Last Chance Travel: Visiting the World's Most Endangered Sites, Before They're Gone

The Great Barrier Reef is disappearing. But by flying to see it, are you contributing to its demise?

"Last chance travel," has been trending since 2016 when the Great Barrier Reef experienced its first profound bleaching, but it wasn't until this year that Forbes named it the spiking phenomenon of the year.

"From millennials visiting pristine countries like New Zealand to spending time in the Arctic, visiting endangered destinations will continue to thrive in 2018," the magazine declared.

It's the see-it-before-it's-gone approach to travel. Some call it the climate change effect, while others are quick to point out it's as culturally relevant as it is environmental. As globalization homogenizes culture, intrepid travelers want to experience a place before the next McDonald's arrives.

Which spots top the list? We rounded up some of the most in-demand and endangered destinations across the globe.

Great Barrier Reef

Off the eastern coast of Australia, the 1,400-mile long Great Barrier Reef is the longest and largest coral reef in the world. But it has become a lot less vivid in the last two years. Since 2016, half of the coral in the the Great Barrier Reef has died, the Atlantic reported.

The cause of the reef's devastation is clear: rising global temperatures have cranked up the temperatures on our oceans, making them inhospitable to fragile corals.

In 2016, a survey of visitors to the Great Barrier Reef found that nearly 70 percent said their desire "to see the reef before it's gone" was the primary reason for their journey.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is one of America's largest, oldest, and most-visited national parks, and yet it may soon suffer from a branding issue. The number of glaciers in the park has dwindled from 150 in 1910 to 26, reports the New York Times. And according to the U.S. Department of the Interior, rising temperatures mean the park's largest glaciers could be gone by 2030, while all are in danger of vanishing within the next few decades.

The Maldives

The Maldives, the Indian Ocean honeymoon paradise famous for white beaches and pristine waters, have seen a 68 percent spike in tourism due to the last-chance trend. While the United Nations predicted the low-lying islands could be underwater by 2100, some think the increased tourism could be what delays disaster. "Tourism and resorts may be the saviour of the Maldives," Shiham Adam, director of the government's Marine Research Centre, told the Guardian. "The Maldives needs money to survive. Resorts are very positive for the environment. They offer better protection than community islands because they must protect at least 700m all around them. They become mini marine reserves," he said.

Venice

"Venice is not sinking," writes James Taylor-Foster on ArchDaily of the Italian city erected on more than 100 islands connected by a network of bridges and canals. "It's flooding." Venice is prone to flooding—in 1966 the city was under six feet of water—but Venice has indeed sunk five inches over the last century, reports PBS NewsHour. Couple that with a rising sea level brought on by climate change, the World Unesco Heritage site is it trouble. "Scientists are hard at work trying find ways to stop Venice from going down," writes Brad Cohen at USA Today, "but if they don't figure it out soon, San Marco Square and Saint Mark's Basilica might become a modern-day Atlantis.

Myanmar & Mongolia

Mongolia is home to one of the world's last surviving nomadic cultures, and Myanmar is one of the largest, most-diverse, and least known countries in Southeast Asia, after only recently reopening to tourists. But even in these traditional cultures, signs of modernity are creeping in. Companies like Overseas Adventure Travel arrange "Day in the Life" excursions that include making yogurt tea in a yurt and collecting dung for fuel and weaving. But travelers who seek out these experiences want to do more than merely see a way of life, they want to connect with it by meeting and meaningfully interacting with local people. In Mongolia, it is possible to travel to the steppes and stay with local families in a ger, their traditional tent dwelling.

Dead Sea

Bordering Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank, the Dead Sea—in fact, a lake—has long held spiritual significance to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The water itself seems transcendent. With a salt content nearly 10 times greater than the sea water, swimmers are held aloft on the water's surface. But the Dead Sea's shoreline is receding at a rate of about 3 feet per year. As the water recedes more than 1,000 sinkholes have appeared in the past 15 years. It's not all doom and gloom, though. An Israeli government study thinks the rate of evaporation will slow and the Dead Sea will reach equilibrium again in a couple of decades—but not before losing another third of its present volume.

White Cliffs of Dover

The stunning White Cliffs of Dover along the southern coast of Britain are in peril. The cliffs, which get their arresting color from a chalk made from the shells of a rare species of algae, have been eroding 10 times faster in the last 150 years than they did over the previous 7,000 years, researchers say. The reason? A thinning of the beachfront that separates the 90-million-year-old mineral bluffs from the sea. Powerful storms and human mismanagement of the shoreline are now coupled with climate change, which is bringing elevated sea levels and stronger waves, all of which will increase erosion.

But if you're looking to prioritize, this destination can move to the backburner and you don't need to clamor to the cliffs just yet. "We've probably got tens of thousands of years left," U.K. National Trust environmentalist Steven Judd told the The Washington Post in 2001.

