Discover 20 Places People Have Claimed to See Real Mermaid

Woman with mermaid tail swims and dives underwater.
© Stanislav Hubkin/iStock via Getty Images

Written by Kellianne Matthews

Updated: November 8, 2023

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Have you ever dreamed of seeing a real-life mermaid? Well, you’re not alone. Even in ancient times, mermaids were a popular topic, tracing as far back as 1000 BCE! Whether in legend and myth, art and literature, or even in the news, mermaids have fascinated and perplexed humans for thousands of years. 

With their mesmerizing blend of both human and fish-like features, these mythical and extraordinary sea creatures continue to be depicted in art, music, folklore, literature, and even film. And yet, the same question that troubled those in ancient times continues to haunt us today: are these elusive sea creatures merely figments of our imagination, or do they truly exist somewhere in the depths of the sea? In this article, we’ll explore some of the places around the world where people have claimed to see real mermaids! 

1. Gulf of Cádiz 

portrait of fantasy woman real mermaid with trident myth goddess of sea with golden tail.

In ancient Greek mythology, nereids are female spirits of the sea or sea nymphs.

©Serenko Natalia/

In ancient Greece, mermaids were known as Nereids and were said to be seen riding sea creatures through the waves or sitting along the shoreline. Some people found dead mermaids washed up on shore, while others claimed that they could hear the sea god Triton playing his conch somewhere in the water. In the first century, the Roman author Pliny the Elder included several accounts of mermaid sightings in his Naturalis Historia (Natural History), the model for the modern-day encyclopedia. In the Gulf of Cádiz, for example, he said that a large merman often climbed aboard sailing ships at night. If the merman stayed long enough, the ship would sink due to his weight!

2. Greenland

Aurora borealis in greenland

Henry Hudson was searching for a route above the Arctic Circle when he encountered a mermaid.

©Elke Kohler/

The Konungs skuggsjá or Speculum regale, known as the “King’s Mirror”, is an Old Norse text from around 1250 AD. It deals with politics, morality, and at one point, even mermaids. The text explains that a peculiar mermaid-like monster can be seen near Greenland. She looks like a woman down to the waist, but from the waist downwards, she resembles a fish.

The Icelandic Doomsday book called The Landnáma, also describes the Marmennill — a merman — that was caught off the island of Grimsey. Sightings of such creatures were also recorded off the coast in 1305 and 1329. 

Later in 1608, the famous English sea explorer Henry Hudson wrote about spotting a mermaid while off the coast of Greenland. In his logbook, he wrote that he and his crew saw a mermaid swimming alongside their ship for some time. Her top half had the anatomy of a woman, but the rest of her body was fishlike, with a porpoise-like tail speckled like a mackerel. 

3. Netherlands

Mermaid silhouette and sunset

Some myths say that mermaids can transform their fins into legs when they are on dry land.

©Alan Poulson Photography/

There are several records of the famous “Dutch Mermaid” in the Netherlands, spotted in the enchanting city of Kampen in the 1400s. One of the city’s large dikes developed a crack, which continued to grow and allowed much of the sea to pour into the river. The incoming sea water brought with it a graceful mermaid with a shimmering tail. The people of the town were afraid, but the mermaid didn’t seem to be bothered by their presence. Eventually, they captured the creature, forcing her to live out of the water in their town. Some accounts claim that her tail transformed into two human legs when she was brought on dry land, while others write that she kept a tub of water under her chair to put her tail in. 

4. Denmark

Little Mermaid Statue, Denmark

Hans Christian Andersen wrote

Den lille havfrue,


The Little Sea Maid

in 1837.

©migster14 from Davao City, Philippines / CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

If you visit Copenhagen, Denmark, you can see the famous Little Mermaid statue, a memorial to Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale. But are there any real mermaids in Denmark? Well, according to the account of Lucas Debes, a Danish priest and topographer, the answer is yes. In 1670, Debes spotted a mermaid off one of the Faroe Islands near Denmark and claims that many others witnessed it as well. They saw the mermaid by the shore, and according to Debes, “She had long hair on her head that went down to the surface of the water around her”. 

5. Wales

From a 17th century pamphlet entitled 'A most strange and true report of a monsterous fish, who appeared in the forme of a woman, from her waste upwards by P.G.' the story of an alleged sighting of a mermaid near Pendine, Carmarthenshire in 1603.

