The Reed Flute Cave, also known as “the Palace of Natural Arts” is a landmark and tourist attraction in Guilin, Guangxi, China. It is a natural limestone cave with multicolored lighting and has been one of Guilin’s most interesting attractions for over 1200 years. It is over 180 million years old.
Now a popular destination for tourists and fans of lighting design alike, China’s Reed Flute Cave has evidence that the cave was a revered hideaway at least over a thousand years ago even though it was only rediscovered in the 1940s and it is now creatively lit to create a multi-colored subterranean wonderland.
The now-popular cave is named after the copious amounts of reeds that grow at the entrance to the site which is often collected to makes flutes and other small wind instruments; however, it was not this harvest that led to the discovery of the cave. It was actually discovered in modern times by a group of refugees who took refuge in the cave while fleeing Japanese forces during World War II. However, later explorers of the cave discovered ink writings on the stone that dated back to 792 CE, during the time of the Tang dynasty, proving that pilgrimages to the cave are nothing new.
The interior of the cave is a veritable show gallery of gorgeous geological formations. Created by millennia of water erosion on the soft limestone, the cave features stalactites, stalagmites, and tall columns of stone reaching from floor to ceiling. The walls also consist of rippling, eroded patterns which have dripped into the rock over centuries.
Today the Reed Flute Cave is dramatically lit by countless, multi-colored lights hidden in the cracks and crevices of the space. The effect is almost surreal as the lights turn the otherwise dark space into a strange mix of bright neon colors and rough natural erratics. It is quite the sight, practically ensuring that the cave will not be forgotten for another 1,000 years.
Far from the view-blocking skyscrapers, dense and hectic concrete jungles, congested traffics, flickering electric billboards, endless annoying noises, and all the nuisances of modern cities, you will find a pristine paradise where Mother Nature and warm friendly people welcome you with all the exceptional wonders in Raja Ampat, the islands-regency in West Papua Province. With all the spectacular wonders above and beyond its waters, as well as on land and amidst the thick jungles, this is truly the place where words such as beautiful, enchanting, magnificent, and fascinating get its true physical meaning.
Located off the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula on the island of New Guinea, in Indonesia’s West Papua province, Raja Ampat, or the Four Kings, is an archipelago comprising over 1,500 small islands, cays, and shoals surrounding the four main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta, and Waigeo, and the smaller island of Kofiau. The Raja Ampat archipelago is the part of Coral Triangle which contains the richest marine biodiversity on earth. Most of the archipelago is in the Southern Hemisphere, with a few small islands northwest of Waigeo such as Sajang Island in the Northern Hemisphere. Some of the islands are the northernmost parts of the Australian continent.
For underwater enthusiasts, Raja Ampat definitely offers the some of the world’s ultimate experience. The territory within the islands of the Four Kings is enormous, covering 9.8 million acres of land and sea, home to 540 types of corals, more than 1,000 types of coral fish and 700 types of mollusks. This makes it the most diverse living library for world’s coral reef and underwater biota.
According to a report developed by The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International, around 75% of the world’s species live here! Raja Ampat’s sheer numbers and diversity of marine life and its huge pristine coral reef systems are a scuba dream come true – and a fantastic site for snorkelers too.
While its underwater splendors are beyond exceptional, the landscape above the surface is equally breathtaking. As if it was carefully designed and placed with such aesthetic, the rock islets amidst the clear blue water and bright blue sky in Piaynemo offers some of the most spectacular sceneries on the face of the earth. Looking down from the top of the hill, it almost as seems that Mother Nature painted her finest artwork and offers a glimpse of paradise. Further, at Wayag Island, you will also find an amazing rock islets formation in an even bigger scale.
The incredible wildlife of Raja Ampat does not stop underwater. Amidst the many thick jungles within the islands, ones can still find various bird species including the spectacular Cendrawasih or the bird of Paradise. There is also an endemic species of cuscus, the Waigeou cuscus or Waigeou spotted cuscus (Spilocuscus papuensis) which is a species of marsupial in the family Phalangeridae.
