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The Absurdity Which Is The New7Wonders of Nature

Underground River in Puerto Princessa, Philippines - One of the New7Wonders of Nature

Underground River in Puerto Princessa, Philippines - One of the New7Wonders of Nature

If you have been paying attention to the news the last several days, you might have heard that the New7Wonders Foundation released their list of the New7Wonders of Nature. You also might remember a similar announcement a few years ago for the New7Wonders of the World. Here is the list they released:

  • Amazon Rainforest and River
  • Halong Bay
  • Iguaçu Falls
  • Jeju Island
  • Komodo Island
  • Puerto Princesa Underground River
  • Table Mountain


If you haven’t seen the list before, you might be scratching your head about some of these. Jeju Island? Puerto Princesa Underground River? If you think about it a bit more you’ll probably realize that a bunch of things are missing: The Grand Canyon, the Galapagos Islands, Victoria Falls, Ngorongoro Crater, and Mount Everest just to name a few.

Of the sites listed, I’d say only one, the Amazon Basin, is really a no brainer which should be included. Two I’d consider marginal: Iguacu Falls and Halong Bay. The other four are just ridiculous.

  • Puerto Princessa Underground River: I’ve been there. It is interesting, but probably not even the most significant natural site in the Philippines. I’d put the Taal Volcano above it and maybe the Chocolate Hills. Yes, it is the longest underground river in the world, but I’m not sure that is that big of a deal. Filipinos are notorious for voting in online polls. If it is something which can be spun as a matter of national pride, Filipinos will come out in force online, which is exactly what they did here.
  • Jeju Island. Maybe the worst selection on the list. South Korea is a big rich country and the government put on a HUGE campaign to get people to vote….and vote they did. I actually considered visiting Jeju Island when I was in South Korea but passed because I thought there were better things to see. This has always been a marginal vacation destination for Koreans and through sheer force of will they got it listed at a UNESCO site (justifiable) and now this. Also, if you don’t know, South Korea is one of the most wired countries on Earth and you could vote on the internet.
  • Komodo Island. I’ll grant you that Komodo Dragons are cool, but no one would care about the island if they weren’t there. Again, I don’t think it is even the most significant thing in Indonesia. Mount Bromo and Ujung Kulon National Park probably are more interesting and that doesn’t even include the amazing things in Sumatra, Borneo or Papua.
  • Table Mountain. The only reason why Table Mountain is considered special is because there is a city situated below it. It is the city which makes it special. Take away Cape Town and Table Mountain is just another mesa like any other you can find in Africa, Australia or the American West.

The term wonder has no meaning if you don't include the Grand Canyon

The term wonder has no meaning if you don't include the Grand Canyon

I don’t even know where to begin with how flawed the entire process of selecting these sites is. For starters, the entire operation is nothing more than a cynical attempt to get money from a fake national competition. Unlike the World Cup or the Olympics, this is a chance for countries to compete on something less than skill ability or talent.

The voting process is the least scientific thing you’ll find. People can vote multiple times. Governments at the national and local level spent millions campaigning to get people to vote. At the various travel conferences I traveled to this year I personally saw pitches from Israel, Jordan, Canada, South Korea, Brazil, UAE, Ecuador, India, South Africa, Philippines, Indonesia and probably a few I can’t even remember.

Somehow, the tourist boards of countries around the world have got suckered into playing this game, and the only real winner is Bernard Weber, Chairman of the New7Wonders Foundation and all the telephone companies who are making money off of everyone’s text voting.

You’ll also notice that the winners all have something in common: they are mostly developing countries with large populations. Brazil, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and South Africa all fit this category. South Korea is also populous but a bit richer. Brazil, South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines have vibrant online communities.

The biggest tragedy to this voting process is that it turns what could be a genuinely construction discussion about the greatest place out planet has to offer, into a crass attempt to exploit nationalism.

If I had to create a personal list, here is what it would look like:

  • Mount Everest
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Antarctica
  • Amazon River Basin
  • Ngorongoro Crater.
  • Galapagos Islands
  • Grand Canyon

They just announced yet another contest to pick the world’s greatest cities. If you want, feel free to create your own list, share it with others and talk about it. However, please do not cast a vote in this ridiculous competition.

  • 49 Comments... What's your take?

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Comments

  1. You got a point and I completely agree with you. I travel to Iguacu Falls and the Brazilian Amazon often and these places are really amazing. I would like to include a spot in Brazil for you to research called “Lençois Maranhenses” – it’s incredible and this should be in this list in the future.

