Top 10 Alternative Natural Wonders

Top 10 Alternative Natural Wonders

The New Seven Natural Wonders of the World have recently been appointed, but if you're looking for anything new you'll have to look elsewhere. Our alternative list of natural wonders will leave you stumped, amazed and awed by some of the more hidden treasures on the globe. Some of these wonders continue to defy explanation and are truly the last remaining wonders - in that they make you wonder about the 'how' and the 'why' long after you've encountered them.

10. Bonneville Salt Flats - Utah, USA

The incredibly flat surface of Bonneville Salt Flats

Almost every land speed record of the last century, most recently set by the British car-cum-jet ThrustSSC, has been achieved on this incredibly flat area in northwest Utah. The flat surface being perfect for the record-setting cars travelling at faster than the speed of sound. The surface itself is made of accumulated minerals that are the remains of what was once a vast lake. The white sheen are these minerals reflecting the sunshine and giving it the look of snow from a distance.

9. Moses Miracle - Modo/Jindo Island, South Korea

The aptly named Moses Miracle - locally known as Ganjuyuk Gyedo - is the twice yearly parting of the sea that happens between Modo and Jindo islands in South Korea. Like the bible story the waters dry up and a path, almost two miles long, can be walked between the normally estranged islands - but only for an hour at a time. Residents from Modo and Jindo islands meet each other halfway across and a good time is had by all. The event is accompanied by the Jindo Sea Parting Festival (or Yeongdeung Festival), which is celebrated with fireworks and dog shows of the local breed - the famously loyal Korean Jindo Dog.

8. Mount Roraima - Venezuala

The sheer walls of Mount Roraima

More tabular than Table Mountain and remote enough to almost seem out of time. No wonder this slab of rock inspired the prehistoric novel The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It rises up like an island from the surrounding forest near the borders between Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana. Its sides are imposingly sheer cliffs that burst through the clouds on most days, so that one could imagine meeting the Greek gods in Olympus upon summiting it. The only accessible route for the average backpacker is on the Venezuelan side, but a helicopter ride up to the mountain is a memory to last a lifetime.

7. Sardine Run - Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa

Fish literally jump into your boat during the annual Sardine Run off the Kwa-Zulu Natal coast of South Africa. The hatching of the Southern African Pilchards on the east coast of Africa creates a saturation of fish in the waters so dense that all you really need is a net to scoop them up. Shoals several kilometres in length travel up the coast and past prime fishing spots like Margate, Port Shepstone and Port Edward on the Kwa-Zulu Natal south coast. Predators - namely sharks, dolphins and gannets - lurk in the waters as well, driving shoals of fish closer to shore (and eager fishermen). Watching the hunt is much like watching the Serengeti migration of wildebeest across crocodile infested rivers - except underwater with spectacular shoal movements. Listen to Attenborough narrate the hunt below (in a way only he can).

6. Tierra de Brea - La Brea, Trinidad

Maybe not the most beautiful sight you'll see, but certainly a unique attraction is the Pitch Lake of Trinidad. Imagine a lake of thick sticky asphalt and you'll have some idea of what to expect at this odd attraction. The source of the lake's tar is a fault beneath the island, which leaks the noxious fluid to the surface. Some parts of the lake are semi-solid so that it's possible to walk across some of its surface. If you're travelling to the area, make sure to get an official tour guide to tell you of 'legends' of the lake swallowing whole communities.

5. Preikestolen Ridge - Forsand, Norway

The view from Preikestolen Ridge

Preikestolen Ridge, or Pulpit Rock, is a place to rival even the Grand Canyon in views. The overhanging cliff overlooks Lysefjord, a fjord (definition: an arm of the sea formed by a glacier) in southwest Norway. Getting up the 600 metre cliff takes a two hour hike, but it is definitely worth the experience of sitting on a ledge overlooking a scene stolen from heaven. This attraction is not for kids or for those afraid of heights, as there are no safety railings. Enjoy the view, but keep your wits about you.

4. Pororoca - Amazon, Brazil

The never-ending wave is every surfer's dream; riding a wave that just keeps going into the blue yonder. If you don't mind the blue yonder being a brownish colour and have no fear of Piranha's then Pororoca in Brazil is the closest you'll get to that never ending wave. The wave is caused by tides from the Atlantic ocean travelling up the river - called a tidal bore. The best time to catch the wave is during the early months of the year, usually in February and March, when it's possible to ride the wave for half an hour and more.

3. Giant's Causeway - Northern Ireland

A view of the pillars of Giant's Causeway

The legend goes that the causeway was caused by a tiff between neighbours from Scotland and Ireland; one being the Irish warrior, Finn McCool, and the other being the Scottish giant - Benandonner. The story goes that Finn built the causeway, crossing the North Channel between Northern Ireland and Scotland, to confront the giant - but upon seeing him decided otherwise. Pretending to be a baby to avoid the confrontation, which in turn frightened the giant. Who upon seeing the size of the 'baby', and reasoning that the parents must be huge, thought it best to make a run for it. Destroying the causeway as he went so he could not be pursued.

Those of a more scientific bent tell us the actual cause of this mythical bridge was the cooling of lava - from an ancient volcano explosion - to form perfectly hexagonal columns as it met the ocean. We prefer the legend, but either way it is a creation to make the maker proud.

2. Catatumbo Lightning - Venezuela

The mouth of the Catatumbo River is apparently where Zeus practices throwing lightning bolts - the area has the highest concentration of thunder storms in the world; this meteorological anomaly gives the region 140 to 160 nights of lightning a year. The phenomenon is thought to be caused by the circulation of wind from Lake Maracaibo nearby. Recently it was feared the display had come to an end, after centuries of impressive nightly shows, when the lightning stopped for two months - but it has since resumed. This wonder may not persist much longer if weather patterns in the area change, so it's better to see it sooner rather than never.

1. Salar de Uyuni - Bolivia

The mirror effect at Salar de Uyuni

Like Bonneville (our number 10), Salar de Uyuni is a salt flat; the largest in the world at over 10 000 square kilometres. The area in the southwest corner of Bolivia is so large that satellites use it to calibrate their sensors. Bonneville and Salar also share that uniquely minimalistic beauty - devoid of everything except stark landscape and colours.

On wet days the surface acts like a mirror, making for some unique photographic opportunities (see above - the little black thing is a car). The ground and sky seamlessly melt into each other in an effect very much like a perfect mirage.

Last Updated: January 2012

Gugulethu Hlekwayo

Gugulethu Hlekwayo

A timid traveller, but a traveller none the less; Gugulethu is in his element lost and without a map - preferably with a companion willing to listen to his tall tales. He's our resident expert on the best muffins in town.