8 Disappearing Islands to Visit NOW—Before It’s Too Late
Climate change is no joke, folks. With rising sea levels, coastal soil erosion, an increase in global temperature, and extreme swings in weather patterns, a clutch of Earth's most idyllic, low-lying islands run the risk of disappearing in the next 30 years. Time is of the essence, so skip adding them to your later-to-be-lived-out bucket list and plan your getaway now.
A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.
Don’t believe in the immediate threat of global warming? Try this fact on for size: the Solomon Islands have already lost five atolls to rising sea levels and coastal erosion, and six more are in jeopardy. With water levels rising at a rate almost three times faster than the global average, rumblings that the Oceanic nation could vanish are no myth. Planning a visit? Stay at the Heritage Park Hotel Honiara to dive the waters surrounding Tugali island, check out WWII battlefields and monuments around Honiara, and learn more about local tradition at the Solomon Islands National Museum and Cultural Center.
Listen up, guys—one of the world’s favorite bucket-list destinations has found itself at the frontline of climate change. Working against rapid loss of shoreline, bleached coral reefs, and violent storm surges, the Maldives are continually implementing changes that could stop (or at least delay) their submersion, but according to the World Bank, the country could be underwater by the end of the century. Splash out on a luxe, eco-friendly getaway at Six Senses Laamu, where on-land and overwater villas have been constructed from entirely sustainable materials and the resort operates under Green Globe benchmarks (with an emphasis on energy conservation, seagrass conservation, waste reduction, and nature, island, and reef protection) and implements a code of conduct for dolphin watching.
Electric-blue lagoons, lively barrier reefs, and velvety beaches are all found in the tiny island state of Palau, a far-flung archipelago of more than 500 isles just southeast of the Philippines. While world-class diving attracts international visitors, global warming continues to threaten the unspoiled territory and its diverse marine life. Now is the time to hightail it to Jellyfish Lake, a saltwater lake home to more than a million jellyfish that have evolutionarily lost their ability to sting due to a lack of predators. They're one of Palau’s most lauded attractions (since it's safe for divers to swim alongside them), but National Geographic reported that the jellies are all but disappearing due to changes in their ecosystem.
An abundance of black- and white-sand beaches, lush palms, and intimate villa resorts often lands Fiji at the top of honeymooners' lists, but the 332-island-strong nation has found itself at the mercy of global warming. Like other South Pacific destinations on our list, Fiji’s low-lying volcanic atolls are susceptible to tropical cyclones, flooding, and coastal erosion; it’s believed that the majority of Fijian natives could be displaced as early as 2050. If you plan a trip there, consider making your base the five-star Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Fiji. The retreat's got major eco cred: its 25 traditional thatched bures were built entirely from materials salvaged from a former coconut plantation.
The 115-island archipelago of Seychelles floats out in the Indian Ocean, just off the eastern coast of Africa (not far from Réunion, Mauritius, and Madagascar). Though the far-flung destination draws in holiday-makers with its over-the-top Four Seasons, Banyan Tree, AVANI, and Six Senses properties, alarming coral die-off, long droughts, and disappearing beaches are beginning to threaten tourism. Thankfully, with its community conservation programs and neighborhood sustainability initiatives, the tiny nation isn’t giving up the fight. Touchdown in Félicité, 30 nautical miles northeast of Mahé, for a stay at Six Senses Zil Pasyon, an eco-conscious island hideaway that both respects its surroundings and offers refined, thatch-roofed villas with private pools.
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The remote Cook Islands spread out across 850,000 million Pacific Ocean miles between Hawaii and New Zealand. The collection of 15 coral and volcanic islets is all soaring mountain peaks, lush jungles, and living reefs, but the exotic destination continues to fall victim to rising sea levels, intense rainfall, ocean acidification, and powerful cyclones—destructive factors that are only predicted to increase in severity over the next 20 years. The northern and outlying islands are currently the most vulnerable, so fit in trips to the lagoons, black pearl farms, and national parks of Pukapuka, Penrhyn, and Rakahanga while you can.
Bora Bora, Tahiti, Moorea—French Polynesia’s lagoon-ringed islands always have us starry-eyed. But with the rate at which our polar ice caps are melting, the island nation is sounding its alarm and rethinking its future. In 2017, California nonprofit Seasteading Institute introduced the “Floating City Project,” a self-sustainable community launching in 2020 that will use solar power and ocean-based wind farms in order to withstand rising sea levels. With two-thirds of the nation projected to being submerged by the end of the century, now’s the time to splurge on a romantic romp. The Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora's thatch-roof overwater bungalows offer easy access to South Pacific's turquoise waters as well as postcard-worthy views of Mount Otemanu.
Natives of Kiribati, an island republic in the central Pacific about halfway between Australia and Hawaii, have already begun relocating en masse as tidal surges continue to threaten their villages. The nation’s water rises an astounding four times faster than the global average, and, since many of the coral and reef isles only sit about six feet above water, things aren’t looking good. Trips to Kiribati are of the adventure variety, but consider visiting one of the three main isles—Kiritimati for bonefishing and wildlife sightings, Tabiteuea for its cultural experiences (it’s renowned for its dancers), and Tarawa, Kiribati’s capital and most populous island, for its shipwreck diving (many of which are remnants of WWII).
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