Islands draw up thoughts of paradise, offer an escape from the busy every day life and provide the soft sand that allows us relaxation while gazing across the tranquil sea. But, no two islands are the same. Some are marked by the clarity of the sea that surrounds them, and others by their lush jungles and towering peaks. No matter what it is you seek, islands are known to sustain habitats for the most unique plants and animals, and these next three are among the mist diverse tropical islands in the world.
Borneo‘s tropical climate provides the perfect conditions for a huge variety of species to live and thrive. Borneo is home to an estimated 210-mammal species, including 44-endemic species (meaning they’re found nowhere else in the world.) In addition, there are 420 birds (37 endemic), 394 fish (19 endemic) and 100 amphibians. There are also at least 15,000-plant species with nearly 5,000 existing nowhere else in the world.
The dipterocarp trees have the largest insect diversity with as many as 1,000-different species calling just one single tree home. For science lovers out there wishing to make their own discoveries, the Heart of Borneo, a 220,000 km2 mountainous range in the center of the island, is the place to go. Here along with the montane forests of Borneo are extremely isolated forests and include some of the greatest amount of unexplored, virgin lands.
© Jason Thein
2. South Georgia Island
It’s almost impossible to fathom an island in the Antarctic that could be richer in biodiversity than the Galapagos, but that is the case with South Georgia. The island is several days of sailing from the nearest civilization, but has so many species that researchers still have no idea how many there actually are. The first real survey of the waters surrounding the island brought a discovery of 1,445 species, most endemic and most very rare including fish, sea urchins, free-swimming worms, sea spiders and crustaceans. The remoteness, age, position in regards to currents that transport nutrients, as well as it’s lack of human interference are all reasons the island has evolved to become so incredibly diverse.
© David Stanley
3. Coiba Island
Rachel Colin, a Smithsonian project coordinator said: “It’s hard to imagine, while snorkeling around a tropical island so close to the United States, that half the animals you see here are unknown to science.”
Located near the Galapagos Islands, Coiba Island is special because it is protected from damaging winds. This means gains all the benefits of evolution without the interruption of natural disaster. New marine species including sea turtles, angel rays and tiger sharks are among the animals enjoying the island. It is also refuge to threatened species of crested eagle, agouti, possum and howler monkey. Nearly 800 species of fish have been recorded here as well, making Coiba Island an incredible place to snorkel and scuba dive.
© Ryan McMinds