With many of the world’s top travel destinations threatened by climate change and neglect, "last-chance tourism" is on the rise. Below are 11 destinations, ranging from Antarctica to Turkmenistan, that travelers might want to consider visiting while they can. Pack a suitcase, grab a camera, and head to one of these amazing destinations before they disappear.
1. The Arctic is warming about twice as fast as the global average, causing the ice that polar bears depend on to melt away. Gondwana Ecotours recently unveiled a unique polar bear photography adventure to the Arctic packed full of wildlife viewing. Guests will have an opportunity to discuss the issues of global warming and sea ice recession with an Arctic environmentalist and author.
2. In the last six years, five glaciers in Antarctica have doubled their rate of ice loss and researchers have found at least one will likely succumb to instability, pushing ice into the ocean fast. Book an expedition cruise with Adventure Life, and cross the Antarctic Convergence of warm and cold waters, watch for penguins, seals and whales, and visit the picturesque Neko Harbor or the striking Lemaire Channel.
3. The Galapagos Islands have been recognized as one of the places most vulnerable to climate change impacts, with El Nino becoming more frequent and more intense. Explore the Ecuadorean archipelago’s beaches, bays, volcanic landscapes and dazzling array of plant and animal species from the comfort of a luxury catamaran on a new trip with Surtrek.
4. Scientists predict that the northern plains will experience hotter temperatures, drier conditions and highly localized weather events. As a result, animals like sage grouse, pronghorn and bison will shift their range, making habitat connectivity increasingly important. The American Prairie Reserve in northeastern Montana is working to create the largest nature reserve in the Lower 48 states, restoring habitat and species and providing opportunities for public recreation in the process.
5. Warming temperatures, shortening of the seasons and extraordinary storms brought on by global climate change are hastening the harvest of wine producers in Italy. Tourissimo designs walking and hiking tours throughout Italy and nearly all of them include visits to vineyards and wineries, with plenty of tastings. Tourissimo even offers a series of Italy food and wine tours led by famous chefs.
6. The glaciers of Mount Kilimanjaro have been around for almost 10,000 years, but scientists predict they will be gone in the next 15. Whether you’re ready for the climb to the top or simply looking to enjoy views of the ice cap from afar, now is the time to go. Frontiers International travel knows Africa inside and out and has traveled countless times to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. They can arrange a custom tour for small groups and families.
7. The Alps started melting 150 years ago and since the 1980s the rate of glacial retreat has risen dramatically. Even under moderate warming, Alpine glaciers will shed two-thirds of their present mass by the end of the century. Ride & Seek offers a cycling tour across the Alps of historical proportions as guests pedal in the footsteps of Hannibal from Barcelona to Rome and get up close and personal with these iconic peaks.
8. In Turkmenistan’s Karakum Desert, the Door to Hell was set alight in 1971 after engineers feared it was emitting poisonous gases. There is no telling when the government might extinguish the inferno or how long it will take to burn out naturally. MIR Corporation is one of the few U.S. tour operators that specialize in this region of the world.
9. The Seychelles are some of the most beautiful islands on the planet. But there is no doubt that risks such as rising sea levels will ultimately sweep this postcard-worthy island cluster under the sea. Within the fly-fishing community, the Seychelles is known for the best saltwater fly fishing in the world, with over 60 species of fish to be caught. Frontiers International Travel has been a leader in fly-fishing holidays for 50 years.
10. Vietnam is considered to be among one of the countries to be most affected by climate change in the coming decades. A bevy of studies indicate that Vietnam will soon experience dire consequences such as sea level rise, salinity intrusion and other hydrological problems. Grasshopper Adventures is the leader in cycling tours to Vietnam and Southeast Asia, including family-focused itineraries. There is no better way to explore this beautiful country.
11. Devastating wildfires, enormous floods and sweltering heat make the western United States no stranger to climate change. Located in Ten Sleep, Wyoming, Red Reflet Ranch is both a working cattle ranch and luxurious resort located on over 27,000 acres in the Big Horn Mountains. Combine this dude ranch retreat with a visit to Yellowstone National Park, which is only a 3-hour drive away.
Image credit: Vietnam, Grasshopper Adventures