With that in mind, I thought carefully about highlighting destinations which may only exacerbate the problem. So in this list, I am going to look at the 10 most endangered places to visit where the problems are not caused directly by tourists. So bags packed and guide books at the ready, let's get this somewhat sobering journey started.
1. Amazon Rainforest, Brazil
The Amazon Rainforest covers more than 2 million square miles and is home to many rare plants and animal species. Unfortunately, it is also under threat from mining and deforestation which according to National Geographic is responsible for the loss of around 17% of the forest over the past 50 years. This is not only a natural disaster; it poses a great risk to humanity. Trees play an important role in absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. It is estimated that the rainforest absorbs 2 billion tons of CO2 and releases 20% of the world's oxygen each year. It doesn’t stop there, more than 25% of all drugs are derived from animals or plants originating in the forest. That’s an even more impressive statistic when considering only 5% of the plants have been studied for their medical properties. The loss of the Amazon affects all of us. So visiting this most precious and beautiful place is a must for anyone who cares about the planet. If nothing else it will highlight the role the rainforest plays in the global ecosystem and bring more awareness of its importance.
2. The Maldives
Famed for its white sandy beaches, swaying palm trees and beautiful turquoise waters, the Maldives is the archetypal tropical paradise. But due to rising sea levels, it's also one of the most endangered regions on earth. The islands sit just 8 feet above sea level, which means they will be uninhabitable by 2050 and disappear completely by the end of the century. So if you want to experience this tropical paradise for yourself, you might want to take a flight to the Maldives sooner rather than later.
3. Everglades National Park, Florida
The wetland wilderness of the Everglades National Park, which sits at the southern tip of Florida, is home to the Western Hemisphere’s largest mangrove ecosystem and sawgrass prairie. It is also home to a diverse collection of rare species such as the saltwater crocodile, Florida panther and manatee. Unfortunately, the area is also under threat from urban development, industry, agriculture and rising sea levels which have destroyed more than half of the Everglades since 1900. What remains has been on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage in Danger since 2010 and could disappear altogether by 2050. So Mickey Mouse can wait, take a trip to the Everglades before it's too late.
4. Venice, Italy
Have you ever wanted to experience a gondola ride down the Grand Canal in Venice? Well if that’s on your bucket list you better catch a flight to Venice sooner rather than later. Because this beautiful historic city is at risk of disappearing beneath the waves completely within the next century. To see the city at its best you should aim to visit in Spring or Autumn which is outside the main tourist season. Try to avoid visiting by cruise ship, since these have been blamed for damaging the fragile lagoon. Cheap flights to Venice are available from all major cities across Europe so you don’t have an excuse for missing out on this beautiful, romantic and historic city.
5. The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The largest coral reef on the planet also has the indignity of being one of the most endangered places on the list. Higher temperatures, extreme weather and pollution have led to acidification of the ocean which is causing large-scale coral bleaching. The Australian Institute of Marine Science estimates that more than half of the reef has been destroyed since 1980 and the rest could disappear completely within the next twenty years. So if you want to see the beautiful natural colours of the coral and stunning wildlife which inhabits them. You better book a flight to Northern Eastern Australia sooner rather than later.
6. Machu Picchu, Peru
Set high in the Andes Mountains, Machu Picchu is one of the world's most famous tourist attractions. But it is also one of the most endangered. The site is at risk from urban development, soil erosion and the ever-present threat of landslides which could wipe the city out overnight. UNESCO has counselled authorities to take rigorous measures to help protect the site, but it remains one of the most endangered places on the list.
7. Patagonia, Chile
Also in the Andes, straddling the border between Argentina and Chile, the Patagonian ice fields are an area of outstanding natural beauty. But they are at risk of not staying that way. Rising global temperatures mean the glaciers are disappearing at an ever-increasing rate. According to researchers at Cornell University, the fields are diminishing at a rate of 6.4 miles per year which means they will disappear completely by the end of the century.
8. The Dead Sea
Located 1380 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth. Famous for its health benefits and high salinity levels, which gives swimmers extra buoyancy, the sea has been a popular tourist attraction for more than two millennia. But according to EcoPeace Middle East, water levels are shrinking at a rate of 3.3 feet per year due to changes in water flow and temperatures. Unlike other places in this list, however, it will not disappear completely. At some point, the level of salt in the water will reach equilibrium with the atmosphere preventing further evaporation. So ironically the Dead Sea will not die, but water levels will shrink back considerably from where they are today with the tipping point reached around 2050.
9. The Caribbean
What could be better than sitting back in the tropical sunshine, under palm trees swaying gently in the breeze while sipping coconut milk through a straw? Well, if that’s your idea of heaven you better catch the next flight to the Caribbean because rising sea levels spell disaster for many Islands in the region. A 2011 report by the United Nations says that projected sea levels at the end of the century will wipe out more than 300 tourist resorts, along with farmland, power plants and transport infrastructure. While not all Caribbean islands will suffer the same fate, St Lucia, Martinique and large parts of Jamaica will be spared the worst of it. The remaining islands will become more populated and overcrowded.
10. Bordeaux Vineyards, France
Bordeaux is one of France’s most important wine-growing regions. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec grapes which grow here are responsible for making some of the finest red wines in the world. So, if like me, you love a glass of Merlot in the evening, you may be distraught to know that this region is under threat. Shifts in temperature and annual rainfall have meant Bordeaux output is falling each year. It is estimated that over the next 40 years output will have fallen by two-thirds spelling disaster for most winegrowers in the region. So if you love red wine, now is the time to head to Bordeaux to try the best, before it's too late.
With cheap fares to these destinations available from most major cities in Europe, Australasia and North America there is no excuse for not seeing these awe-inspiring places before they are lost forever. Just remember that global warming is responsible for most of this destruction. So always travel responsibly and respect the environment wherever you go. Then maybe some of these attractions will still be around for future generations to enjoy.