The Bay of Fundy, Canada
Boasting the highest tides in the world, which reach up to 16.2 meters in places, the Bay of Fundy has the stature to be named a wonder. The almost otherworldly landscape spotted with terracotta-colored rock formations and cliffs craved by the eternal rhythm of the tides just off the Atlantic coast of North America, is also blessed with a diverse ecosystem; a primary feeding ground for migratory birds, natural habitat of the endangered Right whale and its Minke, Humpback and Finback cousins, it is also one of the world’s most important plant and animal fossil discovery regions. After your whale watching tour, you can walk the ocean floor at low tide, beachcombing for sparkling amethysts and precious fossils scattered along the seabed.
Bu Tinah Island, Abu Dhabi
This is probably how the world was thousands of years ago – wild and undisturbed by human activity. Located off the western shores of Abu Dhabi, Bu Tinah Island is a unique national treasure and part of the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve, the region’s first and largest UNESCO designated marine reserve. Boasting shimmering blue waters, extensive coral reefs and tall mangrove trees, this unspoiled paradise also enjoys a thriving ecosystem hosting beautiful and globally endangered marine life, such as the hawksbill turtle and a bizarre looking marine mammal, the dugong. Moreover, the island nurtures a large flamingo and osprey population. The only drawback is that humans are not allowed to visit.
Angel Falls, Venezuela
Despite being the tallest free-falling waterfall in the world, this impressive natural wonder was randomly discovered in 1937 by Jimmy Angel, an American pilot who was scouring the dense forests of Venezuela for gold. We do not know if Angel found what he was looking for on that mission, but he certainly gave his name to one of nature’s most awe-inspiring wonders. Compared to the celebrated Niagara Falls, these Venezuelan cataracts are 19 times taller, as excessive rainfall makes the ravines carving the Ayuan Tepui landscape overflow with water, which reaches the edge of the rock and in turn, drops from a height of 807 meters. The sheer momentum of the water, coupled by strong winds, transform the cascading waters into a misty spray that diffuses over the entire landscape, softly drizzling throughout this unique tropical rainforest located in the Canaima National Park, close to the border with Brazil.
Grand Canyon, USA
It took the Colorado River about 6 million years to mold Arizona’s mammoth natural wonder, the renowned Grand Canyon. More than 440 kilometers in length, with gorges ranging from 6 to 29 kilometers and the river about 1.5 kilometers below giving the impression of being no bigger than a thin ribbon, the Grand Canyon hosted native Americans in its natural caves for thousands of years before attaining natural wonder status around the world. The magnetism of these sheer cliffs that date back millions of years attracts more than 5 million visitors every year. This is ironic, given that the region’s first explorers, headed by Lieutenant Joseph Ives, in the mid 19th Century, deemed the canyon worthless, with no future prospects.
Αmazon, Latin America
The undisputed favorite for a place in the top seven, the Amazon Basin has numbers on its side. It covers 7 million square kilometers in total, of which 5.5 make up the largest tropical rainforest in the world with unparalleled biodiversity, which in turn produces more than 20% of the planet’s oxygen. The Amazon also hosts more than 10 million plants, animal and insect species, while the river Amazon is the world’s largest in terms of volume, as its water flow is more than 10 rivers combined and makes up one-fifth of the planet’s fresh water supply. Since nature’s masterpieces cannot be contained within national borders, eight countries share the Amazon Basin: Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef, the biggest single structure made by living organisms, is the largest coral reef system in the world, including an impressive 3,000 reefs and 900 islands. With the best ocean life in the world, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is every diver’s idea of heaven as it hosts over 1,500 species of fish, while beach lovers luxuriate in the idyllic setting of beautiful, palm-fringed and sun-soaked golden beaches. Larger than the Great Wall of China, Australia’s natural gift is also allegedly visible from space. Since taking the trip to verify this is highly unlikely, the magnitude of the Reef’s breathtaking beauty and grandeur is best appreciated either underwater or from above.
The Black Forest, Germany
With the Rhine valley on its western and southern border, this verdant rectangular stretch of land, 200km in length and 60km deep, is the “Green Lung of Europe”. The Black Forest (Schwarzwald), an ancient forest that climbs up 1,493 meters to reach the highest point of Mount Feldberg, owes its name to the days when it really was dense, dark and impenetrable. From the 17th Century onwards, intensive woodcutting has transformed the forest from “black” to a profitable industry that, according to the Stern magazine, is Germany’s largest. Thus, while German automobile and technology industries employ about 750,000 and 810,000 people respectively, the country’s forests provide more than 1,3 million people with employment! And this is not a myth, contrary to stories that have the forest swarming with dwarves, witches, wolfmen, and disguised Nosferatus.
Dead Sea, Israel-Jordan-Palestine
Despite its ominous name and the fact that no living organism can survive in its waters, the Dead Sea is actually an oasis of calm, relaxation and rejuvenation for humans. Over 400 meters below sea level, its shoreline may be the lowest point of dry land on earth but its claim to wonder and fame stems from the mineral composition of its waters. More than eight times saltier than the ocean, these land-locked waters contain a unique, rich cocktail of salts and minerals known for centuries to have healing and remedial properties. It is no surprise Cleopatra celebrated ancient beauty and hedonist, was known to delight in the Dead Sea’s stimulating mineral-rich mud, floating effortlessly while also soaking up the gorgeous rays of the warm sun and the water’s therapeutic minerals.
The Komodo National Park was founded on the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, and Padar to conserve the unique Komodo dragon, the world’s biggest living lizard with ancestors that date back 100 million years. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this national park is also dedicated to protecting the area’s entire ecosystem. Boasting one of the world’s richest marine environments, this natural coral paradise includes over 1,000 species of bony fish, rare sea turtles and marine mammals such as whales and dolphins, making it ideal for diving aficionados while it is not rare to spot wild horses, Timor deer, water buffaloes and long-tailed macaques on land.
Jeita Grotto, Lebanon
Βeneath the verdant hills of Mount Lebanon lies a cave of wonders. Known to man since Paleolithic times, this compound of crystallized caves and galleries stretches for more than 6km underground. The upper cave is easily explored on foot, where you can admire rock formations that take on the shape of curtains and mushrooms in an atmosphere of cathedral-like serenity. Discover the lower caves on a boat as you glide along the underground river past stalactites and stalagmites formed over tens of thousands of years, a work of art of Mother Nature herself, while enjoying a silence only occasionally broken by the sound of water dripping from the cave ceiling.