File this under “Disappearing Destinations.” Not to be an alarmist, but endangered species are still endangered, glaciers are melting, and sea levels are rising. While this might not impact our daily lives, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that many of our “ecologically sensitive” places remain vulnerable. With that in mind, these are the natural wonders that you should see this year, while you still can.
See These Natural Wonders in 2022, Before It’s Too Late
1. Glacier National Park, USA
Montana’s Glacier National Park could very well be glacier-free before 2030 because of warmer weather and a change in the snowfall. Experts report there were 150 glaciers in 1900. Today there are only 25. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put the meltwater lednian stonefly and western glacier stonefly on the Endangered Species List in 2019. If you want to check out the glaciers, the popular Going-to-the-Sun Road, or even go rafting on the Flathead River, now is the time.
2. Tuvalu, South Pacific
The little country of Tuvalu is located between Hawaii and Australia. The nine islands cover 10 untouched square miles of stunning coral reefs and lovely lagoons that are seen by only the most intent adventurers. Sea levels have risen to the point where the highest point here is only a couple of meters above sea level. Indeed, two of the nine isles are about to go under, and experts predict Tuvalu will be uninhabitable in 50 years.
3. The Everglades, USA
This natural wonder in Florida is shrinking. Since 2000, a 30-year plan to restore the popular “River of Grass” has been in operation. Still, the everglades are now smaller than the state of New Jersey and its 1.5-million-acre expanse is half of its original size. Human interference has impacted the water quality and climate. Nevertheless, it’s still the residence of the American crocodile, the Florida panther, the manatee, and the Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider.
4. Belize Barrier Reef, Belize
This is the world’s second-largest coral reef and unsurprisingly it’s in trouble. It lost half of its coral in numerous areas including its distinctive staghorn coral in 1998. The 300-kilometer reef–where you’ll find the well-known Blue Hole–is home to many marine animals. 90 percent of the species there have yet to be identified and many are currently at risk because of man-made pollution, especially plastic. Over 1,000 species of sea creatures remain at risk.
5. Doñana National Park, Spain
Doñana National Park in Huelva is home to the largest wetland in Europe. Even though it has a reportedly “high degree of protection,” this rich biodiverse place is still threatened by a list of issues including climate change, industrial projects, invasive species, and land use. At least the Spanish government did put a ban on the dredging of the area in 2016. That at least eliminates the most immediate concern to unique Doñana National Park.
6. Emperor Penguins, Antarctica
Antarctica may soon look and even feel a lot different. Since the mid-1990s, the Antarctic ice shelves have lost almost 4 trillion metric tons of ice and wildlife has been significantly impacted. According to data in the journal Global Change Biology, by the year 2100, “98 percent of emperor penguin colonies” could be extinct. The penguins’ life cycle relies largely on the presence of stable sea ice. BY 2050, 70 percent of the penguin population will be endangered.
7. Maldives, South Asia
Scientists predict this archipelago of 200 islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean will be gone in as little as 20 years. Regular readers know of the celebrity clientele, the coral reefs, and white sand beaches. What you don’t know is that it is the country with the world’s lowest terrain. It’s less than one meter above sea level. Numerous scientists believe that climate change will eventually cause enough flooding that before 2100, Maldives will be uninhabitable.
8. The Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, New Zealand
New Zealand’s marine glaciers have been on the decline for over 20 years. The Franz Josef glacier has lost 1.56 kilometers in length. Furthermore, it’s happened at the fastest rate ever known to man. The famous Fox Glacier has been receding for 13 years. Its access road was closed in 2019 because of a massive landslide and frequent flooding. It can now only be reached via helicopter.
9. The White Cliffs of Dover, United Kingdom
These iconic cliffs consist of white chalk created from the actual shells of a specific rare species of algae. They have always been affected by bad weather, but beach erosion, reduced sediment supply, and storm waves have all added up to the cliffs eroding 10 times quicker in the past 150 years than during the previous seven millennia.
10. The Dead Sea, Israel
If you truly want that Instagram picture of you floating in the Dead Sea, best get a move on, people. The dense water is vanishing due to water scarcity issues and excessive mineral mining. The water level is reportedly dropping almost one meter annually and the land itself is sinking almost 15 centimeters each year. Already there are sinkholes and a few resorts have closed their doors. Scientists say it may be gone by 2050.
11. The Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda
This renowned range of mountains, located between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, has also been affected by climate change. In 2020, Klaus Thymann’s expedition determined that both Mount Speke and Mount Baker no longer have glaciers. Only three of Africa’s five glaciated peaks remain. Mount Stanley’s glacier is now the only remaining glacier in the Rwenzori Mountains and researchers report it could be gone by 2025.
12. Wedding Cake Rock, Australia
Every cloud has a silver lining! TikTok “influencers” aren’t going to be able to shoot themselves doing handstands on the edge of Wedding Cake Rock anymore. This natural wonder is about an hour out of the village of Bundeena in New South Wales. The unusual rock, distinctly pale due to iron leaching, was fenced off in order to keep curiosity seekers away from the cliff edges. The rock’s sandstone layers are now considered “dangerously soft” and could collapse.
