This natural sanctuary has been called the "Galapagos of the Indian Ocean." Nadim Taleb of the Socotra Conservation and Development Program explains that tourism infrastructure in Socotra is still very much in its infancy and most who visit the island like to "rough it." He says that camping outside the nearby settlement of Hadibo is popular with the small group of nature lovers that currently visit the archipelago, but adds there are also some modest hotels there.
This area consists of two clusters of wetlands: Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve and Naurzum Nature Reserve, both in northern Kazakhstan. Access to the reserves can only be gained with a permit, which must be obtained through a tour operator. Helena Novak, an Eastern Europe specialist with the U.S.-based General Tours World Traveler, can tailor escorted custom journeys to Saryarka and the surrounding region.
Swiss Tectonic Area Sardona
The jagged rocks here offer up a stunning display for mountaineers and geology enthusiasts, especially at the Glarus Overthrust. This Alpine geological wonder is best seen from Braunwald, a small village in the Glarus hinterland that is under an hour's drive south. In Braunwald, stay at the four-star Marchenhotel Bellevue.. After you've hiked the hills around the Swiss Tectonic Arena, take the kids for a family ski along themed trails in Braunwald then nurse hot cocoa under goose down duvets.
One of the Westmen Islands off the southern coast of Iceland, Surtsey is a nature preserve and is closed to visitors. To see it, Nichole Coudayre, Travcoa's Iceland specialist, suggests a one-week itinerary that includes Reykjavik, the fjords and lakes of rural Iceland, and a final few days in the Westmens. The best strategy for viewing Surtsey, according to Coudayre, is to stay on the Westman island of Heimaey, the only island of the group with human inhabitants. Currently, archaeologists are engaged in a massive excavation effort on Heimaey, where a 1973 eruption buried a large portion of the town (some call it the "Pompeii of the North").
Joggins Fossil Cliffs
The numbers of visitors to Joggins Fossil Cliffs in the Bay of Fundy, Novia Scotia has risen markedly since the site's UNESCO designation in June, says Terri McCulloch, Manager of the Bay of Fundy Tourism Partnership. This series of rocks and cliffs in Eastern Canada contains fossils of reptiles and preserved upright fossil trees from the Coal Age 300 million years ago.
Lagoons of New Caledonia
Those wishing to see the Lagoons of New Caledonia in the South Pacific Ocean might want to consider checking into the five-star Le Meridien Ile des Pins, at the southern tip of New on the shores of Oro Bay. There is a vast open pavilion with a guest lounge, billiards room, bar and restaurant all overlooking the boutique pool and turquoise lagoon. A 10-minute drive from Moue Airport, the luxury coccoon serves as a convenient launching pad from which to explore the New Caledonian lagoons.
Sanqingshan National Park
Several tour operators can customize tours of China and these could include the little-known Sanqingshan National Park in the Jiangxi Province of eastern China, chosen as a UNESCO site for its "scenic quality, marked by the concentration of fantastically shaped pillars and peaks: 48 granite peaks and 89 granite pillars, many of which resemble human or animal silhouettes." Jeff Robers, a China specialist with Asia Transpacific Journeys, suggests taking three days to visit Sanqingshan at the end of Asia Transpacific Journeys' 20-day group tour "China-Beyond the Wall" or arranging a customized itinerary which would include the park. Robers recommends the latter for more experienced Asia travelers.
Monarch Butterfly Reserve
One of the new natural wonders is only an hour north of bustling Mexico City. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has been active in the conservation and protection of the monarch butterfly in North America and with that goal in mind offers trips to the UNESCO-designated Monarch Butterfly Reserve. These are in partnership with the ecotourism operator Natural Habitat Adventures (NHA). Deeming the reserve to be a "critical link" in the preservation of Monarch butterflies, WWF and NHA have arranged several departures from January through March with their "Monarch Butterflies of Mexico" itinerary which promises "hundreds of thousands of Monarch butterflies carpeting Mexican forests, blanketing trees and filling the air with a symphony of fluttering wings."