Man (Re)Builds Mexican Island Paradise on 250,000 Recycled Floating Bottles

November 18, 2007

Spiral Island Closeup

If you can’t afford to buy your own tropical island paradise, why not build your own? That is exactly what Richie Sowa did back in 1998, from over a quarter-million plastic bottles. His Spiral Island, destroyed years later by a hurricane, sported a two-story house, solar oven, self-composting toilet and multiple beaches. Better yet, he has started building another one! His ultimate goal? To build the island bigger and bigger and finally float out to sea, traveling the world from the comfort of his own private paradise.

Spiral Island Construction and Steering

The original Spiral Island was (as its successor will be) built upon a floating collection used plastic bottles, all netted together to support a bamboo and plywood structure above. Located in Mexico, the original was 66 by 54 feet and was able to support full-sized mangroves to provide shade and privacy, yet also able to be moved from place to place by its creator as need with a simple motorized system.

Spiral Island Early Stages

An environmentalist to the core, Sowa is also an artist and a musician. More than just the universal dream of an island retreat, Spiral Island is also his vision for low-impact sustainable living. The next version of the island will be built to withstand more treacherous weather than the first and will also be located in a more sheltered part of Mexico’s waters.

The Above Ripley’s Believe-it-or-Not video is a great introduction to the island, which conjures images of Gilligan-done-right. Spiral island is able to exist and move about in Mexico in part because it is classified as a ship, not an island, like an atoll out of WaterWorld (only much much cooler). On September 7, 2007 the new Spiral Islander social network utility was opened to the public to allow visitors, Spiral Islanders and friends of Richie Sowa to connect and communicate about the history of Spiral Island and to learn more and discuss Richie Sowa’s new Spiral Island. Want more islands? See these 7 Island Wonders of the World from WebUrbanist.

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  • Harrison

    How much does it cost?

  • fishyfishy

    good idea – this could then in turn catch fish to complete his slice of paradise!

  • anitadelariviere

    Absolutely Fabulous!! What a life!
    I do hope you get enough bottles and can set sail round the world, and with your animal family too! What fun!
    Can I be your first B&B guest?

  • Acai

    Great idea! Although I also have to ask how environmental it was when 250,000 plastic bottles were washed out to sea after a hurricane destroyed the island?!?

  • Resveratrol

    It only takes a 12″ wave of water to knock a man off of his feet…what happens when you get 6 foot swells?
    Novel maybe, practical, no way.

  • sytropinreviews

    Its looks really great.

  • E_lizzy

    That is amazing.. I want one!

  • johnsam

    well, ritchie it,s about a year since i ran into you at the hostel I never did make it down to see your island I was into my own craziness I forget the dudes name in the wheelchair was it will? anyway I'm leaving the states once again need to hit the island I know you don't remember me but if there is anything I could bring down from the states let me know Cool runnins Sam

  • eagle81954

    ola Richie
    good seeing you teddie & Tini said to say Hi!
    e-mail me and I'll send you the pictures of our visit

  • freuse

    Great idea, that would be an awesome project. And great to see such a creative way to reuse.

  • larryhall

    Amazing! love to see this island one day!

  • disconnected_dreamer

    I was wondering if you'd be opposed to any help from people who just want to aid your dream. I found out about this after thinking basically the same thing, and you having success is only fueling my desire to head out myself. I'd love to help work on your island as a way to see first hand how it's done and how to build one myself. I don't care for the notoriety, so I'm glad you're doing it first, haha. But I have always thought about what it would be like to live at sea, and your idea is so beautiful, I'm surprised more people aren't following themselves!

  • name11111111111112

    Hmm… interesting concept. If this guy is “an environmentalist to the core” he would know that plastic is real bad for aquatic life and motors spew out chemicals.