Travel

7 islands where wild animals rule

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The Internet sure does love animals. It's basically one big animal photo repository. Mostly cats. And in a sense, animals run the Internet.

Turns out, that's not the only thing animals run. In a few remote corners of the Earth, mankind takes a back seat to his animal brethren. Some will even melt your flesh and kill you. So that's fun.

Take a walk on the wild side in these weird places where animals outnumber humans.

Monkeys

Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico
It’s literally Planets of the Apes up in this Cayo. OK, we know monkey aren't apes; they're both primates. But the joke doesn't work otherwise.

Researchers estimate between 800 and 1,200 Rhesuses frolic around this research facility island – all of which are descendants of the 409 original animals imported from India in 1938 to create the facility in the first place. While no humans live here (researchers commute daily), kayaking trips allow visitors to check out the monkeys from about 30ft away. Which, given how monkeys can sling their own poop, is advisable.

Cats

Tashirojima, Japan
One man’s dream is another man’s nightmare: felines legitimately run the show in this small fishing village, allegedly outnumbering humans about 4:1. The cats are fat and happy, thanks to the approximately 100 locals and the many tourists who believe a happy kitty makes life less shitty (no really, feeding them allegedly brings wealth and good luck). The island’s also home to many a cat shrine, and some unique cat-shaped buildings.
 

Pigs

Big Major Cay Island, Bahamas
They may not fly, but they sure can swim. Take a dip in this tropical island’s crystal-clear waters to swim with dozens of aqua pigs that’re happier than a pig in, well, the Bahamas. Local lore alleges that sailors left the swine stranded to snack on later, but never returned for their bacon.

Rabbits

Okunoshima Island, Japan
What's up with Japan? A bazillion people live in Tokyo, but they never think to move out to these animal-overrun islands. It's weird. Actually, that's like the least weird thing in Japan.

Once a WWII poison gas production facility, the less than flattering history of this island has been transformed into a tourist attraction boasting hundreds (some even say thousands) of rabbits; these furry friends are obviously far more popular than the onsite Poison Gas museum. There's also a hotel, six-hole golf course, beaches, and camping grounds. Legend has it that these bunnies came from the facilities’ lab animals, which were let loose when it shut down, and then, well… reproduced as rabbits are wont to do. Party poopers, however, claim that they were brought there later, to attract visitors. 

Bonus: Watch this video of a hapless tourist getting chased by a hopping herd of rabbits. 

Horses

Assateague Island, Maryland and Virginia
Featuring one of America’s best beaches, this island also boasts a herd of more than 300 feral horses roaming around. Some say they survived a shipwreck, while adherents of the more mundane reason that they were brought by settlers evading a mainland livestock tax. Take it from the horses mouth. Or don't.

Snakes

Ilha da Queimada Grande, Brazil
Nightmares do come true. Often touted as the world’s deadliest island, Ilha da Queimada Grande, 90 miles from Sao Paulo, has the highest concentration of deadly snakes in the world. Allegedly, the 100-acre island has an estimated one snake per 10sq-ft, though some even believe it's up to five snakes per 10sq-ft. Indiana Jones is asking, "Why did it have to be snakes?"

It's also not just any snake populating the island: golden lanceheads, a pit viper said to melt human flesh, reigns supreme. For real. Obviously, no one lives on the island and it’s pretty much untouched, save for a cleverly automated lighthouse.

Deer

Itsukushima, Japan
Deer are held dear in the Shinto religion -- meaning they're held sacred -- which might explain why hundreds prance about so many Japanese towns. The most impressive herd, however, can be found in Itsukushima, which is known for its shrine and Torii gate.

Sophie-Claire Hoeller is Thrillist's associate travel editor, and would happily spend the rest of her days on cat island. Follow her @Sohostyle