1. Sequoia National Park, California
With its towering trees, inspiring waterfalls, soaring mountain peaks, spectacular valleys, flowering meadows and of course the giant sequoia forest, the Sequoia National Park is one of the most frequently visited unspoiled treasures of the United States. Established in 1890, it is the second oldest in the country and the California's first National Park. The grandeur and the scale of those reddish giants is really impressive, but the park also boasts many easy foot trails, which lead to undisturbed and quiet places, where one can find solitude and breath the freshness of the nature. Except the chance to see the five largest living giant sequoia trees in the world, the California's Sequoia National Park offers more than 1,400 plant species and 300 animal species. It also features a huge variety of interpretive museum exhibits, nature walks and ranger programs.
2. Amazon Rainforest, South America
It has been often described as the "Lungs of our Planet", because 20% of the world's oxygen is produced exactly by the Amazon Rainforest. As a result of past human influence and reflecting environmental conditions, the Amazon is made up of a mosaic of ecosystems, such as: flooded forests, rainforests, seasonal forests and savannas. The Amazon Rainforest is believed to be home to more than half of the world's species of flora and fauna. Some of the most beautiful and most dangerous creatures of the planet inhabit the Forest. Among them, special attention deserve: the spider monkey, the golden lion tamarin, the giant anteater, the giant river otter, the amazonian manatee, the macaw and many more. Numerous plants that grow in the soil of the Amazon Rainforest are now used by the scientists for production of drugs for diabetes, arthritis, AIDS or cancer. Except for its spectacular beauty, the Amazon Rainforest is significant for being also a whimsical source of life.
3. Hoh Rainforest, Washington
Located in the stretch of the Pacific Northwest rainforest, the Hoh Rainforest is one of the finest and most impressive remaining examples of temperate rainforest in the United States. What is really special about the forest is that trees there may be more than 1000 years old, and every surface of the tree, regardless living or dead, is covered with its own plant life, which makes it an individual small microcosm. Some of the most dominant species of the Hoh Rainforest are: Sitka Spruce, Western Redcedar, Red Alder, Vine Maple, Coast Douglas-fir and Black Cottonwood. As to the most distinguished species of the fauna, there are: Olympic Black Bears, Northern Spotted Owls, Raccoons, Cougars, Bobcats and Black-tailed Deer. For the active visitors and nature lovers, the park offers many activities, including: hiking, biking, kayaking and rafting.
4. Sherwood Forest, England
Famous for its historical association with the legend of Robin Hood, the Sherwood Forest today is a Royal Forest in Nottinghamshire and has a status of National Nature Reserve. In 1969, part of the forest has been opened as a country park to the public and in 2002 portion of it was declared a National Nature Reserve by English Nature. Beyond any doubt, symbol of the Sherwood Forest is the famous Major Oak which is between 800 and 1000 years old. According to the legends, and the local folklore, it was frequently used as a hideout by Robin Hood. The park is also significant for the tourists (local and foreign) with the annual Robin Hood Festival, which is held there for a week each summer. This event features the major characters from the Robin Hood legend and recreates the authentic medieval atmosphere with the typical music, clothing and dances.
5. Daintree Forest, Australia
Situated in north of the city of Cairns, Australia, in Queensland, the Daintree Forest is the most unique rainforest in Australia and also the most diverse in the world. With thousands of different animals, birds, plans and reptiles, the forest contains distinguished examples of fauna and flora, representing eight different stages in the evolutionary history of the earth. The Daintree Rainforest contains 18% of the bird species of Australia, 30% of the marsupial, reptile and frog species, 65% of the Australian's butterfly and bat species, along with more than 12,000 species of insects. Due to boardwalk access, people could easily guide themselves through these living museums with thousands of flora and fauna species, which have survived major climate change and various natural for over 135 years.
6. Tongass National Forest, Alaska
Stretching 500 miles along the southeast coast of Alaska, the Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the United States, covering an area of 17 million acres. The Tongass forest is home to many species of rare and endangered flora and fauna, among which: vibrant populations of salmon, grizzles, eagles and wolves. More specifically, five species of Bald eagles, brown and black bear and salmon, seldom found anywhere else in North America, abound throughout the forest. This is certainly an extremely rich ecosystem, containing more organic matter than any other, which also includes tropical jungles and lush forests of seaweed added to Tongass shores. In brief: a spectacular and incredible wild world, waiting to be explored.
7. Great Bear Rainforest, Canada
Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and high alpine reaches, the Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest and most colossal remaining tracts of unspoiled temperate rainforest left in the whole world. This ancient lush rainforest boasts thousands of various species of animals, birds and plants, among which most outstanding are: orcas, eagles, cougars, wolves, black bears, grizzlies and the Kermode ("spirit") bear. The forest is also characteristic for being home of the magnificent tree species: 90 metre Sitka Spruce and 1000 year old Western Red Cedar. Unfortunately, as a result of logging and development, approximately 60% of the world's original coastal temperate rainforests have been destroyed. However, the exchange of nutrients and energy has created a solid base for a complex food chain, which is rich enough to support the abundant resident and migratory species.
8. Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Sri Lanka
Not accidentally the Sinharaja Forest Reserve of Sri Lanka is declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. It is the last viable area of primary tropical rainforest of the country and is also one of the few virgin forests left on the planet. The reserve is home to more than 50% of Sri Lanka's endemic species of mammals and butterflies. The forest boasts its endemic wildlife. That applies mostly to the birds in the area, but more than 60% of the trees are endemic, as well. Beautiful waterfalls, springs, rivers, valuable shrubs and medicinal herbs will make you feel like you have stepped on parallel reality. The purity of the nature and the prescribed paths would provide nature lovers with magnificent mixture of splendid sounds and sights and a special never to be forgotten experiences.
9. Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
Established in 1972, nowadays the Monteverde Cloud Forest extends over 35,089 acres and is one of the most popular and the most interesting tourist destinations in Costa Rica. There are more than 1,200 species of amphibians, 400 species of birds and 100 species of mammals, living within the bounds of the Monteverde Cloud Forest. It is also valuable for the fact that its one of the few remaining habitats that has harboured all six species of the cat family: pumas, margays, oncillas, jaguars, jaguarundis and ocelots. There is a rich assortment of activities that help the visitor get acquainted with the forests. The most popular and spectacular among them are: hiking, bird watching expeditions, visits to the butterfly farms and insect museums.
10. Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina
The Pisgah National Forest extends over much of the central western and north mountains of North Carolina, and features some of the most breath-taking and rugged mountain scenery. It is especially noted for the provided easy access to numerous wonderful hiking and camping opportunities, beautiful waterfalls and marvellous sights. Some of the most distinguished highlights of the forest are: the wildflower habitats at Craggy Gardens and Roan Mountain, The peak of Mt. Mitchell (the highest point in Eastern America) and the Grandfather Mountain. The Pisgah National Forest is important also from an economic perspective, as the land and its resources are also used for timber harvesting, wildlife management and hunting.
Fiona Grace on 27 Dec 2011
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