10 Natural Wonders to See Before They’re Gone
The One Bag Traveler recommends Gear, Destinations and Adventures. As you work your way through your list of places to see before you die, consider flagging a few as urgent. 10 Natural Wonders to See Before They’re Gone These 10 iconic coral reefs, glaciers, low-lying islands and other gorgeous natural wonders are disappearing at an
The One Bag Traveler recommends Gear, Destinations and Adventures.
As you work your way through your list of places to see before you die, consider flagging a few as urgent.
10 Natural Wonders to See Before They’re Gone
These 10 iconic coral reefs, glaciers, low-lying islands and other gorgeous natural wonders are disappearing at an alarming rate. Read on to learn the stories of these wonders of the world, and get ideas about how to explore them before they’re gone.
Glacier National Park, Montana
In 1850, more than 150 glaciers capped the peaks in Montana’s Glacier National Park. Only 26 are left today. Of those still in existence, some have retreated as much as 85 percent over the past 50 years, according to a recent study from the U.S. Geological Survey. Global warming continues to take its toll on glacier mass—mean annual temperatures are up 1.33 degrees Celsius since 1900. It might sound like an insignificant uptick, but it’s enough of a shift to impact park ecosystems. Without glaciers and their continual meltwater running into streams, the streams get too warm in summer for some aquatic insects to survive. When those die off, it disrupts the food chain for the native bull trout population.
If you go: Hike the trails on Many Glacier for a great view of the waterfalls and alpine lakes that characterize this closer-to-home wonder of the world. The best place to see a glacier from the road is at Jackson Glacier Overlook on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Watch for mountain goats and Bighorn sheep near Logan Pass.
Amazon Rainforest, South America
Spanning nine countries in South America, the Amazon Basin holds about half of the world’s tropical rainforests. If you laid the Amazon rainforest over the 48 contiguous United States it would cover 70 percent of the country. Unfortunately, about 17 percent of that rainforest has been lost in the last 50 years, mostly to cattle ranching, according to the World Wildlife Fund. So large is the rainforest that the wellbeing of the planet depends on the health of the Amazon, which stabilizes global climate. Deforestation releases significant amounts of the Amazon’s 90-140 billion metric tons of carbon, potentially causing devastating consequences to the earth’s water cycle. When trees are cut down, not only is carbon dioxide released, but less is absorbed going forward. The Nature Conservancy compares it to opening a forgotten container of leftovers in the fridge … except on a global scale.
If you go: You can go deep into the rainforest on the Amazon Conservation Association’s Manu Cloud Forest Canopy Walkway slung between trees at dizzying heights of up to 144 feet.
Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Mexico
About a 2.5-hour drive west of Mexico City, you’ll find a great wonder of the world: The planet’s only place to see millions of migrating monarch butterflies in a single spot. After a 3,000-mile journey to Canada and the U.S., they return each year to overwinter in the fir forests of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. But deforestation in Mexico, climate change, and habitat loss along their migratory route are endangering the migrating subspecies. According to a 2015 report by UNESCO, the area of forest the butterflies cover in their winter home is the second lowest it has been since monitoring began in 1993. The habitat surrounding their reserve is at risk—it is being illegally deforested and replaced with groves of avocados, a high-yield cash crop.
If you go: Hire a local guide to take you by bike or horseback along a forest trail to a remote part of the butterfly reserve. January and February are the best times to see the monarchs clustering in such massive quantities that they weigh down the boughs of fir trees in quivering heaps.
Mesoamerican Barrier Reef; Mexico, Belize, and Honduras
You might not have heard of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, but if you’ve snorkelled in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or elsewhere along the Caribbean coast of Central America, then you’ve likely already visited this natural wonder. The Mesoamerican stretches 600 miles from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula through Belize and Honduras. It’s the world’s second largest barrier reef, and the color is slowly draining from it. The Belize section is a protected UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the 54 sites on UNESCO’s “in danger” list. Rising ocean temperatures have caused mass bleaching of the coral. When temperatures rise even slightly, the corals expel the algae that lives in coral tissues, which causes them to turn completely white and become susceptible to disease and death. Overfishing, pollution, potential offshore oil drilling, and changes in the water’s pH are other threats cited by the Nature Conservancy.
If you go: Natural Habitat Adventures and World Wildlife Fund run a Belize tour with snorkelling in protected areas of the coral reef. See manta rays, sea turtles and the occasional manatee on…