Feeling frazzled? It’s time to take an extended screen break. We’ve found five far-flung idylls where phone signal and WiFi are either non-existent or unreliable, making it even easier to log off and bliss out…
1. Blackbird Caye, Belize – fly from £464
You’d be hard pressed to find a more heavenly haven than Belize, digital detox or not. But its lack of reliable phone coverage on the mainland and isolated offshore islands make this Central American beauty the ideal place to unplug too.
Nearly half of Belize’s mainland is covered in dense rainforest and several secluded eco resorts beckon among the Mayan ruins. The ancient temples here are also much less visited than those in neighbouring Mexico and Guatemala. But to truly log off, head for the one of Belize’s stunning coral islands, locally known as cayes. Once havens for Caribbean pirates, the cayes now offer refuge to strung out city folk seeking solace in the sun. There are hundreds of these gems dotted around the azure waters off Belize, so choosing your desert island can be a tricky task (first world problems, eh?) but Blackbird Caye is a surprisingly accessible escape from civilization at just 25 miles away from Belize City. Part of the larger Turneffe Atoll, Blackbird boasts its own air strip to make getting here a breeze, yet it has a much more low-fi feel than neighbouring cayes Caulker and Ambergris.
Base yourself at the Blackbird Caye Resort and you can gaze at the Caribbean from your very own beach cabana. Tear yourself away to explore the magical Belize Barrier Reef – the second largest on earth. The snorkelling and diving on offer here are world class and Blackbird is just a short boat ride away from the famous Blue Hole on Half Moon Caye, one of the top 10 dive sites in the world.
2. Big Bend National Park, Texas – fly from £411
With mountainous terrain and vast uninhabited desert plains, Big Bend National Park is no place for laptops and mobiles – but reconnecting with nature is a given. This vast area, so named because it sits above a huge bend in the Rio Grande River just over the border from Mexico, is roughly the size of Rhode Island.
The rugged landscapes and epic vistas are best enjoyed with the wind in your hair. Choose from whizzing along empty highways on a bicycle, ambling through canyons on horseback or gliding down the Rio Grande in a canoe. And it’s a heaven for hikers too, with trails to suit beginners and seasoned ramblers alike. The nine-mile round trip up Emory Peak – the park’s highest point – is rewarded with views of The Basin and Chisos Mountains to the north and Mexico to the south. While the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail is an easy 1.2km loop that offers equally awe-inspiring views from a more manageable limestone hill.
If you’d rather stick to four wheels, take the 48km Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive along the western slopes of the Chisos Mountains. Don’t miss a dip in the hot springs set among the ruins of an abandoned resort on the banks of the Rio Grande. You can also watch the sun go down at Window View where the mountains silhouette against the sky to create a v-shaped notch that frames the sunset.
3. Fraser Island, Australia – fly from £515
Fraser Island, off the coast of Hervey Bay on Australia’s eastern shoreline, is about as off-the-beaten-track as you can get with little or no phone signal on the entire sandbar. Even if you could connect, the most hardened Instagrammer would want to take a screen break to admire the real life scenery here. We’re talking endless beaches – as you might expect for the world’s largest sand island – towering dunes and dense tropical rainforest.
With over 1,600sq km of wild terrain to explore, you’ll need a 4×4 to get around, so why not book a tour that provides transport as well as camping – especially if you’re not the Bear Grylls type. Feeling more adventurous? Visit the ranger centre at Central Station and pick a walking trail that includes a cooling dip at a freshwater lake – Wabby is the most accessible. Then pitch up at one of the campsites run by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service – just remember to buy a permit online beforehand and watch out for wild dingoes!
Fraser is famous for its Seventy-Five Mile Beach, which stretches along the east side of the island, also serving as its main road. Though it’s a stunner, you’ll avoid the tour buses by skipping the more developed east and heading to the wild west by boat. The Remote Fraser Island Tour, run by Tasman Venture, whizzes you by catamaran along Platypus Bay on the west coast and drops you at deserted beaches where the white sand squeaks underfoot. You’ll kayak through creeks where the mangroves brush the water, snorkel among puffer fish and climb an ancient sand dune with sweeping views back to Moon Point.
4. Belum State Park, Malaysia – fly from £437
Located in the upper part of the mighty Belum-Temenggor rainforest, on the border with Thailand, Belum State Park is a watery wonderland blissfully untouched by tourism. The area was flooded back in the 70s for the construction of a dam and the branches of submerged trees still peek eerily out of the water. It makes for an atmospheric arrival as you approach by boat after setting sail from the jetty at Pulau Banding.
Base yourself at Belum Eco Resort, which is set into the hillside on a private island at the heart of the lake and makes the perfect jumping off point for a rainforest adventure. At four times the size of Singapore and around 130 million years old, the Belum-Temenggor rainforest is home to a staggering range of biodiversity including some of the most endangered mammals on the planet. Book a tour of the State Park and you’ll get the chance to trek through jungle that’s home to Asian elephants, sun bears, Sumatran rhinos, cloud leopards, tapirs, tigers and panthers. As if that wasn’t enough, the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia, can be found here. Reaching a diameter of up to 99cm, it’s an awe-inspiring sight. Just don’t get too close as its smell is likened to rotting flesh!
After exploring the jungle trails, cool off at Air Terjun waterfall along Sungai Ruok or take a dip in glassy Lake Temenggor, where 23 species of freshwater fish and breeds of turtle can be found. Or pay a visit to the Orange Asli Village where you’ll get a first hand look at the lifestyle of the Jahai tribe.
5. Mumbo Island, Malawi – fly from £470
You could pick pretty much anywhere in Malawi to switch off, with 3G non-existent and WiFi limited to only a few hotels. However, for the full Robinson Crusoe vibe, go off grid at Mumbo Island. Located six miles from the mainland, this uninhabited island is a 45-minute boat ride from Cape McClear on the southern shore of Lake Malawi. If you really want to get in the spirit of it, you can even kayak there within an hour.
At 1km in diameter, Mumbo is as tiny as it is beautiful with boulders rising out of the water at its picture-perfect cove. There really isn’t much to do here, so give in and spend your time reading in your hammock, swimming in the rocky bay or snorkelling in the crystalline waters. Lake Malawi is Eden for water babies, offering some of the best freshwater snorkelling and diving in the world thanks to its high alkalinity and abundance of fish species. On dry land, there are infinitely more lizards than humans and birdsong replaces the ping of incoming WhatsApp messages.
Back on the mainland, Cape Maclear EcoLodge has simple rooms with cute terraces overlooking leafy gardens. The on-site diving team can arrange scuba excursions to suit your level and you can rent bikes to explore too. Or just kick back, grab an MGT (that’s a Malawi gin and tonic) and daydream about jacking it all in and moving to a desert island.
Are you ready for a complete digital detox? Find your own isolated destination:
All flight and prices mentioned in this article are estimates of the cheapest prices based on Skyscanner’s flight search tools. These are subject to change and were correct at time of writing on 14 May 2019.