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5 Natural Sights to Discover Before It's Too Late

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by Mihaela Schwartz (subscribe)
I am a freelance writer and an avid traveler.
Published February 23rd 2013
Bucket List Places to Visit
Sure, each region of the world has its own natural wonders. Whether it's a beach, a mountain top, a cave or a waterfall, they all have their beauty, but some of them might not last that long. Threatened by pollution and global worming, by drought, or other natural dangers, here are 5 of the natural sights you must visit before it becomes too late:

The Amazon Rainforest

Stretching itself on 6 million square kilometres and 9 different countries (among which Brazil – 63%, Peru- 10%, Colombia – 7%, Venezuela – 6%, and Ecuador – 1,5%), the Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world and the Earth's green lung. But, if you are fond of exploring the unexplored, you have to start planning your trip as by now, about 15% of the wooden surface has disappeared due to deforestation.

Most eco tours leave Manaus (Brazil) and Iquitos (Peru). If you start your journey in Manaus, include in your itinerary the point where the Amazon River is formed by the confluence of Rio Negro and Solimoes. Located 8 kilometres from Manaus, this area is an absolutely beautiful sight: Rio Negro's black water do not mix immediately with Solimoes' yellow ones, flowing side by side for several kilometres. If you are not planning to get into the jungle, take the ship from Manaus to Careiro. It leaves Manaus at 7 in the morning and returns at 3 in the afternoon.

Amazon River
The confluence of Rio Negro and Solimoes River forming the Amazon River - Wikimedia Commons/LecomteB

As it sometimes can take days just to enter the jungle itself, it is advisable you plan several weeks for thorough discovery. Don't forget to bring your mosquito repellent as insects can be really dangerous here. If you are travelling in the Amazon and in the northern states of Brazil, the vaccine against yellow fever is recommended.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro

Who will be the last one to see the sun going down on the snows of Kilimanjaro? This is no longer a rhetorical question. The eternal snows Kessel and Hemingway praised in their work will soon disappear. During the last century, 80% of the top cap, located right on the Equator, has melted. Some think that the glaciers covering Tanzania's highest mountain will melt entirely by 2020… taking with them one of this world's most iconic images. If at the beginning of the 20th century Kilimanjaro's glaciers were covering a surface of 12.1 km², the latest measurements speak about 1.8 km².

But, Kilimanjaro is not the only endangered glacier. Many other glaciers, particularly those located in the tropics (Mount Kenya, the Andes, the Himalayas, etc.) are running the same risks, and this has an impact on the respective ecosystems.

The Great Barrier Reef

The largest coral reef in the world, stretching for over 2000 km along the Eastern coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is the powerless victim of a heat stroke. As a result, the barrier has experienced during the last year a massive coral bleaching, with discoloration of 90% of its corals. According to experts, if the Pacific warming continues, the Great Barrier Reef will have almost completely disappeared by 2050.

Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef - Flickr/Paul from

Home to 30 species of whales and dolphins, 1625 species of fish, 411 hard corals and over 150 soft corals, 3000 different mollusks, 6 out of a total of 7 species of sea turtles existing in the world, more than 120 years old giant clams, and millions of seabirds, the Great Barrier Reef is also affected by the sediments brought along by the rivers as well as by the numerous shipwrecks whose decomposition pollutes its waters.

Easily accessible by ship from many coastal sites, including Port Douglas, Cairns, Townsville, and Bundaberg, the Great Barrier Reef is a magnet for those who like scuba diving, snorkelling, sailing, hiking or lying in the sun on one of its 600 islands, etc. While these activities are far from being forbidden, it is advisable you do them the eco-friendly way.


Tuvalu has the misfortune of being an archipelago of atolls and islands located no more than 5 m above a sea, whose waters are constantly rising. Situated more than 1000 km North of Fiji, the islands are gradually submerged because of global warming.

Tuvalu atoll beacu - Wikimedia Commons/Stefan Lins

According to some forecasts, several decades might be sufficient for the archipelago to become the new Atlantis. Actually, the authorities are already developing evacuation plans for the 11.600 residents. Tuvalu is a place to discover before it becomes a destination solely for divers. In order to reach this endangered spot, you can fly or take a boat from Suva, Fiji.

The Three Gorges

With its 6300 km, the Yangtze (Blue River) is the third longest river in the world. Between the cities of Fengjie, Sichuan and Yichang in Hubei, it crosses three amazing gorges, down peaks and dramatic cliffs. The site of the Three Gorges (called Qutang, Wu and Xiling) stretches on over 200 km, but its Xiling Gorge exit gives now into the famous Three Gorges Dam.

Three Gorges
The Three Gorges - Flickr/Buster&Bubby

Take a cruise to discover this magnificent gift made by nature to China as once the water level reaches its maximum, the gorges will sunk and their majestic beauty will belong to the past.
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