We might not want to admit it, guys, but it's true - the Earth may look drastically different within the next century, and it's largely a result of human activity negatively affecting the planet we call home. You have an ever-growing bucketlist of places you need to travel to before you die, sure - but you might want to bump some of them up to the top of the list, considering they may not exist in a generation's time. Just remember to be as respectful as possible of the environment if you choose to travel to the following locations.
1. The Great Barrier Reef // Australia
You may have heard the recent news... scientists are starting to declare the Great Barrier Reef dead in the sense that it may be too late to reverse the damaging effects of pollution, coral bleaching, rising ocean temperatures and acidification of the water, and overall erosion of this stunning ecosystem. It's sad, but the prediction is for 2030, the Australian gem will be no more. That means you've got about 10 years or less to see this colourful underwater world.
2. The Dead Sea, Israel // Jordan & Israel
Truly a natural wonder, the Dead Sea is the one place you can effortlessly float without sinking because of the high concentration (30%!) of salt. However, this rising concentration of salt is actually a bad sign for the Dead Sea - it means the sea has lost a third of its water over the past 50 years as a result of the border countries continuing to draw large amounts of water from the Jordan River, the only water source for the Dead Sea. You might have less than fifty years to go experience these unique waters.
3. The Maldives
Hate to break it to the non-believers, but global warming is real, and the complete disappearance of the Maldives within the next 80 years is evidence of that. Because the Maldives sits at a mere 3 feet above sea level (the lowest lying country in the world), it will be one of the first to go as the surrounding sea water level continues to rise. However, to say the Maldives are a stunning visual experience would be an understatement, and definitely somewhere you should aim to see in person before they are completely submerged within the next century.
4. The Amazon Rainforest, Brazil
Over a third of the planet's plant and animal species call the Amazon home, which are at serious risk of becoming endangered or extinct because of extreme deforestation. Over 40% of the rainforest has been cut down and will continue to be cut down.
5. Venice, Italy
Venice is a sinking city, literally. It's been sinking for centuries as a result of being constructed upon a salt marsh. The weaving of the canals throughout the city has an undeniably romantic look to it, but it will prove to be the city's eventual downfall as it descends deeper into the mud. That in combination with rising sea levels means you better put Venice at the top of your travel bucket list before it's flooded to the point of no return.
6. Glacier National Park, USA
Travelers and photographers flock to this natural gem in the state of Montana to see the snow-capped Rocky Mountains, ice floes and glacier-carved valleys - over 2 million visitors a year, in fact. The number of visitors is rising every year because everyone knows that these magnificent frozen structures are on the fast-track to disappearing - there used to be about 150 glaciers in the park, but now there are less than 25. At this rate, scientists say the park's glaciers could be a thing of the past in less than 20 years.
7. Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
Cairo is growing, which means it's getting closer and closer to the famed pyramids' territory. Air pollution is attacking the exteriors of these ancient wonders, but the biggest issue the pyramids may face is thousands of eager tourists climbing the crumbling stone on a daily basis. If you go, feel free to take all the photos your heart desires, but maybe don't contribute to their decay by stepping all over them.
An archipelago of 115 islands off the coast of East Africa, the Seychelles has become a hotspot for honeymooners, and for good reason - its stellar beaches, coral reefs, diving opportunities, and unique wildlife are a travel photographer's absolute dream. The problem is that the coral reef surrounding the islands acted as a protective barrier, but now that the coral is dying, it's giving way to the steady erosion of the islands. Along with rising sea levels, what's left of the romantic Seychelles in 50-100 years will be considered uninhabitable, or otherwise submerged underwater.
9. Mount Kilimanjaro's Icy Cap, Tanzania
Africa's tallest mountain is a postcard-worthy icon of the continent. Everyone has an image of Kilimanjaro in their head as the backdrop of an African landscape, whether they realized it was Kilimanjaro or not. This famous mountain base starts in the rainforest and ends in an icy snow field - talk about total opposites! Sadly, it's estimated that about 85% of the mountain's icy peak has melted in the last century and may evaporate completely within 20 years. If you want to capture this postcard shot for yourself, the time is now.
