Dramatic climate changes that our planet has been recently experiencing, ruthless human expansion, various types of erosion, desertification and many others factors have been permanently altering the landscape of the world. With all the changes happening faster than ever, we might be among the very last generations to see some of the world´s most amazing places and natural wonders. From the Aral Sea to a unique rock formation in Australia, check out these 25 places you must visit before they disappear for good.
Azure Window, Malta
Located on Gozo, the second largest island of the Maltese archipelago, the Azure Window is a limestone natural arch and the most popular tourist attraction on the island. Recent surveys found out that the arch has been constantly disintegrating and geologists suggest the complete disintegration of the arch is just a matter of a few years.
Maldives, a little island country in the Indian Ocean and a popular holiday destination, is the world´s lowest country. With an average ground level elevation of just 1.5 meters (less than 5 feet), the country and its 400,000 inhabitants might soon be washed away by the rising sea level. It’s very possible that the Maldivians will become one of the world´s first climate refugees.
Aral Sea, Kazakhstan/Uzbekistan
While some places are threatened by floods, others suffer from drying out. Located between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the Aral Sea was once the fourth largest lake in the world. But since the 1960s, after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects, it has been steadily drying out. By 2007, it declined to 10% of its original size, splitting into several smaller lakes.
Glacier National Park, Montana
Extending over 4 sq km (1.6 sq mi) on the US-Canada border, the Glacier National Park was once littered with hundreds of glaciers. About a hundred years ago, there were still 150 of them. By 2005, only 27 remained and they are expected to vanish within a few decades. The glaciers have been an important part of the park´s fragile ecosystem, providing home to numerous animal and plant species.
Ko Tapu, Thailand
Translated as the Nail Island, Ko Tapu is a 20 meter (66 feet) tall sea stack towering over the Phang Nga Bay, Thailand. This magnificent rock formation became popular in 1974 when it was featured in the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun. Since then, it has been visited by masses of tourists and it’s feared that the stack will collapse soon due to its extremely shaky ground.
Magdalen Islands, Canada
Located in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the Magdalen Islands are a small archipelago and a popular tourist destination, known for white sand beaches and spectacular sandstone cliffs. But the coast has been constantly vanishing. Exposed to harsh weather and strong winds, the cliffs currently erode by a speed of up to 1 meter (40 inches) per year.
Dead Sea, Jordan/Israel/Palestine
Found in the Middle East, the Dead Sea holds several impressive primacies. It is Earth’s lowest-elevation spot on land, one of the world’s first health resorts, the world´s deepest hypersaline lake and one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water. But to enjoy a bath in it, you shouldn’t postpone the trip. Since 1930, the Dead Sea has shrunken by half, currently recessing by a rate of 1 meter (3 feet) every year.
Belize Barrier Reef, Belize
A part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the world´s second largest coral reef system, the Belize Barrier Reef is the country´s top tourist destination, popular for scuba diving and snorkeling. Home to numerous animal species including whale sharks, manatees, and sturgeons, the area has suffered from severe coral bleaching, oceanic pollution, and uncontrolled fishing. It is estimated that about half of the corals have already been lost
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Naturally, it is not the entire Mountain Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa that is about to vanish soon but its iconic feature – the picturesque snow cap. Scientific studies have shown that about 85% of the snow has already disappeared and it is estimated that the rest of the ice cap will be gone within just a few decades.
Tahuamanú Rainforest, Peru
Located in the Madre de Dios region, Peru, the Tahuamanú Rainforest is one of the largest supplies of mahogany in the world. A natural habitat for many rare animal species such as giant armadillos, jaguars and parrots, the rainforest has constantly been depleted by illegal logging. The unique local ecosystem has also been damaged by gold mining companies that have polluted the waters in the region.
But it’s not just natural wonders that can soon be lost forever. Rising ocean levels has put numerous cities in danger as well. Situated in northeastern Italy, Venice, a picturesque city famous for its romantic atmosphere, is one of them. The exact time period in which the city might get completely flooded is not known but some experts suggest Venice can sink in just 50 years.
Taj Mahal, India
A white marble mausoleum in Agra, India and one of the most iconic structures of the country, Taj Mahal has also been facing serious threats. Attracting over 3 million visitors per year, the site has been permanently damaged by numerous factors including air pollution, acid rain, disintegration of the construction materials etc. In 2010, first major cracks appeared in some parts of the structure and they have kept extending since then.
