Why you should think twice before visiting that popular Instagram destination

The photo-sharing app may be an awesome way to inspire your next trip – but here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t visit that popular Instagram destination.

If there’s one brilliant thing about Instagram that sets it apart from other social networks, it’s that it actively encourages users to get away from the screen, go out, and visit some of the world’s most gorgeous destinations.

But are we visiting these places for the sake of visiting them – or is the photo that comes with it the whole point of the trip?

Currently, Instagram is re-launching its iOS and Android apps with a built-in ‘Search and Explore’ feature where, with a combination of geotagging, hashtags and subject matter, finding that popular Instagram destination is easier than ever.

The idea is that Instagram will become so much more than just a photo-sharing platform: it’ll become a travel guide, a newsfeed, a place for sharing creativity and ideas.

I’m just as guilty of hashtagging my photos with ‘#wanderlust’ as the next person – once artistically challenged, I’m now able to curate professional-looking shots with the tap of a finger.

And I’m not the only one. Instagram has turned every smartphone owner into a photographer, and with the accessibility of Instagram’s photo-mapping, getting shots at beautiful, once secretive locations is often the point of weekend day trips.

Most recently, the focus of such an Instagram destination trend has been the ‘Figure 8 Pools’- naturally formed pools embedded into a rock platform in the Royal National Park, south of Sydney, Australia.

Scrolling through the hashtag ‘#Sydney’, I started to notice the blue-green, curvy-shaped pools pop up more and more, often with some bikini-clad girl floating nonchalantly in the middle.

Then, I saw an article from a Sydney-based blogger pop up on my Facebook news feed with step-by-step, blow-by-blow instructions on how any inner-city Joe and his iPhone 6 could get to the elusive Figure 8 Pools.

Having grown up just south of the Royal National Park, I’d been on enough multi-night hikes and driving day trips to know that the terrain is harsh, dangerous and quite unforgiving. But still, this blogger (who, by the way, dislocated their shoulder while hiking back from their Instagram-inspired adventure – yes, seriously) was encouraging people to go out there.

This won’t end well – I told myself – and just one short week later my incredible (read: obvious) prediction came true. Enter the Freak Wave:

What you can see in the above video are hundreds of under-prepared, Go-Pro wielding Instagrammers getting washed across an extremely oyster-covered rock platform. There were scratches, broken bones and even a rescue helicopter; but it was worth if for the ones who made it home unscathed to hashtag their photos with “#figure8pools”.

It’s not the first time the Royal National Park has been the scene of an Instagram destination craze. No more than a few months earlier was the National Parks and Wildlife Service was forced to cordon off a huge, white limestone rock, jutting precariously some 25 metres above the ocean below, because people were taking stupid photos such as this one:

Una foto publicada por Ben Ricard (@benricardphotography) el

In 2014, a French student fell to his death from Wedding Cake Rock, as it’s known, when part of the edge crumbled beneath him. In fact, the whole thing is predicted to fall off into the sea within the next decade.

But still, even after giant fences and warning signs were erected, people continued to risk their lives to get that ultimate shot they could then filter with ‘Valencia’.

Back in November I was watching the news – in Spain – when I saw vision of a helicopter winching two men in their early 20s from a ledge just below Wedding Cake Rock where they’d fallen.

Turns out crazy, life-risking Instagram destinations are common worldwide.

In September last year, an Australian student tragically fell to her death while taking a photo at Norway’s famous Trolltunga, which sits some 700 metres above a fjord.

Norway is a hot location for photograph-related deaths; it’s estimated that several people lose their lives each year by falling off of the country’s spectacular cliffs.

popular Instagram destinations

Trolltunga, in Norway, is a dangerous Instagram destination

There’s also Devil’s Pool, on the edge of Zambia’s Victoria Falls; a slippery rockpool balanced on the edge of a 300-foot drop. Each year, several tourists are washed off the edge to their deaths.

Una foto publicada por Jake Vanags 🌐 (@adventurejake) el

But it’s not just the danger factor that makes Instagram-inspired adventures so painful – it’s authenticity.

Back in September I read an article from world traveller and all-round mind-speaking spirit animal Liz Carlsson, of Young Adventuress, about painstakingly constructed Instagram shots detracting from real experience.

It was about the same time Socality Barbie was throwing all our embarrassing #LiveAuthentic hashtags back in our faces. Not long after, the worldwide drama surrounding 19-year-old Essena O’Neill began, with the famous Instagrammer calling out the photography app’s all round culture of fake-ness.

