National Parks conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the world. As well as making wilderness more accessible for the public, national parks also preserve habitats for a varied range of native plants and wildlife.
Currently over 12 percent of the world’s land surface is protected by the borders of national parks and nature reserves. They help detract from pollution in more populated areas of the planet by keeping our environment healthy – and that keeps us healthy too.
I’m pleased to say there are hundreds of national parks in the world and while I do hope to visit most of them during my lifetime the below 8 are ones I’m itching to see!
1 – Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
The name “Serengeti” comes from the Maasai word “Siringet” used to describe the area which means ‘the place where the land runs on forever’. The park covers over 5,700 square miles of grassland plains, savanna, riverine forest and woodlands. The Serengeti, which was recently proclaimed a 7th world wonder, is well known for its annual migration seeing over six million hooves come through the park for fresh grazing every year. In addition to the migration, the park is well know for its other resident wildlife including the Masai lion, African leopard, African bush elephant and eastern black rhinoceros.
2 -Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galápagos is a cluster of volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean most famous for its unique and fearless wildlife that inspired Charles Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection. The archipelago consists of 18 main islands, 3 smaller islands and 107 rocks and islets. Being located on a tectonic plate above the Galápagos hotspot, the landscape is constantly evolving. While some of the older islands have now disappeared below the sea the youngest islands, Isabela and Fernandina, are still being formed with the most recent volcanic eruption in April 2009.
3 – Yellowstone National Park, United States
Yellowstone National Park spans an area of over 3,460 square miles comprising of lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges. The park is famous for housing the Caldera volcano, still considered active, which has erupted with great force several times in the last two million years shaping the american landscape as it did. Before being established as a national park in the 1870s, Yellowstone was home to Native Americans for at least 11,000 years. Boasting over 1,100 species of native plants, 2 species of bear, 67 species of mammals, 16 species of fish, 322 species of birds and of course the gray wolf there is nothing else quite like Yellowstone.
4 – Yosemite National Park, United States
Yosemite National Park is located within California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. The name “Yosemite”, meaning “Killer” in Miwok, originally referred to the name of a renegade tribe which was driven out of the area. Before then the area had previously been called “Ahwahnee”, meaning “big mouth” by the local indigenous people. In 1984 the park was designated a World Heritage site and since then it has been celebrated for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams and biological diversity. Nearly 95% of the park is conserved as wilderness and the park itself was central in developing the idea of national parks within western society.
5 – Grand Canyon National Park, United States
The Grand Canyon National Park is located in northwestern Arizona. The park’s central feature is the Grand Canyon, a gorge of the Colorado River considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The Grand Canyon was officially established as a national park in 1919, although the landmark had been well known to Americans for over thirty years prior to this. For thousands of years, the area has been continuously inhabited by Native Americans, who have built settlements within the canyon and its many caves. The Pueblo people considered the Grand Canyon a holy site and made pilgrimages to it.
6 – Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile
Torres del Paine National Park is home to mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers in southern Chilean Patagonia near the Andes. The name of the park roughly translates to “Towers of Blue” referencing to the Cordillera del Paine (seen in the picture above) – three substancial rock towers. ‘Torres’ is Spanish for ‘Towers’ and ‘Paine’ is an old indigenous word for the colour blue. The park borders Bernardo O’Higgins National Park to the west and the Los Glaciares National Park to the North in Argentina making it the perfect place to go for any of you uber trekkers out there who want to experience all three.
7 – Kruger National Park, South Africa
One of my South African friends goes back to Kruger every year and each time, takes the most stunning photos – capturing the beautiful wildlife. This National Park covers just over 7,520 square miles in South Africa and is renowned for its Safari. Parts of this park have been protected by the government of South Africa since the 1890s and it was established as a national park in the late 1920s – South Africa’s first. Kruger offers unspoiled wilderness with one of the most unique wildlife experiences achievable through the many game reserves that operate within the park.
8 – Banff National Park, Canada
Banff National Park covers over 2,560 square miles of valleys, mountains, glaciers, forests, meadows and rivers located in between Alberta and British Columbia. The park has a humble beginning – in the early 1880s, three Canadian Pacific Railway construction workers stumbled across a cave containing hot springs on the east slopes of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Banff National Park soon became Canada’s first ever national park and the world’s third.
Are there any national parks you’ve been to or that you’d recommend looking at?