Pravcicka Brana, Czech Republic
Located in northwestern Czech Republic, the Pravcicka Brana is the largest natural sandstone arch in Europe. During the time when this unique rock formation was accessible to tourists, the upper part of the arch eroded by 80 centimeters (32 inches). Since 1982, visitors have not been allowed on the arch but the process of disintegration continues and geologists suggest the arch might collapse within decades.
Derweze Crater, Turkmenistan
Located in the middle of the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan, Derweze is a small village where Soviet geologists drilled the land in 1971 for natural gas but their rig collapsed, creating a giant hole. To avoid poisonous gas discharge, they ignited the gas, hoping it would burn in a few days, but the gas is still burning today. It is not known exactly how much longer the crater, dubbed as “The Door to Hell” will burn but it might not last long.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Covering an area of 344,400 sq km (133,000 sq mi) in the Coral Sea off the coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world. Climate changes, pollution and overfishing are among the main reasons why this breathtaking structure composed of billions organism lost more than half of its corals in just about 27 years and some scientists say it can completely die out in just 40 years.
Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy
In the case of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, a bell tower famous for its striking tilt, the reason of why it might disappear soon is obvious. With the top of the tower displaced horizontally 3.9 meters (12 ft 10 in) from the center, the tower may follow the destiny of the bell tower in Pavia, northern Italy, which was also tilted and collapsed in 1989.
Lake Chad, Chad/Cameroon/Nigeria/Niger
Located at the edge of the Sahara Desert, Lake Chad is one of numerous large lakes that might dry out soon. A source of water for about 70 million people living in the surrounding countries, the lake has already lost as much as 95% of its volume from 1963 to 1998. Over-usage by the locals, changes in rainfall patterns and deforestation are the primary reason for the lake drying, however recent studies have shown some improvement.
Found on a 21 sq km (8 sq mi) oval-shaped island in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, just 42 kilometers (26 mi) south of the Equator, Nauru is the second smallest country in the world, after the Vatican. Similarly to some other little island countries in the Pacific Ocean, Nauru is threatened by rising ocean levels. With the highest point of the country standing just 71 meters (233 ft) tall, the island could soon be washed away.
The Twelve Apostles, Australia
The Twelve Apostles is a collection of limestone stacks off the shore of the Port Campbell National Park in Victoria, Australia. Although it’s still known as the Twelve Apostles, there are currently just eight stacks remaining. The wave erosion has caused them to erode by 2 cm (0.8 inch) per year, forcing four apostles to collapse.
Located in the Indian Ocean, Madagascar is a Southeast African island country and home to tropical rainforest and numerous animal species 90% of which are endemic. But the unique ecosystem has been endangered by logging, poaching and pollution. Since the arrival of humans, the island has lost more than 90% of its original forest. If appropriate actions are not taken to save the nature, the forest and its unique inhabitants are expected to vanish in three decades.
Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
Situated on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, the Franz Josef Glacier is major tourist site of the region, attracting about 250,000 visitors annually. The glacier was growing until as late as 2008 but since then it has entered a very rapid phase of retreat and, according to some estimates, it can disappear for good within a hundred years.
Ranthambore National Park, India
Covering an area of about 400 sq km (155 sq mi), the Ranthambore National Park is one of the largest national parks in northern India. The park itself also struggles with some environmentalist issues but it’s the tiger, the park´s most famous inhabitant, who may vanish soon. Due to poaching, the numbers of these amazing cats have drastically dwindled in the park and biologists say if immediate action is not taken, they might die out within the next 15 years.
Congo Basin, West Africa
Occupying a total area of 3.7 million sq km (1.4 million sq mi), the Congo Basin is home to some of the world´s largest tropical rainforests that produce up to 40% of world´s oxygen. However, almost 10 million acres of the forests are lost due to mining, agriculture, illegal logging, and wars every year. It is estimated that up to 2/3 of the forests will be gone by 2040.
Yangtze River Area, China
With a length of about 6,300 kilometers (almost 4,000 miles), Yangtze is the longest river in Asia and the third-longest in the world. The river basin is the main source of water for hundreds of millions of people and countless animal and plant species but the Chinese government has used the river for the megalomaniac dam projects, cutting hundreds of nearby lakes off the river. The shrinking lakes have been seriously affecting local ecosystems.
Found in southern Florida, the Everglades are a natural region of tropical wetlands that provide natural habitats for numerous fauna and flora species including the extremely rare Florida panther. Human expansion, pollution and farming have already taken over and destroyed more than half of this unique and fragile ecosystem. Fortunately, efforts have been made to save the Everglades so hopefully, next generations will also get to see this amazing piece of land.