Venomous snakes and Komodo dragons. Volcanic gas and radioactive waste. These places look like paradise from afar, but once you’re there, they can be Hell on Earth. And if you had to choose which one to visit, I would recommend the haunted one.
Number 10. Ramree Island, Myanmar
During WWII, hundreds of Japanese soldiers were forced into the island marshes by British forces. They were set upon by the huge population of saltwater crocodiles. With no knowledge of the region and almost no supplies, the crocs had meals delivered right to their door. If you travel to this island, stay out of the marshes, or you could face the same fate.
Number 9. Miyake-jima, Japan
Often referred to as Gas Mask Island, it is located about 100 km (62 mi) south of Tokyo. It’s surrounded by mysterious waters known for disappearing vessels. It also has a volcano, which erupted in June 2000, covering the island in ash and clouds of gas. Residents had to evacuate for five years after the eruption. When they returned, they were required to have a gas mask with them at all times. But wait, there’s more. Since the volcano eruption, the chain of islands Miyake-jima is part of has had to deal with 17,500 earthquakes. If you’re planning on visiting Miyake-jima, bring your own gas mask and stay alert TO for the warning alarms that will indicate the time to use it.
Number 8. Gruinard Island, Scotland
During WWII, Gruinard Island, aka Anthrax Island, was the home of biological warfare testing undertaken by the British government. The experiments using anthrax killed hundreds of sheep and resulted in a quarantining of the island. It was decontaminated using formaldehyde in the 1980s. Gruinard was declared safe to visit in 1990 and is now used as a grazing island for sheep. But just to be safe, avoid the soil coming into contact with your skin and gastrointestinal tract while you’re there. If you get body aches, start vomiting or have shortness of breath, it could be anthrax poisoning. If you start to suffer any of these symptoms, get antibiotic treatment right away.
Number 7. Komodo Island, Indonesia
This place is hot, dry and covered in shrubs. And behind the shrubs? Three-meter (10ft) long venomous lizards. Komodo is one of five small islands where you can find, you guessed it, Komodo dragons. These reptiles can eat up to 80 percent of their body weight in a single feeding. And they will shred anything from carrion to a big water buffalo, and sometimes even humans. If you want to see these beasts in person, make sure to travel with a group. Komodos usually target prey that is alone. Stay on the Island paths, avoid using strong fragrances and avoid the place altogether if you’re bleeding. These lizards have a great sense of smell and can detect your blood from kilometers away.
Number 6. Poveglia, Italy
Nicknamed the Island of Ghosts, this place is unpopulated and is known as one of the most haunted locations in Europe. During the 14th century, Black Plague victims were sent there to quarantine. Only a small number of people left the island again. Around 160,000 corpses were burned. Legend has it that over 50% of the soil on the island is made up of human ash. In 1922, a mental hospital was built there, and rumors spread that experiments were being done on the patients. The island was abandoned in 1968 when the hospital closed down. You need special authorization from the Municipality of Venice to go to Poveglia. Once there, don’t go into the buildings because many of them are unstable and you could get trapped. Since there are limited visitors, you might not be rescued anytime soon. Come to think of it, this would be a good opportunity to check if the island is actually haunted.
Number 5. Farallons Islands, U.S.
Located near San Francisco, this area was used to dump radioactive waste between 1946 and 1970. The islands are also overrun with mice and have a big elephant seal population that attracts great white sharks. The Farallons have been closed to the general public since 1969, but at least they have the largest colony of nesting seabirds in the United States. If you make it to the islands, stay away from the seals. They can be aggressive and might be followed by some hungry sharks. The right way to see the wildlife would be by taking an authorized boat tour.
Number 4. North Sentinel Island, India
This mysterious isle is home to a group of Indigenous people who have remained isolated from the rest of the world. These hunter-gatherers live in huts and are armed with spears, knives and arrows. They are extremely hostile to outsiders and will attack anyone who comes close to the island. You should never go to North Sentinel Island, but if you unintentionally find yourself there approach the shore with caution. The Sentinelese might be hidden, waiting to defend their territory. Keep your distance in case they throw some warning spears. If you have fruit or ornaments, float them over first as a present, and don’t expect anything in return. Whatever you do, don’t try to touch them. It might be the last thing you do. Also, because they likely don’t have immune defenses to many of the microbes found off the island, they should be left alone for their own safety.
Number 3. Snake Island, Brazil
Located about 33 km (20 mi) off the coast of Brazil, this little island is packed with a lot of danger. It’s estimated that in some areas you wouldn’t be able to take more than a couple of steps without encountering a snake. Among these snakes, there are about 4,000 golden lancehead vipers, It’s one of the most venomous and deadliest snakes in the world. Their venom evolved to kill prey faster. Just one bite would rot your flesh and even kill you. The island is closed to visitors. Only research groups and members of the Brazilian Navy can go, and they need to bring a doctor in case someone gets bitten. In 2019, a group of fishermen had to swim to Snake Island after their boat sank. They survived by drinking rainwater and eating bananas found just outside of forested regions, never getting close to the snakes. After three days, they spotted a boat approaching the island and rushed to the water to swim for it.
Number 2. Saba, Netherlands Antilles
This lovely island in the Caribbean is the last place you’d want to be during hurricane season. It has been hit by 15 category 3 storms and seven category 5 storms in the past 150 years. The highest risk of hurricanes is between the middle of August and early October, but stay away from June to November just to be sure. If you are there during a hurricane, you should take flashlights, provisions and radios with extra batteries. Secure all doors and board up the windows. Wait for an all-clear from officials before going outside again.
Number 1. Reunion Island
Located in the Indian Ocean, this French territory offers beautiful waterfalls, great rum and thousands of sharks. Eleven people have died and eight more have been injured in shark attacks since 2011. In 2019, 44-year-old Richard Martyn Turner was killed while he was snorkeling. His body was not found, but the shark that attacked him was captured and X-rayed. Inside its stomach was Turner’s hand with his wedding ring still on it. If you want to return safely from your vacation at Reunion Island, don’t go swimming or snorkeling in restricted areas.
- 8 Dangerous Islands Where You Don’t Want To Wash Ashore (2020). Flight Centre.
- 20 Strange And Unsettling Things About Miyake-Jima, Japan (AKA Gas-Mask Town). Littlechild, C. (2018). The Travel
- Inside Poveglia Island’s History Of Death And Madness. Carlton, G. (2022). All That Is Interesting.
- A Guide To The Farallon Islands: San Francisco’s Secret Wildlife Refuge. Holcomb, C. (2016) The Culture Trip
- What to Know About Traveling in the Caribbean’s Hurricane Season. Abel, A. (2022). Afar.