11 Places to Visit Before They’re Gone

WWF June 2, 2014 2

Some of the world’s most beloved travel destinations are also among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, according to two WWF experts.

Serving as consultants to Newsweek magazine’s special issue “100 Places to Explore Before They Disappear,” WWF climate change experts Lou Leonard and Nick Sundt cautioned that the need for action is now. “It isn’t just a question of reducing our emissions,” Sundt told Newsweek. “We also need to prepare for the consequences and adapt to them. If we don’t reduce our emissions, we will see impacts to which we cannot adapt.”

While these places may be threatened, they are far from lost. International leaders are ramping up efforts to tackle the drivers of climate change. Just this week, the United States proposed new initiatives to reduce emissions from power plants, and China has shown some of its strongest signs to date that the nation’s leaders intend to follow suit. While these steps will not solve the problem overnight, they can help catalyze other nations to do their part to reduce emissions too. Likewise the international community is also stepping up efforts to reduce the vulnerability of many of these places to climate disruption.

In this list, we highlight 17 places you can see in depth on a nature adventure with WWF and Natural Habitat Adventures.

Antarctic Peninsula 

© Michael Case/WWF-US

The Antarctic Peninsula, where half of the world’s emperor penguins and 70 percent of the Adelie penguins can be found, is heating up faster than the global average. © Michael Case/WWF-US

Why go now: Millions of emperor penguins call the northernmost tip of Antarctica home. But as we were reminded of earlier this month after the release of another study about the instability of the Antarctic ice sheet, Antarctica is one of the most vulnerable spots in the world to climate change.

Beijing, China

Groups visit Bifengxia Panda Base where they have the opportunity to view pandas in a more natural setting. © Brad Josephs/NHA

Groups visit Bifengxia Panda Base where they have the opportunity to view pandas in a more natural setting. © Brad Josephs/NHA

Why go now: An altered climate means China’s capital city is experiencing an increased number of intense sandstorms which, in turn, contribute to air pollution—already a big problem in China.

Chile

An ice block that broke off the Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, Santa Cruz Province, Patagonia, Argentina. © Nathalie Riacheter/WWF-Canon

An ice block that broke off the Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, Patagonia, Argentina. © Nathalie Riacheter/WWF-Canon

Why go now: Droughts and rising temperatures are threatening Chile’s economy, especially for agricultural producers in the middle chunk of the country.

Ecuador

Classified as endangered, green turtles are threatened by overharvesting of their eggs, hunting of adults, being caught in fishing gear and loss of nesting beach sites. © Jeff A. Goldberg/NHA

Classified as endangered, green turtles are threatened by overharvesting of their eggs, hunting of adults, being caught in fishing gear and loss of nesting beach sites. © Jeff A. Goldberg/NHA

Why go now: Warming oceans—especially from the fluctuations caused by El Nino—put the marine species of the Galapagos Islands and coastal mainland Ecuador at risk.

Masai Mara, Kenya

Aerial view of the Blue Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) migration. Up to 1.5 million wildebeest move through the Mara/Serengeti ecosystem each year. This is one of the worlds last great animal migrations. Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya © Martin Harvey/WWF-Canon

Up to 1.5 million wildebeest move through the Mara/Serengeti ecosystem each year. This is one of the worlds last great animal migrations. © Martin Harvey/WWF-Canon

Why go now: WWF has found that the population of ungulates, or hoofed-animals, that participate in the annual Great Migration has markedly decreased. The subsequent impact on the ecosystem may be substantial.

Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica 

© Patrick J. Endres/NHA

Costa Rica represents less than 1 percent of the world’s land mass, yet it contains 5 percent of the Earth’s biodiversity. © Patrick J. Endres/NHA

Why go now: WWF and conservation partners recognized decades ago what a special place the 35,000-acre cloud forest is and set up measures to protect it. Today, the park is threatened by even modest increases in temperature, which impact an ecosystem where so many life forms depend on one another.

Namib-Naukluft Park, Namibia

The Sossusvlei sand dunes are a popular attraction for travelers. Finding water in this area is a rare, one-in-ten years, event. © Martin Harvey/WWF-Canon

The Sossusvlei sand dunes are a popular attraction for travelers. Finding water in this area is a rare, one-in-ten years, event. © Martin Harvey/WWF-Canon

Why go now: Winds from the Atlantic Ocean shift the park’s famous sand dunes 65 feet annually. However, if stronger winds from increasing temperatures move the dunes more quickly, subsequent droughts could have a devastating impact on local people and wildlife.

Okavango Delta, Botswana

© Eric Rock/NHA

The Okavango is a magnificent oasis for wildlife in Africa; this delta has formed where the great Okavango River fans into a giant basin in the Kalahari. © Eric Rock/NHA

Why go now: The delta’s wetlands rely on a delicate balance between temperatures and rainfall. A changing climate will likely dry out many of the area’s peat bogs, crucial for wildlife and staving off wildfires.

Portugal

A visit to Portugal will often include visits to quintas, the Portuguese word for farm, where grapes and other produce are grown and harvested. © Olaf Malver/NHA

A visit to Portugal will often include visits to quintas, the Portuguese word for farm, where grapes and other produce are grown and harvested. © Olaf Malver/NHA

Why go now: More frequent droughts mean that the serpentine rivers so attractive to kayakers and so important to Portugal’s farms are drying up. Forecasters say climate change is intensifying these conditions.

Uganda

Since the discovery of the mountain gorilla subspecies in 1902, its population has endured years of war, hunting, habitat destruction and disease, their population is estimated to be around 786 today. © Trista Gauge/NHA

Since the discovery of the mountain gorilla subspecies in 1902, its population has endured years of war, hunting, habitat destruction and disease. Their population is estimated to be around 786 today. © Trista Gauge/NHA

Why go now: Known among wildlife enthusiasts for its populations of mountain gorillas and chimpanzees, experts are concerned about flooding from Africa’s Great Lakes, and changing temperatures may restrict water and food resources for local people.

Zambia

Travelers have the chance to see elephants in the Luangwa Valley. Roughly half of Africa’s total elephant populations live within Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. © Wilderness Safaris

Travelers have the chance to see elephants in the Luangwa Valley. Roughly half of Africa’s total elephant populations live throughout Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. © Wilderness Safaris

Why go now: Slight changes to rainfall patterns could have dire consequences for the small-scale agriculture on which many of the country’s impoverished inhabitants depend, de-stabilizing the economy.

By Marsea Nelson, guest blogger for WWF Travel

2 Comments »

  1. Richard Lee June 12, 2014 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    You left out the biggest one. According to the World’s top Coral Scientists, the Great Barrier Reef as we know it will be dead by 2058 if our CO2 level continue rising. Only DRASTIC action can save it.

    • Elissa Poma June 17, 2014 at 8:18 am - Reply

      Thanks, Richard. That is a good one to note. While WWF & NatHab don’t offer tours to the Great Barrier Reef, WWF is currently working on a big campaign to protect the reef. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee is meeting soon to decide whether to lend extra protections to the reef. If you wish to lend your name to the cause, you can sign WWF’s action alert here: https://support.worldwildlife.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=793. We currently have 46,000 out of our target 50,000 signatures. Thanks! -Elissa Poma, WWF

Leave A Response »