The world is full of myth and legend. In every corner of every land – from the UK to Russia, Borneo to Australia and everywhere in between – wild creatures and unusual beasts ripped from the pages of folklore old and new lurk behind corners, in swamps and up trees. Ready to rush out and frighten us, or perhaps warn us (if they’re feeling especially benevolent).
Stories of mythical creatures are as old as time. If you have a thirst for spotting one of these beasts – whether it’s the yeti, El Chupacabra or something lesser known – pack your compass and rucksack and head to one of these three places said to be frequented by unusual creatures:
Eastern Cape, South Africa: Birds that cause storms
The Zulu culture of South Africa is packed full of creatures of myth and legend, with the best-known and most interesting probably being the impundulu, or ‘lightning bird’, which is said to keep watch over the country’s Eastern Cape.
According to travel experts Expedia, who have put together an interactive guide to the world’s mythical creatures and where to find them, the impundulu is so called because of its ability to trigger storms in an instant. This mythological creature is rooted in Zulu folklore and, as well as causing thunder and lightning, is said to be a shape-shifter – one that likes to suck blood, so watch out!
While it’s unlikely you’ll spot a real-life lightning bird on a trip to South Africa, you certainly have a very good chance of seeing some of the country’s actual birdlife. Head to the World of Birds, or for insight into Zulu culture and history, to the South African Museum.
Slovenia’s caves: Here be dragons
If Game of Thrones has sparked in you a desire to see some proper dragons, head off on an adventure holiday to Slovakia, for its many caves and caverns are said to be full of them (although we can’t guarantee they will actually breathe fire).
According to Lonely Planet’s Anita Isalska in a post for the Independent, the country’s caverns are populated by olm, blind amphibian creatures that locals thought were baby dragons that had been born in the sea before being dragged into the cave systems.
“Their remarkable properties are worthy of the legends,” she writes. They navigate via electrical signals, they can last a decade without feeding, and their surprisingly long lifespan is keenly researched in the hope of shedding light on the ageing process.”
North America: S-s-s-s-s-s-nakessss
We couldn’t offer up places to spot strange creatures without mentioning the Americas – the region is full of them! One of the most interesting being the hoop snake, said to date back to colonial times. This creature, which can glow in the dark, wrangles itself into a hoop-like shape by biting its own tail. It then proceeds to lock onto a (usually human) target before rolling at it at high speed, killing the unsuspecting victim with poison. While a sighting of the hoop snake is highly unlikely, you might see a mud snake, which is known to press the tip of its tail against people’s skin and probably inspired tales of the hoop snake.