The below are five of the greatest nature reserves that I've visited and thoroughly enjoyed before. They are listed in alphabetical order and I highly recommend that you visit them as soon as you can before the climate-change/global-warming permanently damages them.

!!!!! Note !!!!!
The entry fees written below are of when I visited them, thus not up-to-date.

Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica - 南極半島(南極)
Difficulty to Reach: Difficult
Entry Fees: No fees required to enter, but the cost greatly varies depending on your means of transport.
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Comment: It's super windy, freezing and intense everywhere at that southernmost of our planet. It's also barely habitable unless you are assigned to stay in one of those mad scientists' labs or you are reincarnated as a penguin in your next life. Therefore, tourists and backpackers alike are only allowed to visit the peninsula during the short summer: usually between late November and early February. Even so, the Drake Passage, an all-time cranky channel between South America and Antarctica, was still tremendously ruthless when our vessel crossed it in January 2011. Moreover, for the preservation of its unique ecosystems and for your own safety you are not supposed to stay overnight on any part of the continent. Instead, you stay on your ship at night and land by a boat called Zodiac in the daytime with rented boots on (not your own shoes). I was never ever bored during my entire expedition as tons of birds, penguins, seals and big fish always kept me entertained. Plus there were so many enigmatic-shaped icebergs and spectacular mountains which just amused me every day.
I gave myself two options when I landed in South America in November 2010: one of them was this expedition and the other was to go to the Galapagos Islands. Both were very pricey and I chose the first (so I still haven't been to the Galapagos.) Although my choice has turned out to be the most expensive expedition ever taken in my life, it was not about money in the end. It was absolutely a priceless experience for me. And now all the fond memories of my time in that planet of Ice will live on inside me till the day I die :-)
If this article is tempting and you really decide to go, you'd better hurry up because the ice is melting :-( A friend of mine actually sailed across the Drake Passage by yacht and successfully reached Antarctic Peninsula a few years ago. Would you like to try it?

Etosha National Park, Namibia - エトーシャ国立公園(ナミビア)
Difficulty to Reach: Relatively Easy
Entry Fees: NAD80.00 per person, plus extra charge for your car and accommodation
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Comment: Etosha is the completely opposite version of Antarctica as there are no ice, no snow and no mountains, but dry bush land with the blazing sun above it at all times. One mutual ground, however, is that there are animals everywhere but very few people or none in sight. Unfortunately, I could not spot any big cats while I was driving around the park. Yet I was very satisfied with a variety of animals Etosha offered: elephants, giraffes, rhinos, jackals, baboons, zebras and many more! Needless to say, this park is not an ordinary park in your city. It's so wild and unimaginably vast! The whole land including the horizon can become seemingly immaterial if you keep staring at them for more than a few minutes: I personally call this natural phenomena "Savannah's Magic". Furthermore, you cannot jog around in this park with your iPhone on, and always make sure to keep your distance from any animals: even a tiny hog. I also recommend that you try not to drive your car after dusk because visibility becomes helplessly low in Namibia's beautifully delusive landscapes. And you don't wanna get lost and become easy meat for those beasts in the middle of nowhere.
Despite having visited other national parks in Africa, I'm writing about Etosha for this article on purpose in order to draw more people's attention to the fact that this is one of the best examples of what Africa is really like: basically, more animals than humans inhabiting. And I'm sure there are many parks similar to or even much wilder and larger than Etosha in other parts of Africa, and they must be as equally good.
While our different political views and religious beliefs still cause so much trouble to ourselves, this part of Africa might be the safest place on earth from now on as there are no religions, no politics and no wars. But only nature dictates us. I miss Africa.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam - ハロン・ベイ(ベトナム)
Difficulty to Reach: Easy
Entry Fees: No fees required to enter, but the cost varies depending on your tour-boat.
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Comment: A funny thing is that whenever I picture what would be a typically classic countryside of China, it would be more or less what I saw in Ha Long Bay, though this bay is located in Vietnam. It's this unique terrain here: a combination of the tranquil dark-green sea with uncountable limestone pillars, some of which contain deep caves. It seemed slightly mythical or almost haunted because it was foggy and eerily quiet while we were cruising around the bay. Something in the atmosphere even made me wonder if Kung-fu masters were dwelling in some of the limestone caves; do you understand what I mean...? Well... I didn't run into any Yin-yang masters in fact, but Eli, my ex-girlfriend from Colombia, and I met three German women in Cat Bat, one of the starting points for cruising Ha Long Bay, and we ended up taking a private boat together to cross the bay. The tour was USD33.00 for each one of us, which was quite expensive by local standards, but it included delicious Vietnamese lunch. Additionally, I was with four beautiful women on the vessel then. So no complain at all.
As of January 2013, Japanese nationals were able to obtain a tourist visa on arrival for free of charge (maximum stay of 15 days) by presenting a proof of a means for your outbound transport at the immigration on arrival: no e-ticket on a laptop or cellphone was accepted, it had to be printed out. Vietnam was still heavily adhering communism / socialism back then. And I'm sure they still do today. The big brother is watching us, yo!

