We humans have a way of being a little complacent, don’t we? Here we sit, at the top of the food chain, building our mighty office blocks, factories, skyscrapers and monuments all over the darn planet.
Did you ever wonder what the Earth would look like, if we didn’t exist and talking animals (a la The Lion King) ruled instead? Well, Mufasa wouldn’t have stood for all this pollution and deforestation, let me tell you. “You can stop all of those shenanigans right now,” he’d have said in his super-suave James Earl Jones voice, and that would’ve been it.
Anyway, though, let’s stop daydreaming about a world where lions can drive cranes and complete architectural projects. Back here in boring old real life, there’s ample evidence that Mother Nature isn’t all that impressed with what we’re doing.
For myself, as for a lot of others, my ultimate travel goal is to visit the mighty pyramids of Egypt. While it’s still possible, I might add, because as awe-inspiring as this ancient wonder is, nothing we build lasts forever. As Mother Nature herself once said, “I see you building that town and imma let you finish, but remember I can cover that darn thing in trees and vines whenever I fancy.”
Or was it Kanye West that said that? I suppose it doesn’t matter really. The important thing is, you don’t mess with nature. You’d better buckle up for 20 amazing examples of the Earth rising up and reclaiming what is rightfully hers.
20 The Romance of the Railroad
We’re going to begin our world tour of nature’s power in one of the planet’s most beautiful cities: Paris, France. In the heart of the city lies Le Petit Ceinture (The Little Belt), the predecessor to today’s Metro. Built in the 19th Century, this picturesque route was once alive with thundering steam trains.
As The Culture Trip reports, Le Petit Ceinture closed to the public in 1934. Since then, naturally, inquisitive visitors have checked it out (read: spread graffiti around), but other than that? Future renovations or alterations to the route are still in discussion, but until then, nature is gradually spreading her tendrils back through the land that was once hers.
19 When The Diamond Rush Is Over
Not to be a Daniel Downer, but the sad tale of Kolmanskop is far too familiar. People hear of a rich trove of resources in a distant area (the Namib Desert of South West Africa, in this case), they come bundling in to exploit it, then leave once they’ve exhausted it.
Kolmanskop’s prosperity began when a railway worker discovered a diamond deposit while clearing the ground for the tracks. Soon, a community was created, living in homes boasting characteristic German architecture (it was a German-administered town). Later, a richer deposit of diamonds was found to the south, and the residents left their proud homes and possessions behind. Today, the desert sand is slowly but surely consuming the town.
18 A Real (Natural) Treasure Island
There’s a certain kind of photographer who thrives on portraying old, abandoned, slightly spooky buildings and ruins. There’s a real air of mystery about these locations; it’s humbling, beautiful and mysterious. If that sort of thing is your bag, you’ll definitely want to earmark a trip to China’s Gouqi Island.
As Amusing Planet explains, Gouqi is but one of almost 400 islands that form part of the Zhoushan Archipelago. The region is known as a hotspot for fishing, and this particular island was once home to a neat little fishing village. Today, you can still see what remains of that once-thriving community, as the shrubs and other greenery close in.
17 When The Ficus Plants Decide Enough Is Enough
Do you remember that one scene in Macbeth, where the wood is slowly marching towards the castle? That’s exactly what we’re looking at here, only with ficus plants.
Our next stop is another archipelago and another abandoned island: the Andaman Archipelago, India, where Ross Island lies.
This settlement was once home to the British administration of the region. It has switched ownership between the British and Japanese and India over the years, and is now a modest tourist attraction with a small museum and a few stores. Humankind are desperately clinging to that fact, but one look at this image shows us who’s really in charge here.
“You think you’re going to build a visitor’s centre? How do you like the taste of that ficus tree? Huh? I didn’t think so.”
16 Ships? Not In My Ocean, You Don’t
When it comes to images of Mother Nature reclaiming the Earth, you can’t beat a shipwreck. There’s something uniquely somber and powerful about them, as the wreck becomes its own little habitat for all manner of sea creatures.
With that in mind, we’re going to cross over to Chuuk Lagoon in the central Pacific. Located within the Federated States of Micronesia, this was once the home of the Japanese Imperial Fleet. It still is, as the remarkably-preserved wrecks will testify. The area has been the subject of a lot of attention, from divers and the media (such as Jacques Cousteau’s famous 1969 movie Lagoon of Lost Ships).
