Wonder Lists Part II...Natural Wonders of the World
The Joy of Exploration
I'll never forget the first time I went scuba diving. The day was slightly gray with a warm breeze rustling the palms of Caye Caulker, Belize. My friend and I showed up at the dive shop unsure of ourselves, awkwardly pulling on our wetsuits and nodding eagerly to the words of our dark, jolly instructor. It was just the two of us, so after explaining the equipment he took us out for a short practice dive then straight to the reef.
I went first, falling backwards into the aquamarine water, following the buoy rope slowly down, pausing at intervals to acclimate to the pressure. I've never felt so free as I did in that moment, alone in the sea with nothing but wide open water, the sculpted reef swirling with colorful fish.
Each time I climb a mountain, kayak on a lake, dive or sail I am filled with awe at the world we live in and the beauties in it I have yet to discover. So, list maker that I am I decided to make a list of our planets natural wonders. A few I have seen, some I plan on visiting soon and others I only dream of.
Yet, just contemplating their existence is enough to impress on me how amazing our little planet is and the endless years of exploration I have ahead of me to see even a small portion of it.
25 Natural Wonders
- Great Barrier Reef, Australia: Stretching 1,200 miles through the Coral Sea along Australia's northeastern coast, the reef is in reality a collection of thousands of small coral reefs. It hosts more than 10,000 species, including 1,500 types of fish and 200 kinds of birds.
- Mount Everest, Nepal: The world’s highest mountain, with a peak at 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) above sea level.
- Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe-Zambia: The 5,578-foot-wide edge of the Victoria Falls gorge drops the quiet Zambezi River 328 feet, the waters impact creates mist and thunder that can be seen and heard for miles.
- Lake Baikal, Russia: Holding 20 percent of the world's unfrozen freshwater reserves, Lake Baikal is the largest, oldest (25 million years old) and deepest (5,578 feet) lake in the world. Due to it's unque age and depth it contains some of the world's most unusual freshwater fauna.
- Halong Bay, Vietnam:The bay is dotted with thousands of small islands and standing stacks, covered with green foliage. According to legend it was created by a giant dragon whose tail sliced the mountains and filled the hollows with water as it dove into the sea.
- Cave of Crystals, Mexico: An underground cavern full of giant selenite crystals -- some as long as 36 feet.
- Grand Canyon, USA: The steep gorge is carved by the Colorado River and stretches 277 miles reaching up to 18 miles wide in some places.
- The Shilin Stone Forest, China: Covering 95 square miles and more than 270 million years old, the stone needles look like an ancient petrified forest. Legend says it was created by a young woman who turned herself into stone when she was forbidden to marry her true love.
- Plitvice Lake, Croatia: Deep in a woodland filled with deer, bears, wolves and rare birds this series of sixteen lakes interconnected by spectacular waterfalls are renowned for their distinctive and ever changing colors.
- Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii, United States: These amazingly lush green mountains ripple for almost a mile before dropping into the sea.
- Son Doong Cave, Vietnam: The largest cave in the world, its largest cavern is big enough to park a 747 in.
- Ngorogoro Crater, Tanzania: Created when a volcano exploded millions of years ago, the 115 square mile crater is now home to Lions, rhino, leopards, elephant and buffalo as well as around 25,000 other animals.
- Uluru/Ayers Rock, Australia: Sacred to the aboriginal Anangu, the giant sandstone mass is 1148 feet high and over five miles in circumference.
- Angel Falls, Venezuela: The highest waterfall in the world it drops 3,212 feet, including a free fall drop of 2,647 feet where most of its water evaporates as mist before even reaching the bottom.
- Sequoia National Park, CA: Within it's boundaries is the largest tree on the planet (by volume anyway) measuring 275 feet tall and 25 feet wide.
- Skaftafell Ice Cave, Iceland: Formed from the melting water from the Svínafellsjökull glacier the crystalline chamber absorbs all visible light except for blue producing a stunning effect.
- Cliffs of Moher, Ireland: Rising almost 700 feet above the Atlantic Ocean the cliffs stretch for nearly 5 miles, attracting Atlantic puffins, razorbills and other wild birds.
- Jeita Grotto, Nahr al-Kalb Valley, Lebanon: These underground limestone caves consist of a network of chambers which stretch over 5 miles and are accessible only by an underground river.
- Torres del Paine, Chile: Here glaciers meet mountains and alpine meadows, making it one of the most amazing national parks in the world.
- Mount Erebus Volcano, Antarctica: The worlds southern most volcano, Erebus is just what you don't expect to see on a continent of ice.
- Coyote Buttes, USA: The eroded sandstone hills and valleys sculpted by wind and water are almost hypnotic in their unique beauty.
- Salar de Uyuni Bolivia: At 4,086 square miles, this is the world's largest salt flat. When it floods during the rainy season the view is otherworldly.
- Eye of the Sahara, Mauritania: Also known as the Richat Structure this flat dome is not remarkable from the ground but from the air it is stunning.
- Great Blue Hole, Belize: An underwater sinkhole lying 60 miles off the coast of Belize in Lighthouse Reef. 400 feet deep, it forms an almost perfectly circle more than 1,000 feet across.
- Pamukkale Travertines, Turkey: The warm terraced pools are formed from the build-up of sediments of calcium carbonate and have been used for bathing for centuries.