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Amazing natural phenomena… around the world

How many of these fascinating natural phenomena have you been fortunate enough to see? From unexplained happenings and ancient mythology to geological wonders, find out some of the world’s most fascinating locations and the stories behind them here.

The Great Blue Hole, Belize

An enormous, circular submarine sinkhole off the eastern coast of Belize and is more than 300 metres in width and 124 metres deep. Originally a limestone cave, the hole was formed during a series of glacial events during the Quaternary Ice Age. As the sea level rose, the cave collapsed and created a vertical cave. The Great Blue Hole is part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System and a World Heritage Site. Popular with scuba divers, it is home to several fish species, including midnight parrotfish, angelfish and butterfly fish, as well as Caribbean reef sharks.

Cox & Kings can organise a visit to the Blue Hole on any tailor-made holiday to Belize.

Uyuni salt flats, Bolivia

The 10,582 sq km stretch of glistening salt is where you’ll find nearly half the planet’s lithium, a key component in batteries. When it rains between December and early May, a layer of water lies on the salt flats and creates an impressive mirror effect. In November, the salt flats are a breeding ground for Chilean, Andean and James’s flamingoes as well as approximately 80 other bird species that include the horned coot, Andean geese and Andean hillstar.

Experience the salt flats by day and night, staying in an Airstream Camper.

Fairy Circles, Namibia

The fairy circles of Namibia’s Namib Desert are still a mystery. In an arid grassland, the bizarre circular patterns are between two and 15 metres in diameter and resemble polka dots. There is no vegetation in the circle and they often have a fringe of tall grasses around the perimeter. Despite there being numerous theories to their existence, including the work of a sand termite, none have been proven.

Sardine run in Durban, South Africa

Between May through to July, billions of southern African pilchards (also known as sardines) swim along the eastern coast of South Africa. This is due to the large amounts of dolphins, killer whales and sharks that swim closer to shore to feed on them. The sheer numbers can create a feeding frenzy along the coastline and is quite the sight; so is watching the fishermen trawling the large quantities out!

Find out why you should visit Durban and KwaZulu-Natal here.

Bioluminescent plankton, Maldives

Various species of phytoplankton are known to be bioluminescence. Found in warm water lagoons, this organism emits a beautiful glow when stressed. When they are washed ashore their chemical energy, luciferin, is turned to light energy. The bright blue-green light is this microscopic organism’s defence mechanism to disorientate and surprise their predators, whether it’s fish or sea mammals. This in turn creates an incredible night-time viewing on the beaches of the Maldives.

See more about holidays to the Maldives here.

Moeraki boulders, New Zealand

These spherical boulders are scattered along Koekohe beach between Moeraki and Hampden, on South Island, and can be viewed on a self-drive trip between Dunedin and Christchurch. Made from mud, fine silt and clay, they are cemented by calcite. Each boulder weighs several tonnes and can be up to two metres high. The concretions are thought to date back to 65 million years ago, when they started forming in ancient sea floor sediments. According to Maori legend, the boulders are gourds that were washed ashore from the Araiteuru canoe wreck that brought the ancestors of the Ngai Tahu people to New Zealand’s South Island.

Northern Lights, Scandinavia

The vivid dancing lights of the Aurora Borealis are most commonly seen from late October to early April, as the days are shorter during winter. These awe-inspiring displays occur when the protons and electrons hit the Earth’s magnetic field, which can be an array of different colours, depending on the ions. Oxygen atoms emit green and yellow, while nitrogen is a more orange and red hue. King Nebuchadnezzar II is thought to have been the earliest account of what he called ‘an unusual red glow’ in March 567 BCE. The northern lights can often be spotted in Scandinavia, northern Canada and Alaska.

For an unforgettable Arctic experience, why not sleep under the stars without sacrificing luxury at Camp North in Tromso?

Rainbow mountains in Zhangye National Geopark, China

Zhangye National Geopark is in northern China’s Qilian Mountains and stands out thanks to its immensely colourful patterns. The colours have formed from the erosion of red sandstone and other minerals over the last 24 million years, and they are most intense after rainfall. The desert conditions, along with freeze-thaw and peeling as well as wind and water erosion, are what give the mountains their multi-coloured appearance.

Cox & Kings’ China experts can help organise a tailor-made holiday to the Rainbow Mountains.

Dead Sea, Jordan

On the border between Israel and Jordan is the Dead Sea, also known as the Salt Sea. The surface and shores of the Dead Sea are 423 metres below sea level, which makes it the lowest exposed land on Earth and the deepest lake bottom below sea level. The landlocked lake has a high content of sodium water and other mineral salts, making it 8.6 times saltier than ocean water. As there is a high concentration of salt, you can easily float due to its natural buoyancy.

Visit the Dead Sea on Cox & Kings’ 8-day Splendours of Jordan group tour.

Horizontal falls of the Kimberley, Western Australia

Described by David Attenborough as “one of the greatest wonders of the natural world”, the horizontal falls are formed by a break in between the McLarty Ranges and reach up to 25 metres in width. The waterfall can be up to five metres high on a spring tide, and is created as seawater builds up faster on one side of the gaps than the other. When the tide changes, the direction of the fall reverses and creates vast tidal whirlpools.

Speak to one of our Australia experts to organise a tailor-made itinerary to the horizontal falls.