10 Uniquely Shaped Islands

Fish shaped Gaz Island and two smaller islands in Brijuni National Park
Brijuni National Park, Croatia.

rusm / Getty Images

Islands are alluring for a variety of reasons. Some are attractive because of their white sand beaches, while others stand out due to their palm-fringed tropical landscapes or clear, warm water.

Some previously ignored islands have been noted for what they look like from the sky. It wasn’t until the era of space travel, satellites, and drones that people began discovering that a surprisingly high number of islands are shaped like well-known objects, such as hearts and fish. A few of these require a little imagination and the right angle to see the resemblance. But some are much more obvious. 

Here are 10 uniquely shaped islands around the world.

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Manukan, Mamutik, and Sulug Islands (Malaysia)

Aerial view of Manukan, Mamutik and Sulug Islands forming the shape of a smile

Jason Thien / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Manukan, Mamutik, and Sulug are three islands near the coast of Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah. All three of these landmasses are part of Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. Best known to Sabah locals for their protected status and idyllic landscapes, Manukan and its peers have gained popularity because together they resemble the two eyes and upturned mouth of a smiley face.

The face is visible on satellite images, but passengers arriving and departing from Kota Kinabalu International Airport can see the islands, too. The three are located adjacent to Gaya Island, the largest landmass in the park. Manukan, the “mouth,” has well-developed tourist facilities, including a dive center and vacation villas. The “eyes” are quieter, with Mamutik featuring picnic and swimming facilities and Sulug best known for its peaceful, undeveloped atmosphere. All these islands are only a short distance from the city.

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Isabela Island, Galapagos (Ecuador)

Aerial view of Isabela Island, Galapagos

Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Project at NASA/GSFC / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The Galapagos Islands are famous for their endemic animal species, some of which inspired the works of Charles Darwin. Even among the teeming islands that make up the Galapagos, Isabela stands out. It has a large population of birds, turtles, iguanas, and penguins (among other types of fauna). Dolphins and whales are commonly seen offshore.

With a population of about 1,800 people (as opposed to 12,000 on neighboring Santa Cruz), Isabela is dominated by nature. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that Isabela is shaped like a marine animal. When seen on satellite images, the island resembles a seahorse. Because it is four times larger than any other island in the chain, the seahorse shape is quite distinct and unmistakable.

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Gaz Island, Brijuni Islands (Croatia)

Aerial view of Gaz Island, a fish-shaped island that is one of the Brijuni Islands in Croatia

rusm / Getty Images

Gaz Island is one of the 14 small islands that make up the Brijuni Islands in the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Croatia. One of the smallest and westernmost landmasses in Brijuni, Gaz Island looks like a fish when seen from above. It does not resemble any particular species, but it is shaped very much like a Goldfish Cracker.

One of southeastern Europe’s most interesting destinations, Brijuni features ancient Roman and Byzantine ruins and 200 ancient imprints that are thought to be dinosaur footprints. In addition to beaches and warm water, the islands' submerged archeological sites and marine life draw snorkelers and divers.

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Molokini, Hawaii (United States)

aerial view of the crescent-shaped island of Molokini Hawaii

Ron Dahlquist / Getty Images

Despite appearing quite craggy when viewed up close, the islet of Molokini resembles a crescent moon when seen from above. The landmass near Maui is a partially submerged volcanic crater that is designated as a Marine Life Conservation District and a State Seabird Sanctuary. The “moon” rises about 160 feet above the ocean.

Molokini’s shape also makes it an attraction for divers and snorkelers. The crescent protects reefs and creates ideal underwater conditions. The water inside the crescent is shielded from powerful ocean currents that would otherwise make diving difficult (though experienced scuba divers can explore the outside of the crater).

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Gallo Lungo, Li Galli Islands (Italy)

Aerial view of the Li Galli Islands off of Positano, one, Gallo Lungo, is shaped like a dolphin

Vito Fusco / Getty Images

Three small landmasses off of Italy’s famously picturesque Amalfi Coast are known as the Li Galli Islands, as well as the Sirenusas, for the mythical sirens who were said to have lived there. The largest of the three, Gallo Lungo, is sometimes described as crescent shaped, although the island looks like a dolphin when seen at certain angles. A flat, wide rock formation that juts out from the bottom of the island forms the tail, while a thinner point on the opposite end mimics the shape of a dolphin's nose.

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Chicken Island (Thailand)

Chicken Island, with its rock formation in the shape of a chicken head, above the blue/green water

AsianDream / Getty Images

Chicken Island is unique among islands because its distinctive shape is best appreciated at water level instead of from above. On one end of this island in the Krabi Province, visitors see a towering rock formation that resembles the head and outstretched neck of a chicken.

Ferries leave from the mainland at Ao Nang to visit this island that is protected as part of a national park The chicken rock is only one of the reasons to sail from the mainland. The island  has pristine beaches, and is a popular site for snorkeling because of its warm water and coral reefs.

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Palm Jumeirah (United Arab Emirates)

Aerial view of Dubai Palm Jumeirah island in United Arab Emirates

Delpixart / Getty Images

The first of several artificial island development projects planned in Dubai, the Palm Jumeirah was completed in 2006. The human-made island resembles a palm tree. Hotels, malls, and entertainment facilities cover the “trunk” of the palm, and private villas were built on the “branches.” The Middle East’s first monorail connects the different areas.

Visible from space, controversy surrounds the project which was built using sand dredged from the Persian Gulf.

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Tavarua (Fiji)

Aerial view of heart-shaped Tavarua Island in Fiji

Matteo Colombo / Getty Images

From above, the tiny Fijian island of Tavarua appears to be shaped exactly like a heart (the Valentine's Day version, not a human heart). You might think that this place would be overrun by honeymooners and couples. While some do come to Tavarua, most of the people who travel here are surfers, not romance-seekers.

There are a number of world class waves in the area. One spot, dubbed Cloudbreak, is arguably one of the world’s most famous surfing areas. It regularly hosts professional contests, including a stop on the world championship surfing tour.

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Saint Kitts and Nevis (West Indies)

Aerial view of St. Kitts and Nevis Islands, shaped like a bat and ball

NASA / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

From above, the shape of Saint Kitts could be likened to several different things. It could be described as a whale or a lute. When you add round-shaped Nevis into the picture, however, the island nation appears to resemble a ball and baseball bat. Actually, since cricket is the dominant sport on the islands, a cricket bat and ball might be a more apt comparison.

Eco-friendly Saint Kitts and Nevis are part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals program working toward the implementation of several energy efficiency, conservation, and ecosystems management projects.

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Turtle Island (Philippines)

Turtle Island in the Philippines resembles the shape of a turtle floating on the water

Ewen Roberts / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Turtle Island, shaped like its namesake animal, is part of a larger archipelago of limestone landmasses in Pangasinan, a province on the west coast of Luzon that features a variety of different-shaped islands. One is said to resemble a crocodile, while others look like mushrooms or umbrellas.

One of the most obvious shape comparisons is Turtle Island. When viewed from the right angle, it takes very little imagination to see a sea turtle floating on the top of the water. This is a popular destination thanks not only to the whimsical tree-covered limestone formations, but also because the archipelago has a lot of wildlife, swimming, and snorkeling opportunities, as well as easily accessible caves.