Wildlife watching is a tricky business. Days can be spent fruitlessly scanning the savannah for lions or holed up in a hide hoping to catch a glimpse of a rare bird. But for travellers with limited time (or patience), there are places where animals are not just easy to spot, they are impossible to miss.

Many are islands, where remote locations, lack of predators or conservation efforts have led certain species to thrive. Some sound like heaven, others like hell; all offer a fascinating insight into corners of the world where creatures rule.

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Pigs on Big Major Cay, Bahamas

If you have ever contemplated how pigs might spend a holiday (anybody?), then the uninhabited island of Big Major Cay in the Bahamas is well worth a visit. A gang of feral porkers are living the high life, sunbathing on golden beaches and, to the delight of visitors, taking dips in the crystal clear sea. The exact origin of the pink and brown pigs is unknown, but their unusual swimming habits have made them a popular attraction.

Make it happen

Big Major Cay is located in the Exumas archipelago. The largest island, Great Exuma, has a number of operators offering boat excursions to 'Pig Beach’. Trips may also be arranged through resorts on the island's neighbouring Big Major Cay. The pigs usually swim over to the tourist boats in search of food. Some trips take passengers ashore but beware: the hogs are unafraid of people and can be quite overwhelming.

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Cape fur seals on Seal Island, South Africa  

Around 75,000 raucous Cape fur seals live on a rocky outcrop in False Bay, but what sets this apart from other seal-spotting locations is what lurks in the surrounding waters. From May to September the bay teems with great white sharks in search of a seal-shaped meal. Seeing the toothy predators hunt, breaching to try and catch their prey, is an incredible spectacle and a chance to see Mother Nature at her most fearsome. Want to seal watch without the risk of seeing them become a shark snack? Visit during November and December when around 20,000 pups are born and the waters are predator free.

Make it happen

Boat trips depart from Simon’s Town in False Bay, which is less than an hour’s drive from Cape Town. Simon’s Town Boat Company (boatcompany.co.za/i_sealisland.html) is among the operators. It isn’t possible to walk on the island, but when you get downwind of the seal stench you’ll be happy you stayed on the boat.

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Quokkas on Rottnest Island, Australia

A whotta? You would be forgiven for not being familiar with quokkas; in a country crammed with such weird and wonderful creatures, these little fellas are somewhat overshadowed. Described by the first European to lay eyes on it in 1658 as ‘a kind of rat as big as a common cat’ this unseemly description is most unfair as quokkas are actually very cute. The critters are only found in a small area in Western Australia, flourishing on Rottnest Island where numbers have swollen to 12,000.

Make it happen

There are regular ferries from both Perth and Fremantle. Only service vehicles are allowed on the island so it is blissfully traffic free. Cycling is one of the best ways to explore, with bikes available to hire close to the island’s ferry terminal.

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Komodo dragons on Komodo Island, Indonesia  

Calling an animal a dragon sets expectations – and fear levels – pretty high. But these colossal lizards do not disappoint. True, komodo dragons have scales and a forked tongue, but it is their sheer size that will impress. At up to three metres long with a thick body and a long, muscular tail, they are the largest species of lizard on earth.

Hiring a ranger or guide to explore Komodo Island is mandatory. Though the dragons usually lumber along slowly, don’t be fooled – they are capable of running in short, fast bursts and one bite can be fatal, as their saliva contains lethal bacteria. Luckily, attacks are very rare.

Make it happen

There are daily flights from Bali to Komodo Airport just outside of Labuan Bajo on Flores. From there day trips to Komodo Island can easily be arranged. Alternatively, there are boats from Lombok to Flores which go via Komodo. The island has limited accommodation, so if you are keen to stay be sure to book up early.

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Giant tortoises on Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles

More than 150,000 giant tortoises call Aldabra Atoll home. The largest population of this reptile on the planet, these magnificent old-timers live in a land virtually untouched by humans. Lying in the Outer Islands, Aldabra isn’t the Seychelles of honeymoons and luxury resorts – it is a UNESCO World Heritage site where only a handful of rangers, scientists and naturalists reside. Formed of four coral islands which enclose a lagoon, the atoll provides a rich and diverse habitat for their resident gentle giants, but is extremely isolated and only visited by a tiny number of visitors each year.

Make it happen

It’s not easy or cheap to reach the atoll. Travellers must receive authorisation from the Seychelles Islands Foundation (sif.sc) who control numbers and charge a fee which helps to support conservation. With no accommodation on the island, visitors stay on board a boat. There are a handful of small- to medium-sized cruise ships which stop at Aldabra such as the Noble Caledonia (noble-caledonia.co.uk).

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Crabs on Christmas Island, Australia

There are few wildlife spectacles that will make your jaw drop like the sight of millions of creatures on the move at once. On a slice of land just 19 kilometres long, the annual red crab migration sees 40-50 million of the scuttling crustaceans make the treacherous journey to the sea. The crawling carpet of red makes for a dramatic sight, as the crabs emerge from their burrows in the rainforest, rocky outcrops and even parks and gardens.

Make it happen

Christmas Island is incredibly remote, lying 1,650 miles north-west of Perth. Flights are available from the city and a small range of accommodation is available on the island. Crab migration is linked to sea levels and phases of the moon. Check the Christmas Island Tourism Association’s website for possible dates.

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Rabbits on Ōkunoshima, Japan

In a country where cuteness is a national obsession, it is no surprise that an island overrun by fluffy bunnies has become a popular attraction. Ōkunoshima is home to hundreds of fearless wild rabbits which flock to visitors as soon as they set foot on the island.

The rabbits are thought to be the distant offspring of released or escapee pets, although the island’s dark past as the production site of chemical weapons during the Second World War has led to rumours that they are the descendants of animals used in poison testing. Either way, with dogs and cats banned from the island the bunnies enjoy a happy, carefree existence which has led to them multiplying like, er, rabbits.

Make it happen

The small island can be visited on a day trip from Hiroshima, the nearest major hub to Ōkunoshima, by taking a train east to Tadanoumi and then a short ferry ride. Wear old clothes if you are planning on getting close to them to avoid rabbit pee on your finest threads.

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