The Amazon Rainforest [Photo: Agencies]
In 2007, public voting began and citizens around the world voiced their opinions on what they thought were the world's most beautiful locations. On the auspicious date of November 11th, 2011, voting closed and the results are now being tallied.
Founder of the New Seven Wonders of the World (N7W), Bernard Weber was dissatisfied with the original list which was compiled by one single man. The N7W project used the internet to reach out to the citizens of every country, allowing for many smaller and less well-known sites to gain recognition. Weber commented that many breathtakingly beautiful, natural places are still unknown to many of us. "From waterfalls to fjords, rainforests to mountain peaks, freshwater lakes to volcanoes, we are discovering together the incredible beauty and variety of our planet."
More than 440 locations in more than 220 countries were all scrutinized by the project's voters. Experts were also consulted before 28 candidates were chosen as finalists. Yushan Park in Taiwan was the only Chinese finalist. Now, the provisional list of winners has just been released, and the official list will be revealed early in 2012.
But out of the hundreds of locations entered, can any of them truly be referred to as "the best"? The voting system did not prevent people from voting more than once, so its results are admittedly unscientific. But is that a problem? Weber's list unquestionably serves its purpose of opening our eyes to places which had previously escaped widespread recognition. It is time now for us to experience these sites with our own senses. Only then can we properly judge the list's merits and shortcomings.
1. The Amazon Rainforest – 5.5 million square kilometers of the most ecologically complex environments on our increasingly fragile planet. Its beauty rivals its ecological importance.
2. Halong Bay, Vietnam – A UNESCO World Heritage site, Halong Bay is 500 million years' worth of limestone formations, proudly jutting out of the rolling ocean waters.
3. Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil – Legend has it that a god created these falls in order for some desperate lovers to plummet into them eternally. Gaze into the cascading waters, and turbulent passions will definitely come to mind.
4. Jeju Island, South Korea – A World Heritage site, this volcanic island rises out of the sea in a perfectly shaped pie, filled with a meringue of lush grasses.
5. Komodo National Park, Indonesia – These luscious shorelines were once the Komodo dragons' best kept secret.
6. Puerto Princesa River, Philippines – If you can't remember the difference between stalactites and stalagmites now, you will after cruising 10 kilometers of this underground waterway.
7. Table Mountain, South Africa – It's as if the gods themselves hammered this mountain into a place where they could wine and dine.