The news about Pokémon Go for mobile is pretty exciting. For one thing, it gives us a glimpse of what Nintendo has planned for its upcoming smartphone games. More importantly, being able to chase AR Pokémon brings us one step closer to the real Pokémon world we all secretly want to live in (don't deny it).
While these virtual Pokémon will probably show up anywhere, imagine if Nintendo made things more authentic by ensuring the pocket monsters only appear in their preferred environments. Where would you find Shaymin? Or Arcanine? Well…
Find Pikachu at Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela
Lake Maracaibo is the theatre for a natural phenomenon known as "Catatumbo lightning." The winds in the area combine with its unique and diverse biomes (swamps, mountains, plains) to create stunning lightning storms that streak through the sky for ten hours a day, up to 160 days a year. Lucky storm tourists may get to see the lightning flash 280 times per hour.
This awe-inspiring weather would be a buffet for Pikachu, as the little yellow mouse loves to snack on electricity in some Pokémon continuities. In the Electric Tale of Pikachu manga, for instance, Ash first meets his lifelong companion when he catches the rodent chewing on his electrical wires for sustenance.
So if you're planning to visit this electrified lake sometime in the future, bring your mobile device. And a rubber suit.
Find Vulpix at Zao Fox Village, Japan
The Miyagi prefecture of Japan is home to a unique attraction: Zao Fox Village. The messengers of the god Inari wander freely around this park, and tourists are welcome to feed them. Watch your hands, and maybe leave the kids at home.
The beloved Vulpix would doubtlessly find a good home amongst its fluffy kin (where it could let tourists marvel at its tails' multiple growth stages). Search to your heart's content, but don't forget to stop and feed the foxes. Inari doesn't like cheapskates.
Find Magcargo at The Door to Hell, Turkmenistan
The Asian desert country of Turkmenistan is known for its abundant deposits of natural gas, which aided in the creation of its most well-known tourist attraction: "The Door to Hell," an ever-burning crater about 230 ft in diameter. The gas in the crater started burning as a result of a drilling project gone wrong, and although it was supposed to stop burning a few weeks after the incident, it's still lighting up the desert over four decades later.
Tumbling into this little piece of Gehenna would be a bad day for most living creatures, but for the Lava Pokémon Magcargo, it'd be little more than a warm bath. This fire/rock Pokémon burns at a steady 18,000 Fahrenheit, so it's not hard to imagine it making a comfortable home at the bottom of Turkmenistan's boiling pit. If you go on a search for the hot mollusk, beware of the swarms of camel spiders that hang out at the crater's edge. Don't worry, they're not poisonous. Just huge.
Find Xerneas in The Great Bear Rainforest, Canada
The western coast of British Columbia is home to one of the last remaining temperate rainforests in the world. This wilderness is home to myriad species of wolves and cougars, including the semi-mystical Kermode bear -- also known as the spirit bear for the frequent appearance of white coats in cubs.
Pokémon's ultimate forest protector, Xerneas, would thrive in this last sliver of untouched wild land. Moreover, the area is frequently at the center of debates of development and resource-harvesting, so it's necessary for the ethereal deer to keep a watch over things.
On second thought, maybe it's best to leave Xerneas well enough alone. Not that capturing a legendary Pokémon on its home turf would be a piece of cake, anyway.
Find Arcanine in Chinatowns around the world
Most metropolises, including the cities of North America, are home to bustling Chinatowns that are brimming with culture and awesome food. Chinatowns typically also serve as a home-away-from-home for Chinese guardian lions, imposing animal statues that are usually found in pairs. These statues are regarded as strong protectors, and can be found keeping watch over hotels, restaurants, and businesses.
Despite their name, guardian lions have taken on different animal characteristics across the thousands of years they've existed. Some have tiger stripes or dragon talons.
Arcanine, a Pokémon inspired directly by these guardian lions, is similarly a hybrid of animal traits. Its regal stature and flowing mane recall its lion heritage, but its coat is accented by handsome stripes. Its dog-like loyalty shouldn't be understated either, as that very characteristic is likely to make it content to sun itself in crowded Chinatown markets, surrounded by heavy human traffic. Go ahead and grab one -- but make sure it doesn't belong to someone first.
Find Trubbish at Jardim Gramacho, Brazil
You might want to get a tetanus shot before you chase after the much-maligned garbage Pokémon, Trubbish. Rio de Janeiro's Jardim Gramacho is a huge 14 million square-foot landfill, one of the largest open-air landfills in the world.
Actually, this enormous pile of trash that sits in the shadow of Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue is no longer being added to. Over the next decade or so, the Brazilian government plans to harvest methane from the decomposing trash as a means of energy. There's still plenty of refuse lying around the dump, however -- an ideal home for poor old Trubbish.
Find Shaymin at The Garden at Buckingham Palace
The 42-acre gardens behind Buckingham Palace are fit for British royalty, which means they're at least marginally OK for the likes of Shaymin, the legendary grass Pokémon.
When the tiny milk-white Shaymin is in its Land Forme, it most closely resembles a hedgehog, an animal that's abundant in Britain. Would this gentle Pokémon find itself under the care of the Queen herself, pampered amongst the Garden's ancient trees and flamingo flocks? Seems like a good fit. The bountiful surroundings might even take the edge off Shaymin's instinct to migrate.
If you're determined to capture the Queen's own Pokémon, you'd best do it when the Palace and its grounds are open in August and September. Keep a wary eye out for guard dogs -- those corgis can deliver a mean ankle-bite.
Find Sandile at Death Valley, USA
The popular ground / dark Pokémon Sandile loves the heat and the sand, and there's plenty of both in California's infamous Death Valley. The hottest part of this baking indentation can reach temperatures of over 130 Fahrenheit in the summertime, and its average yearly rainfall basically amounts to a mere sprinkle.
Despite its reputation for being a cracked, beige hellscape, parts of Death Valley feature impressive biodiversity, and is home to Native peoples that built communities around the area's oases. Unfortunately for you, you're not going to find Sandile hanging around any touristy gift shops. The hardy reptile is likely lurking in the Valley's sand dunes, where the climate is at its hottest and most unpleasant for mammals.
Good luck. Grab a shovel and tell your next of kin where you're going before you strike out.