Category: environment

Outstanding Natural Beauty of World Heritage Sites in Africa [36 PICS]

August 27th, 2013 Permalink

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated 129 World Heritage Sites in Africa, but these 36 are listed as Outstanding Universal Value for natural heritage. As you might expect, there is a wide diversity of flora and fauna in each. Sadly, some of these have also been placed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage Sites in Danger, most often due to poaching of endangered wildlife. The UNESCO committee may inscribe new sites on the list, or it may delist sites if the area no longer meets the criteria, but this is UNESCO’s current list for Africa in 2013 as of the time of publishing.
[36 Photos]

Lion at Serengeti National Park, Masai Mara, Tanzania

Lion at Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. It is one of many UNESCO World Heritage Sites for natural and outstanding universal value in Africa. This vast savanna has 3,648,000 acres (1,476,300 ha) and is world-renowned for its annual herd migrations in search of water and pasture. Two million wildebeests, hundreds of thousands of zebras and gazelles, and all their predators make it “one of the most impressive nature spectacles in the world.” Because there is so much prey, it contains the “Big Five.” Serengeti is believed to hold more than 3,000 lions, the largest population of lions in Africa, about 1,000 African leopards, African Buffalo, African Elephants and Black Rhinoceros — but few rhinos are said to remain due to “rampant poaching.” It was designated as a natural site by UNESCO in 1981. Photo #1 by Anita Ritenour

More Photos

Hidden Gems: 25 Least Crowded U.S. National Parks [50 PICS]

July 23rd, 2013 Permalink

National Park Service sites receive approximately 280 million visitors each year and it publishes a ‘Ranking Report for Recreation Visits’ every year. This public usage list includes all NPS properties, not just National Parks, but also National Monuments (NM), National Historical Parks (NHP), National Seashores (NS), National Military Parks (NMP), National Recreation Areas (NRA), and so on as listed on the ranking report for 2012. The National Park Service says it has one mission, to “care for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage.” There are a total of 367 places on this list, but when it comes to only national parks — some with and without a preserve — what are the hidden gems among national treasures, the least crowded U.S. National Parks? If you want more of nature, and less of people, then you might be interested in visiting one that is less popular. Here’s a list starting at #25 and working down to the #1 least-visited, therefore least-crowded national parks in all of the United States during 2012. [50 Photos]

Virgin Islands National Park, Trunk Bay and the beach on Saint John, called the most beautiful beach in the world

#25 of the 59 U.S. National Parks: Virgin Islands National Park had 483,341 visitors in 2012, coming in with a rank of #119 of the #367 on the list. It is the 25th least-crowded national park in the U.S. This is Trunk Bay and the beach on Saint John, called the most beautiful beach in the world. It is continually listed in the top 10 beaches worldwide to visit. Photo #1 by Iliyan Gochev

More Photos

Endearing, Endangered Gentle Giants: Marvelous Manatees [44 PICS]

July 12th, 2013 Permalink

Massive yet gentle, manatees are endangered marine mammals. Sometimes called “sea cows,” they were once thought to be a bit dimwitted, but now are known to have a similar intelligence to dolphins. We fell in love with them while we were in Florida, so here’s look at these endearing, endangered gentle giants. [44 Photos]

Kissing manatees in Georgia

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (.pdf), “Christopher Columbus was the first European to report seeing a manatee in the New World. To Columbus, and other sailors who had been at sea for a long time, manatees were reminiscent of mermaids—the mythical half-fish, half-woman creatures of the ocean. Manatees are not fish, however, but marine mammals.” When you think about manatees, you probably think of those living in Florida. However, these West Indian manatees traveled to Georgia in late spring and early summer. Photo #1 by Michael Gilbert, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Complex / USFWS

More Photos

Cool Karst at China’s Shilin Stone Forest: 270 Million Year Old Natural Wonder [35 PICS]

June 6th, 2013 Permalink

Imagine 96,000 acres of forest, then swap out the trees in your mind’s eye for huge karst formations, some of which formed at least 270 million years ago, and that “stone forest” is Shilin in China. Since the Ming Dynasty in 1368-1644 AD, the collections of intricate karst formations and landscapes at Shilin Stone Forest have “bewitched” people; the site became known as the ‘First Wonder of the World,’ according to the China Travel Guide. South China Karst is not one Stone Forest, but made up of many such individual landscapes of all sizes. In fact, UNESCO says South China Karst has “outstanding universal value” and named two smaller stone forests, Naigu Stone Forest and Suogeyi Village, both as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Here’s a look at Shilin Stone Forest in China.
[35 Photos]

