Cover Story September 2021



Feast Your Eyes on These Natural Wonders of the World
By Hiranmayii Awli Mohanan

Known as a premier photographic destination in the Southwest of the US, The Wave is a spectacular sandstone rock formation located at the Utah Arizona border. The Wave refers to its stripes as lithified eolian laminae, but that just means rock layers made of windblown sand. As Jurassic wind patterns changed, different sand dunes blew across the southwest desert, cementing into the striations that now look like a topographic map writ large. The water drainage that carved the two main chutes dried up a long time ago, so now wind is the Wave’s primary erosional force. An ideal time to photograph the Wave is the few hours around midday when there are no shadows in the centre, although early morning and late afternoon shadows can also make for dramatic photos.

Situated within the Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Prismatic Spring is certainly the most visually stunning. Larger than a football field and deeper than a 10-storey building, the Grand Prismatic Spring fans out into brilliant bands of orange, yellow, and green which ring the deep blue waters in the spring. The multicoloured layers get their hues from different species of thermophile (heat-loving) bacteria living in the progressively cooler water around the spring. And the deep blue centre? That’s because water scatters the blue wavelengths of light more than others, reflecting blues back to our eyes. The third largest spring in the world sees extremely hot water travel 121 feet from a crack in the Earth to reach the surface of the spring.

Seeing pictures of the Dusty Rose Lake reminds us of a large pool of strawberry milkshake.The lake is found in Tweedsmuir Park, north of Bella Coola, British Columbia. The lake is formed by glacial melt waters which contain particulates (tiny fragments of minerals) which give the pink colour although, as the waters flow into the hollow, they actually have a lavender hue. Unlike other pink lakes that are coloured by byproducts of saline-eating bacteria and algae, Dusty Rose Lake is devoid of life. In fact, the water is anoxic, or without oxygen.

Tucked in the Denizli Province in southwestern Turkey is Pamukkale a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Translating to ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish, white travertine terraces stretching almost 200 metres makes this place a true wonder. The area is famous for a carbonate mineral left by the flowing of thermal spring water, where people have flocked to for thousands of years. This natural beauty served as the source of inspiration for the establishment of Hierapolis, a neighbouring ancient Greek-Roman spa city from the 2nd century B.C., where the ruins of baths, temples and other monuments still stand today.

Set deep within the Russian subcontinent, Lake Baikal is the oldest, deepest and most voluminous of all lakes. The lake is more than 5,300 feet deep at its most profound point, which lies about 4,000 feet below sea level. Its crescent moon- shaped figure forms a vast rift valley that first appeared about 25 million years ago through the divergence of the planet’s crust. Today, Lake Baikal contains some 20 per cent of the earth’s lake and river water, making this Russian giant comparable in volume to the entire Amazon basin. As the temperature plummets to way below zero in the winter, the water starts freezing unevenly across the surface, causing gem-like ice blocks to be pushed up onto the surface, shimmering beautifully in the sun.

This crystal cave in Iceland appears like a dream world only depicted in storybooks. This fortress of solitude is Europe’s largest glacier. Just imagine, standing inside an ancient glacier and everywhere you look there are different shades of beautiful blue colours and natural creations. This stunning phenomenon is a must-see for anyone visiting Iceland during winter time. The light pouring through very thick, heavy blue ice is absolutely outstanding to view, and particularly photogenic. The grandeur of the Crystal Cave is breathtaking, with a high cavern-like interior that is roomy enough to accommodate up to 100 people at a time. Photographs of the Vatnajökull Crystal Cave have made their way around the world and even won prizes in major photography competitions. When a glacier has been compressed beneath its own weight for hundreds or even thousands of years, this forces the air bubbles out and enlarges the ice crystals, creating areas of blue ice. Sometimes there will be large expanses of shimmering transparent and crystalline ice which literally looks like deep blue quartz crystal, with the light penetrating through.

