Four natural wonders added to UNESCO World Heritage List

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, also known as UNESCO, has added four new locations to its list of World Heritage sites. The destinations fall under the category of “natural wonders,” and were cited for their spectacular beauty, biodiversity, and importance to the surrounding ecosystems.

Newly added to the list was Japan‘s Ogasawara Islands, which are home to more than 200 endangered bird species, as well as a “critically endangered” bat. Much like the Galapagos Islands, this remote archipelago has a number of unique plants and animals, some of which can only be found there. The islands are also viewed as a living laboratory where the process of evolution can be studied in a self-contained environment that mixes influences from both northeast and southeast Asia in unusual ways.

The Ningaloo Coast, located along Australia‘s lonely western shores, was also given the nod thanks in no small part to its outstanding biodiversity. Just off the coast is one of the world’s largest near-shore coral reef systems, which stretches for miles and is home to sea turtles, whale sharks, and other exotic sealife. An intricate network of underwater caves spiderwebs across the region as well, creating a distinct ecosystem all its own, that boasts even more unusual and unique wildlife. Back on dry land, the Ningaloo Coast also provides spectacular scenery along rugged hiking trails.
Jordan‘s Wadi Rum received World Heritage status thanks to its blend of both nature and culture. The towering rock walls and maze-like canyons, surrounded by a breathtakingly beautiful desert, is only part of the reason this destination was recognized by UNESCO. It is also home to several distinct Bedouin tribes who have inhabited the region for thousands of years, leaving traces of their culture that date back to before the pyramids were built. There are reportedly more than 25,000 rock carvings and an additional 20,000 inscriptions, found throughout the area, some of which show the earliest examples of what would eventually evolve into the earliest alphabet.

The fourth location added to the list is the Lake System in Kenya. Consisting of three interconnected bodies of water, all located inside the Great Rift Valley, the region is home to one of the most biologically diverse avian populations in the world. UNESCO notes that there are no less than 13 species of threatened birds that live in the Lake System, some of which exclusively breed and nest there. The region also plays host to plenty of other wildlife as well, including giraffes, lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, and black rhinos.

Any one of these locations would make an amazing destination for adventurous travelers. These are fragile ecosystems however, so if you do go, be sure it is with a reputable guide service that believes in sustainable travel and ecotourism. After all, these places have been designated as World Heritage sites for a reason, and UNESCO isn’t the only one that wants to see them stick around for future travelers to enjoy as well.

[Photo credit: Alessandro Balsamo/UNESCO]

New photography book on food and travel profiles meals around the world

There are a few key things that unite mankind, one of which is the need to eat. Whether the act itself is one of indulgence or subsistence is largely a cultural and geographic, and not just economic, issue. It’s this dichotomy that forms the theme for a fascinating new addition to the food and travel book genre.

What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets
is the work of photographer Peter Menzel and writer Faith d’Aluisio. The duo traveled to 30 countries to profile 80 vastly different people and the “food that fuels them over the course of a single day.” Each profile features extreme examples of the subject’s diet and caloric intake, rather than a daily average, and provides a window into world foods we might not otherwise be aware of.

The authors also note on their website, “While we have been diligent about providing cultural context and geographic relevance in each of our stories, the people profiled represent only themselves and no one person, or even five, can represent an entire country. Please use this work to further your exploration and understanding of the world.”

Profiles include a Maasai herder in an extreme drought in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, a Bangladeshi seamstress, a Latvian beekeeper, a Minnesotan teen who works in a mall, a Mexican rancher, and a Tennessee man who is a candidate for obesity surgery.

You can see a slideshow of sixteen of the book’s subjects on Time’s website, here.