So, about that Musandam thing….

There are certain assumption you make when you travel. They are usually pretty mundane things like “there is an airport in the capital city”, or “a major city will have hotels”. You usually don’t have to worry about the things you assume because they are always true.

Having read numerous articles about the ferry to Musandam I figured it would be as easy as taking a bus or a plane. All I needed to do was find out the schedule, get in a taxi and go to the ferry terminal at the right time.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

It seems that everyone I’ve talked to in Oman has heard of the ferry, but no one actually knows anything about it. I’ve spoken to five travel agents near my hotel. None of them offer ferry tickets nor know where to go to get tickets. No one in my hotel knows anything. None of the cab drivers know anything or where to take me to get a ticket. There is no website for the ferry company. All the searches you do bring up articles about the ferry, but no actual information on how to get tickets nor can I find links to a website from the articles. I have been told by one taxi driver you get tickets in Ruwi, but he didn’t know where that was. One Omani told me that they are only for government officials (which I have no idea if that is true).

This huge investment the government made in high speed, world class ferries is pretty much useless as no one knows how to take it, even if they wanted to. I can’t even verify that the ferry is currently operating. This is sort of another version of what I experienced in Nizwa. They have something great, but don’t bother to make any signs pointing to it.

I think I’ve reached the point where I have to cut my losses and take the bus back to Dubai. It sucks that I wont get to Musandam, but that’s life. So tomorrow, its back on the bus and a few days in Dubai before heading to Qatar.

Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca

World Heritage Site #43: Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca
Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca: My 43rd UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca:

Melaka and George Town, Malaysia, are remarkable examples of historic colonial towns on the Straits of Malacca that demonstrate a succession of historical and cultural influences arising from their former function as trading ports linking East and West. These are the most complete surviving historic city centres on the Straits of Malacca with a multi-cultural living heritage originating from the trade routes from Great Britain and Europe through the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and the Malay Archipelago to China. Both towns bear testimony to a living multi-cultural heritage and tradition of Asia, where the many religions and cultures met and coexisted. They reflect the coming together of cultural elements from the Malay Archipelago, India and China with those of Europe, to create a unique architecture, culture and townscape.

Melaka and George Town represent exceptional examples of multi-cultural trading towns in East and Southeast Asia, forged from the mercantile and exchanges of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures and three successive European colonial powers for almost 500 years, each with its imprints on the architecture and urban form, technology and monumental art. Both towns show different stages of development and the successive changes over a long span of time and are thus complementary.

George Town was designated a World Heritage site just a month before I arrived. There were still banners and signs all over the congratulating themselves on the accomplishment.

George Town was a former British trading city in Malaysia along with Melaka and Singapore. Many people have told me that George Town is what Singapore would look like today if it hadn’t become independent of Malaysia.

In addition to the European architecture, there is also a strong Chinese influence in the city, the remnant of Chinese traders who settled there.

Overview

Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of MalaccaMelaka and George Town, historic cities of the Straits of Malacca are two separate entities. They are recognized as one unit of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Malaysia for the role they played in the trade history between the East and West for more than 500 years. The Straits of Malacca is renowned as the world’s longest straits and is still in use today. The geographic location of the straits played a crucial role in turning them into major trading ports.

Aside from being an important trading port, the Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca, also exhibit the marriage of two different cultures: Asian and European. The Malay influence is still deeply embedded in this heritage site; however, the Dutch and Portuguese periods are evident in the architectural styles of the churches, fortifications, and squares that developed during their period of invasion.

How to Get Here

To go to Melaka and George Town, historic cities of the Straits of Malacca, you have plenty of options available.

If you choose to travel by road, you must travel via the North-South Expressway. Once you reach the town of Ayer Keroh, you have to detour south via Lebur Ayer Keroh.

To travel to George Town, you can take a flight to Kuala Lumpur. You can then travel via ferry to reach the island. The fare at the terminal is cheap. Meanwhile, taxis are the most common form of transportation for ease of getting around in the island.

Once you are in Melaka, simply follow the signs to Old Town.

