10 Alternatives To The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are well known for their endemic wildlife, unique flora and strong ecological philosophy. However, the destination isn’t the only place in the world to experience an unparalleled natural setting. In fact, islands in Asia, South America, Europe and even the continent of Antarctica all feature one-of-a-kind encounters for those interested in seeing something new in the outdoors.

Scuba dive one of the most diverse coral reefs in the world in Vanuatu, relax on pristine white beaches on Brazil‘s Fernando de Noronha and witness the hundreds of sunbathing sea lions on Kangaroo Island in Australia. These are just a few of the experiences to be had in these worthwhile destinations.

For a more visual idea of these Galapagos alternatives, check out the gallery below.


[Image above via Jessie on a Journey. Gallery images via Big Stock, mariemon, Hairworm]

Video: acorn becoming oak tree time-lapse

Ever wanted to watch an acorn as it slowly becomes an oak tree? But, you know, watch it all rather quickly since to watch it actually would take, I don’t know, say, eight months? Eight months is how long it took plant-lover and and filmmaker, Neil Bromhall, to put together this insightful time-lapse video. His Nikon D300 camera was programmed with a 55mm macro lens and took exposures every two hours for eight months of the little acorn as it grew. Maybe I’m just a plants-captured-while-growing novice, but I think this is fascinating.

We all have our own motivations for traveling. We escape. We familiarize ourselves with the unfamiliar. We learn languages. We adjust. But one element of travel that seems to allure most everyone is landscape. I love to travel so that I can see this world for all that it naturally is instead of just the scenery in front of my face as I move in and out of each day. For me, this boils down to the beaches, the mountains, the forests… and the forests boil down to this.


How to keep your house plants alive when you travel

There are pet sitters, of course, but do you hire someone to water your house plants while you’re on vacation?

Since I live in a New York City apartment building, I don’t usually bother asking anyone to pick up my mail or to water my plants when I’m gone. I hate to inconvenience friends, so unfortunately, I pay the price with dead plants (and stolen newspapers).

Though I rarely travel for longer than a week, I’ve killed two potted basil plants since June and recently had to throw out an orchid plant, which had shriveled up during my absence and was beyond salvation.

After feeling like a terrible person for neglecting my orchid, I was happy to come home from a recent trip and find that my two Clearly Good soil-free plants were still very much alive. Sadly, the rest of my plants looked a little parched. (R.I.P. orchid).

Small enough to sit on a windowsill, the Clearly Good plants help brighten apartments or office cubicles without the mess or maintenance of typical potted plants — and the leafy plants look a little more cheerful than, say, a cactus. The see-through vases also clearly indicate the water level, which only needs to be replenished once every 10 days.

These Clearly Good plants, which were introduced at select Lowe’s retail stores in August, are being rolled out to Lowe’s stores nationwide over the coming weeks.

Price: $12.98 each

Where to Buy: Go to lowes.com to find a Lowe’s location near you. According to a Lowe’s spokesperson, the Clearly Good plants will become available for online purchase sometime next year.

Have you found other hardy house plants that can survive when you’re on vacation? Feel free to share.

[Photo by Amy Chen]

New report says Amazon reveals one new species every three days

2010 has been declared the International Year of Biodiversity to help raise awareness of the vast numbers of species that exist on our planet and the challenges that now threaten many of them with extinction. There is no place on the planet that exemplifies the concept of biodiversity like the Amazon jungle, which is home to thousands of different animal species and tens of thousands of plants. But as striking as those numbers are, a new report indicates that we’re still discovering new species at a surprising rate.

The World Wildlife Fund recently released a comprehensive study entitled Amazon Alive: A Decade of Discoveries 1999-2009 which details some of the amazing plants and animals that have been found in the rainforest over the past ten years. During that time frame, a total of 637 plants, 257 fish, 216 amphibians, 55 reptiles, 16 birds and 39 mammals have been discovered in the Amazon basin. Those numbers represent one new species of plant or animal has been found every three days for the bast decade!

Amongst the new species that were discovered between 1999 and 2009 are a breed of pink river dolphin that exist only in Bolivia and a new species of anaconda that stretches four meters in length and is a master at hiding amongst the trees. Biologists have also found a bald species of parrot that is spectacularly colored and a large, blue-fanged spider that preys on birds.

In the report the WWF also emphasizes how important it is to protect these species and the rainforest in general. The Amazon plays an important role in our planets ecosystem, and in recent years it has come under threat from massive deforestation efforts.

With a new species found every three days, this is just the tip of the iceberg for what has been uncovered in the Amazon over the past ten years. These kinds of reports are a great reminder about how amazing our planet is, and how much we still have to learn about it. It is also a good reminder of why we should take good care of it as well.

[Photo credit: Chris Funk]

Buy seeds during your travels – Souvenir tip

If you love gardening, it’s fun to purchase seeds of flowering plants from distant lands to add uncommon beauty and interest to your landscape. If the plant blooms, you’ll get loads of compliments or questions, and that allows you to share the memories of your travels.

Try to purchase seeds that closely match your climate or gardening zone, but many times plants will flower in your area during a different season that closely matches their native land.

Pro tip: You can also grow them indoors or in your greenhouse. Harvest seeds from plants for the following year and to share with friends.

[Ed’s note: be sure to avoid introducing invasive species into your region!]