Nature is astonishing; sometimes, it creates places that seem to belong in a different universe. Inspired by a discussion on an online community, we’ve compiled a list of 13 extraordinary and peculiar islands that will make you question reality. These remarkable locations give us something to think about and challenge our understanding of the natural world.
Tucked away in Micronesia, northeast of Australia, Nauru is a picturesque island featuring coral reefs and palm-fringed white-sand beaches, such as the charming Anibare Bay. Its unique composition truly sets Nauru apart — it’s predominantly made of phosphate rock.
These valuable phosphates, essential for agriculture, are formed from the excrement of birds and bats. Naura was sitting on a goldmine of waste, which triggered extensive mining after its 1968 independence from Australia. Thanks to its phosphate reserves, Nauru briefly experienced incredible wealth during the ’70s and ’80s.
2. Okunoshima (Bunny Island)
Okunoshima, formerly home to a WWII chemical weapons factory, is just off Japan. Not long after WWII, all the human inhabitants relocated. But a different inhabitant thrived — bunnies. Bunny Island has a landscape overrun by these friendly and sociable creatures.
How the island became a rabbit haven is a puzzle with myriad theories but no concrete answer. What’s certain is that Okunoshima has become a paradise of bunnies, offering visitors a unique opportunity to spend a day cuddling and frolicking with these adorable creatures.
3. Sable Island
Sable Island is a narrow crescent-shaped sandbar with an extraterrestrial vibe around 185 miles southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It moves at an average speed of about 656 feet per year, earning it the nickname “The Graveyard of the Atlantic” due to the estimated 350 shipwrecks attributed to its treacherous sand bars.
This unique island was mentioned in the British North America Act of 1867 and holds its place as a separate amateur radio entity with its own call sign prefix CY0. The fact that it’s considered an anomalous phenomenon research probe site adds to its allure.
4. Isla Madre de Dios (Mother of God Island)
Chile’s Isla Madre de Dios is a marvel for multiple reasons. Almost entirely composed of white marble, it sits amidst challenging fjords, famous for their navigational difficulty. The island’s steep cliffs and constant winds of up to 81 miles per hour make access a rarity.
The cherry on top is the environment itself — scientists believe its current conditions mirror the world around 12,000 years ago during the last ice age. No other island on the globe matches its marble makeup, formidable surroundings, and peculiar ability to provide a window into the past.
5. North Sentinel Island
North Sentinel Island is located in the Bay of Bengal. The Sentinelese inhabitants have occupied it for some 60,000 years, but it officially belongs to India. Cut off from the modern world, island inhabitants fiercely resist contact with outsiders, defending their island with lethal force if necessary.
This fiercely guarded isolation has allowed the Sentinelese to remain one of the most primitive societies on Earth. Consequently, India has banned access to protect them from external diseases.
Nestled between mainland Africa and Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, Mayotte is a unique French anomaly. Though small, its demographics and culture paint a distinct picture. Its population has an intriguing religious blend of 97% Sunni Islam, a mix of Roman Catholicism, and irreligiosity making up the rest.
The Bantu tribe, predominantly Swahili-speaking with Arabic and Southeast Asian influences, shapes the island’s cultural landscape. Surprisingly, this tropical haven is a French territory, forming a curious blend of languages, cultures, and economic disparities within the larger framework of France.
7. Deception Island
Deception Island is the perfect spot for a secret island getaway right off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. But it’s not just any island; it’s a volcanic wonderland. This island emerges from the remnants of an active volcano’s caldera, the depression that forms after an eruption. The caldera’s rim tiptoed above sea level and crafted an otherworldly ring shape.
Nature’s ingenuity didn’t stop there; one side sank beneath the waves to form a matchless natural breakwater. It’s no wonder that when Nathaniel Palmer set foot here in 1820, he playfully dubbed it Deception Island. Above all, it embraces the Antarctic and shields against the harshest of polar tantrums.
8. Tashirojima Island
On Tashirojima Island, felines reign supreme. This location is a curious corner of Japan where over 100 humans share their space with an alluring population of cats — six times their number, to be precise. Long ago, the inhabitants bred cats to keep silk-worm pests at bay and outlasted the ages.
As humans dwindled, the feline presence surged, and some even believe the felines warded off disaster. Legend has it that the cats shielded the island from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami ravages.
9. Socotra (Saqatri)
Imagine stumbling upon an island that seems ripped from the pages of science fiction. Socotra, aka Saqatri, lies serenely in the Indian Ocean. Its isolation has birthed an ecosystem so alien and enchanting that it’s like peeking into another realm. This isle, south of the Arabian Peninsula, boasts a breathtakingly peculiar flora and fauna sculpted by its arid climate and rugged terrain. The Socotra tree is a masterpiece you’ll never see elsewhere.
Tanna is a tiny slice of the Republic of Vanuatu, a remote Pacific island adorned with stories of spirits and mountains. At some point, it witnessed the arrival of a most unexpected deity — Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The people of Tanna believed that a pale-skinned figure, hailed as a son of the mountains, would venture across seas to their land. His visit in naval uniform ignited a cult that grew into an island-wide religion. As a symbol of divine communion, a pig-killing club continues to exchange hands in worship of Prince Philip.
11. Hans Island
Hans Island is a minuscule, chilly haven between Greenland and Canada’s Ellesmere Island. The frontier is so friendly it witnessed a genteel squabble between Canada and Denmark. Flags and bottles of spirits were raised in dispute each time one of the neighboring countries visited the site. Eventually, the island was split, and a border was established in the center. Canada added another land border to its collection, extending its camaraderie to the US and Denmark.
12. Sandy Island
Sandy Island is the most mysterious of them all. This island was a phantom isle that appeared on various maps, from Google to the Times Atlas, until it was “undiscovered” not too long ago. Captain Cook set the stage in 1774, and a whaling ship continued the charade in 1876. Was it a reef? A floating raft of pumice? The riddle endured, and maps continued to display this piece of land until 2012. When scientists went on an expedition to Sandy Island, they found nothing. We live for the mystery.
13. Jeju Island, South Korea
Dubbed the “Hawaii of South Korea,” you must see this volcanic wonderland peaking with a fairytale blockbuster’s natural beauties. Despite fielding a Unesco World Heritage site, the Seongsan ILchulbong on its landscape, Jeju may never reach the list of popular destinations spotlights for marketing reasons.
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