With all its spectacular wonders inland, on the shore, and beyond the waters, and distinct serene ambiance that you rarely find anywhere else on earth, Raja Ampat truly offers the ultimate experience ones can only dream of.
So, whether you are an avid diver, occasional snorkeler, or just someone who appreciated beauty in every sense, Raja Ampat welcomes you to the Heaven on Earth.
A lot has happened over the past year. But maybe the most exciting news for kids is the discovery of new animals. Spark children’s passion for STEM by introducing them to never before documented species. Then check out fun related activities from Nat Geo Kids! (And thanks to the International Institute for Species Exploration for inspiration!)
A spider bearing an “uncanny” resemblance to the sorting hat in the Harry Potter series has been discovered by scientists in India. … The spider takes its name from Godric Gryffindor, the fictional owner of the hat. It was discovered in the mountainous Western Ghats region of south-western India.
The Vangunu giant rat (Uromys vika), locally known as the vika, is a giant arboreal species of rodent in the family Muridae. The rat was discovered in the island of Vangunu in the Solomon Islands in 2015, after years of searching based on local stories, and described in 2017. It was identified as a new species on the basis of its skull, skeleton and a detailed DNA analysis. The single individual initially collected from a felled tree (Dillenia salomonensis) measured 46 cm long, weighed between 0.5 and 1.0 kg and had orange-brown fur. Its diet is believed to include thick-shelled nuts like ngali nuts and coconuts, and probably fruits. The species is likely to be designated critically endangered, due to the small amount of forest habitat (about 80 km2) remaining on the island and ongoing logging.
Stingrays are commonly found in the shallow coastal waters of temperate seas. They spend the majority of their time inactive, partially buried in sand, often moving only with the sway of the tide.
In a paper published today in PLOS One, researchers describe two new species of ants from New Guinea.
The new ant species are members of the widespread Pheidole genus, a type of ant found all over the world, and known for its large heads. But in addition to their big heads, these two species have huge spikes on their backs.
I am a professional photographer from Latvia with a passion for nature and outdoors. For me, traveling started with my own country – Latvia, and over the years I have explored most of it.
There are still places I haven’t been and places I have been more than once. Many people in the world don’t even know where Latvia is and mistake it for Lithuania or Russia. Latvia is a Northern Europe country, one of three Baltic states, located in at the Gulf of Baltic sea. Latvia’s population is about 2 million, give or take, but statistics change every year. Latvia is relatively small – 64,589 km2, which is not much compared to other countries, but Latvia is full of beautiful beaches and rich green forests, and it is kind of a hidden gem for photographers and travelers.
One thing Latvia lacks are mountains but much of other Latvian nature’s treasures level it out. For example, Latvia has the widest waterfall in Europe – Venta Rapid, many untouched nature reservoirs like Gauja’s National park and Ķemeri National Park with its many natural sulfur springs and muds. These are one of the many things worth seeing and experiencing in Latvia.
If you are into urban exploring, Latvia’s capital Riga has one of the largest collection of Art Nouveau buildings in the world, but this story is about nature so I will leave the capital for some other time.
We are also happy to enjoy four full seasons that change nature in amazing ways each year. Latvians live in touch with nature, especially the sea, and most of the capital’s inhabitants retreat to the countryside for holidays. For the hot summer days, it’s hard to find Latvian in the capital, because most of them are somewhere by the sea or by nature.
My journey as a photographer started about 10 years ago on road trips with friends around Latvia and that is how my passion for nature was born. Here are some of the moments I gathered over the years while traveling around Latvia on many different occasions.
I highly recommend starting your own exploration of your surroundings and you will be surprised, that in order to find adventures you don’t have to go that far.
American designer Chris Campbell from Orlando (Florida), is very passionate about sweets and shoes. To celebrate this, he decided to unite these two passions into a single product for the Shoe Bakery collection.
He made the most diverse shoe models with identical finishes of ice-cream, doughnuts, and cakes.
Scroll down the page to check them out, and see if you feel like having one of these on your feet.