  2. che says:

    I totally disagree. Puerto Princesa Underground river is without a doubt a natural wonder. Even locals are not yet able to explore the entire river and many experts from different parts of the world goes there to discover more of its natural beauty and secrets.
    Well, you have your own opinion and we have our own so just be a good sport and accept whatever has come out in the end. But if you still couldn’t accept it, well you should have worked harder to put your choice on the list, then maybe you’d make a difference instead of whining spilled milk.

  3. crappyJeju says:

    Jeju island is a dump.

  4. I think all of Palawan Island should be on the list. As an expat that has traveled most of the world, I cant think of any place that is as pristine and unique as this island.

  5. “You’ll also notice that the winners all have something in common: they are mostly developing countries with large populations. Brazil, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and South Africa all fit this category.”

    Population of Brazil: 195 million
    Population of Indonesia: 240 million
    Population of Philippines: 93 million
    Population of Vietnam: 87 million
    Population of South Africa: 50 million

    I don’t see how you can call 50 million a ‘large’ population. I agree with the rest of your post though. This ‘new wonders’ thing is a joke – people end up voting patriotically – which I really don’t understand.

    • Gary says:

      South Africa is the lowest population on the list, but it is still the 24th largest country in the world, and they’d fit in terms of development level.

  6. Tito says:

    All the geological structures; formations and features of this world are all wonders of nature, whether you like it or not; whether you appreciate it or not; whether you are amazed with it or not.

  7. chic says:

    Why dont you just be happy with the result? You cant change the result anyway!

  8. Tito Vidanes says:

    Every drop of water; every molecule of breathable air including the poisonous one and every particle of dust and sand in this world are all wonder of nature, however small or insignificant.

  9. Joe says:

    I think Grand Canyon should be also in a wonders list.

    • sd says:

      I really wonder why no sites in the USA, China, and Russia are nominated, considering they have a large population, large economy, and large land mass.

      If this contest is merely a rule in majority, they could have won.

  10. Jason Terry says:

    I got to say, mate, I myself doubting the selections of this new7wonders. It’s like being controlled or something.

  11. Anton says:

    The mountain’s vegetation types form part of the Cape Floral Region protected areas. These protected areas are a World Heritage Site, and an estimated 2,200 species of plants are confined to Table Mountain – more than exist in the whole of the United Kingdom. Many of these species, including a great many types of proteas, are endemic to the mountain and can be found nowhere else. In addition, the Table Mountain range has the highest concentration of threatened species of any continental area of equivalent size in the world.

  12. I’ve been to Victoria Falls and Iguacu Falls and I’m sorry but Iguacu Falls beats the pants off Vic Falls. Don’t get me wrong, Victoria Falls is impressive and beautiful but it just doesn’t compare to Iguacu. Victoria falls has a very small area to explore in comparison to Iguacu. On the Argentinian side, there are miles of walkways (some of which cross directly over waterfalls) and hiking paths. The Brazilian side offers incredible views of all 275 falls. I was far more blown away by The Devil’s Throat portion of Iguacu than I was by Victoria Falls. Plus, you have to go to Zambia to visit Victoria Falls and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

  13. Igor says:

    yes… i would also add Great Barrier Reef on the list…

  14. The rocks that make up Table Mountain are +/- 600 million years old. That beats the Himalayas by a few hundred million years! Perhaps the competition was gimmicky – but show us a tourist who doesn’t like gimmicks? The Grand Canyon is spectacular – and very famous. Most of the winners are places that are not that well known. All in all, you land up celebrating and promoting spaces that may otherwise be unknown… which has knock-on effects for conservation & tourism.

  15. Simurgh says:

    I’m a travel blogger in the Philippines..
    I’ve explored a few caves in here..
    Philippines is practically littered with natural cave systems, some famous and some are obscure. PPUR is natural wonder, that much is certain.. But I’m not a scientist of natural history or a geologist, Im just a regular traveler who loves to experience that sense of wonder.. I’ve been to this underground river, I’ve seen it, but I missed that sense of wonder. perhaps I’ve been to many caves already or that the place is highly commercialize that quest had become flocks of people falling in line and waiting their turn with the boatman. We can’t really do anything can we?? the votes were cast, and tallies are in. I do hope PPUR stays on list, otherwise the effort and expense made by the tax paying people from Philippines (like me) may be wasted.

