CNN/Money One for credit card only hard offer form at $9.95 One for risk-free form at $14.95 w/ $9.95 upsell  
Personal Finance

Not your usual roadside attractions
Smelly dragons. Thousands of jars of mustard. The possibilities are endless.
December 3, 2004: 12:05 PM EST
By Les Christie, CNN/Money staff writer

Click here

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - There seems to be a travel destination for every taste.

You would think that some places have absolutely nothing to recommend them. Some are too desolate or bland. Others, like the edge of an active volcano, are just plain dangerous.

Still others may be better called repellents rather than attractions. However, even the ugliest features of a particular destination can, in some cases, tempt tourists to come and spend some money.

Take the Komodo dragons.

Billed as the world's largest lizards, they are surely up there as one of the most repulsive attractions in the world. Yet they have been credited with helping rebuild Indonesia's tourist industry, which suffered greatly after the Bali night club bombing in 2002.

Ecotourists travel thousands of miles -- dropping thousands of dollars, yen, or euros in the process.

The dragons live only on the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Flores, Rinca, and three smaller islands, about 300 miles east of Bali. They have a long list of frightful physiological traits, revolting behaviors, and sickening hygiene:

  • The up to ten-foot long adults are often cannibalistic, eating young dragons as well as older, sick ones.
  • They feed mostly on carrion, often rotten, maggot-infested meat that has stewed under equatorial conditions for hours or days.
  • Their saliva contains at least four kinds of toxic bacteria.
  • Bits of rotten meat cling to the dragons' teeth, contributing to one of the most septic mouths in the animal kingdom. They can kill by getting in one or two bites and waiting for an infection to set in that finishes offs the prey.

Ron Magill, communications director for Miami Metrozoo, is one of the few human beings ready, willing, and able to pick up and carry a seven-foot, zoo-raised Komodo dragon around, but he wouldn't advise getting too close to a wild one. "We've raised him from an egg," says Magill, and "even though he's not aggressive he's still hard to control. It's difficult to comprehend how strong he is."

For those nature lovers who revel in the unusual, the ugly, the disgusting, the Komodo dragon is hard to beat. But there are many other specialized or quirky travel destinations that may appeal to a select, and sometimes rabid, audience.

Click to sample a few.  Top of page

IRS may have just poured cold water on state efforts to skirt SALT deduction cap
New to the job market? 5 pitfalls to avoid
How should I invest my nest egg for maximum retirement Income?
The Fed isn't sweating inflation ... yet
The three biggest risks to global investors
IRS may have just poured cold water on state efforts to skirt SALT deduction cap

graphic graphic