Although it happens twice a day, more often than not the natural phenomenon of the rising and setting sun is overlooked. These events command a lot of attention at national parks, where perhaps an extraordinary landscape or a prominent feature accentuates this important and extraordinarily beautiful event. [See “sunset wars” pictures of national parks’ amazing skies.]
Acadia National Park
Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain
Early risers are up at Acadia National Park in time to catch America’s first sunrise. Between October and March, the first light of day to fall upon the United States shines upon 1,528-foot Cadillac Mountain in the heart of Acadia, on Maine’s coast. It’s a wonderful sensation to feel the warmth of the sun, and that experience is heightened by spectacular panoramic views from an overlook at the peak.
The sun rises above the Atlantic Ocean’s horizon and casts streaks of color—oranges, reds, pinks, depending on atmospheric conditions—upon the water, while in the foreground the exposed rock of the mountains glows warmly in the sun’s glow. From the parking lot walk to the Summit Trail and find a spot (out of the wind) facing east. Plan this ascent. Gates are open 24 hours at the park, but due to weather conditions, the road to the top of Cadillac Mountain is closed between December 1 and April 14. Sunrise occurs around 6:30 a.m. in October, about a half hour later in November. Dress for the weather, bring along a camera, some snacks, and something warm to drink while waiting for the start of the daily show.
Yosemite National Park
Sunset views of Half Dome
Nature photographers will never lack for an amazing image as long as there are sunsets and Half Dome. Near the end of each clear day, the usually harsh sun softens to cast an even and gentle glow throughout the eastern end of Yosemite Valley, deep within this California national park. Within minutes, the exposed northwest face of Half Dome begins to change hues with the setting sun and, depending on the season, the scene may vary between a brilliant reddish orange and a soft wintery gray. Other mountains are being illuminated across America, certainly, but Half Dome’s broad wall of granite seems to scoop up every ray of the setting sun, creating an inspiring glow across what could be the world’s largest sundial.
Canaveral National Seashore
Sunrise over Klondike Beach
In the 1950s, the government determined that the scientists, engineers, and astronauts working on America’s space program on the southern end of Cape Canaveral needed some privacy. To protect the cape from further development while ensuring privacy, in 1975 Congress preserved 58,000 acres of seashore, land, and lagoons along with 24 miles of protected coastline to create the longest undeveloped beach on Florida’s Atlantic coast. Arrive here for sunrise and infinity lies to the east. The barrier island beaches—Apollo, Klondike, and Playalinda—are largely absent of people so this will reveal a Florida sunrise in its natural state, an experience that is a pure pleasure and one that can be savored minus the din of highway traffic and far from the sight of 20-story condos. This is especially true of Klondike beach, sandwiched between the two others and accessible only by foot; Klondike has been designated a backcountry beach, and the park restricts the number of visitors to its wave-lapped sands. Bring a beach chair, set up on the sands, and at daybreak the music of nature begins. Here comes the sun.
Sunrise and sunset beyond the Capitol Building and the Lincoln Memorial
With national icons framing each end of the east-west National Mall in Washington, D.C., dawn and dusk softly and gradually illuminate silent sentinels of American history. When the crisp blue and orange sky breaks in the east, the gleaming white Capitol dome topped by the Statue of Freedom is backlit by the refreshing rays of daybreak, and the effect elicits a natural sense of optimism. At dusk, try to find a spot on or near the steps on the west front of the Capitol building. The Mall is adorned in the comforting rays of sunset that first descend behind the Washington Monument before backlighting the Lincoln Memorial. Once again, that sense of hope and optimism returns, knowing that now and for the next several hours it will shine from here to the Pacific as it falls across 3,000 miles of America.
