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Archive for national parks

Secret of the South Atlantic

By Linda Tancs

One of the world’s remotest islands, St. Helena may very well be one of the South Atlantic’s best kept secrets. Of course, history buffs know that it’s the locale where the British exiled Napoleon after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. Not surprisingly, the general’s house and its original furnishings are a major tourist draw—that is, for those tourists who have been able to get there. Until now, the tiny British overseas territory was accessible via private flights or the last commercially operating Royal Mail ship. But thankfully the island has caught up with the 21st century with the introduction of weekly flights via South African airline Airlink. The upcoming whale shark season (November to April) is not to be missed; marine tour operators offer opportunities to swim with them. This subtropical paradise also offers an array of endemic wildlife and flora at Diana’s Peak National Park, the island’s highest point.

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Earth’s Largest Lizard

By Linda Tancs

The closest living example of the legendary dragon in folklore and mythology is the Komodo dragon, the largest living species of lizard on earth. Reaching 10 feet in length and topping nearly 200 pounds, the monitor is protected from extinction in its native land of Indonesia at Komodo National Park. Sitting at the center of an archipelago, the park (which recently celebrated its 37th year of conservation) consists mainly of three volcanic islands and landscapes varying from dry savanna conditions to lush forests. Bounded by white sandy beaches and clear blue waters, the area attracts underwater enthusiasts as well. Divers claim that Komodo waters present one of the best diving sites in the world, with 385 species of beautiful corals alone.

Land of the Blackbuck

By Linda Tancs

The blackbuck is an antelope indigenous to the plains of India, epitomized by the twisted, ridged horns of adult males. Thriving in grassland, their dwindling population has found a haven at Velavadar Blackbuck National Park. Located in the Bhavnagar district of the state of Gujarat, this sanctuary for blackbucks features grassland habitat, shrub lands, saline plains and mud flats. The park also embraces over 140 species of birds, 14 species of mammals, 95 species of flowering plants and many reptiles.

Queen of the North Sea

By Linda Tancs

Part of Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park, Germany’s island of Sylt is the largest North Frisian island and the fourth largest island in the country. Referred to as the Queen of the North Sea, its popular holiday resorts (Morsum, Keitum, Rantum, Hörnum, Kampen and List) make it an attractive summer destination. Known for its tranquil beaches, a visit would be incomplete without a stop at the aquarium in Westerland, boasting a fabulous collection of North Sea and tropical fish. See more marine life in its natural habitat via a guided boat trip at the Wadden Sea, the largest unbroken area of mudflats in the world. The Hindenburg Causeway joins the island with the mainland.

A Superior Wilderness Experience

By Linda Tancs

Surrounded by Lake Superior and near the border with Canada, Michigan’s Isle Royale is one of the least visited U.S. national parks. That’s to be expected, considering its remote location. All the better for you. Enjoy a car-free experience where the only approved modes of transportation include hiking, boating, canoeing and kayaking. Known for its wolves and moose populations, Craggy Scoville Point is a great spot for viewing some of the roughly 200 rocky islets that form the Isle Royale archipelago. Accessible by ferry, seaplane or private watercraft, there are two boats that service the island from Michigan—the Ranger III from Houghton and the Isle Royale Queen IV from Copper Harbor. The island closes from November 1 – April 15 annually.

A Glacial Feast

By Linda Tancs

The largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, protects 4,200 square miles of glaciers, geothermal springs and lakes representing mostly untouched alpine wilderness. The park’s tiny hamlet of Jasper is connected to Lake Louise in nearby Banff National Park by the Icefields Parkway, a 140-mile-long stretch that parallels the Continental Divide. Considered one of the most scenic roads in the world, the parkway includes along its route the Athabasca Glacier (part of the Columbia Icefield), the most visited glacier on the North American continent. Its ice is in continuous motion, spilling from the icefield (a surviving remnant of the thick ice mass that once covered most of western Canada’s mountains) over three giant bedrock steps. The Discovery Centre (a visitor’s center opposite the icefield) is open seasonally between May and October.

From the Bowels of the Earth

By Linda Tancs

Earth’s mantle is a layer between the crust and the outer core. Not the kind of thing one would have an opportunity to experience—unless, of course, you find yourself at Tablelands in Canada’s Gros Morne National Park. Situated in western Newfoundland, the exposed mantle represents a 450-million-year process of continental drift. Explore it on your own or with a guided hike available from mid-June to mid-September. Visit the Gros Morne Interpretation Centre to learn more about the area’s geology or to find out the timetable for guided tours along the Tablelands Trail.

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