The pamphlet, “A most strange and true report of a monstrous fish”, was published in 1904.

©National Library of Wales / CC0, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

In 1603 the yeoman Thomas Raynold was out and about near Pendine, Carmarthenshire, when he spotted something strange in the water. Unsure of what he was seeing, he gathered several others to witness the sight as well. The group sat transfixed for the next three hours as they observed what appeared to be a mermaid! The various witnesses shared their accounts, which apparently were reliable enough to make it into a printed pamphlet with an image depicting what they saw. The caption described the creature as “a monstrous fish that was in the form of a woman from the waist up”. 

6. England

Mermaid swimming underwater in the deep blue sea

Various mermaid legends claim that these beautiful sea creatures lure sailors to their deaths.

©Andrea Izzotti/iStock via Getty Images

There have been several mermaid sightings in England over the centuries. For example, fishermen in the city of Exeter during the 1730s claimed that they accidentally caught an unusual mermaid-like creature in their net. It had webbed feet and a tail like a salmon, but its facial features resembled a human. The creature groaned much like a human and appeared to be dying. However, ultimately it leaped from the net and got away. 

Later in 1812, another group of fishermen near Exmouth claimed to have heard music coming from a human-like creature with a fishtail. They attempted to lure the creature closer, but it playfully swam away. Then in 1823, Exeter once again played host to several more mermaid sightings in the River Ex. Like the first Exeter mermaid, these mermaids had two legs as well as a tail and various other animalistic features. 

7. Isle of Man

Sunrise at Douglas Lighthouse, Isle of Man

There are many different types of mermaids in history and folklore.

©Stephen Meadows/iStock via Getty Images

There are a few alleged mermaid sightings near the Isle of Man in Great Britain. For example, a story from the British Press in 1810 claims that a fisherman found two merchildren after a recent storm. Unfortunately, one of the merchildren had already died, but the fishermen took the second back home. He claims that the merchild was less than 2 feet tall, with a human torso and a fish tail instead of feet. Its hair was green, pale brown, and stringy like seaweed. After it had recovered, the fisherman returned it to the sea.

In 1961 various witnesses claimed to have seen another mermaid near the Isle of Man. According to Peter Costello in The Magic Zoo: The Natural History of Fabulous Animals, even the Lady Mayoress of Peel saw the mermaid! The Manx Tourist Board offered a prize for the mermaid’s capture, but it was never claimed. 

8. Dominican Republic

A manatee underwater

Columbus was not the only explorer to mistake a manatee for a mermaid.

©Harry Collins Photography/

One of the most famous mermaid sightings occurred in the Dominican Republic. While sailing to the Americas, Christopher Columbus claimed to have seen not one but three mermaids! In his logbook, Columbus lamented that they were “not half as beautiful as they are painted”. It is quite possible that Columbus actually encountered manatees during his voyages rather than mermaids. Over the centuries, sailors often mistook these gentle creatures for merfolk, due to their human-like eyes, round faces, and large paddle-like tails. 

9. Indian Ocean and South Pacific

Illustration of sea creatures that supposedly lived in the East-Indian waters. Excerpted from a rare 1782 edition, held at Utrecht University Library, of the publication Poissons, Ecrevisses et Crabes, better known as Histoire Naturelle or Natuurlyke Historie

Fallours also claimed that he kept an angler fish in his home that followed him around like a little dog.

©Utrecht University Library / Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

In the early 1700s, Samuel Fallours was working as a humble assistant to a clergyman for the Dutch East India Company. However, Fallours also possessed an incredible artistic talent and began drawing the creatures lurking beneath the ocean’s surface with bold, bright colors and meticulous details. Many of Fallours’ illustrations have even been hailed as masterpieces in natural history. 

However, in addition to his more scientifically accurate depictions, Fallours also embellished some of his drawings with more imaginary and fantastical details. He even told fantastical stories about the creatures he drew. For example, he claimed that he kept an anglerfish alive in his home for three days as it followed him around like a little dog. He also reported that his son purchased a mermaid for him, which he kept in his home for four days. Sadly, the mermaid refused to eat and cried until it died. 

