Nature makes its own music, as the good folks behind Nature Soundmap understand and appreciate. The website is a stunning repository of sound clips spanning our natural world, from the violent score of a storm in Chile’s Atacama Desert to the curious call of the male orangutan in Malaysian Borneo. Simply click on a spot on their world map and hit play for an aural snapshot of the place.
The project—a collaboration between over 90 professional recordists—encourages listeners to explore the diverse landscapes and species on our planet through sound. Many are binaural soundscapes, which means they have been recorded with two microphones to mimic the way we sense sound with our ears , and to capture sound in 360°. What results are tracks that are rich, layered, and incredibly immersive. Close your eyes and you’ll be transported to rugged coastlines in New Zealand, where waves lash at rocky beaches, albatrosses caw, and seals honk at each other rowdily. Or travel to the Himalayas, to soak in the harmony of birdsong in an Alpine meadow.
Not all recordings are as pleasant. This one of an iceberg in Antarctica sounds surprisingly like a rickety Bajaj scooter sputtering down the road. While this clip of the trumpeting of the yellow-casqued hornbill in Sierra Leone in Africa is reminiscent of a noisy fish market. There’s enough to keep you occupied for hours, and listeners can create a playlist of clips they like.
These are a few of our favourite clips paired with travel stories from the region:
Browse this photo essay documenting the wildlife at Gujarat’s Rann of Kutch with a soundtrack of flamingos, pelicans, and other birds, in the mudflats.
Soak in the night-time chatter of Borneo’s rainforest as you read about spotting proboscis monkeys and hornbills, and taking mud baths in the wilderness here.
The dense riverine forests of Chitwan National Park in Nepal are home to pythons, one-horned rhinos, and crocodiles. Tune in to birdsong from the sanctuary as you read about exploring it on foot.
Exploring Makgadikgadi, the otherworldly salt pans of the Kalahari Desert, a place of epic scale and stark, unparalleled beauty.
The riveting tale of a father and son’s experience of dancing with a humpback whale in the ocean is brought alive by this clip of the haunting song of a male humpback whale in the Vava’u archipelago.
For a more interactive, wholesome experience, visit www.naturesoundmap.com.
Fabiola Monteiro was formerly a member of National Geographic Traveller India's digital team. Since then, her words have featured in The Hindu, Mint Lounge, Roads & Kingdoms, The Goya Journal, and Condé Nast Traveller India. She tweets as @thefabmonteiro and is on Instagram @fabiolamonteiro.