Rainforests

The vast, millenias-old Amazon Rainforest in Brazil has been called "the earth's lungs." But our breathing capacity being severely hampered by destruction of the ecosystem for mining, industrial agriculture and illegal logging. Over the past four decades, 40 percent of the Amazon Rainforest has been lost.

And it's not just in Brazil. All across the tropical regions of the globe, about 45 million acres of rainforest are lost each year, razed for palm oil trees and rubber plantations, cattle, and soybean farming. At current rates rainforests are expected to vanish entirely within 100 years, reports the Guardian.

The Last Chance Paradox

Researchers point out "last chance travel" presents a disturbing paradox. Those so eager to rush to see a disappearing place are, in fact, contributing to its destruction.

"Tourists are travelling greater distances to view the destination that is in danger, contributing higher levels of emissions and thus exacerbating the impacts of climate change," write Annah Piggott-McKellar and Karen McNamara from the University of Queensland (Australia) the Journal of Sustainable Tourism.

But it becomes a vicious circle when the peril is indeed part of the appeal, writes Greg Dickinson at The Telegraph, "a kind of apocalypse...deathbed wanderlust…the irony being that the bucketloads of carbon it takes to travel to these sights is perpetuating the very climate change that is causing their demise."

For the thoughtful traveler, questions abound about the ethics of travel that may be in danger of exploiting—and ultimately eradicating—unique cultures. For the nomadic tribes of Mongolian reindeer herders, is this sustainable tourism or a sideshow alley, asks Paula McInerney at the Contented Traveler. "Will we lose this valuable tribe with inherent knowledge of the environment and the ways of the reindeers, of a self contained and functioning community if we don't assist with sustainable tourism? Is this responsible tourism?" Others question the ethics of visiting countries like Myanmar, where violence has forced 600,000 Rohingya refugees to flee the country in what the UN has called a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing."

So on the other hand, if you really care, you could just stay home.

Read More from Journiest

Subscribe now

Related Posts

If you've googled one thing during this pandemic, it is definitely: "Thai food near me."

Thai food has remained one of the most delicious and sought after takeout gems; and in New York City, specifically, there are so many delicious options that it can be overwhelming. Often unlike Chinese food, Thai food offers fresher ingredients and versatile cuisine options. Whether you want some Pad Thai or Pad See Ew, or some coconut milk-infused curry or even just some soup, Thai food is good for any occasion. But with so many options, how do you know you're getting the freshest ingredients at the best price? Here are the best spots to order take-out from, and we even broke it up by borough for you.


Manhattan: Fish Cheeks

Fish Cheeks

Reviewed by The Times as "fresh, vivid and intense," Fish Cheeks offers solid takes on traditional Thai Cuisine. Their speciality remains seafood, so their Crab Friend Rice and Coconut Crab Curry are delicious highlights. Their Tum Yum is also to die for, made with fresh galanagal, lime leaves and lemongrass.

The version [of tum yum] here hums with fresh galangal, lime leaves and lemongrass. Shrimp and knobby mushrooms simmer in a broth that gets extra body from milk, a twist I've never seen before but one I approve of. It could be spicier, but the use of bird's-eye chiles is far from shy.

Manhattan: Lan Larb

thia food

Arguably some of the best Pad Thai in the city, Lan Larb is focused mainly on the food of Thailand's northeast region. As a result, there is often a combo of meat and seafood involved in most dishes, such as the Lao Chicken Soup, which combines fresh chicken with pickled fish and a steamy brown broth. The menu will make your tastebuds whirl if you're one for experimentation, if not, their Pad Thai is iconic and filling enough on its own.

Brooklyn: Ugly Baby

Brooklyn has always been teeming with amazing Thai food joints, but Ugly Baby is the borough's most established success story. The Carrol Gardens sensation was preceded by two long gone Red Hook restaurants known for their authentic Northern Thai cuisine. With Ugly Baby, a name which comes from an ancient belief in Thailand that ugly children bring good fortune, chef Sirichai Sreparplarn had mastered his craft. The restaurant quickly gained glowing praise throughout Brooklyn and New York, and their take on Khao Soi Nuer and Kao Tod Nam Klook remain the stuff of legends.

Queens: Ayada

ayada thai

Ayada's cuisine is so good that it made a New York Times journalist cry at his table. Not out of emotion though, but out of spice. For those looking for a truly bold eating experience, this Queens Thai restaurant holds nothing back when crafting their drunken noodles or Pad Thai, but that spice is what makes it one of the best spots in the city.

Bronx: Ceetay

​While the Bronx isn't necessarily a buzzing Thai food borough, Ceetay's asian fusion cuisine is of the highest quality and will appeal to anyone desperately needing to nom on some noodles. Their sushi is amazing but their Pad Thai is packed with amazing flavor. Seasoned with onions, peppers, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, peanuts, scallions and cilantro, this Pad Thai is packed with flavors and will slam your taste buds in the best possible way.

