How You Can Help Save Endangered Destinations

Earlier this year, I told you about several destinations you should see before they disappear. Climate change, environmental destruction and a number of other issues were all threatening to ruin these travel sites, and in some cases (such as The Maldives) wipe them right off the map.

A lot of you responded with feelings of sadness and helplessness about the travel treasures we face losing. Some of you weren’t content to sit by and let these endangered destinations die – you wanted to know what you could do to save them. So to help you do just that, I’ve put together a list of resources and organizations where you can get involved and make a difference.

Fight Climate Change

When it comes to problems that are destroying our environment, climate change is a biggie. Two examples I gave you before were the melting snowcaps at Jungfrau, Switzerland, and the rising sea levels in The Maldives, but of course there are countless other victims, including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and the flora and fauna in the Amazon rainforest.

One organization that has been tackling the problems caused by climate change is the Environmental Defense Fund. The charity pushes for clean energy policies and legislation that will lower carbon emissions. They also work with big companies to lessen their impact on the environment, and encourage other countries around the world to cap carbon pollution as well. If you want to support the cause, you can become a member of the organization, donate funds, sign petitions, or lobby your senator to take action.

Adopt A Polar Bear

Polar bears are dwindling in number fast as their icy home shrinks more and more every year. These creatures not only play an important role in the marine food chain but also in the culture and economy of people living in the arctic region.

The World Wildlife Fund is one of several groups working to save these animals from extinction. They do things like monitor polar bear populations, protect the animals from bears, and prevent oil and gas drilling in the local habitat. If you want to help save this animal from extinction you can get involved by writing a letter to congress or adopting a polar bear for as little as $25.

Conserve Important Art

When we think about travel sites that are disappearing, we don’t normally think of art. But many significant artworks around the world are in fact crumbling away – Da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” which I mentioned in my prior article, is among the more famous of them. In the Italian city of Venice, thousands of paintings are under threat. The city is home to the highest concentration of historic architecture in the world, but rising waters, sea salt and industrial pollution are pummeling the cultural treasures.

Organizations such as Save Venice have been helping to preserve the city’s landmarks and restore its artwork, and to date, they’ve tackled more than 400 projects. Those looking to get involved can become a member of the non-profit organization, make a donation, or choose a specific restoration project to adopt.

Save The Rainforests

Deforestation has been wiping out the planet’s rainforests at an alarming rate. Last time, I talked about the plight of Madagascar’s rainforest, which has shriveled to less than 20 percent of its original size.

The Wildlife Conservation Society has stepped in to try and stop further destruction of the country’s natural landscape. They’re teaching locals how to grow rice without slashing and burning the forest, creating tree nurseries and promoting ecotourism so locals have ways of earning a living without resorting to things like illegal logging. If you want to contribute, you can become a member of the WCS (which includes free access to a number of New York City’s zoos) or make a donation.

Preserve World Heritage Sites

Of the hundreds of travel sites that have been given World Heritage site status, 38 of them are considered to be in danger. Natural disasters, war and even out of control tourism have all taken a toll and threaten to obliterate these historical sites. If you have cash to contribute, the World Monument Fund is a good place to start. They’ve partnered with local communities and governments in more than 90 countries to save and restore cultural treasures.

However, if you really want to get your hands dirty and do something, then you might consider volunteering at a World Heritage center. There are volunteer projects across the globe, including diving along the Great Barrier Reef to help threatened coral, conserving the Medina of Fez in Morocco, and restoring archaeological sites in Tanzania, to name a few. If you want to take part, you need to apply well in advance and you will have to share some of the travel costs. But the good news is you don’t need any experience to get involved.

[Photo credit: Flickr users Peter Blanchard; Travel Manitoba; cowman345; Frank Vassen; Fighting Irish 1977]

Over-The-Top Valentine’s Day Experiences: Day 9


qualia resort


We’re wrapping up our over-the-top Valentine’s Day coverage and, as we head into the home stretch, the packages have gotten more and more outrageously luxe. For the trip of a lifetime, try qualia resort on Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef.

The trip, which can be given as a gift on February 14 but enjoyed year-round, features an array of services, divine cuisine and incredible experiences from private planes and personalized gourmet meals for a special package offer of $100,000.

The resort, qualia (pronounced kwah-lee-ah), features 60, one-bedroom pavilions and a beach house with views of the surrounding Coral Sea and Queensland’s famed Whitsunday Islands.