  16. Michael says:

    It’s hilarious how Americans love to take credit for things when they win, but when they lose they blame everything in the world.

    This like saying it’s not fair that Americans win so many Olympic medals because they’re just spending more on training. But if anyone suggests America wins medals due to larger population and GDP, they are quick to come to their own defence.

    Gary is now criticizing countries for being patriotic. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

    I was speaking to an American the other day about global economics. Guess what he said, America is only in trouble because it has a large population.

    When will Americans stop being so goddamn annoying and defensive? Maybe that should be Gary’s next blog post.

    • Gary says:

      What in the world does this contest have to do with being an American?

      I would put zero American sites on the World Wonder list and only 1 on the natural wonder list. Places like Antarctica have no one to lobby and vote for them.

      This should have nothing to do with the number of people in a country.

    • C. Mow says:

      Nice strawman, Michael. Where are you from?

  17. Pola says:

    I am kinda new at this blog and to tell you the truth I haven’t got around to it yet.. All I know though is that I am jealous of what you are doing and I like all the materials I get on my e-mail from your travels..:-)

  18. DJ says:

    I’ve only heard of the Ngorongoro Crater. Where is the Ungoroungoro Crater? Or are these the same thing?

  19. Red Hunt says:

    Unfortunately it boiled down to a popularity contest without any balanced criteria for choosing winners. I wrote about the issues of this contest last month and am happy other travellers and bloggers have taken to the cause. I lived in Korea and never bothered to go to Jeju island. For generating interest I am fine with public vote narrowing the list down. But I think the final winners should have been selected by a global audience of experts and naturalists.

  20. Ashley says:

    I like your post; I couldn’t agree more about the list that you chose. I have not seen all of these places but of those that I have, they are not only breathtaking, but they are places that come to mind when you think of natural wonders. I had to google some of the others that were chosen.

  21. Chris says:

    I lived in South Korea for two years and I’ve been to Jeju. I agree that there’s no way that it should be included on the list.

    Hallasan is a good hike and the lava tubes are interesting at least for a few minutes. I would say it’s worth a visit if you’re in the area and have time, but it’s definitely not a must see.

    I always thought it was funny that many Koreans referred to it as “Korea’s Hawaii”, despite not having anything really in common with the place other than there is a volcano on it (extinct though) and people go there on their honeymoons.

    I’m curious – what were the other parts of Korea that you thought would be more interesting?

  22. Alexis says:

    You could be right about some of the places chosen, but if you are so interested with this competition, why North American people with hundreds of million of population and many more money than developing countries, didn´t vote for the Grand Canyon? Even the government could have made a bigger campaign than any other country.
    I´m from Argentina, and apart from voting the Iguazu Falls, I also vote for the Grand Canyon.
    I think what happened maybe is that people in developing countries are more proud of what they have.

  23. So true! There are thousands of better places I could think of. Besides, I went to a part of The Philippines last year not many people go to. Most beautiful piece of nature I had ever seen, just unknown.

    The seven wonders of the world is not a popularity contest!

  24. Ram says:

    Underground river, really sound great. Should be in wonders list.

  25. Juno says:

    I’m not a fan of this campaign and the concept of new 7 new wonders of the world, but I want to say something for Jeju Island’s behalf.
    I didn’t even know this is taken very seriously.
    I haven’t been to those places you mentioned, and the other selected countries. But you haven’t been to Jeju Island either. It is your personal website and your opinion is the most important here for sure, but as a travel blogger and as one of the most powerful bloggers in the industry, I’m quite surprised that you used the word ‘weird’ for certain country. Why South Korea is one of the most wired countries on Earth and you could vote on the internet?

    Even though I’m Korean, I don’t really agree with lots of things they do here for tourism. As a blogger and traveler, I try to be objective. I don’t agree because I’m from here. But if you visit Jeju island, you can see this is worth to be on the list. Maybe not worth to be selected, but definitely worth to be mentioned. Of course, like you said, Grand Canyon is wonderful and not to mention Galapagos Islands. However everyone has different opinion just like you have your opinion. Some people might think Jeju is more mysterious than Grand Canyon. Who knows?

    I appreciate your opinion about this vote, because I think this is quite absurd as well, but judging is not the way to go. There are better places to visit, but not everyone is looking for the best places to visit. Even though you didn’t say it wasn’t a worthwhile place to visit, it sounds like it. Not just for Jeju island, about other places on the list, other than yours.

