In 1997 CNN released a list of the definitive Seven Natural Wonders of the World. On it, an array of breathtaking sights derived entirely by nature; the Grand Canyon, Mount Everest and so on. Since then many have set their sights on ticking each one off their metaphorical bucket list. But they aren’t the only natural wonders worth seeing. Here, based on extensive travel, is our top five natural wonders to see before you die.
A natural phenomenon that made it onto the original seven list, the Aurora Borealis is a spectacular natural light display that takes place in the sky of the Arctic region. Also known as the Northern Lights, the display is caused by energetic, charged particles colliding with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere. The result of the collision is a wave of vibrant colourful lights that flicker across the sky. While there are plenty of locations to see the lights, Alaska’s and Canada’s wilderness areas almost guarantee sightings, particularly in late March and September.
Great Barrier Reef
Another original on the seven natural wonders list, the Great Barrier Reef continues to enthral travellers with its extensive marine life. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem and home to 3,000 individual reef systems, 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc. In terms of sights and areas to explore, the reef is practically endless. A truly enriching wildlife experience, some of the reef’s best sightings can include clown fish, manta rays, turtles, whales and the rare dugong. Cruises out to the reef take place daily and include both scuba diving and snorkelling.
Another iconic USA attraction, the Grand Canyon is the quintessential natural wonder of the world. A breathtaking landmark that boggles the eyes and attracts a never ending stream of tourists – estimated to be around 5 million per year. With great history to its name in terms of both geology and human history, the Canyon has many stories to tell. But for all its accompanying tales, its biggest highlight hits you when you first set your eyes upon its rolling, colourful and expansive terrain. A must-do in this life time.
We’ve all heard about it but have we all seen it? Granted an amazing 8 million and counting flock to the falls each yet, so if you’re yet to be one of them, you’re missing out. The reason for such a pilgrimage? The sheer force of it all – 202,000 cubic feet of water falling per second down a 53 metre drop (at its highest). To describe it in technical terms hardly does it justice. To really get a sense of its mammoth size you need to take a cruise below the falls, on either the Canadian or American size. Out of the three falls that make up Niagara, the largest are the Horseshoe Falls which lie on the Canadian side of the boarder.
The Big Five
A bucket list trip to Africa shouldn’t be without a safari to see the big five – the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, African elephant and Cape buffalo. The reason why these animals are often referred to as the big five (a term coined by big-game hunters) is because they are the most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. What is difficult to hunt is also difficult to see, so spotting these creatures (best done in South Africa and Zimbabwe) can be a once-in-a-life-time experience.