Bernie Krause has found aurally unspoiled places on approximately every continent. Not astoundingly, most of them are in isolated locations.
Closest major city: Dar es Salaam (155 miles)
For the bold natural-sound seeker, Tanzania’s distant Selous is an adventurous choice to the more-visited Serengeti. Vast areas of the reserve are on the odd occasion traveled, and visitor numbers and all human movement are vigilantly monitored and proscribed by the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.
Pyrenees National Park, France
Closest major city: Lourdes (20 miles)
The nearby town of Lourdes draws thousands of pilgrims each year, but the Pyrenees National Park attracts people seeking a diverse sort of healing. The park’s dramatic landscape of jagged peaks and verdant valleys is home to more than 70 species of animals, as well as bears and Pyrenean chamois, but the most ordinary sounds are those of the sheep being tended by shepherds in the designated farming areas that dot the region.
Muir Woods National Monument, California
Closest major city: San Francisco (11 miles)
Muir Woods is just a short drive from San Francisco, but it’s not speaking from the sounds of the city by the Golden Gate strait. Muir’s vast trees really create sonic drama by helping to contain the natural sounds. Travel in the early one morning on weekdays to avoid the hordes of tourist who can spoil the forest’s quiet.
Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana
Closest major city: Maun, Botswana (93 miles)
The Moremi Game Reserve, on Botswana’s Okavango Delta, is a 1,900-square-mile basin of swamp and woodlands packed with wildlife. It’s an ideal spot to pay attention to the songs of the birds suspended in the acacia trees and wading in the reed beds down the rivers; the cackling of hyenas; and, if you’re lucky, even the quiet, padding steps of a leopard.
Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan
Closest major city: Regina (227 miles)
Hempton describes Grasslands National Park as one of the last huge quiet places in North America. The park has outstanding listening opportunity in landscape including prairie, valleys, badlands, and buttes.
Great Basin National Park, Nevada
Closest major city: Salt Lake City (258 miles)
Off of U.S. Route 50, the most remote highway in the country, Nevada’s Great Basin National Park is so hushed that “you can hear the birds’ wings as they fly,” says a retire superintendent. The arid landscape is home to jackrabbits and coyotes in the desert, and bobcats and marmots in the hills.
Olympic National Park, Washington
Closest major city: Seattle (84 miles)
Olympic National Park, where Hempton staked out his One Square Inch of Silence, is in his estimation the last great quiet place in the United States. Its three distinct ecosystems — mountain, forests, and coast — make it one of the most sonically diverse environment anywhere, Hempton says.
Samboja Lestari, Borneo
Closest major city: Balikpapan (24 miles)
Borneo is one of the best places to hear orangutans howl, and the Samboja Lodge puts you right in the middle of an chimpanzee healing center, far from the noises of unlawful logging and oil palm plantations.
Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Closest major city: International Falls (12 miles)
The main part of Voyageurs National Park is nearby only by boat, although in winter, the number one modes of carry are snowmobiles, skis, and snowshoes. Listen for the smack of a beaver’s tail or the croaking cry of the immense blue heron.
Marconi Beach, Massachusetts
Closest major city: Boston (100 miles)
Located along Cape Cod’s Atlantic shoreline, Marconi Beach is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, which President Kennedy selected as a confined natural environment. A steep sand cliff following the beach acts as a sound buffer and helps to strengthen the natural sonic environment.