Guest post by Oliver Donald
There’s no single definitive list that covers the world’s natural wonders, but every time a new poll is announced the same few candidates come crawling out of the countryside. CNN’s list of seven from 1997 named the Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef, Mount Everest, Paricutin Volcano, Aurora Borealis and Victoria Falls. The Amazon Rainforest, Iguazu Falls and the Dead Sea are also all regulars on such lists.
But all too often some of the world’s most spectacular natural sights are forgotten, including these four must sees.
Everyone knows that the Maldives are beautiful but when it comes to natural wonder status they’re usually overlooked. But when you consider the 1,192 coral islands are home to well over 2,000 species of fish including some of the rarest species, they really shouldn’t be.
It’s quite remarkable that the Maldives even exist given that the average natural ground level is only 1.5 metres above sea level. If sea levels continue to rise at the current rate most of the islands will be rendered uninhabitable. It could be another case of “we don’t know what we’ve got ’til it’s gone.”
The Black Forest
The Black Forest was given its name by the Romans as the dense tree growth blocks out virtually all the sunlight. And when you visit the south-west German forest you’ll see that “dense” is an understatement. There are so many trees that the forest must just look like grassland from above.
It’s also the only place in the world where the giant earthworm is found. I guess there’s no greater home for a creature that loves the dark.
Azerbaijan’s mud volcanoes made the long list in the 2007 poll to find seven new natural wonders of the world but they failed to make the final cut. It’s quite staggering that the UNESCO World Heritage Site receives such little attention.
Only 700 hundred mud volcanoes have been found across the world and 400 of these are on Azerbaijan’s Caspian coastline. It’s certainly worth visiting, particularly if you’re in need of a good mud bath.
The Jeita Grotto cave system in Lebanon is another that has made a few shortlists but is rarely called a natural wonder. They definitely deserve more recognition, as anyone who’s visited the caves will tell you.
Jeita Grotto is made up of two separate karstic limestone cave systems that together are almost 6 miles long. The lower cave can only be reached by taking a boat trip along the visually stunning underground river. And in the upper chamber you’ll find the largest stalactite in the world.
And if all that isn’t enough there is a great deal of evidence to suggest the caves were inhabited by prehistoric man. Surely that’s enough reasons for Jeita Grotto to be considered a natural wonder of the world.
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Oliver Donald is saving up to travel the world. He fills his penny jar by writing for the online novelty gifts company Find Me A Gift.
[Photos by: nattu, andywon, peretzp, and kcakduman.]