Travel

5 Countries to Visit This Fall

As the weather starts to chill out, we're just getting warmed up to travel

It's not winter yet!

So that means, we're all about that fall travel. It's a beautiful time of year to be outside in many countries, soaking up the colorful landscapes and fresh air. Here are our picks for the top places to visit this fall.

1. Germany

Pexels

Burg Eltz Castle is a magical step back into the Middle Ages that's been here for more than 850 years.

2. Switzerland

Pexels

The red leaves in Bern are absolutely striking.

3. Italy

Pexels

Nothing like the sheer beauty of the formidable Italian alps.

4. Peru

Pexels

Machu Picchu beckons visitors from near and far this fall.

5. Mexico

Pexels

It's not too cold to skip the beach!

Everyone has heard of the murder-hotel where dark shadows creep at the edge of your vision, or the abandoned house where the furniture moves each time you leave the room.

But sometimes the places set up to capture the fun and fright of the Halloween season for paying customers can be far more horrifying than any ghost stories. These "fake" haunted houses will leave you genuinely haunted.



Pennhurst Haunted Asylum

So spoooky!

Thomas James Caldwell

Pennhurst Asylum was in operation from 1908-1987 in the small town of Spring City, Pennsylvania. While we don't have all the records of the residents' experiences there, it doesn't take much imagination to realize that this building was home to true horrors. In many ways, 1908 wasn't that long ago, but in terms of mental health treatment—especially in small-town Pennsylvania—it was absolutely the dark ages. This was the time of lobotomies, straight jackets, and shock therapy. Whatever the jump scares and fake blood contribute to the fear you will feel walking through Pennhurst Asylum's aging, echoing halls, they can't come close to the deep, sinking feeling caused by the deep history of torment that has left its imprint on the very fabric of the place. Four spooky skulls out of five.

💀💀💀💀/5

Haunted Trap House

Like this, but less 90s

In Centreville, Maryand, in the year 1989, a group of visionaries were struck by a bolt of inspiration. What if—instead of zombies and werewolves and demons, and all the stuff out of children's nightmares—what if they filled their haunted house with the real-world nightmares that were actually infesting their city, killing their residents, and generally afflicting every corner of the entire nation. Thus, the Haunted Crack House was born. Since renamed the Haunted Trap House, it's ostensibly an educational experience on the dangers of drug use, it features simulations of overdoses, arrests, and shootings, as well as actual former convicts who are paid to draw on their real experiences to make your visit as terrifying as possible. This kind of fetishizing of human misery to capitalize on the Halloween season is as despicable as it is spooky. Four-and-a-half skulls out of five.

💀💀💀💀/5

McKamey Manor

He technically consented to this

A $20,000 reward? A 40-page waiver? These figures have garnered a lot of attention in recent headlines. Supposedly this is the "scariest" haunted house experience in the country. Who could resist the temptation of that once-in-a-lifetime experience, combined with the chance to win a big cash prize? Unfortunately, that is exactly what Russ McKay wants. There's a reason he's put so much work into the legal side of his operation. Rather than gassing up neutered chainsaws and chasing you around in a hockey mask, McKay has opted for producing actual, real, straight-up torture. You may not find the decorations and costumes that scary, but you will absolutely fear for your life when you consent to be water-boarded with fake blood. For being operated by a man who is clearly an unhinged psychopath, McKamey Manor ties the Haunted Traphouse, with four-and-a-half spooky skulls.

💀💀💀💀.5/5

Donald Vann's House of Horrors

Donald Vann murdered eleven people. Happens to the best of us, but it does present a problem. How do you dispose of all those bodies? Donald's solution was to open a haunted house and put his victims' decaying remains on display as props. Props to him. For eight months he prepared his fetid, malodorous horrors, before debuting on October 1st. Unfortunately, you won't be able to visit his house of horrors, because he has since landed in some legal trouble—board of health, maybe?—but I'm sure for the lucky few who were able to visit during its brief tenure, and witness Vann's "psychotic smirk," I'm sure the nightmares they're left with keep on spooking.

💀💀💀💀💀/5

Every Hell House in America

realitypod

In the same vein as the Haunted Traphouse, Hell Houses are church presentations intended as educational experiences that warn kids and teens away from the path of sin. Their methods for achieving this obviously vary, but according to The Washington Post, you can generally expect the following: "A devil ushers a gay man dying of AIDS into the fiery pit. A teenager who is raped at a drug-filled rave commits suicide and also goes to hell. A young girl hemorrhaging from an abortion repents at the last minute." Awful. Truly sickening. What kind of trauma are they inflicting on these children to prop up their outdated ideologies? Six spooky skulls. Where'd that extra skull come from?? Nobody knows…

💀💀💀💀💀💀/5