Who wants to wander through a magical-looking forest of baobab trees in person?! Well, you better hop on a plane quick, because Madagascar is unfortunately falling victim to the effects of human activity. These include excessive deforestation, fires, and hunting of the African island's various unique species found nowhere else on the planet.
11. The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Traveling to see this one is a bit of a paradox, because the once untouched hotbed of biodiversity off the coast of Ecuador is being disrupted by the drove of tourists now leaving a human footprint. Besides the introduction of non-native species upsetting the fragile ecosystem, plastic floating in the waters as well as pollution are harming the unique Galapagos wildlife. If you do choose to go, you'll need to be as eco-conscious as possible - and try not to pester the seals for selfies!
12. The Congo Basin Rainforest
The world's second largest rainforest after the Amazon, and facing a similar state of deterioration. Mining, deforestation, and poaching of endangered species (ie. gorillas, elephants) mean that two-thirds of this African rainforest may be destroyed in the next 50 years.
13. Patagonian Ice Fields, Argentina/Chile
You have never seen icy blue 'bergs like the ones in the Patagonian Ice Fields before, and if you don't act fast you may never have the chance. Other than Antarctica, it's the largest body of ice in the southern hemisphere but it's said to be shrinking at a rate of 6 feet per year. Interestingly, three of the glaciers are expanding, but the remaining 90% are doing just the opposite. Better check out these otherworldly crystal-like icebergs while you can!
14. The Arctic Polar Bears
The best places to spot polar bears in their natural habitat include Antarctica, Norway, and northern Canada. You can even go on polar bear sightseeing tours in the Arctic, because, well, everyone loves a super cute photo of a momma bear with her cub, right? However, the rapid melting of their ice habitat secured these beautiful creatures a spot on the Endangered Species list in 2008.
15. Taj Mahal, India
Wait, the Taj Mahal is in danger of disappearing? Whaaat? Well, yes, for the very fact that it is such a significant tourist destination. Besides air pollution picking away at the magnificent building's exterior, millions of feet trekking the grounds each year are steadily eroding the area. Vehicles have now even been banned from getting too close. If this UNESCO heritage site doesn't see improvements soon, it may soon be closed off from tourists - maybe as early as 5 years from now.
16. Barrier Reef, Belize
It's the second largest coral reef in the world, after Australia's. Likewise with the Great Barrier Reef, Belize's barrier reef is facing dire consequences due to changes in the environment. It lost 50% of its coral in 1998 due to severe coral bleaching (the term for when coral dies when it no longer has the necessary algae around to give it its colourful pigment).
17. The Door To Hell, Turkmenistan
Now here's one that you may have never heard of - deep in Turkmenistan's Karakum Desert, there exists a massive pit in the ground that is perpetually alive with fire for the past 40 years. Engineers lit up the methane-fuelled flames after worrying that it was emitting poisonous gases, and it surprisingly hasn't burnt out since. Since many tourists don't find themselves wandering to Turkmenistan, this is definitely one for the adventurous traveler to head out to before the flames finally decide to die out - who knows when that will be?
19. Bordeaux Vineyards, France
It's a beloved region for wine lovers everywhere, but it may not be able to produce your favourite bottle of Merlot for much longer. Specifically, changes in rain, sunshine, and overall temperature are affecting the production levels of the Bordeaux region. So if you're hoping to plan the wine lover's trip of a lifetime to these romantic French vineyards, you better do so within the next 40 years, as wine producers will be moving production to Southern England sooner rather than later.
20. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Another travel photographer's dream, although even if you're only shooting with your iPhone it'll prove difficult to take a bad photo here. Salar de Uyuni is the world's largest salt flat at nearly 11,000 square kilometres, and arguably the most enchanting. It's what remains of a lake that went dry in a prehistoric era, but now it's at risk of disappearing since it happens to sit on half of the world's lithium reserves - the increasingly in-demand stuff that your batteries are made out of and thus being extracted by the Bolivian government.
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