Real-life ‘Jurassic Park’ is guarded by killer sharks and home to pirate gold

A tiny island more than a day away from any other human civilisation served as the inspiration fo Jurassic Park – and contains its own real-life terrors.

Cocos Island, a remote piece of land in the Pacific Ocean, can be reached only by sea, and it takes up to 48 hours to get there by boat.

Those few people who do visit the island find a largely-uninhabited wilderness, with only wildlife rangers living there.

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But it might not be somewhere you’d want to visit, anyway, given the dangers that lurk off the coast – both human and natural.

Robert Louis Stevenson and Michael Crichton are thought to have used Cocos Island as inspiration for their classic stories Treasure Island and Jurassic Park.

And while you wouldn’t need to hide from a dinosaur, there are some shady characters hanging around the coastline that have a few similarities to the pirates in Treasure Island.

Cocos Island National Park has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since the late-20th century, because of the unique ecology of the island and its surrounding waters.

But that hasn’t stopped crooks taking advantage of its remoteness to plunder its assets, and there have been accusations that the government of Costa Rica – which owns the island – has been turning a blind eye to their activities.

Large-scale illegal poaching is believed to be commonplace, driven by demand for tuna and shark fin soup.

A number of poachers have been nabbed by the authorities, but it’s what often happens next that arouses suspicion over the role of the Costa Rican government.

A few years ago, nearly two dozen poachers were caught with their illegal wares – and yet a judge told them they could leave the country.

And when a large poaching ship, Tiuna, was stopped and its contents were confiscated, an auction of the goods to raise money for public use was stopped by a judge – simply because the owner of the ship asked him to.

Those who do make it legally to the island, which is 340 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, arrive under strict safety conditions.

The sea around the island contains its own dangers, too. There are various species of shark in the water, including whitetip reef sharks, scalloped hammerhead sharks and whale sharks – the largest known fish.

The island itself comprises a dense, tropical rainforest with more than 400 species of insects on it.

But the main reason why it’s out of bounds is because a $1billion treasure hoard is apparently buried there.

Legend has it that in 1820, the treasure was moved from the Peruvian capital of Lima to keep it out of the hands of Spanish conquerors.

It’s said to contain hundreds of silver coins, diamonds, and a gold life-sized Virgin Mary statue.

A British sea captain, William Thompson, was tasked with taking the haul to Mexico. But Capt Thompson and his officers murdered all the soldiers and priests on board and then stopped en route to hide the treasure on Cocos Island.

Capt Thompson was caught and put on trial. In return for leniency, he agreed to show the Spaniards where he’d buried the treasure.

But once on the island, they escaped – and the treasure hasn’t been found.

And one expert has cast doubts over whether the treasure even exists.

Author Genna Marie Davis, from the adventure diving company Undersea Hunter Group, told Forbes magazine she was sceptical but keeping an open mind.

"It's tricky writing about Cocos Island treasures because there is so much hearsay, lore and conflicting information all tangled up that it's difficult to discern the truth," she said.

“The stories are very fun, but you have to take them with a grain of salt. There was even a lot of misinformation purposefully spread by treasure hunters trying to throw other treasure hunters off the track."

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