Joshua Tree National Park
Sunset of Joshua trees along park roads
As the afternoon fades into evening over Joshua Tree’s cactus and pinyon, cool clouds fingerpaint the sky above this southern California desert park. Adding an aural layer to the vivid spectacle of sunset is the distinct bay of howling coyotes. Roads and ridges that run north and south persuade travelers to reach peaks that provide an ever-changing vista as the world turns. Should a vehicle be able to negotiate off-road trails, views can improve through access to little-visited areas populated by cacti and junipers and yuccas, and silhouetted against the horizon, the most special part of sunset, the park’s eponymous Joshua trees. Framed by bands of color, darker above and brighter below, these otherworldly plants appear as inky black splotches against the sky.
Badlands National Park
Sunrise and sunset from eastern overlooks and north-south ridges
The cliché image of a cowboy riding into a beautiful sunset magnifies the cowboy’s independence as well as nature’s power. That feeling still exists in South Dakota’s Badlands National Park, where a lack of development leads to a refreshing sense of solitude. In the eastern reaches of the park, a series of overlooks are carved out from the colorful buttes for a perfect vantage point and sanctuary, where the lonely wide-open prairie, protected in the adjoining Buffalo Gap National Grassland, leads to a feeling of oneness with nature. From atop a north-south ridge are commanding views at dawn and dusk, and after the sun disappears in a swirl of pink and orange clouds the night sky is soon aglow with a shimmering sheath of stars.
Death Valley National Park
Sunrise and sunset at Zabriskie Point and the Sand Dunes
Two areas in this western California national park offer near-ideal settings for watching the sun rise or set. Zabriskie Point is encircled by a colorful montage of mountains and valleys, and here the line of sight will sweep up to the summit of Telescope Peak and, in the distance, down again into the depths of a smidgen of 156-mile-long Death Valley. Of the 2,600 square miles contained within the park, this vantage point near Furnace Creek is considered the premium overlook for both sunrise and sunset. Just off California highway 190, this viewpoint is easily accessible by vehicle; a paved trail leads to a popular observation deck while a little-noticed path leads a short distance north to present the landscape from a slightly higher elevation. With this advantage, the soft red-violet glow of sunrise adds shadows and depth to the surreal landscape of the peaks and ridges once hidden by a prehistoric sea. The Eureka and Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes offer a no less spectacular sunrise or sunset, just a different one. Here at dawn or dusk the low-angled rays of the sun rake across the dunes, burnishing the sand to a high glow and highlighting ripples and ridges and animal tracks.
Arches National Park
Dusk at Delicate Arch
At sunset in Utah’s Arches National Park, Delicate Arch seems to ignite with the flare and fire of the desert sun, its iconic image symbolizing the American Southwest. It’s roughly 1.5 miles from Wolfe Ranch to the arch via the Delicate Arch Trail, so time your hike to arrive at least 30 minutes before sunset and simply follow the cairns that mark the route. The trail pitches up and around the final corner where, pierced by wind and sand, the center of the “sandstone fin” has created a 46-foot arch that, at sunset, changes like a desert chameleon, filtering sunset through a color wheel of red and orange and crimson and gold.
Petrified Forest National Park
Summer solstice sunrise
With Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park an already magical setting for a great American sunrise, one day in particular may influence anyone’s travel schedule. With the sun’s rays tracking a slightly different path throughout the year, for ten days before and after June 21 (with the highlight being on the summer solstice), the Earth’s alignment with the sun impacts more than a dozen “solar calendars” left throughout the park by prehistoric peoples, with the spiral and circular petroglyphs being intersected by or interacting with the sun’s rising rays. Ancient tribes took time to place them here. Take time to marvel at their confluence of ancient science and nature.
Saguaro National Park
Sunset silhouettes of saguaro along Cactus Forest Drive
Any diorama of the Old West includes the striking silhouettes of Arizona saguaro cactus, the towering icon recognized by its barrel trunk and upraised arms. These alone are worth the visit to the two areas of this national park that bookend the city of Tucson. The eastern Rincon Mountain District is the larger of the two, with ancient saguaros sharing the land with other varieties of cactus including prickly pear and ocotillo. There’s a greater density of saguaro in the western region, but the eastern side features Cactus Forest Drive, a popular loop road across the flatland that provides easy access to saguaro views. These sunsets may not be the most spectacular in America, but seeing a Southwest icon framed in silhouette is a vision not to be missed, especially as twilight falls and bands of color are squeezed on the horizon beneath a velvety dark blue night sky.
