” Our true home is in the present moment. To live in the present moment is a miracle. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
“We live in a culture that is greatly biased against the imagination, because our culture is very materialistic, objective and literal. Our culture lacks soul, and doesn’t know it, although it experiences the consequences. When you don’t know what’s missing, then of course you don’t know what to bring in, even though you feel something is missing.”
“We live in a world that needs more soul, more meaning. We, as conscious beings, have, as our primary responsibility, at this time in human history, the task of bringing soul into the world, or releasing soul into the world. We do this, first of all, in ourselves and in our own personal world; then we do it in our groups – including family; then we do it in our society through our work, relationships and presence there.” ~ Andrew Schneider
From the National Geographic book The 10 Best of Everything
One of the most photographed beaches in the world, the pale pink sands of Anse Source d’Argent unfurls across the island of La Digue, one of the 115 components of this archipelago in the Indian Ocean. The sands sparkle against a backdrop of towering granite boulders, worn by time and weather. The turquoise water is relatively shallow and protected from the ocean’s waves by a reef.
Whether your dream beach trip consists of spending a few pampered nights in a four-star resort or swimming among tropical fish some 80 feet (24 meters) underwater, the Maldives are the sort of islands where either—or both—can come true. Straddling the equator southwest of Sri Lanka, the 1,102 islands that make up the Maldives form 26 atolls. The soft air enveloping the archipelago blends into a beautiful palm-fringed haze.
3. Bora Bora, Tahiti
This is one of the magical islands that make up French Polynesia in the South Pacific. Just 18 miles (29 kilometers) long, this lush little slip of land lies in a protected lagoon edged by white sandy shores, the best being at Matira Point. Bora Bora boasts the nickname the “Romantic Island,” a moniker easy to appreciate with its isolated beaches, intimate hotels, and quiet atmosphere.
4. The Hamptons, New York
One of the hip spots for the air-kissing, well-heeled set, the Hamptons boast some of the prettiest beaches on Long Island. The unspoiled shoreline begins around Southampton and runs east to the end of the island at Montauk. Windswept dunes and waving grasses border the Atlantic Ocean.
5. Lanikai Beach, Hawaii
Half a mile of sparkling sand, palm trees swaying over a white beach, lush tropical plants, and endless sunshine make Lanikai one of Hawaii’s most scenic beaches. The shore is protected by a nearby coral reef, which keeps the surf relatively calm. The water is always deep green and postcard-perfect.
6. Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
The most popular beaches on this island in the North Atlantic are Surfside and Children’s. The waters here are relatively calm, and there’s plenty of sand to use for sunbathing or castle-building. Madaket Beach is known for its rougher surf and not-to-be-missed sunsets. Quidnet Beach provides great views of Sankaty Head lighthouse.
7. Fraser Island, Australia
Perched on the sunny Queensland coast 161 miles (259 kilometers) northeast of Brisbane, Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island and home to a wonderful beach. This World Heritage Site is an ecologist’s dream, with 640 square miles (1,664 square kilometers) of unspoiled natural paradise. Rain forests with 1,000-year-old trees sprout from the sand. Lodgings here accommodate a wide range of tourists, from the backpacking ecology lover to pampered resort fans.
8. St. Bart’s
One of many islands in the Caribbean Sea, St. Bart’s stands out with its blend of French chic and island relaxation. With beautiful secluded beaches, fine French cuisine, and gracious hotels, this tropical playground is popular with the Jet Set. The 8-mile-long (13-kilometer-long) island is edged by 20 beaches and small coves for swimmers and sunbathers, with sparkling water and white sand.
9. Langkawi, Malaysia
The name “Langkawi” translates into “the land of one’s wishes,” a welcoming concept that somewhat belies the island’s historic origins as a reputed refuge for pirates. Langkawi has since become a modern hideaway for the traveler seeking an escape. If your vacation wishes extend from uncrowded white sands and clear waters to lush green forests, you will find yourself content here. Datai Bay, located on Pulau Langkawi, is a heavenly retreat on the Andaman Sea.
10. Kauna’oa Bay, Hawaii
Located on the Kohala Coast of the Aloha State’s Big Island, Kauna’oa Bay is the quintessential Hawaiian spot. The 0.25-mile-long (0.4-kilometer-long), crescent-shaped beach has plenty of white sand, palm trees, and calm, clear, blue water. In addition to swimming and sunbathing, beachgoers here can snorkel or ride boogie boards. (Be careful swimming, however, because there are no lifeguards on this public beach.) At night, nestle into the sands and peer out into the water to see if you can catch a glimpse of manta rays swimming.
Don’t believe the photographs – these must-sees are so dazzling up close you have to see them in real life! In this excerpt from Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Experiences, we take you to the world’s top 10 parks and preserves.
1. Namib Naukluft National Park, Namibia
The steaming sands of Namib Naukluft National Park are the most perfect stretch of desolate desert – even photographs of the windswept ridges elicit thirst. The dunes at Sossusvlei, commonly believed to be the oldest in the world, are the preserve’s biggest draw. The forceful winds that swerve through the terrain have carved out hills as high as 300m. Strong thermal winds also make hot-air ballooning a popular way to discover the preserve from a different angle. From up in the air, the undulating terrain almost looks like the curling waves of an orange ocean. Hire a 4WD vehicle or certain sections will be out of bounds.
Camp sites exist throughout the park except at Sandwich Harbour, where camping is not allowed. See www.namibweb.com
In a country so incredibly large, it comes as no surprise that everything at Banff National Park is supersized: foxes are foxier, bears are grizzlier and moose could be mistaken for furry school buses. The idyllic region was discovered in the late 1800s, during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, and was quickly transformed into a nature preserve. Spanning 6641 sq km, the park is a natural wildlife corridor in the seemingly impenetrable Rocky Mountains – visitors will often be treated to a parade of Canada’s iconic beasts. At Banff , bear hugs are taken literally.
