Certain places are better left unexplored. The natural world, while beautiful and thrilling, can kill. Preparedness, wilderness acumen, and general common sense may be enough to see intrepid travelers through in most situations, but not all. Some pockets of creation are just flat-out lethal. The following list highlights some places that explorers have every reason to fear.
4. Second Beach, Port St. John’s, South Africa
The southern tip of the African continent is, by and large, a gorgeous region to see and experience. A well-known vacation retreat for the ultra-wealthy, South Africa’s Port St. John’s is no exception. Geography makes the town’s Second Beach a popular spot to surf, swim, and enjoy general beach activities. Framed by rocky cliffs, the ocean itself is shallow out to several hundred yards offshore. It then drops off sharply, producing spectacular waves that consistently draw surfers. Why, then, does this attractive beach destination make our list of the four most naturally dangerous spots on Earth?
In a word, sharks. At first look, Second Beach’s 8 attacks in the past 8 years don’t seem all that forbidding in comparison to truly high-volume shark attack beaches, like New Smyrna in Florida. What’s terrifying is that all 8 of these attacks have turned fatal. Fatalities resulting from bites are very rare worldwide, given that sharks typically take a quick bite, realize they’ve misjudged, and leave. At this point, there’s a strong enough sample size from Second Beach to conclude that these sharks are attacking to kill.
One possible explanation? The high frequency of great whites in the area has given rise to a flourishing commercial cage diving industry. Experts believe that the frequent contact between sharks and humans in this setting has triggered a human equals food association in the local predators. Whatever the cause, the evidence points clearly to the idea that the sharks in the waters off Port St. John’s are becoming man-eaters.
3. Komodo Island, Indonesia
This island off Indonesia’s southern coast makes the cut for a simple reason. Along with several smaller island neighbors, it is the only place in the world inhabited by the Komodo dragon. To be frank, these animals are like something out of a prehistoric nightmare. The hulking reptilian masses are the largest lizards on Earth. They can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh 250 pounds. Imagine, briefly, a lizard that size. We’re talking about dinosaurs.
Even more frighteningly, they’re extremely fast and agile. Check out this video of a komodo dragon chasing a deer.
The deer ultimately manages to elude the monster reptile, but it keeps pace for a remarkable distance. They have plenty in the tank to run down a human being.
Komodo dragons have large, sharp teeth that create deep wound channels in their prey. The bites themselves are highly traumatic, but it’s the after-effects that typically wind up lethal. The lizards’ bites inoculate victims with a horrific cocktail of venom and bacteria that lowers blood pressure, keeps wounds bleeding, and usually leads to septicemia, or blood poisoning.
This information isn’t theoretical. Komodo dragons can and do attack, kill, and eat humans. In fact, attacks on Komodo Island have been ticking up in recent years. Villagers, who deal with the dragons on a daily basis, have begun barricading their homes against the beasts to guard against their increased aggression. Visitors to the island are likely to be much less prepared and much more targeted. No one wants to find themselves incapacitated, staring up at a set of frothing, venomous jaws ready to take their first bite… but it does happen.
2. Ilha da Queimada Grande (Snake Island)
This remote island, roughly 100 miles from Sao Paolo, is the only place on this list so dangerous that people have been legally barred from visiting. Ilha da Queimada Grande, or Snake Island, is a 106-acre chunk of rock covered mostly by rainforest—well, rainforest and snakes. The density of the snake population on this lethal outcrop has been pegged at between one and five snakes per square meter.
The star of this frightening cast of serpents is the golden lancehead, a species of pit viper endemic to Ilha da Queimada Grande. These snakes can grow to four feet long and are highly venomous. For context, analysis of golden lancehead venom has found that it’s up to 5 times as potent as the already-deadly venom of their mainland cousins. It has been shown to melt animal flesh.
The snakes of Ilha da Queimada Grande prey primarily on birds, but it’s important to note that they literally forced humans off the island a century ago. Anecdotally, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that those that have ventured back have met bad ends. The last full-time residents of the island were the family that tended to the lighthouse that warns ships to steer clear of the rocky shoals surrounding it. While it’s impossible to confirm what caused their deaths, what we know for sure is this: their bones were found scattered about the island haphazardly, quite clearly indicating that they died while running from something.
1. The Australian Outback
Topping our list of the deadliest places nature has to offer is the Australian Outback, an area so desolate it’s been described as closer resembling the surface of Mars than somewhere on Earth. What separates this region from the other candidates is its combination of immense size, complete isolation, and wide array of dangerous wildlife.
The Outback covers an area of nearly 2.5 million square miles, and seemingly packs every inch with something ready to kill you. The single most venomous snake known to science, the inland taipan, calls the Outback home, and it falls far short of the most dangerous creature you could encounter on a jaunt through the bush. That distinction belongs to the saltwater crocodile.
Growing to lengths of over 20 feet, these fearsome beasts are much more aggressive than their freshwater cousins. “Salties,” as they’re known in Australian parlance, are distributed widely throughout the northern Outback. Since the mid-20th century, they’ve killed an average of nearly 2 people in Australia every year. The drone footage below is an effective indicator of the massive size these crocodiles reach. This particular specimen swims along seemingly uninhibited by the fully-grown pig in its jaws.
From a numbers standpoint, however, the most merciless killer in the Outback is its sheer enormity. Explorers get lost in the vast expanse on a regular basis. It’s all too easy to wander off from a relative safe-haven (like a car or small town) and lose track of time. If that happens, you could be toast—no pun intended. Temperatures in the outback can soar to over 140 degrees Fahrenheit at mid-day, and there is no shade or water to be found. If you lose your bearings in the outback, there’s no help on the horizon. In fact, there’s not likely to be anything on the horizon. There are certain stretches that could take entire seasons to traverse. The thought of wandering, days on end, with nothing to break up the barren terrain until your inevitable collapse is chilling. It’s the unhappy frequency with which this terrifying fate befalls Outback adventurers that earns the region the title of “Most Dangerous Place in Nature.”