But just what do you get for $100k? Here you go:

  • Private round-trip jet from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to Hamilton Island.
  • Seven-night stay at qualia’s Beach House including a la carte breakfast daily and dinner in either qualia’s Long Pavilion or Pebble Beach restaurants.
  • Private dinner prepared personally by qualia’s Executive Chef, Alastair Waddell.
  • Dinner one evening in Hamilton Island Yacht Club’s fine-dining Bommie restaurant.
  • Private helicopter and gourmet lunch on Whitehaven Beach.
  • Luxury Reef Comber Tour including seaplane flight to Hardy Lagoon, glass bottom boat and snorkeling experience.
  • 8-holes of golf at the Hamilton Island Golf Club with return helicopter transfers from qualia to Dent Island, including three-course Clubhouse lunch with wine.
  • Private luxury yacht charter for a day.
  • Spa qualia couples treatment.
  • Prestige bottle of Robert Oatley Vineyards Finisterre wine with a personalized label signed by Robert Oatley (owner of Hamilton Island).
  • Shipment of Robert Oatley wine to any address in the US for six months after visit (six cases).
  • Private beach drop off with gourmet picnic lunch.
  • Atomic sunset cruise with canapés and champagne.
The Beach House boasts a main bedroom and ensuite entertaining area with large flat-screen TV with surround sound, 10-person dining area, private full-sized swimming pool and separate guesthouse.

To book, email the Luxury Specialist team: luxuryspecialist@hamiltonisland.com.au.


Conde Nast Traveler Names Australian Resort Best In The World

Conde Nast Traveler names qualia the best resort in the worldFor the first time ever, readers of “Conde Nast Traveler” magazine have named an Australian resort the best in the world. The 2012 edition of the magazine’s popular reader’s choice travel awards selected qualia for this distinct honor, handing out a perfect score of 100 for only the fourth time in the 25-year history of the competition.

This year’s reader’s choice awards saw more than 46,400 respondents who shared their thoughts on their favorite hotels, cities and islands from around the globe. Each of the candidates are rated on a scale from one to five in a variety of categories, with their final scores representing an average of the Excellent and Very Good ratings that they received. In the case of qualia that tabulated up to a perfect score.

Located on the privately owned Hamilton Island, qualia is surrounded by one of the most beautiful settings in the entire world – the Great Barrier Reef. The luxury hotel features 60 private pavilions with spacious accommodations, sundecks and private infinity edge pools that overlook the ocean. Two bars and restaurants, a private dining hall, a world-class spa, fitness center and library round out the a amenities that will keep guests cloaked in comfort for the entire length of their stay.

Hamilton Island is located in the Whitsunday Islands, quite possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. For those who can’t get enough time on the beach or water, it is simply paradise. If you’re adventurous enough to enjoy snorkeling or scuba diving, the Great Barrier Reef is amazing as well. I spent hours just floating along watching colorful and exotic fish by the hundreds. As someone who tends to usually favor mountains over beaches, this was still one of my favorite destinations ever.

[Photo credit: qualia]

Video: Albino Humpback Whale Off Australia’s East Coast

Since 1991, Australian researchers have been aware of Migaloo, a rare albino whale and the only documented adult albino humpback in existence. Now in his 20s, Migaloo makes yearly appearances along Australia’s East Coast during the humpback migration from Antarctica to the tropical waters off the Great Barrier Reef. His appearance still causes a stir, however. He even has his own website.

According to CNN, Migaloo is currently in Cape Byron, the easternmost point in Australia, where he may spend a few days cruising for a girlfriend. For a look at Migaloo, check out the video. Ahab, be damned.


Explore The Great Barrier Reef From Your Desk With Google Street View

great barrier reef While Google Street View usually sticks to helping you explore land, users can now navigate Australia‘s Great Barrier Reef, right from their desks. Just launched, Google makes use of an innovative underwater camera that can record 360-degree images of the marine park.

The project is part of the Catlin Seaview Survey, which was launched today at Monterey, California. For the next three years, scientists will collect visual information on the world’s reefs to be shared on Google Maps, allowing people all over the world to dive without leaving home.

In a story at news.com.au, project founder and director Richard Vevers explains, “99.95 per cent of people can’t scuba dive, it allows so many people to access the oceans for the very first time.”

While at the moment only three sections have been mapped, by December it is expected there will be 20. Additionally, diving robots will be used to examine never before seen areas 328 feet below the surface. Along with broadening scopes of the world, scientists hope to discover new species and track changes in the reef related to climate change.

Next year, the project will expand to map reefs in Hawaii and the Philippines.