The Edition


Destinations to experience this decade, before they sink!

Shahudha Mohamed
06 January 2020, MVT 09:15
As we delve into 2020, The Edition brings its readers a list of travel destinations that may disappear underwater soon. PHOTO: RAE MUNAVVAR/ THE EDITION
Aerial view of Thanburudhoo island, a special surfing location in the Maldives that was successfully sought for protection by local surfers when threatened with privatisation of waves in 2014. PHOTO: UNKNOWN
Shahudha Mohamed
06 January 2020, MVT 09:15

As we delve into 2020, The Edition brings its readers a list of travel destinations that may disappear underwater soon.

With world leaders still quarrelling in posh, air-conditioned rooms on how to tackle the issue of global warming and the effects of climate change, when it comes to the planet’s future, the situation is dire for the entire world.

Climate change has put the earth at risk, but for some, the risk is more imminent than most. Amongst the countries most threatened by the effects of climate change -- floods, droughts, changes in precipitation patterns, flooding, heat waves, stronger hurricanes and melting ice -- are some of the most beautiful travel destinations in the world.

Which, in a few years time, may be swallowed up by the rising sea levels, and lost forever. On that note, as we embark on conquering a new decade, here are a few places to experience if not preserve, before they are finally claimed by the impending climate crisis;

1. Venice

Let’s kick off this list with Venice, the City of Water. Famous for the city’s canals, which tourists navigate on traditional boats called gondolas. Venice is considered one of the most romantic cities in Europe and makes the bucket-list of almost every travel enthusiast.

This floating city, already half-submerged, faces immediate risk in the face of global warming. Experts estimate that a 50-centimetre rise in sea levels could see the city vanish beneath the waves, which is not good news for any eager explorer looking forward to soak in the city’s culture, architecture and aesthetics.

Tourists navigating through Venice on gondolas. PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES

2. Tuvalu

One of the smallest and most remote nations in the world, Tuvalu lies in an unspoiled corner of the Pacific and offers a peaceful, non-commercialised environment ideal for rest and relaxation.

Tuvalu boasts a spectacular marine environment consisting of a vast expanse of ocean interspersed with atolls, magnificent lagoons, coral reefs and small islands providing a unique South Seas ambience where guests can immerse themselves in the marine flora and fauna, diving and snorkelling to their heart’s content, or join in on the county’s culture and traditions.

If one finds themselves in this island nation, it is a must to tour the islands, explore the history and archaeology and play a local sport, but these options will only be available as long as the country is still above water.

This island nation scattered in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia is already sinking. The fourth smallest nation in the world, Tuvalu consists of a total of nine islands, out of which two are already on the verge of going under.

Port Vila, the capital city of Tuvalu. PHOTO: TOURISM OBSERVER

3. Kiribati

This little island nation situated in the equatorial pacific calls for adventurers with a passion for discovery. Kiribati claims to challenge a visitors view of how life should be -- with demonstrations of a less complicated way of living which prioritises family and community.

Much cooler, however, is the remnants of coastal defence guns bunkers, pillboxes, tanks ships wrecks, amtracs and plane wrecks that are scattered around the area -- memories of a country that saw some of the bloodiest fighting of World War II.

The country also has the world’s largest marine protected area complete with gorgeous landscapes combining sandy beaches with coral islands and incredibly blue lagoons. A proclaimed bird-watchers paradise, Kiribati is also fighting a lost battle to climate change.

Kiribati’s entire territory is below two-meters above sea-level and is one of the first countries that will completely disappear underwater.

4. Galapagos Islands

Book a cruise in the Galapagos Islands, where famous scientist Charles Darwin made his most notable discoveries, and lose yourself in the nature of the Galapagos National Park. Brimming with unique specimen and boasting a stunning biodiversity, the island is the perfect destination for any adventurer looking for the experience of a lifetime.

Visitors can choose amongst wildlife watching, diving, snorkelling, hiking, kayaking, surfing and volunteering -- or just do them all.

Although sea-level rise is currently not as threatening to the Galapagos Islands compared to most of the destination on this list, the threat of endangerment and extinction of animals is a pressing concern as the globe warms up. If this country is on your travel list, better get to packing your bags before the climate kills off the flora and fauna that the islands are famous for.

A boat docked at Kiribati's shores. PHOTO: PACIFICISLANDLIVING

5. Niue

This underrated tropical paradise is one of the largest raised coral atolls on earth and also one of the world’s smallest countries. Untouched by modernisation, Niue provides a perfect getaway for tourists craving a taste of the simpler times.

Get away with a low-budget holiday in a destination dotted with caves and crystal clear waters, made even more attractive with picturesque views and a dazzling vibrancy. The island’s unique geology, landscape and marine life is guaranteed to take your breath away.

If all that wasn’t enough, Niue will offer you space to stumble into our own discoveries and the locals are rumoured to be genuine, caring and celebratory of their unique culture. Somewhere to escape the commotion of the world and relax, but before it sinks under the sea.

Better hurry, because since 1993, the waters around the country have seen an annual rise of 5 millimetres, much larger than the global average of 2.8 to 3.6 millimetres.

Swimmers snorkeling in the cerulean waters of Niue's rock pools. PHOTO: Casey Mahaney/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images.

6. Sierra Leone

According to the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), Sierra Leone is the third most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, in the world. The country’s sea level is predicted to increase between 0.4 meters to 0.7 meters within the next 80 years.

This tropical destination of sandy beaches, islands dotted with palm trees, exciting wildlife and lush green hills made even better with the enthusiastic people and their authentic culture, is now subject to multiple natural hazards such as floods, wind storms, landslides and coastal erosion.

So grab your passports and book your tickets if you would like to strike off a picturesque destination off your bucket list -- but waste no time. Global warming waits for no one.

Colourful boats docked at a local harbour in Sierra Leone. PHOTO: Nick Ledger/Getty Images

7. Maldives

And last, but not least, is of course, our home - the Maldives. A nation consisting of over 1900 coral islands, all dangerously low-lying and susceptible to the repercussions of climate change. As a luxury travel destination, Maldives attracts over 1.5 million tourists per year -- influencers, celebrities, politicians, business tycoons -- and yet, when it comes to fighting for it, none of these faces seem as passionate as they could well be.

Aerial view of Kudadoo Maldives Private Island. PHOTO: KUDADOO MALDIVES

At the rate we are going, Maldives will not remain here much longer, and the first effects have already begun to surface in the form of erratic weather patterns, frequent waves of coral bleaching and more, all exasperated by unnecessary development.

So pack your bags, and book a ticket to the sunny side of life while there are still pristine beaches to sunbathe on. It would be quite a tragedy if the tropical islands are claimed by the endless oceans before you can soak up the sun with a cocktail in hand.

An even bigger tragedy though, is that the locals belonging to the country, as is the case for all the island nations featured on this list and otherwise, have a lesser possibility of affording such luxury before the sea claims it all, along with their livelihood, future and home. That too in a crisis that in terms of contributing to the cause, they did least of all.

Perhaps in the year 2020, it is not only due time to simply visit these countries and witness what this planet stands to lose firsthand, but to use all of your resources, to advocate larger, richer, industrial giants to cease their unsustainable practices, resolve issues of pollution and emissions, to halt all forms of ecocide, - time to become the change you want to see in the world.

(Before you call us out for ‘promoting’ travel-induced pollution, let us add, as Greta Thunberg has demonstrated, there certainly is more than one way to journey and wander!)