From the Great Barrier Reef to the forests of Madagascar
You’ve heard the grim timelines: if warming continues, the Great Barrier Reef will be bleached by 2030; glaciers in the Swiss Alps, on Mt. Kilimanjaro, and in Glacier National Park will disappear in under 40 years; and Arctic ice melt will send polar bears into extinction.
The immediacy of these timelines prompts flocks of curious eco-tourists to travel to environmentally fragile areas. Tourism is both bane and boon: it can add strain to already distressed areas, but it can also provide income, which in turn can help preserve these wonders.
We spotlight 10 areas under threat — some lesser known than others — that can still be visited responsibly. Should you decide to plan a journey, we’ve recommended our favorite tour operator for each destination. In some cases the price tag may be higher than your average vacation, but consider it an investment in Mother Earth.
Belize Barrier Reef
One of the most diverse reef ecosystems in the world is home to whale sharks, rays, and manatees, as well as sturgeon, conch and spiny lobsters.
The Threat: Like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Belize Barrier Reef leads a tenuous existence. A section of the nearly 700-mile-long Mesoamerican Reef that reaches from Mexico to Honduras, the Belize reef suffered a severe bleaching in 1998, with a loss of 50 percent of its coral in many areas, including much of its distinctive staghorn coral. Since the bleaching, its decline has continued, due to global warming of the world’s seas, agricultural pollution, development, and increasing tourism, which has given rise to more coastal development and an invasion of cruise ships.
Get There: Go with Journeys International, founded by former conservation workers, on an 8-day “Cayo and the Caye” journey into Belize’s rainforest that includes kayaking into river caves, a side trip Guatemala, a visit to the Mayan ruins at Tikal, and, finally, a three-day-stay on an island in the reef (from $2,825 per person, excluding airfare).
Others on the list include: The Congo Basin, The Dead Sea, The Everglades, Madagascar, The Maldives, The Poles, Rajasthan – Ranthambore, The Tahuamanú rainforest and The Yangtze River basin.
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By: Laurel Delp – Budget Travel