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Gator Aid

By Linda Tancs

Over a million alligators live in Florida, a fact not surprising to Floridians and their guests. The ubiquitous creature was even declared the official state reptile in 1987. Unwelcome on golf courses and in backyard pools, this ancient species (more than 150 million years old) enjoys a happier haven at Paynes Prairie State Park. Encompassing a 21,000 acre savanna in Micanopy (less than 10 miles from Gainesville), the park’s nature trails circling wetlands and marsh habitat provide close-up views of this once-threatened crocodilian. A National Natural Landmark, the park is the state’s first preserve, boasting not only scaly denizens but also wild horses and bison.

Taking the High Road in Colorado

By Linda Tancs

Trail Ridge Road, spanning Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, is the highest continuous paved road in the United States at an elevation of 12,183 feet. It connects Estes Park on the east side to the town of Grand Lake on the park’s western slope. One of the state’s most famous scenic drives, the road crosses the Continental Divide at Milner Pass. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to see the Divide as it winds it way through the state. Due to heavy snowfall, the road is only open from May to October.

 

Japan’s Ghost Island

By Linda Tancs

Less than 10 miles from the city of Nagasaki, Japan, Hashima is one of 505 uninhabited islands in Nagasaki Prefecture. It wasn’t always that way. Once home to more than 5,000 inhabitants during Japan’s coal mining heyday, the island’s abandoned concrete apartments are emblematic of a forgotten age and impart an eerie feel to the place. Also known as Battleship Island owing to its silhouette, it opened to tourism in 2009. The boat ride takes 30 minutes, and walks are limited to defined paths due to the site’s damage and decay.

Worms and Waterfalls

By Linda Tancs

A lush oasis awaits those seeking to avoid the fanfare of Bali, Indonesia. Just hop on over via speedboat to Lombok, a quieter escape offering pristine, unspoiled views like the one of Mount Rinjani, an active volcano. In that area you’ll find some of the island’s most popular waterfalls, like Air Terjun Sindang Gila, Benang Stokel and Benang Kelambu. Just be cautious of local touts demanding excessive guide fees. Another hotspot is Kuta Beach, a mecca for sunbathers and surfers. Unlike its namesake in Bali, though, it lays claim to an unusual ceremony presided over by the indigenous Sasak people. Each February they celebrate the arrival of marine worms, said to represent the long strands of hair of a mythical princess who ended her life in the sea rather than marry the wrong prince. This little delicacy is often wrapped in banana leaves and roasted.

The World’s Oldest Lake

By Linda Tancs

Curving through southeastern Siberia for 400 miles, Lake Baikal is the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake. At that length, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s more of a sea, but one fifth of the world’s fresh water is located there. Originating 25 millions years ago and plunging to a maximum depth of over 5,350 feet, you can only imagine the life forms dwelling in this ancient lake. In fact, over half of its species are unique to this watery habitat, such as the freshwater seal and its favorite meal, a translucent fish called golomyanka.

The Wild Atlantic

By Linda Tancs

Malin Head to Slieve League. Mullaghmore Head to Keem Strand. Killary Harbour to the Cliffs of Moher. Loop Head to Skelligs Viewpoint. Dursey Island to the Old Head of Kinsale. No matter which route you take, you’ll discover Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. This is a west coast adventure combining history, culture and untamed nature along the world’s longest defined coastal touring route. At over 1,550 miles, it passes through nine counties, stretching from its northernmost point in Donegal to its southernmost in Cork.

Africa’s Oldest Park

By Linda Tancs

Founded in 1925 by King Albert I of Belgium and originally known as Albert National Park, Virunga became the first national park on the African continent, a refuge today for a quarter of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas. Located on the border of Uganda and Rwanda, it’s rich in biodiversity. Covering 3,000 square miles, the park features forests, savannas, lava plains, swamps, erosion valleys, the glaciated peaks of the Rwenzori mountains and two of the world’s most active volcanoes. Climb to the top of Nyiragongo volcano and you’ll be treated with a spectacular view of the world’s largest lava lake. Most tourists fly into Kigali international airport and take a three hour taxi ride to the border crossing at Gisenyi, Rwanda.

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