Nothing beats experiencing nature first hand. Whether you’re standing in the shadows of a vast geological monument, witnessing wild animals up close or soaking up the ambience of some remote untouched wilderness, no one’s yet found a way to fully replicate our planet’s most amazing spectacles through technology.
That said, not everyone has the budget to go scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef or trek through the foothills of Mount Everest. For those of us who may never experience these incredible places in person, Google Maps exists. Its 360-degree Street View feature has captured some of Earth’s greatest sights from every angle. Here are a few of our favourite places to go virtual nature spotting.
Elephants in the Samburu National Reserve, Kenya
A safari is a once in a lifetime trip, but anyone can experience the wilds of Africa through their computer screen with Google’s images of the Samburu National Reserve in Kenya. Whole families of elephants can be seen living in their native landscape here, alongside other savannah animals like zebras, giraffes, lions and leopards.
Cape Royds Adélie Penguin Rookery, Antarctica
Ever wondered what it’d feel like to stand in the middle of a frigid Antarctic landscape while surrounded by cute penguins? This 360º shot taken on Cape Royds means you sort-of can, and without risking frostbite. This happens to be the home of the world’s southernmost Adélie penguin colony.
You can now trek through the world’s most famous canyon via Google. Follow the mighty Colorado river while marvelling at the magnificent natural contrast of the Grand Canyon’s colossal orange cliffs against the bright blue sky.
Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Not even underwater scenes are off limits for Google Maps. This colourful depiction of the Great Barrier Reef looks like it was plucked straight out of Finding Nemo, complete with friendly sea turtles and massive schools of fish.
The Khumbu is a group of valleys located near Mount Everest in Nepal. With that towering natural landmark hogging all the limelight, you could easily miss the beautiful villages found in the foothills. Check out the resplendent mountain views here, alongside shaggy coated yaks basking in the beautiful landscape.
Sea lions off the coast of the Galapagos Islands
These playful seal lions are swimming in the shimmering waters off the coast of the Galapagos Islands, one of the most intriguing wildlife locations in the world. Giant tortoises, marine iguanas and warm weather penguins are among the other jaw-dropping species found here.
Amazon Rainforest, Brazil
From the black waters of the Rio Negro to foliage-packed jungles and forest trails with dragonflies buzzing overhead, Google’s collection of views from the Amazon rainforest show why this spellbinding South American wilderness needs protecting.
Jigokudani Monkey Park, Japan
Don’t worry—these Japanese Macaques aren’t embarrassed you caught them taking a bath. They have naturally red faces, and are quite used to tourists snapping them while they warm themselves up in the hot springs of Jikokudani. Apart from humans, no other primates are known to live in such a cold climate.
Dogsledding in Chenil La Poursuite, Canada
Taking a virtual dogsled ride through the snow covered woodlands of Quebec is possible thanks to this stunning 360º photo taken at Chenil La Poursuite. Check out the cheeky husky turning for the camera while his mates do all the hard work.
Northern Lights, Finland
Nature’s greatest light show can only be seen in northern latitudes, but those of a southern-dwelling disposition can still experience the aurora borealis via Google Maps. This mesmerising shot was taken on a frozen lake in Finland.