One of the things getting me through this frightening, lonely time is looking toward the post-COVID future. Thinking about “getting back to normal” keeps me hopeful and travel plays a big part in that planning. Prior to the pandemic I never really had much of a bucket list of trips or places I’d like to go but lately often find myself dreaming about going on adventures I’ve only, until now, talked about.
During my investigation into “bucket list” destinations I started to feel frustrated because, until we have a vaccine for COVID-19, no one is going anywhere…..so I’ve included an “until then” movie or documentary that showcases the beauty and history behind these magical places. Get your passports ready! We’re taking a trip….
Australia, Great Barrier Reef
One of Australia’s most incredible gifts, the Great Barrier Reef offers visitors the breathtaking beauty of the world’s largest coral reef. The reef contains an abundance of marine life and covers over 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays and hundreds of spectacular tropical islands with some of the worlds most beautiful sun-soaked, golden beaches. It is home to 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusks.
Because of its natural beauty the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven wonders of the natural world, has become one of Earth’s most sought after tourist destinations. A visitor to this magical locale can enjoy many experiences including snorkeling, scuba diving, whale watching and swimming with dolphins. How big is the Great Barrier Reef? It is larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing on Earth visible from space.
Until then: “Great Barrier Reef” (2018)
At the top of a mountain, enormous and imposing stone blocks joined without using mortar were combined to create one of the most important religious, political and cultural centers of the Inca empire: Machu Picchu.
Revealed to the world in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, this Inca city is divided into two large sectors: the agricultural sector, with an extensive network of terraces; and the urban sector, with fine structures including the Sun Temple. The intensely green terraces and the imposing mountains surrounding the site combine to create a stunning landscape which surpasses visitors’ expectations. Machu Picchu is a World Heritage Site and the pride of Peru.
Visitors describing their impressions of this marvel most often comment on the moving sight of the city as it is slowly illuminated at sunrise.
Until then – “The Motorcycle Diaries” (2004)
Every visitor to India hopes to see the world-famous Taj Mahal in all its glory. The magnificent structure is a sight to behold with its intricately designed exteriors made from white marble. Apparently, pictures really don’t do justice; you have to see it for yourself.
Built during the time when Mughals ruled India, the Taj Mahal rises on a three-acre site on the Yamuna River in the northern city of Agra. Emperor Shah Jahan spared no detail when he ordered a mausoleum to be constructed to house the remains of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth in 1631. He gathered the best architects and craftsmen in the land along with a whole army of builders to erect the construction, completed over some 15 years. Centuries later, the Taj Mahal has gained fame and recognition, making it one of the most recognizable structures in the world. UNESCO listed it as a World Heritage Site because it is an exquisite example of Mughal architecture. It is also included in the “New Seven Wonders of the World”.
Until then – “Secrets of the Taj Mahal” 2011
Santorini is part of the Cyclades group of islands and stands out because of its unusual landscape. Although it has the archetypal Greek Island characteristics with its white-washed houses and churches and blue sky, this unique and incredibly beautiful location was formed from a huge volcanic eruption which created a large lagoon in the middle of the island. It is consequently surrounded by steep cliffs on three sides, giving it a stunning and unusual vista.
Santorini still has an active volcano, the only one in the world whose crater is in the sea, but fear not as the last big eruption occurred 3,600 years ago. Santorini has a reputation as being a particularly romantic island with its crystal-clear waters and amazing sunsets. (Note: I’ve actually visited Santorini and can report that it is breathtaking, the people are incredibly warm and nights are a lot of fun!)
Until then – “Pelican’s Watch” 2011
Northern Lights, Iceland
Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights (a.k.a. the Aurora Borealis). On clear, crisp winter nights in Iceland, you can experience the Northern Lights dancing magically across the sky. Seeing this magnificent light show with various colours dancing and twirling before your eyes is nothing short of amazing and each display is totally unique.
The Northern Lights are one of the biggest draws to visiting Iceland in the winter, the downside being that they are a natural phenomenon and thus elusive and unpredictable. Photographers and other thrill-seekers report that planning a week-long “camp out” is the best way to ensure a sighting. Not for the weak in spirit!
Until then – “Under an Arctic Sky” (2017)
Victoria Falls, Africa
One of the greatest attractions in Africa and one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world, Victoria Falls is located on the Zambezi River, the fourth largest river in Africa, which is also defining the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Victoria Falls is considered to be the largest fall in the world.
The noise of Victoria Falls can be heard from a distance of 40 kilometers (25 miles), while the spray and mist from the falling water rises to a height of over 400 meters (around 1300 feet) and can be seen from a distance of 50 kilometers (31 miles). No wonder that the local tribes used to call the waterfall Mosi-o-Tunya “The smoke that thunders”!
Scottish missionary and famous explorer of Africa David Livingstone (1813-1873) named it after Queen Victoria. Livingstone who was the first European to cross Africa from south to north discovered this awe-inspiring waterfall in 1855, while preaching Christianity in Africa. The waterfall was hardly visited by people up until 1905, when a railway to Bulawayo was constructed.
The water level varies throughout the year; it is at its peak in April, at the end of the rainy season when on average 500,000,000 liters of water flow and it is at its lowest level in October and early November. Interestingly, during the dry season the water level in the Zambezi River drops sharply, and it becomes possible to walk through some parts of the waterfall.
Until then – “Victoria Falls – The Smoke that Thunders” (2009)
Pyramids of Giza
The Pyramids of Giza rise from the west bank of the Nile River almost as an act of defiance, perfectly symmetrical behemoths imposed upon a flat, barren landscape. The Great Pyramid—the oldest, largest and most famous of the monuments—is the last of the ancient world’s “seven wonders” still standing. Built 4,500 years ago as a tomb for the fourth dynasty pharaoh Khufu, it once stood 481 feet high. Because thieves (who robbed the burial chambers) stripped the pyramids of their outer casings of polished white limestone, they no longer reach their original heights. Today the Great Pyramid still stands at An imposing 450 feet.
Precisely how the Egyptians built these colossal structures is still a matter of debate. To construct the Great Pyramid, workers had to cut, haul and assemble 2.3 million limestone blocks, weighing on average more than two tons.
Pyramids remain first and foremost a monument to the ingenuity of a remarkable civilization. As Jean-Pierre Houdin, a French architect who has studied the Great Pyramid for almost a decade, has observed, “You don’t build such a mountain of stones with so few people this size unless you have reached a very high level of knowledge in many sciences.”
Until then – “Building the Great Pyramid” (2002)
The Serengeti, Africa
Each year, the primal drama of survival plays out on an epic scale on the plains of the Serengeti. An estimated one-and-a-half million wildebeests, along with hundreds of thousands of zebras and gazelles, make a 300-mile circuitous journey across the vast grasslands that stretch across northern Tanzania, then west toward Lake Victoria, east to the Ngorongoro highlands and north into Kenya. Lions, cheetahs and hyenas tenaciously pursue their prey, while hordes of crocodiles hunker down in the Mara River, eager to pick off wildebeests struggling across swift currents.
The Serengeti (“land of endless space” in Masai) is the only place in Africa where migrations of this magnitude occur. The wildebeests follow the trajectory of the seasonal rains that nourish the fresh grass on which they graze.
Aside from the long rains that drench visitors in April and May, the Serengeti is a year-round destination—although what you see can vary depending upon when and where you go. Predators tend to congregate during the calving season in the southern plains of the Serengeti National Park from January to March, when the young wildebeests are at their most vulnerable. To see the Mara River crossings in Kenya, the best time to visit is September and October.
Until then – “Serengeti” (2019)
Where do you hope to visit when we’re finally able to see the World again?