Every destination has a calling card, be it food, forts or fashion. But there are a handful of islands sprinkled across the globe where the locals are two and four legged. These islands are overrun and ruled by these creatures, but watch out because while some are friendly others are fatal.
Location: Big Major Cay, Bahamas
Loud snorts of pigs paddling in the water welcome your arrival on this island. Various legends exist as to how the pigs reached the island. Some say that they were dropped off by sailors who wanted to come back and make a meal out of them. Fortunately for them the sailors never returned. Another believes that the pigs were survivors of a shipwreck. Though uninhabited, the island receives a steady supply of visitors, excited to swim with and feed the pigs.
Location: Aoshima, Japan
The cats on this island outnumber the humans by a six to one ratio. Initially a busy fishing island, the locals were plagued with a mice menace and hence the cats were brought in as a survival measure. Today the fishermen are long gone and the cats reign. These furry creatures only crave two things, attention and snacks. With the powerful force of Instagram pictures, the island has become a popular destination for cat lovers. It’s Isle of Dogs, feline edition.
Location: Okunoshima, Japan
Stampedes are common here, except the participants are rabbits and not humans. Swarms of bunnies in shades of black, white and brown gather around you leaving you immobile and gushing. But the existence of these adorable beings hasn’t always been peaceful. An abandoned poison gas factory lies at one end of the island and according to the locals, the ancestors of these rabbits were the first victims of the experiments with the deadly vapours. But today this collective memory of horrific has been overtaken by cute.
Location: Assateague Island, Maryland, United States
Imagine this, sun, sand, sea and stallion. A small strip of land between the states of Maryland and Virginia is where this dream becomes a reality. Home to hundreds of horses for centuries, this barrier island is now a federal wildlife refuge park. Folklore attributes the horses’ arrival on the island to a shipwreck. With limited food supply and ferocious storms Assateague is difficult region for survival but the ponies seem to have adapted fine.
Location: Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico
Popularly known as Isla de los monos, this islet is inhabited by a large population of wild Rhesus Macaque monkeys. Cayo Santiago serves as the Caribbean Primate Research Center for the University of Puerto Rico and hence in 1938, four hundred of these monkeys were shipped here from India for observation and study. Although you must be a researcher to get entry, tourists can charter a kayak and observe the monkeys playing on the beach from a distance.
Location: Ilha da Queimada Grande, Brazil
Located 90 miles off the coast of Sao Paolo, Ilha da Queimada Grande, at first glimpse seems like any another rainforest island. But beware, it is teeming with thousands of venomous vipers and hence has been crowned as the deadliest island on the planet. One snake per square meter is the recorded density. Death is certain if you plan to venture inside. Because of the high risk, the Brazilian government has banned civilian entry. Only scientists with special permission are allowed ashore.
Location: Runde Island, Norway
A haven for birdwatchers, Runde lies amidst the Norwegian Sea. Every year from February to August the island is crowded with various species of birds who come here to nest and among these are the Atlantic Puffins. Very vocal in their presence on land, puffins are silent in the winter sea. With steep cliffs and grassy plateaus, the region’s geography is absolutely appropriate for these seabirds to breed. A pair of binoculars is an essential carry-on while visiting.
Location: Renaissance Island, Aruba
Swim in the warm waters of the Caribbean with these majestic pink-feathered creatures or gaze at them standing still for hours perched on one leg, the distinctive flamingo pose. Don’t be disappointed because the birds are few in number, they are not native to the island. The island itself is right out of a postcard, with swaying palm trees and hammocks strung in the shade. But being private property, accessing it requires quite a bit of beforehand planning.
Location: Miyajima, Japan
Home to thousands of Mika deer, this island is the perfect example of peaceful coexistence between humans and animals. Though this might be due to popular local belief that the deer are sacred messengers from God. An estimated 1200 of them live on the island and are considered to be national treasure by the government. The quadrupeds move around with complete freedom and happily interact with tourists. Other than eating ‘deer cookies’ they also like to hangout on the beach.
Location: Kauai, Hawaii, United States
Clucking their way through streets of Kauai are its most significant citizens, red-plumed roosters. Originally brought onto the island by the Polynesians as a source of food, the chickens right now can be described as thriving. When Hurricane Iniki ripped across Kauai in 1992 it destroyed all the chicken coops and hence released these domesticated hens. With no natural predators, their population has increased with leaps and bounds. A constant crowing is now part of everyday existence on the island much to the dismay of locals.