Melaka

Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca

Melaka (also known as Malacca) is the capital in Malaysia’s state of the same name. This town runs along the Malacca River and is home to the St. Paul’s Hill and Portuguese fortification ruins. You will find some of the biggest attractions in the town of Melaka within the Old City. If you visit the Dutch Square, you will find ‘A Famosa’ – the oldest surviving European architectural ruin in Asia. Within Dutch Square, you will find several other historical attractions and ruins like Christ Church, the City Hall, St. John Fort, and Saint Francis Xavier Church.

However, it is not just Malaysian and European influences that are evident in Melaka. There are also several other cultural influences from China and India. There are several historic spots scattered all over Melaka interspersed with Chinese shop fronts, a mix of live music, and a laid back atmosphere such that you will be lost in time. Melaka is known as the unofficial historic capital of Malaysia. This area of the heritage site alone boasts of plenty of things to see or do.

George Town

Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca

George Town is located on the island of Penang. It showcases the molding of the old and new. It is the state capital of Penang and is an important port city in Malaysia. It is filled with colonial and historical buildings that provide a glimpse of its colonial past. At the same time, George Town is now filled with modern, high-rise buildings. It is one of the most unique destinations in Malaysia that combines historical monuments with modern features.

Among the historic monuments and colonial structures found in George Town include Fort Cornwallis, the Victoria Memorial Clock Tower, and the original Sri Rambai cannon. In addition to these European fortifications, the Khoo Kongsi clan house is one of the most distinctive Chinese architectural feature in George Town.

All of these buildings provide more than just spots for tourists to explore and learn about the history. It also reflects the diversity in this port city that helped carve out its history and identity.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Malaysia.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Apr 9, 2017 @ 5:24 am

Musandam Ahoy!

The red part is Musandam
If all goes well, tomorrow I’ll be taking the world’s fastest ferry to Musandam, Oman. That is the hunk of Oman which is separated from the rest of the country and sticks out into the Strait of Hormuz.

The ferry connects Musandam with Muscat and has been clocked at 55.9 knots. From what I’ve read it is losing money hand over fist as there wasn’t a lot of thought put into the business. The boats are more expensive than flying, take longer than a flight (6 hours vs 45 min), and were only designed for shorter, one hour trips. The tickets are out of the price of most Omanis and there are only 30,000 people who live on Musandam. Also, no facilities for the ferries were ever built and no one was trained prior to the arrival of the ships.

So, I’m taking the trip while I can.

From Musandam I’ll then be heading back to Dubai briefly, passing through the remaining Emirates I haven’t been to, before flying to Doha, Qatar. I really hope the internet in Qatar is better than Dubai or Oman because I have a ton of photos to upload.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

World Heritage Site #42: Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park: My 42nd UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park:

This park, formerly called Uluru (Ayers Rock – Mount Olga) National Park, features spectacular geological formations that dominate the vast red sandy plain of central Australia. Uluru, an immense monolith, and Kata Tjuta, the rock domes located west of Uluru, form part of the traditional belief system of one of the oldest human societies in the world. The traditional owners of Uluru-Kata Tjuta are the Anangu Aboriginal people.

There isn’t much to say about Uluru that I haven’t already said.

Overview

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is an immense rock formation at Uluru and the rock domes of Kata Tjuta. This is recognized worldwide as one of the most remarkable geological and landform features in the world. These rock formations are set on a sand plain. Due to its unique geological formation and the history of the land, this was recognized as a Mixed category area by the UNESCO. It was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Australia in 1987. In 1994, the site covered by the heritage area was expanded.

Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is Australia’s most recognizable natural icon. It is also recognized for its acknowledgement of indigenous culture in Australia. The sandstone monolith domes and rock formations are located within the Central Australian desert. Uluru and Kata Tjuta, to which the park was named after, dominate the landscape of the park.

How to Get Here

The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is located in Australia’s Northern Territory, approximately 450 kilometers from Alice Springs. There are plenty of ways to travel to Uluru.

The first option is to fly into Yulara’s Ayers Rock Airport. There are several airline companies that service flights from Sydney to Ayers Rock Airport or via Alice Springs. The travel time from Sydney to Uluru is approximately 3 hours.

