Strange, many-hued rock formations litter the border between south Utah and Arizona. This remote but particularly stunning sandy-red structure was all-but unheard of until the past decade. Coyote Buttes encompasses a series of spectacular wave-like ravines of swirling strata formed from 190-million-year-old sand dunes. You have to hike for three miles to reach its most famous feature, The Wave, and, due to the site’s delicacy, visitor numbers are limited.
Catatumbo’s everlasting storm, Venezuela
Remember the saying that lightning never strikes in the same place twice? Forget that. A remarkable site at the mouth of the River Catatumbo, branching off Maracaibo Lake in western Venezuela, is the stage for an amazing lightshow on average 150 nights a year, totalling a million flashes annually. Oddly though, no thunder follows the lightning. The bizarre phenomenon is found nowhere else on Earth, and is thought to be the single biggest generator of ozone on the planet.
[size=4]Sudan's Mass Migration[/size]
The Serengeti’s annual wildebeest migration has long been thought the largest migration of mammals on earth. But the first aerial survey of southern Sudan in 25 years (since the outbreak of civil war) recently indicated that its herds of an estimated 1.3 million kob antelope, tiang and gazelle might be even bigger. The gigantic column of animals seen in the survey stretched 30 miles wide by 50 miles long.
Socotra Archipelago, Yemen
One of the planet’s most isolated landforms of continental origin, the Socotra Archipelago, in the Indian Ocean off the Horn of Africa, has a unique and spectacular endemic flora that rivals that of the better known Galapagos Islands. However, the archipelago’s remoteness makes it a difficult destination for ecotourism. More than one-third of its plant species are found nowhere else, making it one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems. Socotra's most eye-catching plant is the dragon's blood tree, an umbrella-shaped tree with red sap, once much sought after as a medicine.
Grand Prismatic Spring, US
The third-largest hot spring in the world, the Grand Prismatic Spring in Wyoming is about 75 by 91 meters in size and 49 meters deep. Its vivid shades of orange, yellow, green and blue are what make it so memorable. The colours are produced by algae and bacteria, which grow around the water’s edge.
Monarch butterflies, Mexico
In one of the most sensational migrations on Earth, around 250 million monarch butterflies travel south from America every November to the Oyamel fir forests of Mexico, where they fill the sky with a storm of orange and black. So dense are their numbers that tree branches sag under their weight. Three main bio-reserves exist to support the butterflies: El Rosario, El Capulin and Piedra Herrada.
Wulingyuan National Park, China
China’s Hunan Province is home to an astonishing national park crowded with more than 3,000 towering sandstone columns, hundreds of metres tall. The quartzite sandstone pillars are what remains of an ancient sea floor, and in among them can be found beautiful waterfalls, deep valleys, spectacular limestone caves and lush forest thick with orchids and lotus.
Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia
This wild Russian peninsula is the world's most active volcanic region and also contains the planet's second-biggest geyser field, the Valley of Geysers (though it was damaged in a recent mudflow). It’s a landscape of fire and ice, steaming cones and vivid blue crater lakes, where the land is younger than many of its visitors.
Isla de Malpelo, Colombia
This 350-hectare slab of sheer basalt thrusting out of the Pacific Ocean is the peak of a hot spot in the oceanic crust, 500km off Colombia’s Pacific coast. Its claim to uniqueness, however, lies in the clear waters below. Malpelo has the largest shark population in the world; there are shoals of more than 500 hammerheads, hundreds of silkies and recently discovered species of sand sharks here.
The ‘hells’ of Beppu, Japan
Beppu’s sacred hot springs comprise the largest volume of hot water in the world outside Yellowstone park in the US. The area includes a handful of big hot spots – each very different in character – nicknamed the "nine hells". They range from a steaming pond of electric blue called Sea Hell to boiling mud pools and a milky-coloured white spring to Monster Mountain Hell, where crocodiles are bred. However the most striking by far is Chinoike Jigoku, Blood Pond Hell, a scarlet-bright pond of red, scalding waters.
[edit on 1-8-2009 by Scope and a Beam]