Visit These 9 Places Before They Disappear Forever

As travelling the world becomes more accessible to everyone, the effect that such traffic has on certain sites can be enormous indeed. And sometimes, it can be fatal.

When I went on a guided trip to Machu Picchu a few years ago, I was told that the entire area was in danger of being shut down for awhile. There was some concern that all the visitors coming and going were slowly destroying the sacred site. I remember thinking, wow, people have to come see this now.

Machu Picchu is still one of my most memorable travel experiences. It’s hard to believe it might not always be there.

Turns out there are many destinations that are in danger of being shut down. I’ll be making it a mission to see these places before they’re gone. Will you?

1. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

Warmer sea temperatures and pollution are constantly damaging the world’s largest coral reef spanning more than 344,000 square kilometres. It’s a huge, huge tourist attraction in Australia. It’s a world heritage site, and the only natural structure that’s visible from space.

What makes it so delightful? The variety of sea life is massive, and the whole thing is actually made up of over 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays. Tropical islands and white-sand beaches are just one part of it all. People come here to scuba dive, snorkel, sail, swim, and more.

Unfortunately, it may entirely disappear within the next one hundred years.

2. Maldives

Maldives is the lowest lying island nation in the world, with most of its landmass being just five feet above sea level. Holiday-makers have been calling this place a favourite for years—there’s literally a resort for every type of traveller in the Maldives. Along with perfect white sand beaches, there’s enough tropical marine life to keep you occupied forever. You have your options when it comes to just relaxing on the beach or spending some time diving and snorkeling.

But as sea levels keep rising, the Maldives is in serious danger of becoming entirely submerged over the next 100 years. It’s such a risk that the government has even bought land in other countries so that Maldives citizens can be relocated if necessary.

3. Alberta’s Athabasca Glacier

North America’s most visited glacier, the Athabasca Glacier in Alberta, is another piece of nature we’re in danger of losing. As part of the Columbia Icefield, the whole area stretches six square kilometres. It’s a popular place for ice climbers, hikers, and travellers who take to the glacier via a giant vehicle built specifically for crawling across the ice.

Unfortunately, the glacier has been melting for 125 years and has retreated nearly a mile. Now the glacier is apparently shrinking at its fastest rate in history, losing up to nearly 10 feet a year.  While it won’t disappear in our lifetime, your great grandchildren might not have quite the same experiences you’ll have now.

4. Cambodia’s Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is disappearing for an entirely different reason—tourism traffic, much like at Machu Picchu, is affecting the site. This enormous 12th century temple structure is one of the world’s most important historical structures…and you’ll constantly be reminded of this fact while you’re trying to walk around hordes of tourists during your visit. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, after all.

Maybe this boom is largely due to the fact that this site only really became accessible in recent years. Back in 1993, fewer than 8,000 people visited per year. Nowadays, the site gets something like three million visitors annually. The entire complex is literally being trampled to death under the weight of the tourists!

There’s more, though. So many hotels and restaurants (and other structures) are being built to support the tourism boom, they’re all threatening the temples’ stability. Modern structures are draining the ground water from underneath the temples, and the temples might eventually collapse.

5. The Amazon Rainforest

I missed my trip to the Amazon Rainforest—I had gotten in a recent car accident, and I decided to cancel my trip to Brazil. Now I wish I hadn’t.

The Amazon Rainforest covers 1.4 billion acres. That’s hard to wrap your head around! While most of it is in Brazil, it also stretches to Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, French Guiana, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Suriname. It’s also home to a ridiculous number of species of birds, reptiles, fish, and other animals. AND the rainforest produces 20 percent of the world’s oxygen.

You’ve probably already heard something about the plight of the rainforest, though, it’s not exactly new. In even as little as 50 years, the whole forest could disappear thanks to deforestation and other factors. Most of it is used for farmland and mining. Global warming has also led to increased risk of forest fire, which could wipe out large sections of the forest.

6. Italy’s Venice

Yup, Venice is sinking. Thankfully, I will be visiting this city in 2016. Whew.

Known as the “City of Water,” Venice is an insanely popular European travel destination, and one of the most “romantic” places in the world. Its canal waterways are filled with gondolas ferrying people around. The classic colourful Italian architecture is like something from a dream. Who doesn’t wanna stand with a loved one on a bridge overlooking the water?

But Venice is sinking, and apparently five times faster than what scientists originally believed. The added weight of tourism (literally) doesn’t help much either, nor do the rising sea levels.

7. The United States’ Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park, located in Montana, is famous for its abundance of glaciers. Or at least, it was. The entire park covers a million acres, and the glaciers have been around since glaciation about 12,000 years ago. It’s also home to grizzly bears, elk, wolves, mountain goats, and more. Naturally, it’s a huge draw for adventure lovers.

When the park was founded in 1910, there were about 150 glaciers within the park. Nowadays, however, there are only 25 glaciers left. Yep, 125 glaciers have disappeared from Glacier National Park. By 2030, they’ll likely all be gone.

8. The Dead Sea

If you’ve never been to the Dead Sea, it’s a truly unique experience. It’s actually not a sea—it’s a lake bordered by Jordan, Israel, and the West Bank. It gets its name from its 33.7 percent salinity, making it 8.6 times saltier than the oceans.

The coolest thing about the Dead Sea is that because of its salinity, it’s impossible to sink. You’re buoyed to the top like a feather, and it’s truly one of the most unusual experiences I’ve ever had in my travels.

Unfortunately, in just forty years the Dead Sea has shrunk by more than one-third its original size. The Dead Sea may even disappear in another 50 years.  Most of this is due to industry. Thanks to the Dead Sea’s salinity, its waters are perfect for manufacturing potash. Water is being pumped out to use for this potash production, while at the same time water from the Jordan River (the Sea’s main source) is being diverted for agriculture.

9. Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Galapagos is well known for its unique abundance of rare animal life. It’s pretty much THE place to go if you want to do some wildlife viewing.

The Galapagos Islands are home to whales, sea lions, seals, giant sea turtles, iguanas, marine iguanas (seriously!), flamingos, penguins, and so much more. The diversity of life is somewhat of a shock.

But tourism in the Galapagos has increased by a whopping 12 percent each year, which has a big impact on delicate wildlife. With more hotels, restaurants, and traffic coming onto the scene, the islands are declining. In fact, five percent of the islands’ animal species have already become extinct.

Don’t despair, though. You still have time to visit. And if you’re worried about an environmental impact in some of these places, actively seek guides and businesses that will hold an eco-travel standard.

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