Over the last few decades, several places in Australia’s legendary outback have become the top spots on many tourists’ to-do lists – Alice Springs, the Blue Mountains, even Uluru. Mungo National Park has somehow managed to fly under the radar. This quiet preserve, sheltered around clay mounds known as the Walls of China, whispers with a rich history of ancient lakes and roaming megafauna. Skeletal remains prove that humans thrived within the park’s boundaries over 40,000 years ago but today, Mungo’s desert-like expanse is so… well… deserted, that it’s possible to glimpse the curvature of the earth.
Feed on bush tucker and learn from a local by taking an indigenous guided tour of the park; book through www.harrynanyatours.com.au.
Like a ‘56 Chevy or a Big Mac, the Grand Canyon is an American classic and undoubtedly the biggest ‘kick’ on Route 66. The Grand Canyon’s endless vistas of gorges and chasms are a favourite locale for geologists: the delicate history of the earth is locked in these myriad shelves of colourful rock. Those who descend into the wide earthen scars will uncover a semi-arid terrain punctuated by hundreds of secret grottos. At the canyon’s ultimate depth (1800m) the planet’s prehistoric landscape is revealed.
Everything you need to know about the park, planning your trip and what not to leave home without is available at www.nps.gov/grca.
Welcome to Jurassic Park – you can almost hear the theme song playing in surround sound while you venture between the soaring limestone karsts. Add a prancing Tyrannosaurus rex and Thailand’s first protected preserve would be a dead ringer for Crichton’s prehistoric Disneyland. This dripping, juicy jungle is part of the oldest rainforest in the world, where snakes, monkeys and tigers lurk within the tangle of lazy vines. The park also features the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia kerrii, which can reach over 80cm in diameter. It has no roots or leaves of its own; instead it lives parasitically inside the roots of the liana plant.
The air-con bus from Bangkok takes 10 hours and costs around 450THB; a minibus from Phuket is about 4000THB. For more information see www.khaosok.com.
6. Northeast Greenland National Park, Greenland
In an age troubled by pollution and threatened by melting icecaps, Greenland’s national park proves that the planet’s glaciers haven’t disappeared just yet. The biggest national park in the world, measuring roughly twice the size of France, is an unspoilt hinterland home to the polar bears and walruses that cavort between crystalline icebergs. The tiny town of Ittoqqortoormiit (try saying that three times fast!) is the unofficial gateway into the silent, frigid kingdom. For now, visitors are limited to surveying scientists and extreme adventurers (tours are available).
Access is by plane or helicopter only and a permit is required. Either head to Ittoqqortoormiit and try your luck, or book in advance; for more details visit www.eastgreenland.com.
7. Iguazu Falls National Park, Argentina/Brazil
Home to a series of chutes so beloved that two nations have claimed them, Iguazu Falls National Park is a photographer’s dream. A fault line near the junction of the Parana and Iguazu Rivers is responsible for the shift in depths causing the river water to careen over a cliff in a dramatic fashion. But the park features far more than the oft-visited waterfalls – the subtropical forests, which provide the cascades with a lush backdrop, are home to over 450 species of bird and uncountable rare butterflies.
8. Saba Marine National Park, Netherland Antilles
It’s hard to believe that this island paradise is but a 15-minute flight from the garish casinos and condominiums of nearby Sint Maarten. And just when you thought that nothing could be more beautiful than Saba’s jagged volcanic landscape, a trip below the ocean’s surface reveals a colourful kingdom of neon coral that teems with fat reef sharks, sea turtles and slippery fish. These pinnacle dive sites rank among the top scuba spots in the world and are fastidiously protected by the well-established national marine park.
If the thought of hanging here long term takes your fancy, consider doing a two- to three-month volunteer placement with the Saba Conservation Foundation; check out www.sabapark.org.
After 10 seconds at Tongariro National Park, it’s easy to understand why the region was chosen as the backdrop for Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy. The park’s three dormant volcanoes, immortalised in the films, rise high above the cool, clear waters of Lake Taupo. Now that the swell of post-movie hobbit hunters has subsided, New Zealand’s oldest national park is once again a serene realm of geological anomalies. The highlight of Tongariro’s ethereal sights is the so-called Craters of the Moon – a steamy stretch of burping mud and smoke-spewing craters.
Visit in January for your chance to leg it across this beautiful terrain with other fitness fanatics in the annual Land Rover Tussock Traverse Mountain Run/Walk; see www.nationalpark.co.nz.
10. Galápagos National Park, Galápagos Islands
Our top 10 list would be incomplete without this old favourite – Darwin’s legendary stomping ground. The far-flung archipelago, a testament to evolutionary theory, features 19 large islands formed by soaring volcanoes. Each land mass hosts a different batch of critters, from the gentle leather-faced turtles that trudge along braids of hardened lava, to the curious blue-footed boobies that peck at sunbathing iguanas. Although tour boats regularly putt around the park, the semi-stringent environmental regulations (important because of the impact of tourism) have ensured that there’s still plenty of space to live out your Robinson Crusoe fantasies.
Earth Teach Me ~A Native American prayer from the
Ute, North American
Earth teach me quiet ~ as the grasses are still with new light.
Earth teach me suffering ~ as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility ~ as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring ~ as mothers nurture their young.
Earth teach me courage ~ as the tree that stands alone.
Earth teach me limitation ~ as the ant that crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom ~ as the eagle that soars in the sky.
Earth teach me acceptance ~ as the leaves that die each fall.
Earth teach me renewal ~ as the seed that rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself ~ as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness ~ as dry fields weep with rain.