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When you’re travelling, you want to visit the best travel spots – the ones that are breathtakingly beautiful, or make for the best FB profile photo of all time.
This is totally normal, and IMO totally fine – as long as you follow the rules. Which a lot of people don’t. Cue folks climbing over fences for cool photos, overcrowding teeny areas, or stomping all over stuff that takes years to grow back – if ever.
It’s important we keep these beautiful locations, well, beautiful. And we can do it – just don’t be a dick and treat tourist spots with respect.
1. Cano Cristales, Colombia
Called the rainbow river, the beautiful colours of this waterway come from micro-organisms that live in the water – organisms that, due to a recent flood of tourists after a 2016 peace agreement made the area accessible again, could be disturbed, ruining the beauty of the river.
Since 2017, access has been limited.
“We decided to implement the restriction because human presence can harm the plants’ reproduction processes,” Faber Ramos, coordinator of the ecotourism program in Colombia, told the BBC recently. Hopefully this means the river remains colourful and protected.
2. Raja Ampat Islands, Indonesia
The beautiful collection of islands in Indonesia, once quite difficult to travel to due to their remoteness, are under threat from cruise ships more than anything – in March 2017, one ran aground in the area, destroying a huge swathe of the beautiful coral reef.
3. Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, Iceland
Feature in a Justin Bieber music video, as well as Game Of Thrones, and expect the hordes of tourists to come, right? Well, that’s all fine if the travel spots can handle it. The Environment Agency of Iceland reported that approx. one million people visited since Biebs filmed there in 2015, leaving the area damaged.
Thankfully, The Environment Agency Of Iceland has closed the area as of January 2019 to help the damaged vegetation regenerate. Here’s hoping the beautiful spot can re-open again soon, with measures in place.
4. Machu Picchu, Peru
Though not technically a natural wonder, this Inca archaeological site is on many folks’ bucket lists – and it’s being damaged as a result. In 2017 more than 1.5 million visitors hit up the site, almost double the limit recommended by Unesco.
In May, concern grew around the development of a new international airport in nearby Chinchero, a move that was intended to bring tourists closer to the site but will also see low-flying aircraft over another nearby archaeological site, potentially causing irreparable damage.
In good news though, Peru took measures to limit foot traffic in Machu Picchu recently, limiting visits to morning and afternoon shifts after Unesco threatened to place Machu Picchu on a list of world heritage sites in danger.
Reefs around the world, from our Great Barrier Reef to Cozumel in Mexico, are travel spots at risk of being destroyed by tourists, both due to the overload of drops for snorkelling and scuba-diving, and due to tourists not listening to instructions.
The solution? Well, one thing you can do is choose smaller charters for snorkel and scuba tours. Use advice sites like Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor to work out if the tour company you’re using gives a shit about the reef, how many people they take out, and how many tours operate daily.
The other thing is listen to tour operators when they tell you the rules – and if you see other tourists ignoring them, gently call them out. Stuff like standing on coral, touching reef wildlife and picking stuff up (or breaking stuff off) is all damaging our fragile reef ecosystems.