Our planet’s most astonishing displays
Elephant gathering in Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka
The biggest gathering of Asian elephants anywhere in the world, several hundred animals congregate at a watering hole in Minneriya National Park during the dry season, from July to early November, before moving to Kaudulla National Park. An incredible sight to see, especially as there are so many babies around this time of year, the large animals graze, drink, bathe and socialize here.
Migration of the monarch butterflies, Mexico
Wildebeest migration, Tanzania and Kenya
Sakura season, Japan
Cherry blossoms in Washington DC, USA
Another place famous for its cherry blossom season is Washington DC. The arrival of the Yoshino cherry tree blossoms around the Potomac Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park is celebrated every year from late March to mid-April. Usually, the season is marked by the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which includes parades and family events, however, this year the festival was hosted virtually.
Midnight sun, Svalbard, Norway
A place where the sun never sets sounds like something out of a fairy tale, but this is exactly what happens each year in some locations north of the Arctic Circle and south of the Antarctic Circle. In the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard the sun can remain high in the sky for up to 16 weeks, with evenings denoted by a crimson midnight sun. Approximate dates for this period in Svalbard are from 20 April to 22 August. Discover more of the strangest weather phenomena.
Manhattanhenge, New York City, USA
The beating heart of New York City is the last place you’d expect to see Mother Nature at work. But for two evenings in May and July, the sun sets straight between the city’s skyscraper canyons, bringing the natural and man-made worlds together for a truly awe-inspiring moment. Predicted dates for 2020 are 29 May and 12 July. There are also two such sunrises, however, those are much harder to see.
Bluebell blooms in the UK
Maple trees in fall, Québec, Canada
Fall is a colorful season everywhere in Canada, but no more so than in the province of Québec, which is rife with maple trees. The leaves turn bright orange or brilliant red in fall, covering the rolling hills of rural Québec in a blanket of color for several weeks in October. The trees also have a sweet season in the early spring, when their sap is tapped and turned into delicious maple syrup.
Most people have heard of the Northern Lights, but the dazzling show offered in the Southern Hemisphere is equally as captivating. The aurora australis, or the Southern Lights, is a dancing curtain of light that glows in every shade from pink to green. The result of energetic electrons colliding with atoms and molecules, this otherworldly multicolored show can be seen in Antarctica, New Zealand, southern Australia, Chile and South Africa. Discover amazing images of the world’s most colorful natural wonders.
Hydrangeas in the Azores, Portugal
Sardine run, east coast of South Africa
You might think that fish gathering in water isn’t anything to get too excited about, however, it’s different when it comes to the sardine run near the east coast of South Africa between May and July. As millions and millions of sardines bunch up around the Eastern Cape and the KwaZulu-Natal coast, thousands of seals, sharks and dolphins arrive too for the impeding feast. And if an attack under water wasn’t enough to deal with for the sardines, huge colonies of gannets arrive too, diving in the water like bullets to catch the fish.
Night-blooming cactus, Arizona, USA
Noctilucent clouds, Finland
Starling murmuration, UK
Every fall the skies all across the UK are suddenly filled with swooping masses of birds whirling in the sky above. Known as starling murmuration, the small songbirds gather in flocks to perform incredible aerial stunts in unison during the hour before sunset. It’s thought that the birds do it to group together for safety against predators, to keep warm at night and to exchange information about good feeding grounds. These fantastic travel photos will make you feel better about the world.
The freezing of Niagara Falls, Canada/USA
The breathtaking Niagara Falls are three waterfalls located on the border between the US state of New York and the Canadian Province of Ontario. During winter, temperatures can plummet to as low as -13°F (-25°C), turning the falls’ cascading torrents of water into mesmerizing ice formations. The surrounding area is also blanketed in a thick covering of snow, creating a truly magical winter scene. Here are more of the world’s most dramatic weather photos.
Blooming lavender, Provence, France
Bat exodus from Deer Cave, Malaysia
Crab migration, Christmas Island
Salmon run, Alaska, USA
In high summer, between July and September, the salmon run in Alaska lulls brown bears into a feeding frenzy. The salmon travel upstream during this time to reach gravel beds for spawning. This incredible journey requires the fish to jump up small waterfalls and the leaping and frolicking salmon is what attracts the bears (and eagles), as the fish are plentiful and relatively easy to catch so the bears can fatten up before winter.
