Want to have fun, feel great AND save the planet? Take your next holiday in a national park
Take a deep breath in through your nose. What can you smell? The stench of urbanisation, that’s what. You can smell the dead skin cells of your work colleague, dirty dust flying off household waste and the musty fragrance of crushed dreams.
Ok, a mild exaggeration. Also, you might be reading this on a beach in the Maldives. But, statistically, the chances are you live and/or work in a town or city. And while we love cities, it’s a very, very good idea to escape them and take in a bit of nature. And there are few better places in which to do this than a national park.
National parks provide many of the benefits that other parks provide – or, indeed, big bits of countryside that aren’t parks. They give us extra sunlight (cranking up those vitamin D levels), they have plants instead of buildings and we are programmed to enjoy nature, they let us exercise without a gym fee or directly inhaling the fumes of a malfunctioning minibus, and they give our brains a much needed change of scenery, improving your mental health.
So why should you consider taking a holiday in a national park rather than just any old outdoor space? We’ll tell you.
It’s really important to save the planet and all the good things on it
First of all, national parks are important. Not important in the way that it’s important that your roast potatoes are crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside (this is important, just differently so), but important in the way that it’s really important to save the planet and all the good things on it.
The laws protecting them from development mean that they are havens for wildlife species whose natural habitats and populations are shrinking – especially those threatened with extinction – and are used to encourage biodiversity.
They can get people closer to that wildlife, too. It’s one thing seeing a hippopotamus at London Zoo, it’s very much a different thing to witness dozens of them farting in chorus at the Serengeti’s hippo pool. In national parks, animals are left alone to live like animals with humans a curious occurrence occasionally passing by in Jeeps.
National parks also help preserve human stuff. They preserve human bodies by providing all the benefits listed above, but they also preserve our souls and ancient ways of life. We’re not talking about fax machines, we’re talking about aboriginal lands and people. In New South Wales, Australia, aboriginal people still use land in national parks (lands they’ve lived on for tens of millennia versus about 250 years of occupation by Europeans).
National parks prevent natural disasters and they even provide energy.
Importantly, they also attract tourists. Tourists bring money. Money helps preserve the parks. The parks, as discussed, are very good things. They’re also vast and beautiful, so you really should take your next holiday in a national park. Here’s a few to choose from.
The 6 best national parks around the world
Six continents, six national parks you need to visit
Impressively rhymed with the word ‘company’ in Toto’s ‘Africa’, the Serengeti is a vast ecosystem in Tanzania, within which sits the Serengeti National Park. It’s most famous as home to the annual migration of a million and a half wildebeest. Other animals are available.
Torres del Paine, Chile
Next to the brilliantly-named Bernardo O’Higgins National Park, the also-brilliantly-named Torres del Paine (sounds like a Chilean death metal band?) has it all: mountains, glaciers, lakes, fields, forests, animals. The whole shebang for anyone not sure of what they want from their national park.
Hate to disappoint Yogi Bear fans, but this is Yellowstone, not Jellystone. It might not have bears who wear ties and love pickernicks, but it is real, which is a real advantage for anyone wishing to visit its forests, canyons and famous Old Faithful geyser. It’s also the world’s first national park, declared as such in 1872.
Yellowstone is the world's first national park
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Altogether now… “Like a limestone canyon!” Apologies to the memory of Glen Campbell, but it couldn’t be helped. Yes, this Croatian national park, 70 this year, has a limestone canyon. It also has 16 terraced lakes and is an absolute dream for climbers, hikers, kayakers and, obviously, canyoners.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
What? National parks can be underwater, too? Yes they can. This one protects a massive section of the Great Barrier Reef by controlling fishing and shipping in the area. This makes it the ideal park for visitors who like to scuba dive, sail, fish or do activities that generally don’t involve walking.
Khao Sok, Thailand
Think you’ve ‘done’ Thailand because you’ve danced on a beach and had a tuk-tuk ride to a food market in Bangkok (even though you didn’t fancy eating anything)? If you haven’t been to Khao Sok national park, then think again. This otherworldly park is nuts to look at and fun to visit, from lakes to rainforests, monkeys to tigers.