The world is a diverse and wondrous place, teeming with life in every corner, from the deepest oceans to the tallest mountains. Some unique habitats, isolated from the mainland, provide sanctuary and breeding grounds for a variety of species. Many are islands where certain species have thrived because of distant locations or conservation initiatives. These islands host a distinct collection of creatures. Here are some of the most famous and intriguing animal islands with unique evolutionary adaptations that have taken place:
Animal Islands To Visit
1. Seal Island, South Africa
Since Twitter loves a good "I vaguely knew they were big but I didn't realize they were THIS BIG," I present the northern elephant seal. pic.twitter.com/w1ty3I5P8w
— Alisha Grauso (@AlishaGrauso) January 22, 2022
Located off the coast of South Africa, this is a small, rocky outcrop that has earned its reputation as a wildlife hotspot, particularly for its large population of Cape fur seals. These seals are known for their dark brown fur, distinctively V-shaped nostrils, and eared seals. One of the main reasons Seal Island is so renowned is its role as a hunting ground for apex predators. Great white sharks frequent the waters around the island, preying on the seals. Visit between November and December, when around 20,000 puppies are born and the seas are free of predators.
How to reach: Boat tours leave from Simon’s Town in False Bay, about an hour’s drive from Cape Town.
2. Komodo Island, Indonesia
Komodo Dragon attacks poor goat pic.twitter.com/PHWYutjH5O
— Nature Is Scary (@Thescarynature_) December 29, 2017
The Komodo dragon, the world’s largest living lizard, calls Indonesia’s Komodo Island home. These formidable reptiles are known for their venomous bite and impressive size. The isolation has allowed them to evolve into apex predators, dominating their ecosystem. To tour Komodo Island, you must hire a ranger or guide.
How to reach: Daily flights from Bali to Komodo Airport are available. Day visits to Komodo Island can be easily booked from there.
3. Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles
Aldabra tortoises are one of the last two truly giant species of tortoises. They are endemic to the Seychelles, specifically on the Aldabra Atoll, which is an island country located in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa. These giants can reach upwards of 600lbs! pic.twitter.com/RUfBNR4rhk
— Turtle Conservancy (@turtletweets) November 25, 2021
It is one of the world’s largest coral atolls and holds the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its unique and exceptional ecological characteristics. The atoll is particularly famous for its giant tortoise population. Aldabra giant tortoises are one of the world’s largest tortoise species and can live for over a century. Other notable wildlife includes green turtles, hawksbill turtles, manta rays, and numerous species of fish and seabirds. The atoll’s pristine coral reefs are vital for marine life.
How to reach: If you want to visit the Aldabra Atoll, you must first obtain permission from the Seychelles Islands Foundation. Not everyone is granted permission because it is dependent on the reason for the traveller’s presence.
4. Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands
Situated to the east of East Falkland Island, Sea Lion Island is a haven for nature enthusiasts and wildlife photographers. The island is home to numerous bird species, including gentoo penguins, Magellanic penguins, king cormorants, striated caracaras, and many others. Its name, “Sea Lion Island,” is derived from the large numbers of South American sea lions that inhabit its beaches. These marine mammals can be spotted lounging on the sandy shores.
How to reach: Access to Sea Lion Island is typically by small aircraft from Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands
5. Ōkunoshima, Japan
— Booking.com (@bookingcom) March 15, 2018
Tucked away in the tranquil waters of Japan’s Inland Sea lies a small, enigmatic island known as Ōkunoshima. It is home to a large population of adorable and friendly rabbits, earning it the nickname Rabbit Island. Ōkunoshima is home to hundreds of friendly and approachable rabbits of various breeds and colours. With dogs and cats prohibited on the island, the rabbits live a peaceful, carefree life.
How to reach: A day excursion from Hiroshima, the nearest major hub to Kunoshima, is possible by taking a train east to Tadanoumi and then a short boat ride.
6. Pig Beach, Bahamas
In the azure waters of the Bahamas lies a little slice of paradise known as Pig Beach. This idyllic island, officially named Big Major Cay, is famous for its unique and unusual inhabitants—the swimming pigs. The swimming pigs, known for their friendly nature, eagerly approach boats and swimmers in search of snacks. During the high season, from December to mid-April, the pigs’ celebrity brings hordes of tourists. The majority of group trips come between mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
How to reach: One can travel to Pig Beach by power boat, ferry, or private plane from larger destinations such as Nassau, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami.
7. Ainoshima Island, Japan
😸 : Cat Island
📷 : Fujifilm Simple Ace ISO400 pic.twitter.com/AC4OVG4WtN
— การท่องเที่ยวเชิงไฉไล (@Chailaibackpack) February 25, 2020
Often referred to as “Cat Heaven Island” or “Cat Paradise,” Ainoshima Island offers a heartwarming and tranquil experience for cat lovers. The island is home to hundreds of cats that roam freely, basking in the sun, and interacting with visitors. Japan has 11 cat islands in total,
How to reach: The island is a 20-minute ferry voyage from Fukuoka’s Shingu Port.
These islands offer a glimpse into the wonders of nature. The world’s animal islands are remarkable and vital for understanding the processes of evolution, adaptation, and biodiversity.
Which of these animal islands are you heading to first?
Cover image credits: Canva