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LOS ROQUES "Seeing Stars on The Sleepy Lagoon"

Los Roques is the Caribbean's best-kept secret, and the A list knows it, says Andrew Thomas reporter from London times.

Leonardo Di Caprio, Shakira and Harrison Ford are fans; Gerard Depardieu is a regular. Melanie Griffith, Antonio Banderas and Francis Ford Coppola toured the islands for a millennium sailing holiday. To an increasing number of celebrities seeking accessible seclusion, exclusivity and activity, Los Roques rock.

Ninety-four miles north of South America, washed by the same clear seas as Trinidad, Tobago, St Martin and St Kitts, Los Roques make up the Caribbean's southernmost archipelago. Three-hundred pieces of land in a lagoon the size of Greater London, the islands feel exclusive even before you reach them.

Taxiing towards the runway at Caracas airport, I was on board a propeller plane with just 10 seats. Mine was where a co-pilot would normally have sat. In front of me, speedometers, altimeters and a dial for remaining kilometers. I was even given a job. Until the very final moment before takeoff, the pilot asked me to hold my door wide open. The plane was stuffy, and wind from the whirring propellers made for a welcome cabin breeze.

As we flew north, it quickly became clear what the stars see in the place. Looking down, it was as if a collection of islands within a tropical blue lagoon had had a second sea with a turquoise laminate pressed upon them. Most would - be islands remained underwater, as though a child's collage of a desert-island scene had been so good that his teacher had had the whole thing glazed over. Only the really determined made it through the shallow, glistening glass. >>

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