x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Bu Tinah is now one of just eight contenders for glory

The Bu Tinah shoals are one of 77 finalists in a campaign to identify the world's most picturesque natural areas.

The Bu Tinah shoals are one of 77 finalists in a campaign to identify the world's most picturesque natural areas. The tiny archipelago off the coast of Abu Dhabi was among the eight finalists in the islands category of the New7Wonders of Nature global poll. The first stage of online voting to choose the world's greatest natural wonders in seven categories ended on Tuesday.

A panel led by the former secretary general of Unesco, Prof Federico Mayor, will now review the candidates and select the top four locations in each category and announce the 28 shortlisted finalists on July 21. Voting for the new seven wonders of nature will then resume and continue throughout 2010, with the winners to be declared the following year. "This gives me a feeling of happiness. It is a great collective effort and another recognition of the beauty of Abu Dhabi and the UAE," said Dr Thabit Zahran al Abdessalaam, the director of marine biodiversity management at the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi.

"Many people think the UAE is just desert and oil, but this vote is a reflection that the country has so much more to offer. The exposure will give a higher profile to Bu Tinah and increases our responsibility to protect it." Bu Tinah is a cluster of low-lying islands and shoals, some joined at low tide, with a maximum elevation of three metres above sea level. Surrounded by coral reefs and beds of seagrass, the shoals are home to flamingoes, turtles, dolphins and dugongs, and visited by a number of rare migratory birds such as the Soccotra Cormorant and some species of tern.

Along with the Bu Tinah shoals, Jeju Island in Korea, Sipidan Island in Malaysia, the Maldives Archipelago, Cocos Island in Costa Rica, Omepete Island in Nicaragua, Fernando de Noronha in Brazil and the Galapagos Island in Ecuador also made it to the second stage. Although the islands category was supposed to feature 11 finalists, some nominees did not qualify because the campaign's rules require each natural site that crosses political borders to have an official supporting committee in each country.

Failure to secure endorsements from all the countries means it will not be allowed to continue in the race, even if it has a high number of online votes. This was the case with the Liwa Oasis and the Empty Quarter, which ranked fifth out of 21 entrants in the landscapes and rock formations category. The Empty Quarter spreads over the UAE, Oman, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, but the UAE was the only country to form a committee to support its bid.

The campaign to select the world's seven top natural wonders is organised by the Swiss-registered, New7Wonders Foundation. In 2007 the non-profit organisation organised a global vote to select seven man-made wonders of the world. The idea was based on the list of the seven wonders of the world compiled by the ancient Greeks. The modern seven wonders are the Great Wall of China, Petra in Jordan, the ancient Mayan site of Chichén Itzá in today's Mexico, the Statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, the Colosseum, Machu Picchu and the Taj Mahal.