This post was written by Jen Shook, Coordinator of Research, Conservation and Exploration at National Geographic. We’re sharing National Geographic staff and friends’ stories about nature to celebrate the Great Nature Project. To share your own nature photos of plants and animals with National Geographic, visit greatnatureproject.org.
What is on your bucket list? What do you most want to see and do before you die? Pinterest is filled with boards from people who want to see the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, run a marathon, or write a book. While those are all worthwhile achievements, my bucket list is full of all the natural beauty I want to witness—a Natural Wonders Bucket List.
Why? Because nothing makes me appreciate life quite like being impressed by the life on planet Earth. My list includes goals like “photograph the aurora borealis” and “see a wild elephant.” I have been lucky enough, so far, to accomplish a few dreams and cross some items off my list, such as “visit a Rainforest” and “watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.”
Getting to check off “camp on a deserted island,” was particularly unforgettable. I was there, in Costa Rica, to assist on an archaeological dig. This island, Isla San Lucas, once housed a prison where Costa Rica’s most notorious criminals worked to clear the land for cattle farming. It is now deserted and is part of a national wildlife preserve.
Each day when we broke from our fieldwork, it was time to explore the island. I was amazed at how nature was reclaiming the place. Crumbling prison cells, overgrown with ivy, now housed sleeping bats instead of convicts. A deer followed me as I traversed the island, discovering owls nesting and ants busy cutting leaves. At night, as we camped near the dock, troupes of howler monkeys called to one another and jellyfish floated in the cove.
Costa Rica was an experience I can never forget; it was an Eden and I felt and still feel very privileged to have witnessed it. Nature really has a way of reminding you that humans are a part of a bigger eco-system. I whole-heartedly recommend you create a Natural Wonders Bucket List yourself, and see how the plants, animals, and geographical features of the world can surprise you.
This list doesn’t have to be extravagant, with an item for every part of the globe. It can focus on appreciating the Natural Wonders around your home: observe wildlife in your local park, count all of the bugs in your backyard, or take a day trip to see a breathtaking waterfall. Let me know what you add to your list—I would love to get more inspiration for my own bucket list of nature to see in my lifetime!
By: Jen Shook, Coordinator of Research, Conservation and Exploration at National Geographic