Show Mobile Navigation
Travel |

10 Lesser-Known Facts About Unique Islands

by Estelle
fact checked by Jamie Frater

An island is an idyllic destination for millions of travelers worldwide. Especially when the said island is sun-drenched with white sand beaches and surrounded by nothing but turquoise ocean. However, those with an adventurous side seek out the more obscure islands that harbor a secret or two, which makes for a fascinating visit every time.

Sometimes these secrets are awesome; sometimes, they’re creepy. On this list is a mix of both these types of islands found around the globe.

Related: 10 Islands You Would Not Want To Be Shipwrecked On

10 Suwarrow

Man Who Lived Alone on a Remote Island

Suwarrow forms part of the Cook Islands in the south Pacific Ocean and often suffers storm surges because it is an extremely low-lying atoll. The island was declared a National Heritage Park in 1978 and falls under Cook Islands law. Two island caretakers share the space with over a million sea birds, which include eleven different species.

Suwarrow was once described as the most romantic island in the world, but it is the lure of being a treasure island that put it on the obscure map. A ship’s crew from Tahiti was doing salvage work on the island during the mid-19th century when the captain dug up an iron chest filled with gold and silver coins. In 1876, Henry Mair discovered a rusted box inside a turtle’s nest containing more treasure in the form of gold and silver necklaces, coins, and brooches. He had no way of taking the loot with him, so he decided to rebury it. Mair then drew up a treasure map of sorts to remember the location.

Mair was killed in the New Hebrides in 1891, and his treasure map was never found.[1]

9 Flatey Island

Culture & Wildness of Iceland’s Flatey Island

Flatey Island was named top of the list of The Best 50 Islands in the World 2019, yet most people have never heard of it. The island is just under two kilometers (1.25 miles) in length and boasts a whopping six permanent residents.

Flatey lies off the west coast of Iceland and is the only one out of 3,000 in Breiðafjörður Bay that is inhabited. Furthermore, it is also the location of Iceland’s very first library and Flatey Church. It is only accessible by ferry, and cars are not allowed on the island. The beautiful landscape has served as inspiration for filmmakers, with the most notable movie set on Flatey being The Honour of the House (1999).[2]

8 Mou Waho

Mou Waho island, Wānaka, New Zealand

There are five islands on the stunning Lake Wanaka in New Zealand, the most obscure and remote of which is Mou Waho. Long ago, it was inhabited by both Europeans as well as Maori, and sheep farming boomed. Today, bird life flourishes here, especially buff weka.

Mou Waho or “Outer Island” is referred to as an “island, within a lake, on an island, in a lake, on an island in the ocean.” Near the top of the island is Arethusa Pool, which has its own islet set into it. Climbing to the highest point above it, you will see island, water, island, water, and island. And this stunning sight is accessible within a mere 3-kilometer (1.86-mile)walk.[3]

7 Okinawa

Okinawa Island Japan

If Okinawa sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen The Karate Kid or binged the movie’s spin-off, Cobra Kai. It is on Okinawa, in Tomi Village, that Mr. Miyagi once lived before leaving for America. In Cobra Kai, Daniel LaRusso returns to the island, only to find that it has become unrecognizable.

In real life, Okinawa is part of Japan but, technically speaking, not Japanese. Those who live on the island are known as Nippon-jin, and the island is a haven for the elderly. It is also the birthplace of karate, with the fighting method developed by Okinawans as an answer to the attacks of Japanese samurai.

Okinawa is rumored to be one of the most haunted places in the world. The Kadena Air Base, an American airbase, once held “Building 2283.” This building was the home of an Air Force officer in the 1970s. The officer murdered his family inside the home before killing himself. When the next family moved in, the father of the family attacked his wife and children with a knife. After these terrible incidents, the building became a storage shed before reportedly being demolished in 2009.

It is said that it took a long time before anyone was able to successfully tear the place down because workers kept getting severe headaches and suffered from hallucinations whenever they set up their equipment.

And perhaps creepiest of all, there was a daycare center next door to Building 2283, and the young children that attended the school kept throwing their toys over the fence that separated them from the building. When asked why they were doing this, the children said that the kids on the other side asked them to…[4]

6 Saba

Saba, Dutch West Indies – The Unspoiled Queen of the Caribbean

Saba island may be the smallest of its kind in the Dutch Caribbean. However, she boasts the highest point in the Dutch Kingdom, namely Mount Scenery, which towers 887 meters (2,910 feet) into the air. Mount Scenery is a potentially active volcano, with its last eruption having taken place in 1640.

Not only is Saba the smallest island in its surroundings, but it also holds the world’s smallest runway. Located along the edge of a beach, the runway is a mere 400 meters (1,312 feet) long, which means that if a pilot overshoots, he will plunge himself and his passengers right into the Atlantic.