The Great Blue Hole of Belize is basically a giant sinkhole, and according to scientist Glynn Collinson, it is the deepest blue hole imaginable. The hole is circular in shape and is over 300 metres across and 125 metres deep. It is the world’s largest natural formation of its kind and is part of the Belize Barrier Reef System. It had been forged out of solid rock as caverns, hundreds of thousands of years ago during the last Ice Age. For eons, water filtered through the rock and into these great stone cathedrals, creating multicoloured stalactites and stalagmites. The actual name of “The Great Blue Hole” was created by British diver and author Ned Middleton after having lived in Belize for six months. He was so impressed with this natural feature that he reasoned in his book “Ten Years Underwater” that if Australia could have ‘The Great Barrier Reef’, then Belize could equally have ‘The Great Blue Hole’ – thus setting this feature apart from similar, albeit lesser in size, structures.

Heralded as one of New Zealand’s best attractions, take a boat ride through the glow worm grotto, marvel at thousands of magical glowworms and become part of over 130 years of cultural and natural history. A type of insect, known as glow worms that are bioluminescent which in layman’s term, glow in the dark, unique to New Zealand. There are a number of caves in this country that are noted for their presence. It looks like a star-studded cave. This cave is part of the Waitomo streamway system that includes the Ruakuri Cave, Lucky Strike and Tumutumu Cave. Embark on an exclusive guided tour through the Waitomo Glowworm Caves that brings the visitor through three different levels and begins at the top level of the cave and the Catacombs. The levels are linked by the Tomo, which is a 16m vertical shaft made of limestone. The second level is called the Banquet Chamber.

Located at Wulingyuan District of Zhangjiajie city, Tianzi Mountain Natural Reserve is part of the Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area, a natural heritage of the world. These transcendent and magnificent mountains look like something out of the movie, ‘Avatar’. These towers in the Hunan Province of China are formed of quartzite sandstone pillars that are so high, it looks like they’re touching the sky. At the top of the mountain, visitors can see the full extent of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area. Beautiful scenes of the mountain greet visitors in different seasons. There are four wonders: the Sea of Clouds, Radiance of the Moonlight, Rays of Sunshine and the Snow in Winter.

Dubbed as the ‘Door to Hell’, the Darvaza Gas Crater was found more than four decades ago in Turkmenistan — a gaping, fiery crater that opened up as a result of a drilling mishap. Its sinister flames still burn to this day.Details on the origin of the sinkhole are sketchy, but the story goes that Soviet scientists set it on fire to burn off noxious gases after the ground under a drilling rig gave way. Perhaps the scientists underestimated the amount of fuel that lay below. sTurkmenistan has the sixth largest natural gas reserves in the world. Not only does this crater attract hundreds of tourists each year (before the pandemic-), it also lures nearby desert wildlife.

Salar de Uyuni is one of the world’s most remarkable vistas. It also reigns as the largest salt flat and
is also one of Bolivia’s most visited sites. Photographers flock here like birds to capture the mirror-like milieu. Stretching more than 4,050 square miles of the Altiplano, it is the world’s largest salt flat, left behind by prehistoric lakes that evaporated long ago. Here, a thick crust of salt extends to the horizon, covered by quilted, polygonal patterns of salt rising from the ground. At certain times of the year, nearby lakes overflow and a thin layer of water transforms the flats into a stunning reflection of the sky.

Mauritius is situated on an ocean shelf that rises up from the ocean floor. From the island’s shore, there is a gradual slope leading out to a sudden 2.5-mile drop to the ocean floor. Just off the coast of Le Morne, southwest of Mauritius island, it offers a spectacular illusion. Sand and silt on the ocean floor run off in a way that makes it look like they’re pouring down a waterfall or like the entire island is being sucked down a vast drain. It’s really just the flow of underwater currents that create the dramatic image. The ocean water is spectacular from the shore, but to see this particular view requires a helicopter ride.

Cano Cristales is known as one of the most colourful rivers in the world. The 62.1-mile-long river is in Colombia’s Serranía de la Macarena national park, in the province of Meta, and is known as the ‘River of Five Colours’.The coloured waters are caused by small plants called Macarenia Clavigera in the river that are of the colour. It occurs for a brief period of time every year. During the wet season, the river runs fast and high, meaning the sun cannot hit the riverbed’s plants. The phenomenon happens nowhere else in the world. The area itself is a hotspot for biodiversity, where the Andes mountains and the Amazon and Orinoco basins converge — and is home to many endemic species.


Follow us on Facebook and Instagram