The location of national parks worldwide is chosen for exceptional landscapes, unique vegetation or abundant wildlife, all of which need protection so that they can be enjoyed by future generations. The five listed below were chosen for geographic diversity and evocative names.
The world’s first national park and the largest in the United States, Yellowstone has all the requirements – gorges with streams and waterfalls, dense forests with lush undergrowth of shrubs and moss, bison, moose, pumas, bears, marmots, big horn sheep and hundreds of birds. And of course Old Faithful and 200 odd other geysers and ot springs.
Not the best known of Africa’s great parks, not the greatest concentration of animals, but towering mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and lakes. Its natural habitats for endangered species and a rich and unusual flora have made it a World Heritage site. And what a name – Ruwenzori, the Mountains of the Moon.
Great Barrier Reef
One of the world’s few marine parks, the Great Barrier Reef – first mentioned by Captain Cook as a navigational hazard – is a colorful swath stretching from the tip of Australia almost as far south as Brisbane. Satellite photos show a blue and turquoise necklace of atolls and small islands. Underwater, the colors are almost blinding – green, violet and orange coral, intense blue water and fish vying with each other for the most eye-catching outfit.
India’s oldest national park, located in Uttar Pradesh, was named for Jim Corbett, who gave up elephant hunting in favor of conservation. The park’s most famous, endangered and sought-after residents are the increasingly rare Bengal tigers.
Tierra del Fuego
Argentina’s “Land of Fire” lies almost at the end of the earth – next stop Antarctica. The National Park, smaller than New York’s Central Park, is characterized by stunted birches and cinnamon trees bonsai’d by the elements. Many animals live in the spectacular landscape of snow-capped mountains, fiords, open valleys and beaches. Eagles and condors soar overhead. The southern river otter gambols in the streams and occasionally one can see the 16” pudu, the world’s smallest deer.