Lunan County, China, Stone Forest, Shilin

Imagine 96,000 acres of forest, then swap out the trees in your mind’s eye for huge karst formations, some of which formed at least 270 million years ago, and that “stone forest” is Shilin in China. It’s located about an hour away from Kunming. Shilin is dotted with 65 reservoirs and ponds. Photo #1 by Richard IJzermans

More Photos

Camping Under the Stars [42 PICS]

June 3rd, 2013 Permalink

With the arrival of summer, the great outdoors is calling, “Come play in me.” Millions of people enjoy hiking, backpacking, trekking and then camping under the stars. Here are some positive quotes and tremendous night sky views to inspire you to get out there; have an adventure, and go camping! [42 Photos]

Camping under the stars at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Camping under the stars at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota. “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle,” ~ quote by Albert Einstein. Photo #1 by Justin Kern

More Photos

Spectacular Sand Beaches in a Rainbow of 10 Incredible Colors [43 PICS]

May 31st, 2013 Permalink

When you think about summer and visiting a beach, do you visualize a seashore with golden-brown sand? That may depend upon where you live and what beach you are picturing. We are constantly amazed and appreciate seeing the diversity in nature, such as the extremely colorful sandy beaches that nature painted from a palette of rainbow-like shades. These unique-colored beaches are located all around the world and come in varying sandy shades of green, red, orange, pink, purple, black, gray, brown, golden-yellow and white. Here is a sampling of some of those beautiful beaches with spectacular sand in incredible colors. [43 Photos]

Paragliding over Rainbow Beach in Queensland, AU

Paragliding over Rainbow Beach in Queensland, AU. This coastal and former sand mining town got its name, Rainbow Beach, from the rainbow-colored sand dunes, with as many as 72 different colored sands, surrounding it. Photo #1 by texaus1

More Photos

Alien-looking Island of Bliss: Enter a Different Dimension at Socotra [42 PICS]

May 24th, 2013 Permalink

Enter a different dimension at Socotra, an unusually peculiar-looking world that was long ago called “The Island of Bliss.” Located off the Horn of Africa, in the Indian Ocean, Socotra is about 150 miles away from Somalia and the threat of real-day pirates; it’s a little over 200 miles away from its mainland Yemen. And the landscape makes it “the most alien-looking place on Earth.” Although Socotra has wide sandy beaches rising to limestone plateaus full of caves, some 4.4 miles in length (7 km), wind-swept cliffs and mountains over 5,000 feet high, the island’s iconic image is of the Dragon’s Blood tree; it’s deep red resin was once considered to be ancient dragon blood. Some people have suggested that Socotra might have been the original Garden of Eden. Currently every single Trip Advisor tourist review rated Socotra as “excellent.” Of course, there are high security threats like kidnapping and terrorism; the US State Department warned Americans against traveling to Yemen. In 2011, Somali pirates were using the island as a fuel base. Yet tourists call it a “hidden gem” for those adventurous souls not seeking a luxury resort. Most of us will never visit this out of this world island of Socotra. [42 Photos]

Socotra Island, Yemen

If you are looking for a luxurious vacation, then this is not the right location for you. However, people sometimes say they want to “get off the grid” and this would be an ideal place to visit if you love adventure and nature, and don’t mind “roughing” it a bit. Far away on what appears at first to be an oasis is Socotra Island, Yemen. It is believed that Socotra got its name from Sanskrit, meaning “Island of Bliss.” Others suggest the name was derived from Arabic and means “dripping frankincense.” It may be a bit of both, currently unspoiled by man, but most people know of Socotra as being “the most alien-looking place on Earth.” It’s like a whole another world, like a different dimension. Photo #1 by Martin Sojka

More Photos

Tiptoe Through the Tulips [35 PICS]

May 13th, 2013 Permalink

There are over 3000 different registered varieties of cultivated tulips and all are a beautiful sign of spring. Tulip festivals honor the Dutch and are huge tourist attractions, but the festivals are held all over the world, including the USA. So . . . “Tiptoe through the window, By the window, that is where I’ll be, Come tiptoe through the tulips with me.” [35 Photos]

Seabird Island tulip fields and mountains in BC

Tulip fields on Seabird Island, Agassiz, British Columbia. Tulip festivals are held in many locations around the world. These gorgeous and beautifully-fragrant flowers were once so popular that they sparked a speculative frenzy now called “tulip mania.” During this time, tulips were so expensive that they were treated as a form of currency. Photo #1 by Dru!

