Can you imagine living on a Plastic Bottle Floating Island, on Isla Mujeres, in Mexico… Maybe not?
Well, Richart Sowa does.
That’s Richart, not Richard. It’s all to do with the words that can be made from a name – and Richart Sowa knows all about that!
His Plastic Bottle Floating Island literally turned Isla Mujeres trash into treasure.
Richart Sowas’ Plastic Bottle Floating Island (Joysxee Eco Island) floats on over 250,000 used plastic bottles. It’s resident in ‘Makax Lagoon’, which Richart calls the ‘womb of the fish’ – on Isla Mujeres in Mexico.
Yes, you heard me right it’s a ‘Plastic Bottle Floating Island’. It’s an eco-paradise island, where Richart uses everyday trash to sustain his plastic bottle floating island – and his lifestyle.
With everything, from a composting toilet, small trees, to a solar oven – Richart Sowa’s place really is a master creation.
Oh, I forgot to mention, it takes a year to cook ‘The Richart Sowa Fruit Cake’.
Couple the natural fermentation process with solar heat, keeping topping up the ingredients… and whallah – you have ‘on-going fruit cake.
Ready to eat, anytime… AND it’s delicious!
We’re on ‘Isla Mujeres’, a beautiful little island just off the coast of Cancun, Mexico.
While almost everyone else was lying on the beach, we rented a little golf cart to explore the island. It was a costly $500 pesos ($40) for the afternoon. It seemed there was no negotiation, so I was a little grumpy.
With Des driving, we set off, and stopped at a few points – none of which were that exciting… but then, I noticed the sign for the Plastic Bottle Floating Island.
‘Stop… Stop, I want to have a look here. I’ve read about this plastic bottle floating island’.
What we see, is an unusual conglomeration of recycled materials. A beach; and what looked like a two or three storey contraption, with a flag on top. I snapped a few photos, and noticed the sign that read;
Plastic Bottle Floating Island
Call for Tour, and try my solar cooked cake and hibiscus tea
Donation 50 pesos
We call out… Then, next minute we’re greeted by Richart, who’s ferried across the water in his small boat to collect us.
Sitting in the boat, on the plush couch, listening to an engaging narrative from Richart – I’m thinking, I like this man. This is going to be another ‘stand-out’ fun day in Mexico.
Stepping onto the island, with its plush carpet of white sand – it felt a little squishy. It feels unusual, surreal. Like walking on sand, but sand with a soft bounce. Almost like a waterbed
Richart smiles, and assures me I won’t fall through to the sea below.
We’re invited inside his eco-home – what a master-piece.
‘Enter as strangers, and leave as Friends’ – that’s Richart Sowa’s philosophy. He’s a warm hearted, intelligent guy.
Richart’s excitedly telling us all about his amazing eco-island. There’s small trees and plants, and all sorts of weird and wonderful things.
I feel like ‘Alice, lost in a plastic bottle floating island… wonderland’!
I want to explore everywhere!
Richart explains how he collects plastic bottles from all over Isla Mujeres. He then packs them into recycled fruit sacks, creating a floating platform. Palettes are placed on top of the full fruit sacks, then plywood, and carpeting on top. Then, finally a covering of sand, dirt, rocks, plants and trees.
Plants like Mangroves actually provide stability to the island. Their growing roots wind through the mesh bags – tying everything together.
Richart continuously adds more bags of plastic bottles – growing and expanding the island. He grows numerous plants on the island including; palm trees, sea grapes, mangroves, cactus, spinach, tomatoes, melons, lemons, herbs and flowering shrubs.
On top of all, this sits his three storey house. Made from wood framing, covered with fabrics – it contains a composting toilet, rain catcher, conch shell shower, rooftop spa tub, solar oven, and so much more.
As Richart collects rainwater for his sink, he says;
‘Why would I BUY it. If it’s right THERE?’ – Yep, he’s groovy alright!
Solar panels power his kitchenette, and poop from his compost toilet becomes fertilizer for his plants. Not totally off the grid though, he does have electricity back up, and I spot a little tablet sitting on his table.
Every inch of Richart Sowa’s Plastic Bottle Floating Island holds another surprise – it’s unique, and intriguing in the true sense of the word. His imaginative, yet functional creative mastery, shows everywhere from the rain water tank under the guest bed, to the sand carpet under our feet.
We climb the ladder to explore the second and third floors.
There’s a guest bedroom – complete with ensuite… And an outdoor hot tub; complete with floating rose petals.
We chat for a few minutes…
Then picking up his Guitar (with two strings missing), Richart bursts into a beautiful song – with words that go a bit like this;
Everybody’s trying to find a way, to Paradise,
Billions of lost souls, wondering how it got to be that way,
We see the light, we know the way,
It’s so bright, like a sunny day,
C’mon… C’mon now people, open your eyes and see!
Take a tour around Richart Sowa’s house here, while listening to his Paradise Song in the background.
Having his last two plastic bottle floating Islands destroyed by hurricanes, Richart finally settled on Isla Mujeres. He says; ‘this island is the most amazing on the planet – and here’s why’:
Richart draws a map in the sand, and explains the significance of Isla Mujeres (Island of Woman).
‘First of all it’s the only island on the planet called ‘woman’, and it’s shaped like a fish. On the very south point of the Island (the head) is the fertility temple. In Mayan times, young women would visit the temple with a Shaman.
Because it’s the most eastern point of all Middle America, this temple sees the sun first. The Mayans worshipped the sun so visiting this temple was seen as the best possible chance of pregnancy.
All the other people live in the body of this fish. And, all the party goers are on the tail end – where the tail moves, and everybody’s dancing.
I know it’s pretty crazy, but this middle part is the belly. And the lagoon at the bottom, is the ‘pregnant fish’, or the womb. And that’s where ‘Joysxhee’, the Plastic Bottle Floating Island sits today.
Safe and sound – in the womb of Isla Mujeres’.
Richart firmly believes we can reverse the adverse effects our modern lifestyle is having on the Earth’s ecological balance. By creating islands, which become self-sustainable as corals – marine life grows on the underside, and mangroves, fruit and vegetables are grown on the topside.
This gives oxygen back to an otherwise ever decreasing atmosphere. And creates a root integrated, flexible and resilient habitable Island – which can grow big enough to be able to eventually survive, and flourish on the ocean.
Of course, there’s a lot to more to Richart Sowa than meets the eye.
He’s an artist, musician, carpenter, architect – and a very forward thinker, with a deep and meaningful connection with the universe.
Outside we take a seat, and listen to Richard’s wisdom. He recounts some of his life story, how the Plastic Bottle Floating Island idea birthed itself, and how his life become what it is today.
You can listen in here – Note: the sound is a bit scratchy for first ten seconds, and then it comes right.
Watch, and enjoy.
WARNING: If you don’t want to be enlightened, then DON’T WATCH.
All too soon, it’s time to leave – we could have stayed all day. Now, there are other groups on the shore, waiting for the Richart Sowa, Plastic Bottle Floating Island tour.
As we float back to the ‘mainland’ Richart serenades us with yet another beautiful song.
Richart Sowa is one of those lovely souls you meet while travelling. His view of the world and his incredible faith, are just fascinating. Just as the Plastic Bottle Floating Island paradise he has created for himself – and for those that he invites in.
Some might think he’s slightly AWOL (absent without leave); but the open minded will find there is much to be learned from this charismatic man.
Our time with Richart Sowa, on his famous Plastic Bottle Floating Island, was the true highlight of our time in Isla Mujeres.