Long, long ago there was consensus among humankind about which natural phenomena represented the cream of the crop on our small planet. The Seven Natural Wonders of the World – the Great Barrier Reef, the Victoria Falls, Rio de Janeiro Bay, Mount Everest, the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights), the Grand Canyon and the Parícutin Volcano – were the world’s finest examples of geographic excellence, and no one would ever dare to question the eminent status of the Super Seven. Right?
In 2007, a Swiss non-profit organisation, the New7Wonders Foundation, decided on behalf of all earth dwellers that the Seven Natural Wonders of the World had lost some of their wonder, and the organisation launched a global campaign to identify the “’New” Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
After four years of eliminating rounds, during which more than 100 million votes were cast in 220 countries, seven natural phenomena were once again elevated to the status of Mother Nature’s crown jewels. In addition to our own Table Mountain, the new list included the following six: the Amazon Rainforest, Halong Bay, Jeju Island, the Iguazu Falls, Komodo Island, and the Puerto Princesa Underground River.
It is the latter which is relevant to our story, because Puerto Princesa – the capital of Palawan – was next on our list of destinations. I did indeed look forward to coming face to face with one of the official New Seven Natural Wonders of the World, but where I come from, an underground river can only be accessed through a borehole, and I therefore struggled to understand how we were all going to fit through a hole in the ground to see this wondrous phenomenon.
The confusion was, however, cleared up rather quickly. This natural wonder is not literally an underground river. It is a 5 km long cave with a river at the bottom. And instead of crawling through a borehole, we could gain access to it in a rowboat that was rowed by a guide.
In our row boat we were taken from one giant hollow to the next. In each of these “halls” stalagmites and stalactites formed the decor, and our guide tried hard to convince us that these distorted mineral formations looked like all kinds of imaginary objects, including vegetables, a pulpit, a lascivious young lady, and even a litter of kittens. However, I neglected to swallow a hallucinogenic pill before embarking on this journey, and therefore I could not really see these objects.
Our visit to the Puerto Princesa Underground River was an entertaining trip, and I would not call it a waste of time. But it baffles my mind why this natural phenomenon is one of the New Seven Natural Wonders of the World, whereas the Grand Canyon, Mount Everest and the Great Barrier Reef are not. The Swiss are not at all notorious for this kind of thing, but I suspect that serious election fraud was committed in this case.