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If you’ve ever wanted to traverse atop a giant mechanical elephant or soar around an industrial, steampunk forest on the back of a robotic heron, the Isle of Nantes should be at the top of your destination list. Based in Nantes, France, this artistic and cultural tourist attraction is the brainchild of French artists Francois Delarozière and Pierre Orefice. Converting a large warehouse on the port of the island into a massively expansive art project, the two artists have created an immersive mechanical wonderland boasting awe-inducing attractions.

Heavily inspired by the invented worlds of Jules Vernes, as well as the designs and inventions of Leonardo da Vinci and the industrial history of Nantes itself, the Isle of Nantes honors the historical significance of the city while serving as a makeshift metropolis of fantasy and wonder. It is at once a shrine to the past as it is an astonishing vision of the future.

Arguably the mascot and star attraction of the Isle of Nantes is the Great Elephant that towers 39 feet high and carries visitors across the park on its back. Built from 45 tons worth of wood and steel, it can house 50 passengers on its back for an unbeatable 45-minute tour of the island. With a design inspired by The Sultan’s Elephant from Royal de Luxe, the Great Elephant spares nothing when it comes to authenticity – its trunk can even spray water. Visitors on the ground should not only be wary of this behemoth strolling around the park, but a mechanical spider as well.

Another attraction which is still being constructed and expanded upon is The Marine Worlds, which is a huge carousel featuring 35 moving underwater creatures on three levels: the ocean floor, the depths, and sea and boats. Visitors can move about in sync with the twirling aquatic animals and sea carriages, as well as climb aboard and control the movements of the machines.

The latest invention is the Heron Tree, a winding, spiraling steel structure topped with two mechanical herons. Visitors can climb onto the backs of the herons and be taken on a circular flight above and around the heron’s mechanical habitat.

For those interested in the process it took to bring these amazing creations to life, the designers have put their entire creative process on display, all the way back to initial sketches drawn by Delarozière to showcase a complete picture of the project’s conception. The materials are in their natural state, and the mechanisms are all visible, detailing the building process for each machine. There’s also a tour visitors can take where the designers narrate just how their amazing artistic accomplishment actually works.

Whether you’re a mechanics buff, a theme park aficionado or simply just want to relive the wonder of being a kid and having you’re imagination sparked like nothing else, the Isle of Nantes is truly an inimitable modern marvel.

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