Ilha da Queimada Grande is a very unique feature for the pages of Vacation Ideas. While it perfectly fits the requirement of being a noteworthy and unique place to visit, most travellers would wisely choose to put it on their “never to visit list of places around the world”. The rest of us, the really adventurous types would on the other hand have a hard time trying to get to Ilha da Queimada Grande. The reason? The Grand Burnt Island, as its name translates to English from native Brazilian Portuguese is one of the most dangerous places in the world. It is so dangerous that up until Brazilian military restricted access to the island, the only person who dared to stay there was the lighthouse keeper. So what makes Ilha da Queimada Grande so unique and dangerous? Read on to find out.
Ilha da Queimada Grande Location
Ilha da Queimada Grande is located off the coast of Brazil, not far from nation’s largest city of Sao Paulo and the state bearing the same name. It is a 430,000 square meter (430 hectare or 110 acre) island that hasn’t been touched by civilization for more than 100,000 years.
As stated earlier, the name of the island translates as The Grand Burnt Island, but this is not what it’s known as. Its better suited and most commonly used nickname is Snake Island. Having “Burnt” in its name implies the desolate nature of the place, but it is the island’s snakes that make Ilha da Queimada Grande so deserted.
Ilha da Queimada Grande is home to Golden Lancehead (Bothrops Insularis), a highly venomous pitviper species known for their extremely potent venom and aggressive nature. Lanceheads are widely considered to be the most venomous snakes in the world and are responsible for more deaths than any other snake species in the Americas.
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth
Brazilian legends have it that there are as many as 5 (five) Golden Lanceheads per square meter on Ilha da Queimada Grande. While some scientists tend to agree with the estimate, the Discovery Channel documentary of Snake Island estimated that there could be only as many as one Golden Lanceheads per square meter.
One way or another, Ilha da Queimada Grande is infested with highly venomous pitvipers to a point that it is widely recognized as the most dangerous place on the planet. Pitvipers dominate Ilha da Queimada Grande so fiercely, no species of mammals exist on the island.
On the other hand, though – Ilha da Queimada Grande aka Snake Island is the only place in the world where Bothrops Insularis snakes can be found. The island is their world. They own it, they control it and remain so impetuous about it, no human or other mammal dares to enter their reign. Migratory birds that use the Snake Island as their resting point serve as a big enough supply of food to keep the population of pit vipers remarkably high.
Ilha da Queimada Grande – Too Dangerous for Humans
Golden Lanceheads contain fast acting venom that melts the flesh around the bite site with unrivalled speed and efficiency. They are so dangerous, that for the longest time, the only inhabitants of Ilha da Queimada Grande ware the lighthouse keeper and his family. According to the tales by the locals from the coastal areas of mainland Brazil opposite Ilha da Queimada Grande, the family of the last lighthouse keeper was attacked by a handful of snakes who entered their bedroom through a window at night. The keeper, his wife and their three children attempted to escape the island but were bitten by more snakes on the way to the boat and died in a pool of blood.
Following their deaths, the lighthouse was decommissioned and Snake Island placed off limits to general public. The Brazilian Navy protects Ilha da Queimada Grande and only affords access to scientists bearing special permit and suitable protective outfits.
A Trip to Ilha da Queimada Grande
The premise of a vacation on Ilha da Queimada Grande would seem almost too perfect at first. A tropical island surrounded by blue ocean waters and no tourist overpopulation so you have the whole paradise for yourself – how could you possibly go wrong, right?
But then if you consider even the most liberal estimate of there being only one snake per square meter, no matter where on Ilha da Queimada Grande you are, you are never more than 3 feet away from almost certain death.
There would be no sitting on the ground to take a breather, no leaning on trees to pull new camera battery out of the bag and no taking of pictures unless you have someone watching what’s around you while that someone has someone watching to make sure nothing creeps dangerously close to them. Even a foot long Golden Lancehead could deliver a bite that would end your life in agonizing pain within minutes. Their ubiquity and total domination of the island make it the most dangerous place in the world. If Brazilian Navy withdrew to quit protecting people from certain death by trying to access Ilha da Queimada Grande, would you risk the rush of such proximity to death for a visit to one of the most exclusive pieces of land on Earth?
You have never heard me to say that, but if the article really intrigued you and you would like to pay Ilha da Queimada Grande a visit no matter what, you could make your way to the coastal towns of Itanhaém or Peruíbe and ask local boatmen to take you to the Snake Island. It’s slightly illegal, but illegal is the name of the game in Brazil so arguing a boatman into doing something that’s not particularly allowed is not such a big deal. Venturing onto Ilha da Queimada Grande is a whole new ballgame and once you dare, you should understand that one wrong move could be your last. You have been warned!
Snake Island Video
Below is the video from the Discovery Channel documentary about Ilha da Queimada Grande. It’s a nice introduction to the Snake Island and contains some very nice footage.