Sivash Salt Lagoon in Crimea

The Crimean Peninsula lies between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, just south of the Ukrainian mainland, and is almost completely surrounded by water. It is connected with the Ukrainian mainland by the Isthmus of Perekop - a strip of land about 5 to 7 kilometers wide, and is separated from the Russian region of Kuban on the east by the Strait of Kerch. To the northeast is located the Arabat Spit, a narrow strip of land that separates a system of shallow salt-water lagoons named Sivash, from the Sea of Azov.

These lagoons nearly cuts the Crimean Peninsula off from the mainland, and serves as a natural border between the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the Kherson Oblast that passes through Sivash. To the north, the Isthmus of Perekop separates Sivash from the Black Sea and at the same time, connects the Crimean Peninsula to the mainland.

The Sivash lagoons are extremely shallow with a mean depth of just 50 cm to 1 meter. The deepest place is only about 3 meters. The bottom is covered with silt up to 5 meters thick. Because the lagoons are so shallow, water entering Sivash from the algae-ridden Sea of Azov evaporates quickly in summer, producing a horrible stench which has earned the lagoon the name of "Rotten Sea". Over 200 million tonnes of salt is estimated to exist in Sivash. Salt harvesting is hence, a big business in Crimea.

When water levels recede in summer, numerous pinkish-white salt pans are exposed, covering dozens of square km in the region. The pink color is the result of microalgae that thrive in salty conditions and produce high levels of beta-carotene, a reddish pigment that protects it from the region's intense sunlight. The salt is collected by traders and exported to Russia, the European Union, and to Japan, where it is prized for its purported value in fighting the effects of radiation.

This satellite picture shows the variety of colors the lagoons produce owing to its varied chemical composition. You can see colors of peach, mustard, lime green, blue, blue-green, beige, and brown. Thick layers of silt coat the bottoms of the shallow marshes, which are rich enough in mineral salts to supply a local chemical plant.


Guelta d’Archei - Sahara’s Water Source

The Guelta Archei is a hidden treasure in the Sahara due to its scenic beauty and function. Located in the Ennedi Plateau, in north-eastern Chad, south-east of the town of Fada, this wetland serves as a popular rest stop for nomads who’ve been traveling the desert for days.

You can get there from Chad’s capital, n’Djamena, with a 4×4 for at least 4 days and add up some hours of trekking to reach the guelta itself. You’ll know that you’re almost there as you hear thousands of camels marching in and out, moaning or passing through the shallow water. You can too, walk through the dark water but be careful not to step in the territory of Nile Crocodiles.

Don’t forget to see its cave art before heading back to your Sahara exploration.


Sunken Forest in Lake Kaindy, Kazakhstan

Kaindy Lake is a 400 meter long lake in Kazakhstan’s portion of the Tian Shan Mountains located 129 km from the city of Almaty. The lake was created after an earthquake in 1911 that triggered a large landslide blocking the gorge and forming a natural dam. Subsequently, rainwater filled the valley and created the lake.

The lake is famous for its scenic beauty particularly the submerged forest and the imposing trunks of spruce trees that rises out of the lake water. Above water, the sunken trees appear as large masts from lost ghost ships, or perhaps the spears of a mysterious army hiding and waiting for the right time to emerge.

The water is so cold (even in summer the temperature does not exceed 6 degrees) that the great pines still remain on the trees, even 100 years later. Because of the clear mountain water, you can see deep into the depths of the lake. In winter, the surface of the lake freezes over and during this time, Lake Kaindy becomes a great spot for trout fishing and ice diving.


Red Crab Migration on Christmas Island

Christmas Island is a small Australian island in the Indian Ocean, 2,600 kilometers northwest of the city of Perth, that is home to many species of animal and plant. The island is particularly noted for its prodigious populations of Christmas Island red crabs, a species of land crab that is endemic to the island, and their spectacular migration from the forest to the coast each year during the breeding season.

At the beginning of the wet season (which is usually October / November), over 50 million adult red crabs suddenly start migrating from the forest to the coast to breed. The migration is usually synchronized all over the island. The males lead the first wave of the migration and are joined by females as they progress. The crabs take about five to seven days to reach the sea. The rains and moist overcast conditions make their journey to the sea long and difficult.

During peak migration times, sections of roads where crabs cross in high numbers are closed to vehicles for short periods of time. The bright red carapaces and sheer density of crabs make their routes to the sea observable from the air.

After mating the females release their eggs into small burrows on the sea where the hatch, and the young larvae develop into tiny small crabs. After remaining about a month in the ocean, the young crabs, only five millimeters across, accompanied by the adults make their long trek back home. Upon reaching the inland, the crabs disappear into rocky outcrops, fallen tree branches and debris on the forest floor for the next three years.

Human activities have led to increased numbers of red crabs being killed during their annual migration. The crabs risk dehydration when they are forced to cross areas cleared of forest cover and many thousands of adults and young are crushed by vehicles as they cross the roads. To protect the crabs from being crushed by vehicles, staff of Christmas Island National Park some roads are also temporarily closed off and crab crossing signs erected at places. Walls and plastic fencing along the roads are also built to funnel the crabs to the 'crab crossings' and 'crab bridges' where they may safely cross.

The crab migration and the crab bridges have become a great tourist attraction.