  26. Anna Pollock says:

    Great Post. Support you 100% on this one. The travel community needs to be helping guests redevelop a sense of wonder and awe of the beauty all around them; and by so doing slow everyone down. These silly competitions only benefit the organisers and put even more pressure on those attractions that get to the top of the list. By 2030, the UNWTO forecast 1.8 billion international tourist trips a year (double present volume) so we’ll need to spread out more or destroy our favourite icons.

  27. Washi says:

    I agree it is ridiculous…I feel like such a fool! As a proud Capetonian, I was sucked into voting too. But when I learnt how the voting works, etc. I contacted Cape Town Tourism for their views via Twitter, they ignored me, and carried on urging South Africans to vote. Now they are all proudly quoting how much revenue having Table Mountain as a new wonder will bring to the city *smh*

  28. Perfect Info!!!!

    We can’t say no to that these are the nice and unbelievable nature’s gift. How interesting it will be about underground River. I will definitely try to see this once in life.

  29. Jan says:

    I can’t believe that the results of this flawed system will be taken seriously. It is exactly the same in photographic on-line voting competitions where the person with the most facebook friends wins the competition, not the best entrant. Only this instance is way more important.

  30. Only two of my votes got in – the Iguacu and the Amazon. I was really upset to see Puerto Princesa underground river in the list. I knew the huge Filipino community had something to do with it.

    The thing is, I’m Filipino myself. But I NEVER voted for the Puerto Princesa. I thought it was a beautiful place, but not really that impressive compared to all others on my list.

    We almost have the same votes Gary! I also rooted for Antarctica, the Great Barrier, Galapagos, and the Grand Canyon. I can’t recall my last vote though haha. Anyway, I’m going to write a post later this week about how UPSET I am with the Puerto Princesa taking a spot. I’m prolly going to take a lot of heat from fellow Filipinos. You guys HAVE to read what happened here in the Philippines right after the provisionary winners were announced (which I will include in my upcoming post) -_- It made me furious lol.

  31. Wayne says:

    I noticed that 5 of Gary’s 7 are below the equator and 2 are above it.

    Gary, from your travels, have you seen higher quality natural wonders south of the equator than are available north of the equator?

    • Gary says:

      I really didn’t think of it that way I guess. I suppose you could look at it east/west as well.

      There is a lot of great stuff in the north as well: Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite, Hawaii Volcanoes, Banff, Nahani, Fiords in Norway, Wadi Rum, Lake Baykal, etc.

  32. Patricia says:

    I agree the idea of it being determined by voting was not a great idea for the reasons you stated.

    However, I did see the list (as the Bay of Fundy in Canada was on it) and there were items on the list I was not aware of, and ended up looking up and learning about. So from the perspective of learning of new places to add to my wish list, it was fun. I certainly don’t take it very seriously beyond that.

  33. I agree. I like the previous list that included Victoria Falls, Galapagos, and the Grand Canyon.

    I’ve also always wanted to see the Northern Lights/Aurora.

    Maybe you should start a traveller only based campaign for World Wonder lists ;-)

  34. I agree with your post. It is ridiculous. As far as your list goes, they are all truly natural wonders along with The Dead Sea, Victoria Falls, Son Doong Cave in Viet Nam , the worlds largest cave. Even Yellowstone is better than some of these.

    • Travis says:

      Absolutely agreed, the dead sea should be on that list. its the lowest above ground point on earth, and also the only body of water of its kind, but unfortunately its water level is decreasing. I was just in israel on a very cool trip and we did some really awesome things like skydiving, offroading, and learned to shoot a lot of different guns. Even on a crazy trip like that, they take time to teach you about the importance of preserving the nature around you. it was a really awesome tour though, i suggest everybody check it out

  35. Yes, I’ve been following this, and must add that, for some of us, wonder is not a remote destination, but a state of mind. I love the adventure aspect of seeing these places, but would be happier if every child felt wonder and gratitude for the little miracles in his/her own back yard.

  36. Kristina says:

    I disagree – Jeju Island is totally a worthwhile visit. The Jeju “mermaids”, the lava caves… black sand beaches… and totally unheard of from almost everyone who hasn’t been to Korea. Perhaps the votes were a little skewed due to the huge marketing campaign, but I still think it’s worth a trip to go there! :) Great post!

    • Gary says:

      I never said that Jeju wasn’t a worthwhile place to visit. There are hundreds of places in the world that are worthwhile to visit. If I had the chance again, I’d visit it myself.

      I’m just saying it isn’t one of the top places in the world.

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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