Some of the world’s most remarkable places might not make it through this century. With threats like global warming, over population, and habitat destruction, our world is fading right before our very eyes. Here are five places that are currently threatened—and how to experience them before it’s too late:
1. The Dead Sea
Bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west, the Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth (1,388 feet below sea level). It has 10 times more salt than ocean water (so humans float like corks), and minerals contained in the Dead Sea are said to contain therapeutic properties. Also, higher atmospheric pressure at this great depth has considerable health effects on the human body. In the past forty years, the Dead Sea has shrunk by a one third its size. The Jordan River is the sea’s sole water source, and as surrounding countries increasingly tap its waters, little reaches the Dead Sea. Currently, the Dead Sea recedes about three feet each year.
Stay & Do: We stayed at Jordan’s Movenpick Resort & Spa – a beautiful property, right on the Dead Sea. While you’re in the area, don’t miss Jordan’s ancient city of Petra.
2. Pyramids of Egypt
One of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Pyramids of Giza, located outside modern Cairo, consist of three absolutely majestic royal tombs guarded by the Sphinx. The Pyramids have been a heavily trafficked sightseeing area for centuries, but the pollution and magnitude of visitors has taken its toll on the ancient structures. Most recently with the political uproar in Cairo, looters have stolen artifacts from these and other ancient sites around the city. Their enormity and grandeur should be experienced before it’s too late.
3. Borneo Rainforest
The island of Borneo is home to three countries: the tiny sultanate of Brunei (a country I called home for two years), the Malaysian states of Sabah & Sarawak, and the Indonesian state of Kalimantan. Borneo is the third largest island in the world and its tropical rainforests are one of the most biologically diverse (new species continue to be discovered) ecosystems on Earth. The forests provide astounding flora (e.g. world’s largest flower Rafflesia) and fauna (e.g. endangered orangutans). Now, due to legal and illegal mass palm oil plantations, orangutans and other endangered species are being threatened. More than half of the forest has been cleared and scientists believe that as there is little or no law enforcement the entire lowland forest of Borneo will soon disappear.
Stay & Do: The pioneer of rainforest and orangutan conservation (and one of the three Leakey’s Angles along with Diane Fosse and Jane Goodall) is Dr. Biruté Galdikas. Join an eco tour with her OFI foundation in Indonesian Borneo’s state of Kalimantan. (Her Born To Be Wild 3D IMAX film is out right now, and is narrated by Morgan Freeman).
4. Great Barrier Reef
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef and one of the seven wonders of the natural world. Larger than the Great Wall of China, it is the only living thing on earth visible from space. It contains over 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays, abundant marine life, and hundreds of picturesque tropical islands with some of the world’s most beautiful sun-soaked beaches. Sadly, it is highly threatened by coral bleaching, largely due to global warming.
Stay & Do: We really enjoyed and recommend staying on Fitzroy Island – an idyllic tropical island on in the Great Barrier Reef, complete with white sand beaches and turquoise waters. Take a catamaran tour to snorkel the magnificent outer reefs.
5. The Maldives
The Maldives is blessed with sun-kissed islands and pale, white sands, making it one of the top luxury tourist destinations in the world. However, it is the world’s lowest nation—Since 80% of its 1,200 islands are no more than 1m above sea level, within 100 years the Maldives could become uninhabitable. The threat is so serious that in 2008, the President of the Maldives announced the government would start buying land in other countries, including India, for future homes for citizens displaced by rising waters. Additionally, almost 90% of the Maldives’ coral reefs have been lost to coral bleaching.
Stay & Do: I’m really intrigued to visit the Maldives before it’s too late – as it is the only destination on this list that I have not personally traveled. We’ll be saving our SPG points for the Maldives’ W Retreat & Spa. Pure luxury.