The Manjanggul cave on the Island of Je-Judo, South Korea
When the ancient Greeks compiled their version of the Seven Wonders of the World, their choices were all man-made – mostly statues and temples. Since then, various lists of natural wonders have included the Grand Canyon, Victoria Falls and Mount Everest.
And now a new list has been unveiled. Not that the Grand Canyon and other natural wonders are any less wonderful; just that other amazing places have made their way into the hall of fame.
The new Seven Natural Wonders began with 440 nominees, and involved two years of voting by millions of people around the world.
“So many breathtakingly beautiful, natural places are still quite unknown to many,” said Bernard Weber, founder of the organization New7Wonders, which has been promoting the whole campaign. “From waterfalls to fjords, rainforests to mountain peaks, freshwater lakes to volcanoes, we are discovering together the incredible beauty and variety of our planet.”
Weber is the first to acknowledge that it’s impossible, indeed absurd, to reduce the vast beauty of Planet Earth to a “Top Seven” list. But the idea is to help promote these and other wonders to become “part of global memory for humankind forever.”
Here are the seven new finalists, in alphabetical order, with some additional notes below from New7Wonders:
The Amazon Rainforest, also known as Amazonia, the Amazon jungle or the Amazon Basin, encompasses 1.7 billion acres, though the forest itself occupies some 1.4 billion acres, located within nine nations. The Amazon represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests and comprises the largest and most species-rich tract of tropical rainforest in the world. The Amazon River is the largest river in the world by volume, with a total flow greater than the top ten rivers worldwide combined. It accounts for approximately one-fifth of the total world river flow and has the biggest drainage basin on the planet. Not a single bridge crosses the Amazon.
Halong Bay is located in Quáng Ninh province, Vietnam. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes. The bay has a 120 kilometer long coastline and is approximately 1,553 square kilometers in size with 1969 islets. Several of the islands are hollow, with enormous caves, other support floating villages of fishermen, who ply the shallow waters for 200 species of fish and 450 different kinds of mollusks. Another specific feature of Halong Bay is the abundance of lakes inside the limestone islands, for example, Dau Be island has six enclosed lakes.
Iguazu Falls, in Iguazu River, are one of the world’s largest waterfalls. They extend over nearly 2 miles in a semi-circular shape. Of the 275 falls that collectively make up Iguassu Falls, “Devil’s Throat” is the tallest at 80 m in height. Iguazu Falls are on the border between the Brazilian state of Paraná and the Argentine province of Misiones, and are surrounded by two National Parks. Both are subtropical rainforests that are host to hundreds of rare and endangered species of flora and fauna.
Jejudo is a volcanic island, 130 km from the southern coast of Korea. The largest island and smallest province in Korea, the island has a surface area of 1,846 sq km. A central feature of Jeju is Hallasan, the tallest mountain in South Korea and a dormant volcano, which rises 1,950 meters above sea level. 360 satellite volcanoes are around the main volcano.
Komodo National Park in Indonesia includes the three larger islands Komodo, Rinca and Padar, as well as numerous smaller ones, for a total area of 603 square kilometers of land. The national park was founded in 1980 to protect the Komodo dragon. Later, it was also dedicated to protecting other species, including marine animals. The islands of the national park are of volcanic origin.
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is located about 50 km north of the city of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines. It features a limestone karst mountain landscape with an 8.2 km. navigable underground river. A distinguishing feature of the river is that it winds through a cave before flowing directly into the South China Sea. It includes major formations of stalactites and stalagmites, and several large chambers. The lower portion of the river is subject to tidal influences. The underground river is reputed to be the world’s longest. At the mouth of the cave, a clear lagoon is framed by ancient trees growing right to the water’s edge. Monkeys, large monitor lizards, and squirrels find their niche on the beach near the cave.
Table Mountain is a South African icon and the only natural site on the planet to have a constellation of stars named after it – Mensa, meaning “the table.” The flat-topped mountain has withstood six million years of erosion and hosts the richest, yet smallest floral kingdom on earth with over 1,470 floral species. Table Mountain boasts numerous rare and endangered species. It is the most recognized site in Cape Town, the gateway to Africa, owing to its unique flat-topped peaks which reach 1,086 meters above sea level.