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7 amazing islands for eco-tourists

Iriomote mangroves

Photo: norio.nakayama/Flickr

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Iriomote, Japan

Though this island is the second largest in the Okinawan chain, it is one of the least populated, with about 2,000 residents. However, more than 100,000 people come to this nature-rich place each year as tourists. They find a natural paradise on Iriomote: Nearly 90 percent of the entire island is protected as part of a network that includes Iriomote National Park and a collection of smaller parks and preserves. Large stretches of coastline are devoid of roads and almost completely deserted except for a few coastal fishing villages that can be reached only by boat. Mangrove swamps cover the coastal areas while rivers and forests are home to a variety of animals, including 2-foot-long lizards, the endangered Iriomote wildcat, and an array of other bird, reptile and amphibian species.