Man might not be an island, but can he live on a man-made island, built from straw, in the middle of a beautiful lake? Sounds improbable, but it’s a way of life that’s worked for the Uros people of Peru and Bolivia for hundreds of years.

An indigenous tribe, the Uros live on 60 self-fashioned islands, floating on Lake Titicaca, in the mountains bordering Peru and Bolivia. Incredibly, their homelands are formed from nothing more than bundles of dried reeds, which grow wild in the lake. Anchored with ropes, attached to sticks driven into the muddy bottom, the largest of them are wide enough to house a dozen families.

the islands are formed from nothing more than bundles of dried reeds, which grow wild in the lake.

Originally built as a primitive defense system, the idea was that if a rampaging horde approached from over the hills, the Uros would simply pull up anchor and drift away to safety. All good in theory, but they were still conquered by the Inca empire, along with the rest of the country.

The other downside to these bespoke retreats is that the reeds on the underside start rotting away fairly quickly, so new reeds have to be added to the topside three or four times a year. Looked after with this sort of maintenance, the islands used to last up to 30 years, but that was before all the foreigners started arriving.

Understandably, the Uros and their unique way of life have become one of the most popular attractions in the region. And while ferrying visitors out to the islands on straw boats, and selling them handicrafts, has been a financial windfall for the tribes, it’s come at the cost of damaging the ground beneath their feet. Or straw.

That’s because every step made on the islands breaks down the reeds – just a tiny bit – which wasn’t a big deal when there were only 200 locals remaining, but with so many visitors nowadays, there’s a lot more maintenance required. The resourceful Uros have got it sorted though, and so they’re able to continue floating around, fishing, hunting and weaving toys and baskets.

Want to visit this incredible culture before it sinks?

The Uros are just one highlight on the epic TripADeal 30 Days Around The World Tour. Click here for more info.

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