If your dream is to experience a tropical paradise that's still largely untouched by people, you could do worse than a trip to Wayag Island, seen here. It's part of the Raja Ampat district in the province of West Papua, Indonesia. Most of the roughly 50,000 inhabitants of this district live on or around its four main islands, Batanta, Misool, Salawati and Waigeo. The remainder of Raja Ampat is made up of roughly 1,500 smaller islands, cays, and shoals–astonishingly, hundreds of these tiny islands have yet to be explored by humans.
Divers and snorkelers, especially, treasure Raja Ampat and its vast and diverse reef system, which is considered one of the most biodiverse places in the world. Located roughly seven miles above the equator, Raja Ampat covers nearly 10 million acres of land and sea, and is home to 540 types of corals, more than 1,000 types of coral reef fish, 700 types of mollusks, and a variety of warm-blooded marine animals like the dugong. The ecosystem, which is part of a larger tropical ocean area called the Coral Triangle, is so diverse it's sometimes referred to as the 'the Amazon of the seas.'
Rising up from the black sand like rock gods
Any visitor to Iceland knows that driving the Ring Road rewards one with incredible changing landscapes. Today, we're taking a quick detour to visit this chiseled stretch of Iceland's southern coast, where black sand beaches meet spiky basalt sea stacks. This is Reynisfjara Beach, widely considered the most beautiful example of Iceland's black sand beaches. The sea stacks fronting the beach are known as Reynisdrangar and were formed when a volcano erupted, spewing flowing lava that cooled into these formations. Ask the locals how they formed, however, and you may get a different story, one involving trolls and a battle with a three-masted ship.
A chiselled landscape
This dramatic view brings together two Welsh icons. In the distance sits the country’s highest mountain, Snowdon, while the towering walls of slate in the foreground nod to an industry which has reshaped the landscape here over the centuries. This is the former Dinorwic quarry in the county of Gwynedd, once the second-largest slate quarry in the world after nearby Penrhyn. Slate was first extracted here by the Romans but the process really gathered steam during the industrial revolution, when it became known as the industry that ‘roofed the world’.
At its height in the late 19th century, thousands of men were employed at Dinorwic and the Welsh slate industry as a whole extracted about 485,000 tonnes a year. Slate quarrying chiselled its way into the landscape and communities grew up around it. But in 1969, Dinorwic closed, a victim of falling demand and cheaper imports. Now Dinorwic is home to the National Slate Museum of Wales, thanks in part to the efforts of the quarry’s former chief engineer, Hugh Richard Jones, who saved the 51ft (15.4m)-wide waterwheel and other equipment from being sold off.
Welsh slate has a worldwide reputation for quality and was used in the construction of Westminster Hall in London, Copenhagen City Hall and the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, Australia. An important part of Welsh industrial and cultural heritage, this slate landscape has been nominated by the UK government for Unesco World Heritage status.
在19世纪末的鼎盛时期，成千上万的人受雇于迪诺维奇，整个威尔士板岩行业每年开采约48.5万吨。石板采石逐渐进入了风景区，周围的社区也随之发展起来。但在1969年，Dinorwic关闭了，成为需求下降和进口价格下降的受害者。如今，迪诺维奇是威尔士国家石板博物馆的所在地，这在一定程度上要归功于采石场前总工程师休·理查德·琼斯（Hugh Richard Jones）的努力，他挽救了这座51英尺（15.4米）宽的水车和其他设备，使其免遭抛售。
The wild heart of Tasmania
This boardwalk leads to one of the many lakes that dot Tasmania's Cradle Mountain–Lake St. Clair National Park, one of the crown jewels of the island's Wilderness World Heritage area. Covering over 623 square miles in the interior of the island, the park is home to an incredible diversity of flora and fauna. Marsupials like Bennett's wallabies, quolls, Tasmanian pademelon, and the legendary Tasmanian devils, as well as short-beaked echidnas, platypuses, wombats, and Tasmanian pygmy possums can be found in its ancient forests and lakes.
In late April and into May, locals and visitors delight in the 'Turning of the Fagus' when the leaves of the deciduous Tasmanian beech trees turn brilliantly yellow, orange, and red. The Overland Track, as 65-mile-long circuit of the park is a popular route for visitors, whether exploring a portion of it over a day or taking a week to complete the entire route. Overnight hikers can stay in warming huts built along the way and spend the night dazzled by the stars and the aurora australis (aka the southern lights) in one of island's best stargazing locations.