Outdoor enthusiast Steve Casimiro has spent the past 30 years writing and photographing remote corners of the world, documenting these experiences on his travel website, Adventure Journal. He shares his must-see mountain views.
1. Mirador Condor (Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile)
Patagonia is notorious for having some of the wildest weather on earth, so views of the iconic Torres del Paine massif (it’s the inspiration for the logo for outdoor gear brand Patagonia) are a gift. Any of the perspectives from the frosty blue waters of Lake Pehoé will take your breath away, but a 40-minute hike to the Condor Lookout reveals an angle you’ll never forget.
2. Tre Cime di Lavaredo area (Dolomite Mountains, Italy)
The limestone of northern Italy’s Dolomite Mountains is craggy and rough-hewn, as if the DNA of its past life as ocean reefs must show through the curtain of the ages, and wherever you look you see another peak suitable for national park status. Tre Cime di Lavaredo, also known in German as Drei Zinnen, justify their acclaim, but these three sentinels are to some eyes gaudy and monumental. Turn south, toward the resort town of Cortina, and there, with little fanfare, is a ridgeline less heralded but with more classic mountain beauty.
3. Denali, Alaska
One view of Denali is enough to satiate for a lifetime, but getting two glimpses of North America’s highest point at once defies words. Accessible by car, Reflection Pond at Wonder Lake is some 85 miles into Denali Park, and when the light is right and the wind at abeyance, it’s one of the world’s most magnificent mirrors.
4. Mount Shasta from Heart Lake, California
Mount Shasta can been seen almost anywhere you go in northernmost California, a distant speck on the horizon or a looming hulk of glacier-clad white guarding endless green farmlands. But perhaps the sweetest angle is from the west, when you drive to Castle Lake, then hike another mile to a delightful pocket pool called Heart Lake.
5. Mont Blanc, Chamonix, France
The roof of western Europe is the birthplace of alpinism and home to one of today’s most vibrant mountain sports communities, so it’s a given that Mont Blanc and its subsidiary peaks needn’t bow to any mountains, anywhere. It’s needlelike, gothically drawn skyline is the kind that inspires poets and painters.
6. Angels Landing, Utah
Canyons don’t typically get lumped in with mountains, but Zion National Park in southwestern Utah is studded with peaks all around its signature valley, and no view is better than that from Angels Landing, a three-mile hike that is perhaps the most dramatic in the entire Lower 48.
7. Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand
Pick an angle, any angle: New Zealand’s highest point looks stunning from every vantage point. Don’t want to leave the comfort of the lodge at Mount Cook Village? Your eyes will widen at the view through the huge windows, the peak framed by dark green scrub. Got adventure in your veins? Take the ski plane up to the Tasman Glacier and you will be gobsmacked by the sight of the ice-encrusted north face.
Everybody knows that cats are well known for being agile, but one thing you probably didn’t know is that cats are also masters of disguise. Check out these furtive felines compiled by Bored Panda to see what we mean. Whether they’re pretending to be cinnamon rolls, hipsters, chocolate chip cookies or even Adolf Hitler himself, there’s no limit to the lengths these cats will go to in order to pass undetected. Which cat has the most distinctive fur patterns? Let us know in the comments below, and if you have any cats with unique markings then feel free to add them to the list!
#1 This Is Sam. He Has Eyebrows
#2 Inception Cat
#3 This Is My Cat Paco. I Also Call Her Exclamation Butt
The Seoul-based pastry chef delicately sculpts edible floral bouquets that look truly too pretty to eat. With beautiful petals and exquisite arrangements, all of her creations look so much like flower bouquets, you could barely even tell they’re actually buttercream cakes. Keep on scrolling to check them out and don’t forget to vote for your favorites.
