Richart Sowa: A green island made of plastic bottles

Richart Sowa: A green island made of plastic bottles

Last weekend when I visit my parents my mom gave me a really cool magazine where I found an interesting story about Richart Sowa alias “Rishi”. He made the impossible possible. Richart Sowa build himself a green island made of old plastic bottles at the beach of Mexico.

The beginning of a beautiful dream

It started on Richart Sowa’s balcony somewhere in Germany in 1977 with a simple drawing of an UFO. The funny thing is that he wasn’t an artist at all. He just moved with his family from Middlesbrough in England to Germany to work as carpenter for a company who builds kitchens. After a few years of uncreative work as carpenter he started to draw nature pictures for different customers. It seems that he sold quite view because he decided to quit his job to fully dedicate himself to art. Around this time his marriage went wrong till the day his wife left with the children back to England.

It started wit a simple drawing of an UFO

A deep life crisis with a happy ending

The separation from his wife and children was obviously not easy to handle. Richart Sowa fell into a deep life crisis. He decided to travelled the world to find his true and final destination. He even joint different religions like the Mormon culture and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Rishi also drew portraits and played as musician on the streets of Europe to earn a little money. After spending years in Europe he travelled quite a while through the USA till he found 1996 his final destination in Mexico. The Mexican history of Aztec farmers build floating islands to create arable landmade made him remember of his UFO he draw on the balcony. That was the decisive event he decided to build his own green island made of PET bottles and other recyclabe.

Spiral IslandIt seems like Rishi enjoys quite much playing the guitarr (©

Rishis first green island made of plastic bottles

Richart Sowa decided to build his floating island on a beach called Zipolite located in San Pedro Pochutla. Since the early 70’s is Zipolite famous for the hammock and hippie colony as well as the liberal use of drugs. It is also still the only nudist beach in the whole country. Rishi started to collect a lot of empty discarded plastic bottles which he put together in several nets.

The nets with the empty bottles carried a structure of plywood. On top he build a small hut made of wood. Unfortunately weren’t the residents happy about his floating island made of plastic. They called the police. Richart Sowa had no rights to build this island, so he had to leave the village. This occasion saved his life because only three days later hurricane “Pauline” destroyed the whole village and his island … Blessing in disguise!!!

Rishi collected day by day as many PET bottles he found

A second try with Spiral Island

1998 gave Richart Sowa his dream of an green island a second try in Puerto Aventuras, on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. Once again he collected empty plastic bottles which he put together in several nets. The nets with the empty plastic bottles carried a structure of bamboo and plywood . On Top he poured sand which came up against the rock pier and planted several different plants which grew great and kept the old plastic bottles underwater together and the island cold. Rishi kept building till there was enough space to build a house made of palm fronds.

This time he even got a permit from the community for his island. In a time of four years his green island grew into a grandiose living space with three beaches, a garden with vegetables and flowers and a house with two floors, a roof terrace, a composting toilet anda solar oven. He also collects rain water for the shower. Richart Sowa is a real enviromentalist. That means that he always will try to build the island as sustainable as possible. He never would build something what would further pollute the earth.

Spiral Island became more and more famous in the neighborhood. Even tourists wanted to visit the island and asked if they could help Rishi. Once again were the residents annoyed by the floating island. They threatened to lift the island out of the water. Richart decided to dragged his island to the mouth of the Puerto Aventuras Canal. Away from the annoyed neighborhood.

Spiral IslandHave you ever seen a island like this? (©

Island_1Spiral Island is his second hand-build  fully recycled island (©

In July 2005, the island was fully destroyed by hurricane “Emily”. Richart Sowa saved his and his dogs life by making the decision to go with a good fried south. Rishi lost in a view minutes a work of seven years.  A island made of 250,000 PET bottles and a size of 66 feet by 54 feet.

Finally Joyxee Island

It seemed that Rishi and his dog Bongo lost everything they had…but help was close. Oscar Constandse, leader of the local ecological park loved the idea of an floating environment island. He gave Rishi 20.000$ to rebuild his island. Even other investors were enthusiastic about the Project. In a short time 40.000$ were collected to start new.

Spiral IslandYou would belive that this is a sleeping room on green island

Richart Sowa started to rebuild his floating environment island in the waters of Isla Mujeres, located near Cancun. Joyxee Island contains about 100,000 PET bottles and measures a size of 82 feet in diameter. Rishi’s new floating green island has also three beaches, a beautiful house, even a solar-powered waterfall and a small river, a wave-powered washing machine and solar panels. Volunteers from all over the world come to visit Joyxee and Rishi to helped with this unique project. Richart Sowa keeps building day by day, so Joyxee will always be a work of art in progress.

The government of Mexico declared  Joyxee island as an ecological boat and therefore Rishi had to take care that the island comply with all boating regulations. Now he has to provide life vests, boat lights, a fire extinguisher and of course a first aid kid before he leaves the lagoon.


I have to say that I am really impressed by Richart Sowa. Even though his wife left him and he didn’t knew for quite a viewed years where he belongs …In the end he found his final destination. He made his dream come true. Rishi always believed in his island and did not give up. I hope he is well and happy now!

Here you can watch a clip where Richart Sowa talkes about how he build the island and what makes it so special.



  • sully sully December 06, at 19:53

    Just curious as to who gave him permission to build his island where he did? Ty

    • Maria Maria December 30, at 14:35

      Hey Sully, no one gave him the permission. He just built the island. But once he had to move his island because people who lived in the surrounding where complaining...but for now it seems okay. Let me know if you hear something else. Thx a lot! Maria

  • Ann Barr Ann Barr December 06, at 20:25

    Hi I am interested in alternative living and travel and wonder how I can experience some time in this home?

    • Maria Maria December 30, at 14:33

      Hey Ann Barr, when you travel to Mexico just visit him. I think he is a guy who is happy about every visitor and person whos interested in his story! Just try out and let me know how it went. Greetings Maria

  • bonnie bonnie August 28, at 14:44

    I wonder how he deals with human waste on his island?

  • Albie Albie September 12, at 08:45

    What effect if any have the recent tropical storms had on his island?

    • Maria Maria November 27, at 08:54

      Hi Albie, sorry for the late reply. As far as we have found, the Island was not hit by the storm. If you read anything else, please let us know. Best wishes!

  • Kulwinder Kulwinder February 23, at 05:35

    What an interesting guy. Of,course, Governments in the west would not allow this to happen. But floating materials is the way forward. Waterworld is happening.

    • Maria Maria February 23, at 10:27

      Hey Kulwinder, Richard is indeed a very interesting guy. Let's hope he functions as an example for many others. Have a nice day!

  • Jim Jim February 27, at 22:24

    We regularly vacation on Isla Mujeres and are familiar with this island. In fact, I have been on the island twice. Last week when we were there I noticed that the island was missing. I asked a local where it was and was told that the island started breaking up in a storm and that Richard abandoned it leaving his neighbors with a tremendous mess to pick up off their shorelines. While I found that island interesting, if what I was told is accurate, I am bothered that the man who boasted of his ecological benefits of his island ended up leaving a humongous mess for others to pick up.

    • Maria Maria February 28, at 13:55

      Hi Jim, thanks for your comment. I have not been able to find any source on the internet who writes anything about it but I totally agree with you that it would be disappointing if it was true. Let's keep monitoring any news about Richard Sowa, who knows what we can find. Have a nice day!


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