10. Caribbean

Mangrove snappers swimming over coral

According to legend, a mermaid named Aycayía lived for several hundred years in the Caribbean.

©John A. Anderson/

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, there were many mermaid sightings on the Caribbean island of Berbice. The island’s Governor van Batenburgh wrote his own account and description of these local mermaids, explaining that their upper bodies resembled human women, but their heads were smaller and covered in luxurious long black hair. They had broad and strong shoulders, and their skin ranged from deep black to tawny hues. The lower portion of their bodies also had a dolphin-like tail. The locals believed that harming or killing these creatures resulted in unimaginable calamities, so they were unable to capture and examine any of them. 

11. West Indies

jolly roger. pirate flag.Against the background of blue sky.

Known as Captain Blackbeard, Edward Teach was reportedly afraid of mermaids.

©Andrejs Marcenko/

Even the notorious pirate Captain Blackbeard claimed to have seen mermaids! Around 1700, Blackbear recorded seeing these mysterious sea creatures in the West Indies, and from that point forward he refused to sail through the area. Of course, it may simply be that he needed a reason to avoid the area, which likely was claimed by other pirates at the time. 

12. Indonesia

Ngurtafur sand bar and beach, turquoise water of Kei islands, Indonesia

Various legends paint mermaids as benevolent, while others illustrate them as malicious.

©Vladimir Borzykin/iStock via Getty Images

Mermaids once again surfaced in the midst of the tumultuous Second World War, this time near the Kei Islands in Indonesia. Japanese soldiers were shocked to discover one of these rare sea creatures, which locals in the area called the orang ikan mermaid. The mermaid is said to have peacefully lived in the region for ages. However, the soldiers were frightened and attempted to kill the creature. 

Initially, they failed, but the soldiers’ commanding officer ordered the mermaid’s capture. The locals brought them a mysterious corpse that they claimed was the missing mermaid. The lifeless body had arms and a face resembling a human form, while the rest of it was unquestionably fish-like. However, the body was somehow lost, leaving us to forever wonder if it really was a mermaid.

13. Sri Lanka

Woman with mermaid tail swims and dives underwater.

Many records say mermaids are more beautiful than any human.

©Stanislav Hubkin/iStock via Getty Images

In 1560, fishermen near the island of Mandar off the west coast of the British colony of Ceylon (what is now Sri Lanka today) encountered an incredible seven mermen and mermaids. According to their account, several Jesuit fathers and the viceroy of Goa’s physician saw the creatures as well. The physician, Dr. M. Bosquez, conducted a thorough examination and dissection of the merpeople and said that their anatomy resembled that of a human.  

14. Canada

Scenic mountains reflecting off nearby lake in British Columbia

Mermaids don’t just live in tropical waters — some have been seen in the frigid waters of Canada and the Arctic!


In the late 1800s, three different fishermen claimed to have seen a mermaid near Vancouver, Canada. Each said she had blonde hair, and the companion of one of the fishermen was so disturbed by the sight that he quit fishing altogether!

Later in 1967, an entire ferry full of people claimed to have seen a mermaid sitting along the shores of Mayne Island. The witnesses reported that the mermaid was topless, beautiful, and had long blonde hair. She also apparently was eating a large coho salmon. Later on, a man from Iowa apparently captured the fishy woman in a photograph of the fishy woman. However, most experts today agree that it is simply a woman dressed as a mermaid rather than the real thing. 

15. Kawai, Hawaii

Leicher said that the mermaid he saw could swim as fast as the dolphins.

In the shimmering waters off of Kawai in Hawaii, dive master Jeff Leicher from Jack’s Diving Locker encountered something he had always believed to be the stuff of fairytales — a real-life mermaid, just mere feet from the bow of his boat! It was 1998, and although people had reported seeing such a creature in the area for more than 50 years, Leicher never really took these claims seriously until he saw it for himself. 

On that fateful day, he claimed to see what appeared to be an undressed woman standing in the water. However, she leaped from the ocean into the air, revealing the lower half of her body, which was elongated into an impressive scaly tail. Later on in his dive, Leicher said that the mermaid returned and shot past him, but not before he caught a photograph of her

16. Israel

Red Sea with Coral Reefs

The mermaid in Kiryat Yam only shows herself at sunset.