If you choose to travel by land, you can drive through the Red Centre Way. This is the preferred way to travel for most tourists as they get to sight-see the Australian Outback. You will be able to see other sights along the way such as Alice Springs, Kings Canyon and the West MacDonnell Ranges. If you drive from Alice Springs, you will get to Uluru in four and a half hours.

Amazing Facts

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is one of the most unique landscape features in the world, not just in Australia. Here are some other interesting facts that will give you more appreciation for this interesting attraction:

  • Uluru measures at 348 meters in height and up to 860 meters above sea level. It’s higher than Paris’ Eiffel Tower or New York’s Chrysler Building.
  • In terms of width, the base of the Uluru is more than 9 kilometers!
  • It was declared a national park in 1950.
  • The owners of the park are the Anangu but is jointly managed with the help of Parks Australia. It was in 1985 when the ownership and deeds to the land was given back to the natives of the land.
  • According to archaeological studies, native Aboriginal folks have lived in the area near Uluru for more than 30,000 years.
  • The rock art on the Uluru is dated to be around 5,000 years old.
  • The tallest dome in the park measures at 546 meters above the plain or 1,066 meters above sea level.
  • Summer is the hottest time at Uluru. Temperature average can get up to 47 degree Celsius! Meanwhile, the average winter temperature is 19 degree Celsius (winter nights).
  • The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park has an average of over 250,000 tourist visits per year.

Activities at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park offers a wide range of activities or things to see for visitors. This explains why it is one of the most visited national parks in Australia.

Bird watching is one of the favorite activities for tourists due to the wide range of bird species for them to see. There are more birds in the park than any other animals. In fact, a total of 178 species of birds (that have been recorded) inhabit the heritage area. The grey honeyeater and scarlet-chested parrot are among those rare bird species you will find here.

Bushwalking is another must-try activity at the park. This will allow you to fully explore and learn about the various landscapes of the national park. There are several types of walking routes that range from easy to moderate. In fact, some of these routes are wheelchair-accessible.

There is also a cultural center within the park’s area and it is a must-visit. This is a recommended experience for those who want to learn more about the land wherein the Uluru sits in and its history. There are interesting displays at the cultural center about the owners of the land and the natural environment (including flora and fauna species). At the cultural center, you will find other useful facilities such as picnic areas, gas barbecues and toilets.

Final Tip: If you are going to visit the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, make sure you do during sunrise or sunset. Touring the park during these times provide you with spectacular views of either the sunrise or sunset. This is recommended for those who would like to either experience or photograph the amazing landscape views.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Australia.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Jul 22, 2017 @ 1:50 pm

Shark Bay

World Heritage Site #41: Shark Bay
Shark Bay: My 41st UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for Shark Bay:

On the Indian Ocean coast at the most westerly point of Australia, Shark Bay’s waters, islands and peninsulas covering a large area of some 2.2 million hectares (of which about 70% are marine waters) have a number of exceptional natural features, including one of the largest and most diverse seagrass beds in the world. However, it is for its stromatolites (colonies of microbial mats that form hard, dome-shaped deposits which are said to be the oldest life forms on earth), that the property is most renowned. The property is also famous for its rich marine life including a large population of dugongs and provides a refuge for a number of other globally threatened species.

One of the superlative natural phenomena present in this property is its stromatolites, which represent the oldest form of life on Earth and are comparable to living fossils. Shark Bay is also one of the few marine areas in the world dominated by carbonates not associated with reef-building corals. This has led to the development of the Wooramel Seagrass Bank within Shark Bay, one of the largest seagrass meadows in the world with the most seagrass species recorded from one area. These values are supplemented by marine fauna such as dugong, dolphins, sharks, rays, turtles and fish, which occur in great numbers.

The hydrologic structure of Shark Bay, altered by the formation of the Faure Sill and a high evaporation, has produced a basin where marine waters are hypersaline (almost twice that of seawater) and contributed to extensive beaches consisting entirely of shells. The profusion of peninsulas, islands, and bays create a diversity of landscapes and exceptional coastal scenery.

While I was able to visit Kakadu and Purnululu during the right time of year, I probably visited Shark Bay at the wrong time of year. It would have been much better to visit during the Australian summer. Nonetheless, I got to see the one thing I really wanted to see at Shark Bay…..stromatolites!

