By Matt Young

The most venomous snake in the world. Attacks from two different varieties of shark. Crocodiles spying on you. Ants that spurt acid. Sound like your idea of paradise?

A man who spent time living as a castaway on an Australian island has opened up about life with the nation's most famous 74-year-old survivalist, David Glasheen - and the salty predators that lurk close by.


For years, the world has become enraptured by the story of the Australian millionaire turned castaway, who walked away from his life and became Australia's real life Robinson Crusoe in 1997.

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Last month marked his 20-year anniversary as a real-life renegade on Restoration Island - enduring the toughest landscapes in what has been described as the largest unspoilt wilderness in northern Australia and one of the last remaining wilderness areas on Earth.

"Dave told me, 'only a mad man would think to swim carelessly in these waters'," visitor Alvaro Cerezo told news.com.au.

Mr Cerezo, whose business it is to find idyllic islands and host private visitors, says it was his first time surviving on an Australian island and was "surprised" by the number of predators surrounding Mr Glasheen's camp.

Except for the annual grocery shop to Cairns, Mr Glasheen spends most of his time on the island, where he has lived in a renovated WWII outpost.

Despite his plans to build a health retreat on the island, he describes his home as a "bush camp" with a "five-star environment" and "half-star accommodation".

But Mr Cerezo warned the threat or menace of crocodiles on Restoration Island is "very real".

"According to Dave, there are crocodiles watching him from the water many afternoons while he works.

"Predators is a major issue in this part of the world, Australia is really a different country," Mr Cerezo said.

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He said swimming and scuba diving in the area was off-limits due to the enormous risk of a salt water crocodile attack. In fact Mr Glasheen's former dog, Quassi, survived two attacks before succumbing to a Taipan snake's bite. The inland taipan is the most venomous snake in the world.

Along with crocodiles and snakes, tiger sharks and great white sharks are known to lurk around the beaches. Insects, including the weaver ant, which spray formic acid onto its victims, also produce unusual smells.

"The island was nice, but you don't feel as safe as most other desert islands. I wouldn't be fully relaxed while snorkelling deep in the sea as crocodiles may be staring at you from the distance. I wouldn't sleep near the shore because you never know."

David Glasheen, pictured with his former dog Quasi, had previously joined an online dating agency to try and meet a woman to share his island home. Photo / News Limited
David Glasheen, pictured with his former dog Quasi, had previously joined an online dating agency to try and meet a woman to share his island home. Photo / News Limited

Mr Cerezo said after five days with Mr Glasheen, he was "extremely social and talkative".

"I think he definitely became more human. He used to be was very materialistic in the past.

"During the past few years I have spent some time with other castaways like him on their desert islands and these other castaways were always a bit eccentric and complicated. Dave was a really easy going person."

A stock market millionaire in the '80s, Mr Glasheen was living the high life in Sydney as the chairman of a Sydney-based company that specialised in gold mining in Papua New Guinea.

At this stage he was worth a cool US$28.4 million, which he invested in luxury real estate along Sydney Harbour. But after the "Black Tuesday" crash (known to the rest of the world as the Black Monday crash) on October 19, 1987, the Dow Jones dropped a record 508 points, and subsequently, Glasheen's stock began to rapidly drop too.

"I got whacked, I wasn't aware it was going to happen. I should have sold the whole lot [of stocks]."

David Glasheen with Quasi and mannequin mate. Photo / News Limited
David Glasheen with Quasi and mannequin mate. Photo / News Limited

Mr Glasheen lost $7.25 million that day alone, and the next few years would see his life spiral into bankruptcy and a broken family that couldn't be pieced back together; he divorced his wife in 1991.

By 1993, after the banks had moved in, Mr Glasheen heard of a lease available on an undeveloped 64-acre island within a national park in Cape York, on Australia's remote peninsula: Restoration Island.

For Mr Glasheen, this island existence is the perfect paradise. He says Australians are famously "mean", but wouldn't want to live any where else in the world. He has no motive to move back to the mainland, and plans to take his last breath here. He doesn't see the point of living "outside" of the island.

"I've been offered places elsewhere in other countries. I love Australia, it's a great country, it's just got a lot of stupid people, that's the problem.

"We don't appreciate how good the place is, it is one of the greatest places on earth, I don't know a better place and I've travelled a fair bit."

But Mr Cerezo says his time on Restoration Island is a wakeup call to the difficulties of island life. Despite this, he agrees, Mr Glasheen isn't going anywhere.

"He is very determined. He won't move from the island for 'all the money in the world'," Mr Cerezo said.

"I wouldn't recommend this kind of life to everyone. In my life I have met so many people that one day decided to live on a private island, but after a year they gave up."

For more information on Alvaro Cerezo, visit docastaway.com