A pandemic has led to cancelled vacations, but that does not mean the world has to get smaller. Schedule some virtual tour time, keep perspectives global, and continue to appreciate the world’s natural and manmade treasures alive.
— By Pamela Grant
Despite a pandemic and despite the economic turmoil, it is still a beautiful world filled with natural and manmade treasures. There are many disappointed eco-travellers in 2020 because the uncertainty of the COVID-19 virus means it is nearly impossible to know where it is safe to travel, even after flights resume. A new perspective is needed, and the internet offers the solution.
Being unable to travel now is a prime time for online exploration of parks, historical sites, animal preserves and natural environments. Virtual tours are not the same as being there, of course, but technology enables the next best thing. Online tours also offer another advantage: You can view a place and decide if it fits your eco-friendly agenda. Most places also give viewers an opportunity to make a donation of any size to help these remarkable places manage through their pandemic-related difficulties.
Parks Near and Far
There is no better place to appreciate what Mother Nature can form in the natural environment than a park where people are limited and wildlife is abundant. Around the world, people and countries dedicated to preserving these areas have created and maintained millions of acres of land and formations.
Often, people travel to faraway places when some of the most spectacular parks are at home.
Set your computer to full screen or turn on the smart TV, and take a virtual tour of Yosemite National Park that comes with audio and visual. Stand on a high ledge, listen to the wind blow, and take in the view. Once the senses are full, visit some of the park’s iconic landmarks, like Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, the Half Dome and Yosemite Falls.
The National Parks Service and Google Arts & Culture teamed up to enable a visit to parks from Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska to the Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida.
No need to stick close to home on your virtual eco-tours. Some of the local game reserves in Africa, like Tintswalo Safari Lodge, have proudly gone virtual. The “On the Beat” videos show wildlife sightings and encounters of conservation patrols, and new videos are posted each day. Ride along and spot a lion pride, a leopard taking a nap, or an elephant parade. The Tintswalo Safari Lodge has a wildlife live webcam running all the time, giving a feel for the patience it takes to spot wildlife.
Walk Through the Historical Sites
A tour of the citadel Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes Mountains, built by the ancient Incas 2,400 meters above sea level, offers audio, photos, and 360-degree video of the overlooks and ruins (gradually restored). The ancient archeological site holds the Inca Bridge, Temple of the Three Windows, Intiwatana Astronomical Observatory, and a lot more. You will be greeted at some point by the alpacas and llamas that graze the steep hillside.
Virtual reality is enhancing some virtual tours. The Vatican in Rome, Italy, holds a wealth of spectacular architecture, monuments, and museums. A VR headset will deliver a remarkable experience as you walk through the Sistine Chapel and ponder how one man could have possibly painted such detailed artwork on a ceiling and walls. Such is genius witnessed closely with the help of technology.
Walk the Floors of Museums
Google Arts & Culture has partnered with more than 2,500 museums and galleries in the four corners of the world to bring virtual tours and online exhibits. The most well-known museums in the world are offering virtual tours, like the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, France. This is the home of some of the world’s greatest artwork by Monet, Gauguin and others.
But this is the ideal time to expand your horizons.
You can take a virtual tour of the Museu de Arte de São Paulo in São Paulo, Brazil. This is Brazil’s first modern museum, and the exhibits seem to float in air because they are set on acrylic stands. The breathtaking artwork is emotionally moving and captivating.
Fly over to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, South Korea. It has six floors of exhibits and artwork, and the virtual tour will take you through all of them.
So many museums to see virtually, and not enough time! Visit the Natural History Museum in London, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg – all are inviting virtual travellers from around the world.
There are wonderful places to visit in the world, and they will still be there after the pandemic eases and people begin travelling again.
In the meantime, virtually tour the Blarney Castle, the Taj Mahal, the Colosseum, the National Women’s History Museum, the Dry Tortugas, and the Georgia Aquarium. Take a hike through a rainforest or tour the Eiffel Tower.
There are even some unusual virtual experiences to enjoy. Stroll the Shukkeien Garden in Hiroshima, Japan, and find peace of mind walking the winding paths amid the cherry blossom trees and carefully designed space.
Visit the famous Catacombes de Paris, a subterranean tunnel system lined with the bones of more than 6 million Parisians. Tour the different sections called the Atelier, the Galerie de Port-Mahon, the Cloche de Fontis, the Alcôve de L’Ossuaire, and the Lampe Sépulcrale de L’Ossuaire.
Go Virtual and Plan for the Future
When the going gets tough for eco-travellers, the tough go virtual. There is more than one way to be eco-friendly. As parks, animal preserves, museums and historical sites struggle to maintain global interest in a world where travel is banned, they welcome your online visits. Enjoy some virtual tours with partners or family, and make a list of places to see and activities to enjoy in the future.
No one is saying a virtual tour replaces the real tour, but seeing the fantastic sites without leaving home is a way for eco-travellers to stay connected with the world. Who knows? You could very well discover a place on earth you did not know about.
And if you can, make a donation after a virtual visit because all the treasures need preserving.