More Photos

Beautiful Untamed Treasure: Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area [42 PICS]

April 23rd, 2013 Permalink

Tasmania, the “Island of Inspiration,” is home to one of the last large areas of temperate wilderness in the world. The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area covers about 20% of Tasmania and is one of the largest conservation areas in Australia. About 3.4 million acres make up the Tasmanian Wilderness and it includes Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Hartz Mountains National Park, Mole Creek Karst National Park, Southwest National Park, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Central Plateau Conservation and Protected Areas, Devils Gullet State Reserve and South East Mutton Bird Islet. That network of six national parks and three reserves are the wild, green, and rugged Tasmanian Wilderness. It is one of the last true untamed wilderness areas remaining on Earth and has it all for nature lovers such as dense woods, lakes, rivers, mountains, waterfalls, steep gorges that underwent severe glaciation and caves. The Great Wilderness of Tasmania is beloved by hikers, climbers, bushwalkers, cavers, rafters and any other adventuresome souls. [42 Photos]

Gorgeous green moss and trees in the forest near Cradle Mountain and Lake St. Clair - Tasmania, Australia

Gorgeous green moss and trees in the forest near Cradle Mountain and Lake St. Clair in Tasmania, Australia. It is one of six national parks and three reserves within the 3,410,041 acres that make up the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Tasmania has been called the “Island of Inspiration” and “island at the edge of the world;” the Tasmanian Wilderness is a land of gorgeous contrasts and is one of the last areas of temperate wilderness left in the world. Photo #1 by Jes (mugley)

More Photos

Enchanted Forests Carpeted in Beautiful Bluebells

April 19th, 2013 Permalink

Every spring as the soil warms and the leaves begin to form a shade canopy over Europe’s ancient woodlands, there is a wildflower spectacle in the undergrowth. When millions of violet-blue bluebells stretch as far as the eye can see and their strong, sweet scent permeates the air, the forest seems almost magical. Because these woods take on an almost enchanted quality when carpeted by beautiful bluebells, it may be why bluebells have also been dubbed “fairy flowers.” If you are not fortunate enough to experience beautiful British bluebell woods in real life, we hope you can be inspired by these pictures of heavenly bluebells.
[38 Photos]

Bluebells in Micheldever Wood, Hampshire

The carpet of beautiful bluebells makes an almost magical setting and may also be why these wildflowers have been called fairy flowers. According to the photographer, “There are more bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) in England than anywhere else in the world, and Micheldever Wood often has a magnificent display.” Photo #1 by Anguskirk

More Photos

Wondrous Waterfalls in Iceland [60 PICS]

April 6th, 2013 Permalink

Iceland has some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. In fact, it seems everywhere you turn there are stunning falls of varied types such as plunge, horsetail, multi-step, segmented, punchbowl and cascade waterfalls. With frequent rain and snow and large glaciers, Iceland provides an ideal setting for falls. As snow and ice melt in summer, the volcanic and basalt Iceland is alive with magnificent and mighty waterfalls that would stun you. Winter waterfalls are sometimes frozen with an aurora borealis overhead . . . also gorgeous while looking unbelievably cold. Here are 25 different Iceland waterfalls. [60 Photos]

Seljalandsfoss is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland

Seljalandsfoss is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland. Photo #1 by Howard Ignatius

More Photos

Chernobyl Exclusion Zone: Adrenaline & Radiation Urbex, A Good Day to Die Hard?

March 15th, 2013 Permalink

The Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster happened 27 years ago on April 26, 1986. After the explosion, a radius of 18.6 miles (30 km) was setup as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. That “zone of alienation” is becoming more frequently seen in popular culture; it was seen in the 2013 film A Good Day to Die Hard, in the 2012 Chernobyl Diaries and also in the 2011 movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The area is featured in hundreds of documentaries and even early on in the 1998 film Godzilla as a researcher studies the mutational effects of radiation on native earthworms. It’s the nightmare setting for several video games. Although urban explorers have been coming to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone for years, Ukrainian officials opened the zone for tourists with “special permission” in 2011. Whether you call it reverse eco-tourism, terror tourism, or an adrenaline rush urban exploration, it would undoubtedly be surreal to experience. Some claim it’s haunted, while others think it’s a dream setting for playing a zombie apocalypse-like paintball gun war. Thanks to those that were brave enough to take up their cameras and Geiger counters, we can take a virtual tour of the Exclusion Zone. It includes Prypiat, Prypiat amusement park, Polissya hotel, the Red Forest and more places stuck in time as everyone was evacuated with no time to pack. This is what visiting the Chernobyl disaster after almost 27 years looks like, since criteria for this photo essay included being creative commons photos taken as recently as possible with as many different radioactive areas as possible. Enjoy!
[69 Photos, 8 Videos]

Pripyat - Lenin Square during fall season in 2012

Pripyat – Lenin Square during fall season in 2012. In April, it will be 27 years after the Chernobyl disaster and the emergency abandonment of Pipyat and other areas also known as the 30 Kilometer Zone, extending in a radius of 18.6 miles (30 km) from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Photo #1 by Michael Kötter

More Photos