Disappearing Destinations


Oftentimes, the journey is the ultimate goal. But with these seven regions in transition, the story is in the hot spots themselves




Why now
Large swaths of the spectacular but sensitive reef are “bleaching” white in response to an increase in water temperature; coral often rebounds from this condition, but sustained high temperatures are now making recovery impossible. Ocean acidification is a lesser-known but equally threatening phenomenon. Caused by an excess of carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere, acidification stunts the growth of coral and weakens its skeleton. (For more on acidification, see page 31).

How to go 
Heron and Wilson islands, two coral cays that lie at the heart of the reef, are a great way to bypass the day-tripping masses. The islands, which straddle the Tropic of Capricorn, have only one resort each, both of which are certified by Ecotourism Australia (heronisland.com; wilsonisland.com). Heron Island is also home to the University of Queensland’s Centre for Marine Studies (marine.uq.edu.au/hirs), which researches both coral bleaching and acidification.

When to go
 
The reef always has something spectacular to offer. Humpback whales migrate past Heron Island from June through September, followed by nesting flocks of migratory birds and turtles laying their eggs.

Armchair advocacy

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (gbrmpa.gov .au) has many creative suggestions for how to “do your bit to look after it,” no matter where in the world you live.

Must see
 
The celebrated coral spawning, generally in November, has been likened to an underwater blizzard.

Aysén, Patagonia, Chile

Why now
Spanish power company Endesa plans to build two dams along the Río Baker and two on the Río Pascua in southern Aysén, one of the last truly pristine places on the planet. The 2,430-megawatt project will provide some short-term construction jobs and a temporary boost to the local economy. It will also flood up to 36 square miles of land, permanently alter the ecology, and turn the upper Baker stagnant.

How to go 
Raft the Baker from source to sea with Patagonia Adventure Expeditions (adventurepatagonia.com). It’s an eight-day, 125-mile journey from the Northern Ice Field to the Pacific in water that’s clean enough to drink.

When to go

December is the peak of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, when you’re least likely to encounter icy gusts and storms.

Armchair advocacy
 
Local eco group CODEFF (National Committee for the Defense of Flora and Fauna [aisenreservadevida.cl]) is behind a campaign to designate Aysén a reserva de vida (life reserve). While the title carries no legal protections, it could have an economic impact. By creating a regional identity centered around preserving resources instead of exploiting them, environmentalists hope to give businesses and community leaders a financial incentive to choose sustainable development.

Expat activists Doug Tompkins, the American founder of the North Face and Esprit brands, refuses to allow Endesa surveyors on the reserve he owns near the town of Cochrane. He and his wife, former Patagonia CEO Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, have purchased more than 1,100 square miles of Chilean land for conservation, part of which makes up Parque Pumalín (parquepumalin.cl). 

Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park, Nepal

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Issue 25



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