dense island has spread worldwide. So, people are eager to witness the economy themselves. Fortunately, the people on the island are welcoming. For example, with merely 5,000 pesos, a tourist can swim in the island’s aquarium with nurse sharks.

Source: Flickr/Sofia Londono

Sadly, the lack of space means most tourists must sleep on nearby islands overnight. However, some people on the island don’t like the attention. They are unhappy about how they’re portrayed as poor and unfortunate. One islander commented, ‘We aren’t poor. We have the sea.’

What’s the Future of Santa Cruz del Islote?

Although the inhabitants are content with these islands, life could be better. They need better health care, food, water, and more. So, what’s the future for these people? Will the government intervene?

Source: Flickr/Andres Lopez

For now, there’s no official statement from the government concerning the island. What’s worse is that climate change and unsustainable fishing threaten their already-limited food source. Nevertheless, the islanders love their home and would trade it for nothing.

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Mary Scrantin

Written by Mary Scrantin

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