15 The (Not So) Lost Lake
In a vast, varied land like the United States, there’s no shortage of different sights and experiences to throw yourself into. Each visit will be completely unique, which is exactly what keeps foreign tourists and Americans alike traveling the country in droves.
If you want to experience the hustle and bustle of a surging metropolis like New York City, go right ahead and do it. If you want a quieter, one-with-nature sort of experience instead, that’s also available right there in New York.
Seneca Lake is an intriguing area that neither nature nor people seem quite ready to let go of. As The Explorographer reports, this makes for some priceless photography opportunities.
14 Now, That’s A Lot Of Rabbits Right There
Now, I certainly have no qualm with rabbits. I just want to make sure that’s entirely clear right now. I get a little tired of all of the dang cat and dog videos that clog the internet on a daily basis, but rabbits? That, I can fully condone.
Having said that, it’s definitely possible to have too much of a good thing. You need to be entirely rabbit-committed to take a visit to Japan’s Okunoshima Island.
Here, hundreds of wild bunnies roam. It’s adorable and just a little frightening, in a furry Skynet sort of way. I, for one, do not welcome our new rabbit overlords.
13 Brotherly Love
Crossing back over to New York for a moment, we’ve got another intriguing island to take a look at. Two, in fact. The North and South Brother Islands are located in the East River, between Rikers Island and The Bronx.
Previously the sites of industrial work and New York City’s first dump, these islands are now largely abandoned and off limits. They do, however, serve as valuable nature reserves, where snowy egrets and other wading birds live among the ruins of buildings (including a factory plant, a ferry dock and the caretaker’s house). Discussions as to whether to open the islands for visitors continue.
12 Sydney’s Fascinating Floating Forest
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of taking a trip on a cruise ship (well, it’s pleasurable providing the ocean decides to behave itself), you’ll understand how they can be regarded as full-on floating holiday resorts. Boarding one for the first time is one heckola of an experience, let me tell you.
This is nothing awe-inspiring for the people of Sydney, however. After all, they’ve got a whole floating forest.
The Homebush Bay area, as My Modern Met explains, is a kind of ship’s graveyard. Of all the sights to behold there, the S.S Ayrfield, with the wealth of foliage growing in/on/around it, is the most impressive.
11 The Great Maryland Mystery
Back in the United States now, we have an island that wasn’t fortunate enough to develop a whole tribe of adorable rabbits. It’s been all be reclaimed entirely, in fact.
Holland Island, of Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, is mostly formed of silt and clay. As a result of this, as well as the harsh wind and tides, it is rapidly eroding at an alarming rate. At high tide, the entirety of the island’s surface is underwater, as The Washington Post reports.
It was once inhabited by farmers and other workers, but they have long since left. Unsurprising, given that the last house on the island fell into the bay in October 2010.
10 You Know, This Place Isn’t So Amusing
As any thrillseeker knows, the world is rife with unique amusement parks. So you’ve seen everything there is to see at the UK’s famous Alton Towers? You can go to Romania and visit Salina Turda, the vast underground salt mine that has been converted into an amusement park.
If even that is a little too mainstream for you, West Virginia’s Lake Shawnee Amusement Park might be more your style. The site has been abandoned since the park closed in 1966, and the remains are quite an imposing sight.
Halloween tours of the dilapidated Ferris wheel, swings and more are available, for those brave enough to participate.
9 The Last Stop For Belgium’s Cars
Have you ever owned a car that you just couldn’t quite bear to part with? The maintenance of classic cars is an expensive business for sure, and you’re often spending out far more than you would be on something newer. At the same time, though, it is your pride and joy.
You’re doing the car a great favour, too. You wouldn’t want it to end up somewhere like Belgium’s sobering car graveyard, would you? The small village of Chatillon is home to the remains of scattered pieces of super rusty cars, thanks (Digital Trends reports) to the efforts of a mechanic with a real taste for hoarding.
8 Chernobyl’s Recovery
Now, of course, the name of Chernobyl carries a huge weight now. This city in Ukraine is home to a nuclear power plant, the very plant that was the site of a disaster in 1986. As a result of the incident, the surrounding area is largely free of human activity, and most of the town’s original residents have long since left.
