Vacations come in many shapes and forms. Among the more unusual is the growing trend for cryptotourism, which the International Cryptozoology Museum estimates generates $140million annually in the US alone.
What, I hear you asking, is cryptotourism when it’s at home (or on vacation)? Simply, it’s people dedicating their vacations to the search for cryptids – creatures whose existence is yet to be proved by science. And it’s a surprisingly popular strand of the holiday industry, with some of the big hitters becoming integral to a country’s tourism income. Scotland, for example, rakes in around £60 million a year just from Loch Ness Monster tourism.
Interested to find out which cryptids are the most sought after, Holiday Pirates teamed up with the International Cryptozoology Museum to uncover ten of the world’s most elusive and where to find them. It revealed lesser-known beasts like the Mokele-mbembe of the Congo Basin and the Ahool of Java alongside more famous names like the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot and the Yeti. So if you’re looking to do something a little different on your next vacation, here are ten destinations you may not have considered before…
Ahool – Indonesia
The Ahool is a winged cryptid thought by some to be a giant bat and by others to be a flying primate. First reported by Dr Ernest Bartels in 1925, it’s been sighted in Java and across Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. A close cryptid relative, the Orang-bati, is also believed to inhabit Seram in Indonesia.
British Big Cats – United Kingdom
The United Kingdom has long been home to rumors of free-roaming big cats prowling the moors and wild places across its south west. Some have entered folklore such as the Beast of Exmoor and the Beast of Bodmin, which became infamous in the late 1970s when sightings and claims of slaughtered livestock drew cryptid hunters in their droves.
Bigfoot – USA
Also known as the Sasquatch, Bigfoot is a nine-foot-tall muscular, hairy, ape-like hominid that roams the woodlands of America’s Pacific Northwest. Sightings have inevitably spread across all of North America, but there are few whose legend has been exploited more at the hands of hoaxers and Hollywood.
Chupacabra – The Americas
The Chupacabra literally translates as goat-sucker, named for their penchant for attacking and drinking the blood of livestock across Central and South America, and in particular Puerto Rico. Described as a heavy creature around the size of a small bear, it bears a row of spines along its back from neck to tail.
Jersey Devil – USA
One of the more fantastical cryptids, the Jersey Devil is a heady concoction of body parts from a range of creatures. While there’s no definitive description (not yet anyway!), sightings describe a kangaroo-like body with a goat’s head, leathery bat-like wings, horns, clawed hands on small arms, cloven hooves and a forked tail. Quite the sight then. Seen across the New Jersey Pineland forest for more than 260 years, they’re also famed for their blood-curdling scream.
Loch Ness Monster – Scotland
The world’s most famous cryptid lives in Scotland’s Loch Ness, the country’s largest lake by volume. Its famously deep waters have helped Nessie avoid capture since it first rose to fame in 1933 when Hugh Gray’s infamous photo caught the attention of the world. But that hasn’t stopped thousands of people visiting the lake every year hoping to spot that long neck break through the chilly waters.
Mngwa – Tanzania
As hard to pronounce as it is elusive, the Mngwa is a ferocious nocturnal cat the size of a donkey but with stripes like a tabby. With a name that translates literally as ‘the strange one’, the Mngwa was first documented in the early 1900s and was even discussed in the respected British scientific journal ‘Discovery’ after several Tanzanian natives were allegedly attacked by them.
Mokele-mbembe – Congo Basin
Another tough one to pronounce, it may be easier to refer to the Mokele-mbembe by its name’s meaning instead – ‘the one who stops the flow of rivers’. Descriptions claim them to be giant, water-dwelling sauropods, sometimes living creatures, sometimes spirits, that roam deep in the Congo River Basin. From the early 20th century, these descriptions sounded more and more like those of dinosaurs and perhaps reflected the global fascination with them at the time.
Yeren – China
Known by many names, the Yeren or Chinese Wildman, is a reddish semi-bipedal creature claimed to reside in the remote forested mountains of western Hubei in China. Over recent decades there have been hundreds of claimed sightings of these bear-like men by everyone from rural locals to government officials.
Yeti – Nepal
The ubiquitous Yeti, Rock Ape or Abominable Snowman has long strolled the plateaus and forests of the mighty Himalaya across Nepal, India, China, Bhutan, Tibet and Mongolia. Long part of Asian folklore, the Yeti first gained notoriety in Western culture during the 19th century when explorers started finding tracks that resembled something between a large wolf and a barefoot man. Contrary to popular belief, the Yeti is apparently not white, not that there’s any photographic evidence to prove it!