A wonderful fact about this magnificent little place is that it is one of the safest places in the world for solo female travelers. There is next to no crime, and the locals are extremely friendly toward tourists. On the island, there are many sights to take in other than the stunning vista of the surrounding ocean, including several old burial sites on private properties.

The 1933 movie King Kong used the silhouette of Saba for “Skull Island.” Looking at the island, even just in a photograph, it’s easy to picture giant animals roaming around or surprising you by peeking over the top of the volcano.[5]

5 Andros

Welcome to Andros Island!

When it comes to the Bahamas, visitors tend to seek out New Providence, Paradise Island, and Grand Bahama Island. However, if you’re planning a visit to the Bahamas, a trip to the hidden gem of Andros Island should definitely form part of your itinerary.

Andros is the biggest island in the Bahamas by far, stretching over 5,960 square kilometers (2,300 square miles). It is also the fifth-largest island in the entire Caribbean. It is often referred to as the Secret Garden of the Bahamas, as it is home to over 60 species of wild orchids. Furthermore, Andros is also home to the third-largest barrier reef in the world. The region separating Andros and New Providence is called TOTO (Tongue of the Ocean). It holds very deep water surrounded by islands, reefs, and shoals.

It is rumored that the mythical creature, Chickcharney, still roams the island, with some believing that the legend comes from sightings of a prehistoric barn owl. However, remains of the owl, Tyto pollens, have yet to be discovered on Andros.[6]

4 Fadiouth Shell Island

Visit a Village on an Island Made of Shells | National Geographic

In Mbour, Senegal, you can find Fadiouth Shell Island. As the name suggests, the island is made up of millions of clam shells that have accumulated over hundreds of years. The streets here are paved with shells and lead to a wooden bridge which, in turn, leads to a second shell island.

The second island is also completely made from shells but is known more for its cemetery than its fabrication. It is estimated that around 90% of Senegal residents adhere to Islam. However, the entire cemetery on the second island is marked by white Christian crosses. It is seen as a monument to the very-much-in-the-minority Christian religion of the country. It is definitely a strange sight to behold. The cemetery is also seen as a testament to the religious tolerance in the area.[7]

3 Danger Islands

2011 01 02 Heroina Danger Islands Adelies

Until 2018, biologists believed that the number of Adelie penguins had been steadily declining. Then scientists discovered a supercolony of more than 1.5 million Adelie penguins on the Danger Islands off the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The penguin colony has gone undetected for many decades, mainly because of the danger of the waters surrounding the islands and the remoteness of the islands themselves.

The Danger Islands were first discovered by James Clark Ross in 1842, who saw the hazard that the ice in the area presented. The expedition didn’t even notice the islands until their ship was almost upon them because the ice concealed them so well.[8]

2 Corregidor

The Ghosts of Corregidor Island | Documentary

At the entrance of Manila Bay in the Philippines lies Corregidor Island. Historically, the island was fortified with coastal artillery batteries meant to defend the entrance as well as Manila itself from attacks by warships. During the Second World War, Corregidor was instrumental during the invasion and liberation of the Philippines but was also heavily damaged during the later stages of the battle.

Today, the ruins on the island serve as a memorial for the soldiers who lost their lives. The Pacific War Memorial stands on the highest part of Topside on the island. There is a Japanese Garden of Peace, built in honor of the Japanese soldiers who died on Corregidor during the war. Those who visit the island can also take in the sight of the lighthouse, which is one of its oldest landmarks.

Naturally, because of its bloody history, Corregidor is considered to be haunted by those who lived and fought here many years ago. The Old Corregidor Island Hospital, which dates back to 1912, is said to be the creepiest place on the island today. Some have heard screaming and crying emanating from its ruins. Others claim to have heard the sounds of a normally-functioning hospital from its empty corridors.[9]

1 Santa Catalina

Catalina Island Day Trip: What to do in Avalon in One Day

If you’re in the mood to party on a glass-bottom boat while taking in the views of the Pacific Ocean, a trip to Santa Catalina Island will be right up your alley. Catalina lies just over 32 kilometers (20 miles) off the coast of Southern California and is a favorite with those who want to escape the busy city life.

During WWII, Catalina was inaccessible to visitors as it became a military training base. The Catalina Island Museum provides a glimpse of the island’s history for those who want an educational break from the beach.

But while you’re wandering around Catalina, you should keep an eye out for the spectral ballplayer who is often seen at the Catalina Country Club. Visitors have reported seeing apparitions walking through solid walls in the local theater, wearing 1920s attire. Some have even had a close encounter with an old woman dressed in a white robe floating around in the restroom.[10]

fact checked by Jamie Frater

Estelle is a regular writer for Listverse.