Updated: Jan 28
Remember when we learned about the Seven Wonders of the World in school - specifically, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? With the exception of the Egyptian pyramids, they are not available to us anymore. Still, there are plenty of wonders to see before they vanish or change forever, so let’s go…
The White Cliffs of Dover (Great Britain) are racing to oblivion, losing about 12 inches per year to the relentless waves below. This rate of loss has been 10 times faster in the last 150 years than in the previous 7,000! Rising sea levels and increasingly intense storms aren’t helping – it’s a global warming thing.
When you go: hike the trails at the top and absorb the view, or take a boat tour past these gleaming limestone cliffs.
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (Mexico, Belize, Honduras) – Have you snorkeled the reef while in Cancun, or anywhere near Riviera Maya? That’s the MesoAmerican Barrier Reef, the second largest reef in the world, stretching in an L shape down the eastern shore of the Yucatan Peninsula to Belize, then east on Honduras’s northern coast. The reef is slowly losing its color due to warming of the ocean. Add pollution, overfishing, and offshore drilling and the result is a reef susceptible to disease and death.
When you go: snorkel the protected areas off of Belize’s coast to see graceful mantas, and shy sea turtles to name a few.
The Dead Sea (Israel) – it’s shrinking. The water level is dropping by about three feet/year. I’m a geography geek so I have to tell you why – the Jordan River, the lake main inflow is down to about five percent of its natural flow, thanks to being used for drinking water, agriculture and mining. Thanks to its super-salty, super-buoyant water, the Dead Sea has been healing, relaxing therapy for thousands of years, but is expected to disappear in less than a hundred.
When you go: take a mineral-rich mud bath then effortlessly float on the magical water. This one has been on my list of places to visit for a long time.
Sundarbans Mangrove Forest (India and Bangladesh) – This UNESCO World Heritage Site the largest mangrove forest in the world. It’s a swamp, so you might not think it is worth your vacation time and dollars. Alas, you would miss the Royal Bengal tiger, the Ganges River dolphin, and other rare and threatened species of boars, reptiles, monkeys that could be lost forever to the rising sea level, poaching, deforestation and agriculture that to the rising sea level, poaching, deforestation and agriculture that currently threaten them. And that would be sad.
When you go: Visitors can track animals on small multi-day boat trips through the swamps. These tours generally begin in Bangladesh
Arctic National Refuge (Alaska) – Polar ice is the globe’s air-conditioner, and it’s in need of repair. The ice is where walrus and polar bear hunt for food, and caribou mate and raise young. The Refuge is the most biodiverse place in the Arctic and is being encroached on by oil drilling, now only 12 miles from the refuge’s boundary. If you think that when it’s gone we still have the Antarctic – stop. That pole is VERY different form the northern one in terms of diversity, accessibility and even climate. Currently the arctic is warming twice as fast as everywhere else.
When you go: embark on a polar bear expedition form Churchill, Manitoba. See sea ice for yourself in the Aichilik River Delta before it is gone.
These five are the tip of the fast-melting iceberg; pun intended, but not funny. So much of our beautiful planet is changing rapidly and may be irreparably damaged or permanently lost. Many, save the adventurous travel-craving among us, will never see them “for real”. Encourage your circle not only to do their part in conservation and mindful living, but to visit these natural beauties, and to practice sustainable tourism (a topic for a future article, by the way).
'til next week.
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-Juliet Weller, Founder