13. Mount Fuji, Japan
Mount Fuji is a “must-see” when in Japan. Unfortunately, the image of this iconic snow-capped volcano may soon be little more than a distant memory as its snowfall has been decreasing over the past decade. NASA reported that the snow cover on Mount Fuji in 2020 was the lowest it’s been in the past 20 years. Indeed, the snowcap was reported to be significantly smaller or even absent during that year.
14. Lanikai Beach, USA
This famous beach on the Windward Coast of Hawaii’s island of Oahu is in trouble. Sandbag walls and manmade seawalls are adding to the overall coastal erosion here. In fact, the beach’s southern half is no longer walkable and a lot of the shoreline that remains is eroded. Experts state that the island has lost almost 25 percent of its beaches because of shoreline hardening, and by 2050 that fateful figure could climb to 40 percent.
15. The Congo Basin, Africa
The second-largest rainforest in the world is not only being threatened by climate change but also from a growing demand for timber. The forests of Cameroon and Gabon, for example, are being intensely logged. There are also issues concerning illegal oil drilling and further deforestation which could result in the loss of as much as two-thirds of the rainforest environment by 2040. This loss would also increase the rate of climate change.
16. The Atsinanana Rainforest, Madagascar
This official World Heritage Site is a must-visit for many travelers. The area along the 1,000-mile stretch of eastern Madagascar includes six national parks and is the home of many rare species that are now severely threatened. Illegal logging and poaching here pushed this place onto the UNESCO “in danger” list 12 years ago. Other significant issues impacting this area include agricultural encroachment, climate change, infrastructure development, livestock grazing, mining, and quarrying.
17. Sundarbans, Bangladesh, and India
This group of low-lying islands is located in the Bay of Bengal and spans a total of 3,800 square miles. Here you will find one of the world’s largest mangrove forests, as well as rare Bengal tigers, Ganges River dolphins, chital deer, and saltwater crocodiles. The coastlines here are eroding due to continuing deforestation, overfishing, and deforestation. Official estimates indicate that if the sea level rises another 45 centimeters approximately 75 percent of the mangroves will perish.
18. The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The 1,200-mile Great Barrier Reef on Australia’s northern coast may not be officially “in danger” anymore but is still threatened. Rising ocean temperatures have impacted the reef and its inhabitants and in 2019 Australian officials said it was in “very poor” condition. Climate-induced factors have resulted in the Great Barrier Reef dying at an alarming rate. In the recent past, experts have witnessed almost a 90 percent decrease in new coral.
19. Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Mountaineers are already no longer able to scale this popular peak because its ice cap has melted due to warming temperatures. Will Gadd, a renowned ice climber, canceled his attempt to climb it in 2020 because of its extensively shrinking glaciers. He opted to film a documentary about the cause of “the big melt” titled “The Last Ascent.” Kilimanjaro’s UNESCO World Heritage status remains “Good With Some Concerns,” but officials expect that within the next 20 years, the glaciers will all be gone.
20. The Amazon Rainforest, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela
Roughly 3,800 square miles of this rainforest, the largest on the planet, was destroyed by a fire in 2019. More damage was done by fires in 2020. Scientists presently estimate that it will all but disappear in another 50 years because of the world’s demands for soybeans, timber, and beef. Sadly, it is now actually giving off more carbon dioxide than it can absorb.
21. Yangtze River, China
The Yangtze is the world’s third-longest river at a length of 3,915 miles. It also supports 50 percent of the nation’s plant and animal species such as Siberian cranes, porpoises, and even giant pandas. Unfortunately, between the heavy industrialization, and dense local human population, both “irreparable flooding and habitat destruction” have reportedly polluted the river and impacted the water supply. Officials are taking action to reach carbon neutrality before 2060.
22. Polar Bears, The Arctic
If you want to see a polar bear in the wild, you’d best get a move on! The Artic’s ecosystem is being threatened by worsening climate conditions. One victim of all that melting ice is the polar bear. Scientific experts believe that the climate change here could make polar bears extinct. When the area of ice decreases, they must move to the coast where there is less food.
23. The Himalayan Glaciers, India
According to a BBC report, these glaciers are melting at a rate twice as fast since the 21st century began. The culprit? Global warming. The Himalayas’ retreating glaciers are filling glacial lakes at a dangerous rate. With the loss of more than 1.5 vertical feet of ice annually, the water supply is threatened and the habitat of such endangered species as the snow leopard is being devastated.
24. Joshua Tree National Park, USA
This national park in California may soon have an ironic name. The iconic trees that have been here in the Mojave Desert for over 2.5 million years may soon be gone. The California Fish and Game Commission announced in 2020 that the trees are under “Temporary Endangered Species Protection.” Thus, they’re illegal to damage, cut down, or remove without special permission. They’re also threatened by the development boom.
25. The Taal Volcano, Philippines
The Taal Volcano has reportedly erupted a total of 34 times in the last 450+ years. It last erupted about two years ago. At last report, it was closed to tourists because of the large quantities of sulfur dioxide it was emitting. While it remains part of a picturesque tourist spot located in Taal Lake, close to Manila, and the Batangas beaches, it could be off-limits for some time.