Jill Bliss is an artist (and naturalist, educator, farmhand, caretaker, and deckhand) who lives on a small island in the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest. In 2012 she sold her house and nearly everything she owned to move to the island and reconnect with nature after a busy career as a designer in New York and San Francisco. Using a wide assortment of the beautifully vibrant wild fungi she finds, Bliss turns them into stunning arrangements and photographs them for a project she calls Nature Medleys. See below for a collection of some of our favorites. You can follow the artist on Instagram, and you can also find much of her work for sale in her online shop.
“I’ve plunked down my life savings for a modest half acre of cleared land on a small island of 30 full-time households to live out the rest of my days in tune with the natural world,” writes Bliss. “I satisfy my nomadic nature by holing up in various off-grid cabins on small islands, preferably with wild animals and semi-feral people for neighbors, mentors and muses. These are the months for hibernation, quiet reflection, close observations of discreet moments in nature, art making, sleeping, reading, cooking, chopping wood, stoking wood stove fires, hiking & kayaking in the rain.”
From the frenetic streets of Seoul to the azure waters of the Maldives, these stunning hotels are sure to deliver a room with a view.
By Andrew Nelson
Asia is seeing a hotel boom, especially for those catering to affluent travelers. At the regional edition of the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) held each summer in Shanghai–and next year in Singapore, too–hoteliers preview the continent’s newest head-turning properties.
“Every year, Asia’s luxury bar seems to be set higher,” says ILTM portfolio director Alison Gilmore. “The hotels grow more spectacular and there’s a notable rise in experiences based around fashion, cuisine, privacy, and off the grid escapes.” If you’re planning to travel to Asia and want to put some glamour in your visit, here’s a list of eye-catching hotels recently opened or about to do so:
THE MURRAY, HONG KONG
How do you say Mad Men in Cantonese? This 1969 25-story commercial skyscraper is being reimagined for the Niccolo Hotel chain by famed British architect, Sir Norman Foster. Plans call for 336 rooms and suites and five restaurants offering views of the city as well as the park holding Hong Kong’s Zoo and Botanical Gardens. The Murray is scheduled to open in late 2017, according to hotel representative Anton Kilayko.
SIGNIEL HOTEL, SOUTH KOREA
Housed in the ultramodern 123-story Lotte World Tower, the recently opened Signiel Hotel is Gangnam style indeed. The high-rise hostelry’s 193 rooms offer guests expansive views of the South Korean capital, a Michelin-starred restaurant, duty-free shopping mall, an anti-aging spa, concert hall, champagne bar, and a personal shopper service.
CAPELLA SHANGHAI JIAN YE LI, CHINA
An urban oasis in Shanghai near the Nanking Road in the city’s former French Concession, Capella’s Jian Ye Li Hotel was originally built by French real estate developers in the 1930s. The property is set amidst a cluster of 55 elegant villas incorporating the last remaining cluster of historic shikumen, or stone warehouse gates. The opening is set for late summer 2017.
SIX SENSES ZIL PASYON, SEYCHELLES
Located in the Seychelles islands, the oceanic crossroads between Asia and Africa, is the Six Senses resort called Zil Pasyon. Built on the private island of Félicité, the property features 30 villas, each with a private pool and ocean views. Outdoor activities include kayaking, fishing, and snorkeling. There’s also a “no meat” restaurant, several other eateries, and a spa specializing in African-inspired treatments.
KUDADOO PRIVATE ISLAND, MALDIVES
Only 15 one and two-bedroom villas built on a lagoon make up Kudadoo, a 7.4-acre private island run by the Hurawalhi resort chain. Each villa comes with its own pool and butler, but if you’re feeling chatty after a bout of kayaking, windsurfing, or parasailing, there’s a dining hall where guests can meet.
SIX SENSES, BHUTAN
The Six Senses hotel chain is building a series of five luxury lodges in the Himalayan country of Bhutan, scheduled to open in 2018. Located in Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey, Bumthang, and Paro, the lodges offer different experiences. The property in Bhutan’s capital Thimphu, for example, focuses on Bhutanese culture and is decorated with artifacts and local furniture, while others are set in forests or rice terraces.