The lure of animal magnetism

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iol travel july 9 nt_Great_Barrier_Reef_Marine_Park_CITY_E1 REUTERS One of the seven wonders of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, is home to some 1 500 species of tropical fish.

London - From Africa to Australia, Asia to America, there are some incredible places where tourists can see all creatures great and small.

Go underwater in Palau, a small island in the Pacific, and swim with millions of friendly jellyfish that have lost their stings; or stay on land and help with the conservation of the endangered orangutans in Borneo. Or explore the hidden depths of the Great Barrier Reef.

1 Okunoshima, Japan

Better known as Rabbit Island, Okunoshima is in the Inland Sea of Japan. Once a secret chemical warfare production site for the Japanese Army, the island is now occupied by hundreds of rabbits after a colony of them were taken there to test the effects of the poison. The plant was closed in 1945, but the herds of friendly rabbits remained and are now a much bigger attraction than the Poison Gas Museum.

2 Jellyfish lake, Palau

Located on Eil Malik island, Jellyfish Lake is home to over a million stingless golden jellyfish. Hundreds of years ago the lake had an outlet to the ocean, but when the sea level dropped the jellyfish population was isolated in the algae-rich lake and began to thrive. They had no predators so over time their stings disappeared, and now divers can swim with no fear of being stung.

iol travel sep 4 Borneo The highly intelligent orangutan is Borneos most eminent species and can be seen by either trekking into the jungle or visiting one of the many rehabilitation centres. AP

3 Tashirojima, Japan

Cats outnumber the 100 residents of Tashirojima, an island sustained by the fishing industry. Originally the cats were valued on the island, which raised silkworms to produce silk, because they chased away the mice that preyed on the silkworms. Now the stray cats are thriving as locals believe that feeding them will bring health and good fortune.

4 Borneo

The highly intelligent orangutan is Borneo’s most eminent species and can be seen by either trekking into the jungle or visiting one of the many rehabilitation centres. After illegal logging, hunting and conversion of land to agricultural use, the number of orangutans has declined alarmingly in the past 50 years.

5 Assateague

The rural island of Assateague on the coast of America is home to over 300 feral ponies, thought to have made their way there after surviving a shipwreck. Another theory is that settlers took them there in the 17th century to get around a farmers’ tax required to pay for keeping livestock on the mainland. The best way to see the ponies, on the 60km-long island off Maryland and Virginia, is by kayak.

6 Exuma, The bahamas

It is said that the pigs of Exuma, a group of islands in The Bahamas, were dropped there by a group of sailors who wanted to come back and cook them. However, when they didn’t return the pigs thrived and made the place their home. The clever swines worked out that the crews of passing yachts regularly dumped excess food into the sea, which is why you can see them swimming today.

7 Great Barrier Reef, Australia

One of the seven wonders of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, is home to some 1 500 species of tropical fish, 200 types of birds, 20 types of reptiles, as well as whales, dolphins, rays, molluscs and coral sponges. The marine park, which was given Unesco world heritage site status in 1981, stretches over 2 897km and is the only living thing on earth that is visible from space.

8 Burkina Faso

Villagers from Bazoule, a community outside Burkina Faso’s capital city Ouagodougou, have had a close relationship with the crocodiles that reside there, for hundreds of years. The reptile is considered sacred by the locals, who believe that the fortunes of the villages are linked to the survival of the crocodiles. The Nile crocodiles, which can grow up to 6m in length, live side-by-side with locals and are tame enough to allow visitors to walk among them and even hold their tails.

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