14 of the Most Extraordinary Environments on Earth
The Daintree, Queensland, Australia
The Daintree, in North Queensland, known as where “the Rainforest meets the Reef, is home to one of the largest variety of animals and plants on earth. Although it is wildly popular, you can still experience the indigenous atmosphere of the place.
Formaciones de Tepuyes, Venezuela
Sometimes called “table-top mountains,” the Tepuyes are home to many species that don’t exist anywhere else, such as the saffron-breasted redstart bird and Fernandez’s sword-nosed bat. The Tepuyes have inspired creative expression, including Arthur Conan Doyles’ The Lost World. Disney Pixar’s “Paradise Falls” in Up is an animated version of Angel Falls, which cascades from one of the Tepuyes, and is the tallest waterfall in the world,
Cloud forests of Ecuador
Mainland Ecuador has three general regions, Amazon, Sierra and Pacific Coast. Traveling up from the coast and over the Andes, you pass through an array of ecosystems. The cloud forests occur on both sides of the Andes (East and West) and contain incredible biodiversity, especially birds.
Canaima National Park, Venezuela
The Tepuyes are located in Canaima National Park, a World Heritage Site which covers 3 million hectares in southeastern Venezuela. One interesting thing about Canaima is its connection to Africa. South America and Africa were once connected as part of a single supercontinent. The sandstone rock formations in the western Sahara are very similar to the sandstone that makes up some of the Tepuyes.
The Amazon, Amazon-North, Brazil
Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest. The majority of the forest (60%) is contained in Brazil, yet extends into Colombia, Peru and other countries in the South America. Famed for its immense biodiversity, it is home to a third of all the world’s species.
Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary, Philippines
The Calauit Game Preserve was created by order of Presidential decree in 1976. The project began the following year with the importation of eight animal species endemic to Africa: giraffe, eland, zebra, impala, bushbuck, gazelle and waterbuck. In the decades since, the animals have thrived and their populations have grown. Calauit has become a destination for tourists who want to see giraffes, and for researchers who want to figure out how these African animals are doing in Southeast Asia.
Alaska’s backcountry, United States
The vast backcountry rainforest is the largest expanse of temperate rainforest on the planet. Chilkoot Inlet, near Haines in Southeast Alaska, leads up through old growth forest into the mountains.
Lorentz National Park, Indonesia
The largest protected area in Southeast Asia, Lorentz National Park covers 2.35 million hectares on the island of Papua. Its mountain range was created by the collision of Australian and Pacific tectonic plates. It’s the only protected area in the world where you can find snow-capped mountains (the one above is Mount Puncak Jaya), lowland wetlands, and everything in between — alpine vegetation, marshes, coastal mangroves, and more.
Monteverde Park, Costa Rica
Monteverde Park is located atop Costa Rica’s continental divide, looking down over coastal towns. The park is home to over one hundred mammalian species, four hundred species of bird, tens of thousands of different insects, and two and a half thousand different plants, including more than 400 different kinds of orchid.
Mt. Kinabalu National Park, Sabah, Malaysia
Mt. Kinabalu National Park is one of the first national parks in Malaysia, and the country’s first World Heritage Site since 2000. The park is located on the slopes of the massif and is Southeast Asia’s highest protected park. It’s an excellent place to see the diverse range of Borneo’s endemic plants and animals.
Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Located 1,000 kilometers off the coast of Ecuador, the archipelago has 127 islands. Nineteen are large. Four are inhabited. They are located at the intersection of three different ocean currents, which has produced a diverse and unique marine environment. Its flora and fauna inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. The Galapagos remain a “living museum and showcase of evolution.”
Sinharaja Forest, Sabaragamuwa, Sri Lanka
Located in southwest Sri Lanka, Sinharaja is the country’s last viable area of primary tropical rainforest. More than 60% of the trees are endemic and many of them are considered rare.
The Darien National Park, Panama
Darien National Park forms a bridge between Central and South America. It has a huge diversity of ecosystems: sand beaches, palm forests, mangroves, wetlands, and some remarkable rivers, including the Tuira and Balsa. It is also home to many species which are threatened or endangered, such as the brown-headed spider monkey (critically endangered), the Central American tapir (endangered), the great green macaw (endangered), and the giant anteater (vulnerable). Darien is also home to 1,200 indigenous people of the Chocó and the Kuna tribes.
Mount Field National Park, Tasmania, Australia
Mount Field National Park is a national park in Tasmania, Australia, 64 km northwest of Hobart. The landscape ranges from eucalyptus temperate rainforest to alpine moorland. You can travel from incredible old growth Swamp Gum forest (the tallest flowering plant in the world) and massive ferns, into rainforest dominated by species found nowhere else on the planet.