Iguasu Waterfalls, Brazil - イグアスの滝(ブラジル)
Difficulty to Reach: Easy
Entry Fees: BRL37.00 (Brazil) & ARP85.00 (Argentina)
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Comment: Just letting you know that I've been to Niagara Falls, but still haven't been to Victoria Falls in Southern Africa or Angel Falls in Venezuela. So I'm no expert in waterfalls at all, but I can still tell you confidently that Iguasu Waterfalls are so much larger and more impressive than Niagara Falls (and all other minor waterfalls I've visited before.) It's the wateriness with power and noise in such a gigantic scale that Iguasu stands out amongst the rest. Such turbulent water is generated non-stop and it's cascading through the river in a ferocious way: you might be feeling overwhelmed by her as well as threatened at the same time, especially when you try to step along the walkways built over the Devil's Throat, the core and epic-centre of Iguasu Waterfalls.
One unfortunate thing during my visit was that the water-colour was hardly turquoise, it was actually as murky as your disgustingly sweet Starbucks Frappuchino. And this murkiness was said to be mostly caused by deforestation. Thus, I'm assuming that it is still the same colour or even much murkier today....
Since Iguasu Waterfalls are shared between Brazil and Argentina, you can visit the falls from both sides. What I did back in November 2010 was that I stayed in a small town in Brazil called Foz du Iguasu and from there I did a day-trip to the Brazilian side on my first day and then I went over to the Argentinian side on my second day: the details of how-to are written here.
Whichever one you visit, I emphasize once again, there is so much water running and spraying everywhere in Iguasu, therefore, you will get wet 200%. Moreover, there's no chance for you to take your cellphone out of a pocket or a bag for one single second and you have to bring a water-proof camera with you.

Uyuni Salt Lake Flat, Bolivia - ウユニ塩湖(ボリビア)
Difficulty to Reach: Relatively Easy
Entry Fees: No fees required to enter, but the cost varies depending on your means of transport.
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Comment: Unlike Africa's dog-eat-dog land, there are no angry hippos or hungry crocodiles in this lake. If you are lucky enough, you might spot lovely flamingos here instead. It's the world's largest salt flat and it's also the world's most magically beautiful lake (in my opinion.) This salt flat, locally called Salar de Uyuni, can be mind-twisting with its surreal landscape as her face constantly changes just like your wishy-washy partner keeps changing his/her order at an upmarket restaurant. Depending on the time of the day and the season, Uyuni tricks your eyes with millions of different colours and forms and you will definitely end up taking so many more photos than you thought you might, therefore, having a couple of extra batteries for your camera is recommended. In return for all your tireless efforts in shooting at the lake, you'll need very little time to arrange and edit photos afterwards because Uyuni provides all special effects more than the latest version of your Photoshop can.
This lake is simply beyond all words and expressions we can ever think of: I really mean it because she is so stunning and also because you become speechless by her spell anyway.
An ignorant Esky back in February 2011 became very sick while on my way to Uyuni by ascending from the Chilean coast without going through substantial acclimatization: I seriously thought that I was going to die then. Luckily, I recovered from my acute high-altitude sickness on my 3rd day of the tour and managed to enjoy the magic show of Uyuni just in time. If I have a chance to visit here again, I would spend at least a couple of days to acclimatize myself beforehand and spend a few days in Uyuni for my self-indulgence.

Did you know that Salar de Uyuni is not listed amongst UNESCO World Heritage Sites yet?
It might have something to do with the amount of Lithium in this lake (the largest ever found in history) and the Bolivian government must be seeing it extremely lucrative.... I highly suspect that this is the reason why the lake hasn't been registered as a heritage site by UNESCO. Otherwise, they would no longer be able to dig the salty land for lithium which is now highly valuable for most batteries used in our cellphones, cameras, laptops, hybrid cars, electric cars, etc.
Apparently, some American, Japanese, Korean and French companies are behind this extraction. What was once said to be "eco-friendly" is actually not eco-friendly at all. Sooner than later Uyuni's magic spell will fade out.


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