Image: Bernard Weber
Christian Hartmann  /  AFP - Getty Images
Bernard Weber, Founder and President of 'New 7 Wonders', speaks in Zurich on July 21, 2009 to announce the 28 finalists of the 'New7Wonders of Nature' as the Matterhorn mountain, one of the official candidate place, is seen on a screen behind him.
updated 7/21/2009 12:36:49 PM ET 2009-07-21T16:36:49

The Grand Canyon and the Great Barrier Reef are competing with 26 other spectacular natural landmarks in the final phase of the global poll to choose the "New 7 Wonders of Nature," organizers said Tuesday.

The Amazon rain forest, the Dead Sea, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa and Ecuador's Galapagos islands are also among the finalists, according to the organization New 7 Wonders led by Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber.

People can vote by Internet or phone. The winners will be announced in 2011 and share in the glory already enjoyed by the seven man-made wonders chosen two years ago.

Over 1 billion people are expected to join in the voting, said Weber.

"This campaign should contribute to the appreciation — to the knowledge — of our environment and not just the one in our country but worldwide," he told The Associated Press. "If we or our children want to save anything, we should first appreciate it."

A panel of experts chose the finalists among the 77 nominees that gained the most votes in an early round of polling. People had suggested 261 landmarks in countries all over the world.

The panel chaired by Federico Mayor, former chief of UNESCO, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, picked the finalists depending on geographical balance, diversity and the importance to human life, Weber said.

He said he was happy to see that the nominees include places that lie in more than one country, such as the Dead Sea or the Amazon rain forest, which makes people work together across borders.

"Already from the nomination phase, we see the enthusiasm of big countries," Weber said, adding that particular high numbers of votes have come in from Indonesia.

Slideshow: Magnificent Seven High voter participation has come from other Asian countries, including India, Bangladesh and Vietnam, as well as from Latin America, he said.

Weber declined to give any numbers of votes so far. But the organization plans to release detail about voter profiles later, he added. Registration on the Web site aims to prevent people from voting twice.

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"U.S. voters' participation is always quite high up," he said.

Africa, where most people vote by mobile phones, has had the biggest increase in votes over the last few weeks, Weber said.

The finalists also include Azerbaijan's Mud Volcanoes, Lebanon's Jeita Grotto, Ireland's Moher Cliffs and Germany's Black Forest.

Slideshow: World Heritage Sites

Around 100 million people voted in the selection of the seven man-made wonders in 2007. The winners were the Colosseum, Italy; the Great Wall of China; the Taj Mahal, India; Petra, Jordan; Christ the Redeemer Statue, Brazil; Machu Picchu, Peru; and the Pyramid at Chichen Itza, Mexico.

Choosing world wonders has been a continuing fascination over the centuries. UNESCO keeps updating its list of World Heritage Sites, which now totals 890 places.

The New 7 Wonders campaign aims to promote cultural diversity by supporting, preserving and restoring monuments and natural sites. It relies on private donations and revenue from selling broadcasting rights.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: 7 finalists

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  1. Table Mountain

    Table Mountain and the city of Cape Town, South Africa, are seen on April 2, 2010, from Blouberg Beach on the city's outskirts. Table Mountain on Nov. 11, 2011, was named a provisional finalist in the New 7 Wonders of Nature contest. (Afp / AFP-Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Puerto Princesa Underground River

    Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn, center, sits with New7Wonders Foundation President Bernard Weber, third from right, and Director Jean-Paul de la Fuente, second left, on a boat as it passes under a mushroom-shaped rock formation Oct. 23, 2011, inside the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park at Kabayugan town, in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, western Philippines. The 5-mile-long Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Romeo Ranoco / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Komodo

    A Komodo dragon searches the shore area of Komodo island for prey. Indonesia’s Komodo National Park, which includes the islands of Komodo, Rinca and Padar as well as several smaller islands, was founded in 1980 to protect the Komodo dragon. (Romeo Gacad / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Jeju Island

    Jeju Island in South Korea is one of the New7Wonders of Nature announced Nov. 11, 2011. The results are provisional until voting can be independently verified. (Jeju Provincial Government/hando / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Halong Bay

    Tourist boats are seen Dec. 8, 2007, anchored in Halong Bay on the northeastern coast of Vietnam. Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Quang Ninh province, Vietnam, and features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes. (Afp / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Amazon

    Lake Condor, located deep within the Amazon jungle, reflects the sky August 20, 2001, in Peru. The vast Amazon Rainforest is 1.4 billion acres and is located within nine nations. (Anibal Solimano / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Iguazu Falls

    Water flowing over Iguazu Falls leaves a cloud of mist between Brazil, foreground, and Argentina, background, as the sun sets Aug. 12, 2009, over the Iguazu National Park. (David Silverman / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: A general view of the Table Mountain and
    Afp / AFP-Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (7) Wonders of Nature - 7 finalists
  2. Peter Hendrie / Lonely Planet
    Slideshow (27) Wonders of Nature - 28 nominees

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