The Loch Ness Monster — real or fiction? (Photo by Sam Forencich/Corbis. Design by Erik Mace for Yahoo Travel.)
Even small children know that monsters are something you run away from. Yet, there are adventurous grownups who rush toward them — and they’re willing to travel the world to do so.
A great way to spice up an international adventure is to go hunting for a mythical creature. You can roam the area where the creature is said to live. You can bring every camera you own in hopes of catching the kind of vague, grainy pic or video guaranteed to end up on a monster-hunting adventure show. And hearing the tall tales (some taller than others) about the creatures and their legendary exploits is a great way to get a taste of local color.
Sure, you’ve probably heard of the giants of the “mythical creature” genre, such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. But the world is full of creepy creatures of the wild just waiting to be discovered by travelers. Here are some of them:
Bigfoot (a.k.a Sasquatch), the Pacific Northwest
How some people envision the legendary Bigfoot. (Photo: Thinkstock)
America’s most famous mythical creature, Bigfoot seems to pop up all over the place. Still, he (allegedly) prefers to roam around the many woodsy areas of the Pacific Northwest and woodsmen trip over themselves trying to get a glimpse and an image of this legendary creature.
The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization hosts four-day Sasquatch hunting expeditions all year around the country. The hunt for Bigfoot has inspired numerous tales and even a TV show or two. But in terms of the sheer poetry of the legend, it pales in comparison to but one mythical creature…
Loch Ness Monster, Scotland
Is that a Nessie on your shoulder? (Photo: Baxters Loch Ness Marathon)
Yes, Loch Ness Monster sightings have been done to death. But this really is the Michael Jordan of mythical creatures; the discussion begins and ends with “Nessie,” and a Loch Ness quest in Scotland is a must for any global monster hunter.
In September, the organizers of the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon plan to make an expedition worth your while: they’re offering a $75,000 reward to any runner whose race day selfie is photobombed by the monster itself. Word of advice: if you’re running a marathon and you start seeing monsters, you don’t need money: you need oxygen.
Canada’s version of the Loch Ness. (Photo: Sean_Marshall/Flickr)
Who says Scotland needs to have all the fun with mythical lake monsters? This 40- to 50-foot creature makes its home in British Columbia’s Okanagan Lake. And like its Scottish counterpart, it’s the subject of its own collection of blurry photographs and breathless reports of sightings.
You can go on an Ogopogo search on an aerial sightseeing tour offered by Air-Hart Aviation. But the only way you’re guaranteed to see an Ogopogo is to snap a pic of this statue at the Kelowna Commercial Wharf in downtown Kelowna.
The Ningen, Antarctica
Does the Ningen really look like that? (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Easily the youngest mythical creature of the bunch, the Ningen (Japanese for “human”) only started appearing in witness accounts in the last few decades. The waters off Antarctica are the most common location for sightings of the creature, which is said to be white and large, around 90-feet tall. After that, descriptions vary — some accounts have it with arms and legs, others describe it with fins. It’s been seen in the water and on the ice.
Not many tours venture out into Antarctica looking for the Ningen, but we suggest taking a cruise with Holland America and Seabourn, which operate Antarctica itineraries. Maybe you’ll spot the creature from your ship; that’d certainly give you something to talk about at the buffet!
Mongolian Death Worm
That’s one ugly worm. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
This creepy denizen of the southern Gobi Desert in Mongolia isn’t very big — a few feet long. But this isn’t some creature that creeps up on campgrounds and says “boo!” in the night. This is one mean worm: it spits venom, acid, or electricity, depending on whom you ask. It can zap you from a distance or kill you when you touch it.
GobiTours offers a number of excursions to the area the legendary Death Worm is said to haunt. But, mythical or not, this looks like one bad boy you definitely don’t want to run into.
Florida Skunk Ape
Florida’s stinky monster. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Oh, Florida — you had to put your unique Floridian spin on your legendary creature of the wild. The Florida Skunk Ape (a.k.a. “myakka ape”) is just like Bigfoot with extreme B.O. The creature is known for its foul smell, hence the name, and has been spotted in Dade and Sarasota counties.
Skunk Ape Research Headquarters in Ochopee is dedicated to the creature and occasionally offers Skunk Ape hunts, where you can go look for him. He’s probably not that hard to find; if the legend’s true you literally can smell him from a mile away.
Chupacabra, Central and South America
Beware the chupacabra. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
This creature really sucks. Really — its name translates into “goat sucker,” a nod to its legendary habit of sucking the blood of the livestock it kills. Any collection of dead livestock in Central and Latin America (and sometimes even in the U.S.) is enough to spark a chupacabra panic. This creature is said to resemble a small, bear-sized reptile, but sightings often turn out to be coyotes and other animals. The first sightings were reported in Puerto Rico.
If you visit Puerto Rico, tour guides with Sunset Tours may be willing and able to share with you the legend of the Chupacabra.
Skunk Bear, Australia
That’s one nasty koala. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Visit any of the koala bear zoos and sanctuaries in Australia and you may run into its more sinister cousin. From below, they look like cute, tree-climbing koalas — the kind that are almost guaranteed to get tons of “likes” on your Instagram feed should you encounter one during your Australia trip. But once you’re lulled into a false sense of safety, these cute little bears turn into furry instruments of death from above, dropping onto their surprised prey and feasting on you before you know what happened.
Legends about this bear are like jazz — much of them colored by improvisation. People make up tales about what they look like and, most commonly, how to guard against attacks. One common repellent involves smearing Vegemite behind your ears, which sounds unpleasant but is preferable to being mauled by a killer koala bear. Or eating the Vegemite.
Yeti (a.k.a. The Abominable Snowman), the Himalayas
Here comes the Yeti. (Photo: Thinkstock)
This big, ape-like creature has supposedly been roaming the Himalayas since around 300 BC. But his legend began growing in the West in the 20th century as more mountain-climbing tourists flocked to the region. His sightings and description closely mirror that of another mythical creature — Bigfoot.
WATCH: The Legend of the Yeti
The Nepal-based tour company Yeti Adventure doesn’t guarantee any Yeti sightings, but it organizes adventure programs throughout the region, which may or may not be the Yeti’s backyard. Proceed at your own risk!
Hello, Ariel! (Photo: Thinkstock)
The legend of these half woman/half sea creature mermaids is told all over the world. But if you want a mermaid sighting to pay off, you need to head to Kirvat Yam, Israel — where so many people swore they saw a mermaid in 2009, the town reportedly put a $1 million reward for proof of their existence. Hopefully, the town will double the award if your mermaid photo is accompanied by one of a calypso-singing crab.
WATCH: Meet the Elf Whisperer of Iceland. Yes, She Sees Elves. Yes, She’s For Real.