Yeah, yeah – we chorused – that only applies to people like Essena, who, with over 500 thousand followers on Instagram was paid large amounts to upload sponsored photos. Us regular, earthly beings photograph our lunches, nights out with friends and the occasional travel pic with ‘#wishyouwerehere’.

But what, exactly, is real about hiking three hours in the Australian bush in the height of summer, to scramble out over some jagged rock platform and float for two seconds in a symmetrically formed pool – just to upload a photo to Instagram (that carefully cuts out the hundreds of others waiting in line to do the exact same thing)?

Visit a place because it interests you. Visit a place because you can experience something there you might not be able to at home.  Visit a place that’s beautiful; but collect photos as an afterthought – not as the entire point of the trip.

5 places where people risk their lives for Instagram

The Grand Canyon, USA

More than 700 people have died in the Grand Canyon since records began – more and more, they’ve fallen while posing for a photo.

Kjeragbolten, Norway

The tiny, five-metre cubic square rock is wedged above a 1000-metre abyss, and people often line up for hours at a time to get their photo taken on top.

North Head, Manly, Australia

Sydney seems to be the capital of Instagram trends – in the northern suburb of Manly, daredevils have photographed themselves ‘slacklining’ between cliffs, high above jagged rocks below.

Una foto publicada por Kyle Beall (@kbeastr) el

Running of the Bulls, Pamplona, Spain

During last year’s ‘San Fermines’, a young Spaniard was gored to death while trying to take a selfie during the famously dangerous Running of the Bulls.

Una foto publicada por Björn Svensson (@bjorn_tobewild) el

Triana, Seville, Spain

It looks quite tranquil, but this exact spot in my local neighbourhood of Triana, Seville, was where a Polish woman fell to her death while trying to take a selfie with the iconic bridge in the background.

Check out this map from Time Magazine of the most Instagrammed places in the USA by state. 

What do you think? Has our obsession with getting the perfect shot for Instagram gone too far? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Or, follow me on Instagram below. Nothing dangerous or inauthentic, promise!

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don't visit that instagram destination

23 Comments

  1. Totally agreed. Sublime Point Track is another example. Ruined by social media which has brought hundreds of people every weekend to climb it as a fitness challenge.

  2. People actually travel places solely for Instagram and social media? That’s pretty pathetic. I’ve never traveled somewhere because I thought it was Instagram-worthy.

    • They at least go out of their way to get there! Figure 8 pools are a good three hour walk through some pretty dangerous bush, and when you get there, there isn’t really anywhere to sit or swim!

      • Actually the Instagram tourists at the pools aren’t making the three hour walk, there’s another quicker way in hence the booming popularity :-)

  3. Wow, I honestly would never have thought to go somewhere just to get the “Instagram worthy” photo. I have notices it is becoming an obsession, having to have a “perfect” shot to upload, which way have caused me to not let anyone touch their food until I take a photo 😉 But risking your life for “likes” seems a bit extreme (and rather stupid). Great post, I had no idea how serious this situation is!

  4. I am very guilty of clicking pictures when I am travelling. But i have never travelled for clicking. Thankfully. Your article is super interesting. And thank you for the warning

  5. Yikes! Thanks for the alternative perspective.

  6. I really enjoyed this article. I remember reading that selfies are officially more deadly than sharks and I’m not really that surprised about the growth of these dangerous Instagram shots as more people increasingly use image-based social media sites. I hope some of the people searching for that Figure-8 pool find your blog!

  7. This is insane! I had no idea that this many people actually die just to take a selfie or the “all important” instagram shot! I love the fact that Instagram inspires people to visit new places and try new things, but travel should be more than driven by Instagram fame. Some people should maybe consider if their Instagram addiction has gone too far, if they’re willing to risk their life for it.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Maria

  8. God – talk about a wake up call. Interesting post, never quite thought of that before. Definitely take into consideration safety when taking pictures, really it’s never that worth it.

  9. Oh my god, what an interesting read! It’s insane that people are literally dying to get a good Instagram shot. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Maybe you can go to these places, but not act like an asshole. The picture has become more worthy than the story it seems… :)

  11. I think IG has opened the door for people to learn more about places they weren’t really aware of prompting them to become interested and want to visit. In that respect it is cool and if it drives more tourism then that is great.

  12. I am not Instagram fun, still interesting read.

  13. There are several stories in Indonesia when mostly teenagers or tourists died because of making selfies and most probably those pics should go to instagram. yeah, maybe it gives extra adrenaline for people, but no need to risk to making selfie in a place that is dangerous

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