Here is the podcast episode on stromatolites I shot in Hamilne Pool:

Overview

Shark BayShark Bay was the first declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 from Western Australia. It is one of two UNESCO sites in the state – the other one being Purnululu National Park. Shark Bay is located within Gascoyne region and covers more than 2.2 million hectares of land area.

The features within Shark Bay are a testimony to the wonders of the natural world. Hence, it was a no-brainer choice as a Natural site to be enlisted by UNESCO.

About Shark Bay

Shark Bay is located at the westernmost point of the Australian Coast. It also serves as the meeting point of three climactic regions. This explains the diversity of the life form in the region. About 70% of the Shark Bay area consist of marine waters while encompassing many other conservation reserves and protected areas. Some of these protected areas include Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve, Shark Bay Marine Park, Zuytdorp Nature Reserve, Francois Peron National Park, and several other protected islands nearby.

A distinctive feature of the flora in the region is that most of the species that thrive here had reached the end of their range. In fact, 25% of the vascular plants that live in Shark Bay have reached their range limit. Aside from being a home to many vascular and plant species, it is also considered a zoological important site. The peninsulas, islands and various landscapes in Shark Bay is considered as a natural habitat by many endangered mammals in Australia, such as the mouse, western barred bandicoot, rufous hare wallaby, burrowing bettong, and more.

Aside from mammals, the rich avifauna landscape in the region sees more than 230 species of bird that live within the area. This accounts for about 35% of the total bird species in Australia! For this reason, the authorities have done their best to preserve the natural features in Shark Bay to facilitate in providing a habitat for these birds, as well as the mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

Stromatolites

Shark Bay

The stromatolites would have to be the most distinctive feature in the Shark Bay area. In fact, a lot of tourists flock here just to see the stromatolites formation in Hamelin Pool Nature Reserve.

The growth rate of the stromatolites suggest that cyanobacteria have developed over 1,000 years ago. The stromatolites have shown concentrated growth in the southern portion of the bay – Hamelin Pool. These formations therefore are one of the earliest signs of life form on Earth with several fossilized stromatolites estimated to be around 3.5 billion years of age. However, it was not until 1956 when the stromatolites were identified as living species at Hamelin Pool.

What to See or Do

Shark Bay

When you visit Shark Bay, you will have an endless list of things to see or do. Here are some of the highlights to a Shark Bay experience that every tourist cannot afford to miss:

  • Get upclose with the Monkey Mia dolphins
  • Visit the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery Center to learn about the heritage area
  • Check out the Hamelin Pool stromatolites
  • Go on a wildlife cruise
  • Visit and be at awe by the Francois Peron National Park
  • Relax and enjoy the view at Shell Beach
  • Take a scenic flight over Shark Bay

How to Get Here

To visit Shark Bay, you can travel by plane via the Shark Bay Airport. If you are traveling on the road, you must take the World Heritage Drive. It is a 150-km road that links Denham and Overlander Roadhouse.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Australia.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Jul 22, 2017 @ 1:48 pm

Like Taking Roast Lamb On A Stick From Strangers

I had an experience yesterday which was interesting to say the least. In the morning I checked out of my room and walked several kilometers to the Nizwa Fort. I could have taken a taxi, but I figured the walk would do me good. When I got back I got my bags and went out to the road to hail a taxi. Some guy pulled up to me offered to give me a ride.

Actually, I only assumed he was offering me a ride as he spoke no English and I spoke no Arabic. I was only going a short distance to the roundabout down the road where taxis would wait to take people to Muscat. Muscat is about 90 minutes from Nizwa and the cost of a taxi seemed pretty cheap from what everyone has told me.

The man who picked me up told me he was going to Muscat and would drive me there. By “told me” we sort of gestured and figured out what we were saying to each other. He had to get his car washed then we could go. His name was Fazid (I think. Again, that wasn’t totally clear).

We were supposed to be ready in 30 min, so we went to a coffee shop nearby and had something to eat. (the coffee shops here seem to be more diners or restaurants than cafes). We got some saffron rice and chicken. I offered to pay but he refused.

