|by Robert Firpo-Cappiello||Alternative Lodging, Nature Appreciation, Volunteer Travel, Wildlife Appreciation, Kenya, Australia & South Pacific, Venice, Alaska, Eco-Green||0|
Some of the world's most beautiful travel spots are under attack by climate change and booming human populations. Here's how you can visit some of these endangered destinations responsibly before they're gone forever.
GREAT BARRIER REEF
The world's biggest, most beautiful, and most diverse reef system (1,400 miles) could be gone in 100 years due to global carbon dioxide emissions and runoff from farms into the ocean. As the ocean temperatures rise, the coral, fish, and marine mammals all suffer. But if you visit this Australian must-see respectfully, you can snorkel, scuba, or even just watch the Technicolor show in a glass-bottomed boat or kayak.
SEE IT: Goway Travel offers a 12-day Australia package from around $2,000 that includes visits to the Great Barrier Reef. Smaller operators offer live-aboard boating experiences starting at around $500 for two nights.
The world's glaciers - huge, beautiful blue mountains of ice left over from the last Ice Age - are melting at an alarming rate all over the world. In Alaska, the famous Mendenhall Glacier melts so much each summer that it causes flooding near Alaska's capital, Juneau. Mendenhall Glacier, Sawyer Glacier, and Glacier Bay are best seen from a cruise ship, and if you're lucky you'll see a glacier "calf" - the dramatic moment when a huge piece of ice breaks off and falls into the sea.
SEE IT: Norwegian Cruise Line offers a 7-day Alaska glacier cruise that starts from around $650.
Good news: The city of canals is beautiful because it was built on water. Bad news: Venice is endangered because it was built on water, in some cases literally sitting on wood pilings that were constructed centuries ago. Flooding from high tides has increased due to rising ocean levels, and saltwater eats away at the city's beautiful buildings and landmarks. Billion-dollar floodgates are in progress, but floods of another kind - 20 million tourists a year - are also a threat to the city's centuries-old infrastructure.
SEE IT: Instead of adding to the city's overcrowding, book a stay in a "glamping" eco-tent at nearby Canonici di San Marco for around $150/night and take day trips to the city. Laguna Eco Adventures offers sailboat tours of the lagoon for about $50.
KENYA'S MASAI MARA LION HABITAT
Simba is not doing well. The iconic African king of beasts has seen its population plummet from 450,000 to 40,000 in the past 50 years alone due to a human population explosion and encroachment on habitat. Some scientists say lions could be extinct before the next century, if not sooner. Kenya's Masai Mara Reserve is one of the best safari experiences for those who want to get up close and personal (but not quite too close) to these stunning wild animals.
SEE IT: Book a trip with Kuchanga Travel (based in Minnesota) to see lions, elephants, and cheetahs and to participate in ongoing study and conservation efforts, for around $2,000 for two weeks.