Nevertheless, the surrounding forest encroaches on the region, undeterred. There may be an exclusion zone, but nobody told the plant and animal life that is increasingly making the area its own. I like to think of this as a metaphor for hope.
7 The Natural Fortress
From the tragic beauty of Chernobyl to an entirely different setting, our next stop takes us to Montenegro. Stari Bar (Old Bar) is a small town located at the foot of Rumija. It’s an unprepossessing place, but while it may not be a big-ticket item on a lot of travel bucket lists, it sure deserves to be. It’s a real natural marvel.
The new city of Bar is situated close by, but the original ruins are the real draw here. It’s quite a poignant town to visit, boasting the sobering sight of the plants engulfing the old fortress. Nature might take a while, but she will catch up with you.
6 The Little Mill That Could
For me, the town of Sorrento, near Naples, Italy, is a very special case. I’ve always thought of it as a big tourist draw for those who aren’t really fond of big tourist draws. It’s world-renowned more for its unique little stores, traditional produce and natural beauty more than for its big-ticket sights.
An attraction like the ‘Valley of the mills,’ then, is just so characteristic. Deserted Places reports that this deep canyon is home to a mill that operated for centuries. It was abandoned in the middle of the 19th Century, becoming inextricably entwined with the surrounding vegetation in the years since.
5 Well, It IS A Lovely Tunnel
In a lot of the entries in this rundown, nature has gone ahead and worked its magic after the resident humans have left. That’s certainly a common way for these things to work. Sometimes, however, the most beautiful things happen when people and the natural world try to work together, rather than at odds with each other.
Ukraine’s Tunnel of Love is one example. It’s a stretch of railway that links Klevan with Orzhiv, which is famously surrounded by arches of trees. It derives its name from the fact that couples love to visit and walk beneath the ‘tunnel’ of trees together.
4 Another Island, Another Relic
From the Tunnel of Love to the island of former fish farming, we’re off to Hong Kong next.
Ma Wan is situated between Lantau Island and Tsing Yi Island. It used to be a popular fish farming spot, and home to some prized seafood restaurants. Today, most residents live in the vast Park Island complex, while the original town is all but forgotten.
Much of the abandoned buildings are boarded up and forbidden, though some can still be entered. While the busy new complex elsewhere on the island is alive with noise, only a handful of residents remain in the old town.
3 The Sad Story Of Bulowville
As I say, the United States makes for a vast, sprawling nation. It boasts wide open spaces, tensely populated and technology-ridden big cities and everything in between. With its fairly young age (globally speaking), too, it has its fair share of abandoned colonial towns.
One sad example is Bulowville, Florida. This plantation town was named after John Bulow, and destroyed by Seminole Indians during the Second Seminole War. Today, ruins of the vast sugar mill can still be seen in the area, gradually being swallowed up by the approach of the surrounding woodlands. Nother Nature may take a century or so, but she always triumphs.
2 The Bigger They Are, The... More Plants Grow All Over Their Face
At this point in the rundown, we’ve stopped off at a whole array of places around the world. We haven’t been to the UK yet, though, so let’s hop on over the pond for a while.
In County Kerry, Ireland, you’ll find the much-storied Ardtully House. This proud and noble estate was constructed by Sir Richard Orpen in 1847, in traditional 'look, ma, I’ve got a dang castle' style.
It was burned down by the IRA in 1921, meaning that Mother Earth has had almost a century to step in and take back that magnificent plot of land. As you can see, she’s certainly having a good go at it.
1 Would You Like Some Fish With Your… Shopping Mall?
Many of us don’t quite appreciate the size and scale of the average shopping mall. We’re there to shop, after all, and that impulse tends to overwhelm everything else. If you stop and look around, though, some of these vast complexes are actually truly impressive.
They’re still insignificant to nature, though. Nature doesn’t care how good the tacos are at that place in the food court. If she wants to reclaim the place, she’s going to go right ahead and do it.
This is the once-proud New World Mall in Bangkok, which was flooded after fire damaged the roof. In true I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly style, locals introduced fish to combat the mosquitoes that were attracted by the water. The fish thrived, and now the abandoned building is their domain.
Resources: Culture Trip, Amusing Planet, Atlas Obscura, Business Insider, Digital Trends, Deserted Places,