Jindo Sea parting, South Korea
A Biblical miracle of sorts occurs every year at the southern tip of Korean Peninsula. The Jindo Sea, separating the Jindo and Modo islands, parts just enough to reveal a 1.8-mile (2.9km) pathway. Although there is only one annual festival, the sea parts two or three times a year between March and June. In reality, this unique event can be explained by extremely low tides. Here, festivalgoers are seen crossing the pathway, digging for clams and gathering seaweed in 2015, as this year’s festival was canceled due to COVID-19.
Blooming canola flowers, Luoping, China
Iceberg drifting, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Spring wildflowers in Antelope Valley, California, USA
Each spring, Mother Nature puts on a truly captivating display in the heart of the Antelope Valley, California. Situated on the western tip of the Mojave Desert, these rolling hills come to life for just a few months with colorful flora that turns the fields here purple and gold. Reminiscent of a Claude Monet painting, the valley becomes awash with native California poppies, lacy phacelias and delicate fiddlenecks. Discover the most wonderful views on Earth.
Five Flower Lake, Sichuan, China
Bioluminescent plankton, Thailand
Blooming lupins, Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
Racetrack Playa, California, USA
Is it some unexplained magnetic force that causes rocks to glide across this cracked, dry lakebed in California’s Death Valley? Or the unseen hands of some higher power? Neither, it seems, as scientists debunked the mysteries in 2013, discovering the boulders are moved by wind when the ground is icy. It’s still a hauntingly beautiful – and delightfully odd – place. Discover more of the most mysterious places on Earth.
Blooming jacaranda trees, Pretoria, South Africa
Late-September to late-November is the time to visit South Africa if you want to catch a glimpse of the jacaranda trees’ annual floral display. Boasting mostly purple, fragrant blooms (although you may spot some trees with white flowers), jacarandas can mostly be found in Pretoria and Johannesburg. In fact, it’s thought that there are more than 70,000 jacarandas in Pretoria alone. These are the world’s most beautiful trees.
March of the emperor penguins, Antarctica
Every year at the end of Antarctic summer, the emperor penguins make a short journey from open water to their breeding ground. After the eggs are laid, the males huddle together through the freezing Antarctic winter to incubate the eggs while females return to sea to bring back food for the young and the males in spring. As spring and penguin chicks arrive, open water for feeding can be as far as 62 miles away (100km) after the storms of Arctic winter, so every March penguins of all ages embark on this epic journey.
Okavango Delta flooding, Botswana
The Okavango Delta in Botswana is described as Africa’s last Eden – not too bold a claim given the unspoiled nature and diverse wildlife of this sprawling lush green wetland area. The fluctuating delta is created as the Okavango River floods the Kalahari Desert, and is at its largest from March through to June. Some 160 species of mammal can be found within the delta area from the African bush elephant to big cats like lions and cheetah. Take a look at beautiful images of the world taken from the sky.
Frozen bubbles, Lake Baikal, Russia
Although this natural wonder looks mysterious and totally inexplicable, there’s actually a very simple explanation behind these beautiful bubbles trapped underneath the ice. As organic matter at the bottom of the lake releases methane gas, it rises in bubbles which then freeze as soon as they come in contact with the frozen water. This phenomenon can be observed in Russia’s Lake Baikal every year, however, it’s been spotted in Alberta’s Abraham Lake in Canada too.
Caribou migration, North America
Catatumbo lightning, Catatumbo River, Venezuela
Unique to Venezuela, this type of lightning can only be observed over the mouth of the Catatumbo River where it empties into Lake Maracaibo. The lightning show occurs approximately 260 nights a year, 10 hours per day and up to 280 times per hour, however in 2010 it ceased from January to March due to a drought, leaving many in fear that the famous lightning might be extinguished permanently. Take a look at other jaw-dropping images of the world’s weather.
Batad and Banaue rice terraces, the Philippines
Flamingo migration, Kenya and Tanzania
Each year during the peak of dry season in July and August hundreds of lesser flamingos, a species found in sub-Saharan Africa, flock to the algae-rich waters along eastern Africa’s Rift Valley to feed. Preferred locations for this hardy bird, which have tough skin and scales to adapt to a wide range of environments, are the normally inhospitable, hypersaline waters of Lake Bogoria in Kenya and Lake Natron in Tanzania. Take a look at jaw-dropping places you can only see in photos.
Horsetail Fall firefall, California, USA
Horsetail Fall is a seasonal waterfall that flows down the east face of El Capitan (a vast rock formation in California’s Yosemite National Park) in winter and early spring. It’s a sight to behold in itself, but during a 10-minute window over a few days in mid-to-late February it becomes even more special. The setting sun tilts at just the right angle and casts a glowing light that transforms the spectacle into a ‘firefall’, so named for its likeness to free-flowing lava. Now take a look at more of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls.
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