©DariaZu/iStock via Getty Images

Recently the town of Kiryat Yam in Israel has been a hotspot of mermaid activity. More and more people claim to have seen a mermaid appearing along the shore at sunset. The local government has even offered a one million dollar reward for anyone able to photograph the creature. The mermaid was first seen in 2009. Although many witnesses can attest to her existence, no one has been able to capture her on film yet. 

17. Scotland

Harbor seal

Selkies are mythological creatures in Scotland that can transform from a woman to a seal.

©RobsonAbbott/ via Getty Images

Although the country is typically known for its mythical selkies, Scotland is also quite the hotspot for mermaid sightings. In 1814, for example, stories say that a mermaid was spotted off the coast of west Scotland. Villagers claim that the mermaid stuck around for a few hours hissing at them, but ultimately she swam away. That same year two fishermen in Sprey Bay witnessed a man who appeared to be sitting in the water with greenish-gray hair. As they sailed closer, they discovered that his body tapered into a fishtail, although it lacked scales. 

In 1830, a group collecting seaweed in Benbecula encountered a small woman along the shore. A boy hit it with a stone, and two days later, her body washed up a few miles away. Her top half was small but womanly, while her bottom half had a salmon-like tail without scales. 

In July 1833, six fishermen claimed to have accidentally captured a mermaid in their fishing net off the Isle of Yell. They kept her in the boat for a few hours, but eventually released her back into the sea. Later in 1857, John Williamson and John Cameron reported that they saw a mermaid of some kind. The creature was in the form of a woman in the water near Port Charlotte and watched the fishermen from just six yards away. 

In 1890 hundreds of people reported seeing the Deerness mermaid, and she regularly visited Newark Bay. One account described her as having a small black head with a white body about 6 to 7 feet long. Later in 1913, Ralph Taylor and his crew saw the Deerness mermaid on the southeastern coast of Hoy.

18. Seattle, Washington

Details of colonial fountain with a mermaid sculpture in antigua guatemala

Mermaids, mermen, and even merchildren are all part of what many people call “merfolk”.

©Joel Aguilar/iStock via Getty Images

A story from 1896 recounts that a group of Englishmen killed a creature resembling a merman. The fishing party was hunting porpoises when they encountered a monstrous creature. They attempted to capture it, but it fought back, so they killed it to keep it from sinking their boat. The crew claimed that the creature was 10 feet long and weighed close to 500 pounds. Although it had a human-shaped body, it ended in a fluke-shaped tail. Its human half was covered in dark reddish hair, and its long human-like fingers ended in slender claws. However, it was missing one of its forefingers, as well as its left thumb and pinky finger. 

19. South Africa

Stunning view of Meiringspoort Waterfall in the Swartberg Mountain range near De Rust, Klein Karoo, South Africa.

Mermaid legends abound in South


, including one said to live in the rock pools of the Meiringspoort Canyon.

©wallix/iStock via Getty Images

In 2008, the legendary mermaid known as the “Kaaiman” was spotted in the Buffeljagsriver in South Africa. A group of family and friends were camping next to the river when they heard a loud bashing sound. They went to investigate and found what appeared to be a white woman with long black hair and reddish eyes thrashing about in the water. Daniel Cupido and his friend Martin Olckers attempted to help the woman, who, according to Olcker’s mother, was making heart-breaking crying sounds. Eventually, the group identified the creature as the Kaaiman, a legendary water creature that is half-human, half-fish. 

20. Zimbabwe

A picture Lake Kariba.

Mermaids in


can live in rivers, lakes, and dams.

© Rossetti

In 2012 government workers attempted to complete a dam in Zimbabwe. However, they ultimately abandoned the project because they said they were being harassed by mermaids. Local leaders were called in to perform rituals to banish the mermaids, but to no avail. The Minister of Water Resources in Zimbabwe even tried to hire white workers from other areas. However, after a day or two on the job, they refused to go back. 

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About the Author

Kellianne Matthews is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on anthrozoology, conservation, human-animal relationships, and animal behavior. Kellianne has been writing and researching animals for over ten years and has decades of hands-on experience working with a variety of different animals. She holds a Master’s Degree from Brigham Young University, which she earned in 2017. A resident of Utah, Kellianne enjoys creating, exploring and learning new things, analyzing movies, caring for animals, and playing with her cats.

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