A hub for fishing
Located in central Manitoba, Lake Winnipeg is the sixth largest freshwater lake in Canada. It is 435 kilometres long and at least 109 kilometres wide. With an area of approximately 24,400 square kilometres, Lake Winnipeg boasts a shoreline consisting of pristine white sand beaches, limestone cliffs and boreal forests. Hence, this area sits as a huge nesting ground for birds like pelicans, gulls and cormorants. Additionally, abundant fish species can be found here as well. As a matter of fact, Lake Winnipeg is a commercial fishing hub and contributes significantly to Manitoba’s fishing industry revenue. So, whatever the season may be, professional anglers and general fans of fishing can be spotted here all year-round.
A whale of a picture
The family drama you see playing out here in the Pacific Ocean near Maui, Hawaii, is a humpback whale calf getting a little nudge from its mom. She presumably wants the sleepy youngster to practice surfacing, something these amazing marine mammals are famous for doing in dramatic fashion. Winter is calving season, when thousands of humpbacks swim to the warm waters off Hawaii, making them a common sight from November until April. Because they're known to hang around near the ocean's surface, breaching or slapping the water with their tails, humpbacks are a favorite of whale watchers everywhere.
Most humpbacks are nomadic and can be found in all the oceans of the world, with some populations migrating distances of up to 5,000 miles as they move from breeding grounds in warmer, tropical waters, to colder areas where food is more plentiful. And when they eat, they don't mess around, consuming up to 2,000 pounds of food each day. They eat tiny crustaceans called krill, as well as small fish. Once on the verge of extinction because of commercial whaling, legislative protections in the US and around the world have helped the humpback population to rebound to somewhere around 80,000 worldwide.
Uncommon clouds are gathering
A satellite view of the Mania River in Madagascar allows us to see a curious cloud pattern. It's common for cool, moist marine air to rise and form dense clouds over bodies of water, then for the clouds to evaporate as they drift over warmer, drier land. The opposite is happening here: Puffs of clouds are forming over land, but not over water. That's because Madagascar's tropical rainforests are warm and wet enough that evaporating moisture rises as the day heats up. When it rises high enough, the moisture encounters cooler air, which condenses the water into clouds. Generally speaking, clouds will form where the air is rising, which in this case is only over the land. Above the river, the air is cooler and descending, so no clouds are forming there.
If learning about an unusual weather pattern puts you on cloud nine, then join the United Nations in celebrating World Meteorological Day today. The UN created the annual observance back in 1950 as a day to recognize the contributions of meteorologists to our safety and well-being. We may not all know our cirrus from our cumulus, but we can at least thank meteorologists for letting us know if we should pack an umbrella or sunscreen.
Overlooking the valley linking France to Switzerland (the Cluse de Pontarlier), Joux castle – with its keep, towers, drawbridges, surrounding walls and fort – offers fantastic evidence of the way fortifications have developed over the years. Built in the 11th century, then modified by Vauban in the 17th century, people will discover 10 centuries of history there.
A glimpse of the 'Blue Forest'
What color do you normally associate with a forest? Well, in the Hallerbos forest of Belgium, that would be blue, for reasons you can clearly see here. For about 10 days every year, usually in late April or early May, this very old forest floor is transformed as bluebell hyacinths wake up from their winter slumber and carpet the forest floor in blue.
Even though it's a bit early for the fleeting blooms, today would be a good day to visit the 'Blue Forest,' for this is the day that the United Nations recognizes the International Day of Forests. The theme of this year's observance is reforestation, another thing that Hallerbos is known for. Large swaths of the ancient forest were destroyed by occupying forces during World War I, which prompted the Belgian government to roll out an extensive reforestation project starting in the 1930s. Within 20 years, Hallerbos was well on its way to being a healthy forest again, as the depleted native beech and oak trees were restocked.
It's time for spring
This 40-foot sundial stands atop the Parnidis Dune, one of the scenic highlights of Curonian Spit, a UNESCO World Heritage Site shared by Lithuania and Russia. Built in 1995, the sundial was damaged by a hurricane a few years later and rebuilt in 2011. It accurately tells time by creating shadows on the steps, with notches for hours and half hours, as well as months, equinoxes, and solstices.
March 20 marks the spring (or vernal) equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, meaning that for the next six months daylight hours will outlast nighttime darkness. When it's winter in the Northern Hemisphere, those of us above the equator are tilted away from the sun, giving us shorter days and longer nights. In summer, we're tilted toward the sun, but the equinox is right in between. It's the moment during Earth's annual revolution around the sun when its axis is neither tilting away nor tilting toward the sun, giving everyone on the planet an equal split of day and night. This phenomenon happens twice a year—in March and again in September. In the Southern Hemisphere, everything's flipped. There, it's the autumnal equinox today—and, yes, winter is coming.