I must admit my American travel sense was tingling. As an American, you are raised to be suspicious of anyone offering you anything: candy, free rides, free vacations in exchange for listening to a time share pitch, or five CDs for only a penny, are all things which should be viewed cautiously. I had no idea if this guy was a serial killer or what. Then again, only a American would probably assume that someone trying to help was a serial killer….but I digress.

After two hours, the car was washed and we were ready to go. This entire ride was only going to save me about $6, so I easily could have said “thanks but no thanks” and taken a taxi, but I decided to go with it. (As an aside, all the cars in Oman are really, really clean. They give tickets for unwashed cars. Likewise, all the buildings are clean and look as if they have been recently painted.)

We took off down the very nice highway to Muscat. The Nizwa/Muscat highway is as good or better than any stretch of interstate you will find in the US. Four lanes, divided road, on ramps and off ramps, and most of the road has lighting. He put in a CD of the only music he had which was in English for me, which turned out to be some of the nastiest hard core rap I’ve ever heard. I had no idea who the artists were, but one song was from Eminem. The funny thing is he probably had no idea what they were saying.

As we were going down the road, the sun set and he eventually turned off the road. He said something in Arabic but I didn’t understand. Was he taking a short cut? Was he stopping to see relatives? Was he going to the ditch he was going to dump my dead body into? I had no clue.

We ended up going through a small town where he pulled over to buy some lamb kebobs from a vendor on the street. Again I tried to pay, but he refused any money. We pulled out again and eventually got back onto the highway.

Eventually as we got to Muscat I told him I was going to Ruwi, where I wanted to stay. I don’t know where in Muscat he was going or if Ruwi was far out of his way, but he gladly took me there, dropped me off, shook hands, and left.

Since I’ve been in the Middle East, I’ve met surprisingly few Arabs. Most of the people I met in Dubai were Indian, Pakistani or Filipino. In Oman I’ve met western tourists and here to most of the people you deal with in hotels and restaurants are Indian. Fazid was the first Arab I’ve been able to spend any time with…..and we couldn’t speak a word to each other.

In the end, he bought me lunch, a kebob, drove me to Muscat and paid for gas. He didn’t accept any money nor expected anything in return. He just picked me up off the street and drove me 160km.

When people ask me if as an American I’m scared of being in the Middle East, I’m going to tell them about Fazid. Not only is there nothing to be scared of, these are some of the nicest, most generous people you will meet on Earth.

Purnululu National Park

World Heritage Site #40: Purnululu National Park
Purnululu National Park: My 40th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for Purnululu National Park:

Purnululu NationalPark, located in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, covers almost 240,000 hectares of remote area managed as wilderness. It includes the Bungle Bungle Range, a spectacularly incised landscape of sculptured rocks which contains superlative examples of beehive-shaped karst sandstone rising 250 meters above the surrounding semi-arid savannah grasslands. Unique depositional processes and weathering have given these towers their spectacular black and orange banded appearance, formed by biological processes of cyanobacteria (single cell photosynthetic organisms) which serve to stabilize and protect the ancient sandstone formations. These outstanding examples of cone karst that have eroded over a period of 20 million years are of great beauty and exceptional geological interest.

Although Purnululu National Park has not been widely known in Australia until recently and remains relatively inaccessible, it has become recognized internationally for its exceptional natural beauty. The prime scenic attraction is the extraordinary array of banded, beehive-shaped cone towers comprising the Bungle Bungle Range. These have become emblematic of the park and are internationally renowned for Australia’s natural attractions. The dramatically sculptured structures, unrivaled in their scale, extent, grandeur and diversity of form anywhere in the world, undergo remarkable daily and seasonal variation in appearance, including striking color transition following rain and with the positioning of the sun. The intricate maze of towers is accentuated by sinuous, narrow, sheer-sided gorges lined with majestic Livistona fan palms. These and the soaring cliffs up to 250 meters high are cut by seasonal waterfalls and pools, creating the major tourist attractions in the park with evocative names such as Echidna Chasm, Piccaninny, and Cathedral Gorges. The diversity of landforms and ecosystems elsewhere in the park are representative of the semi-arid landscape in which Purnululu is located and provide a sympathetic visual buffer for the massif.

Purnululu National ParkPurnululu is hard to get to. It is in the outback of the outback. It is three hours from the Turkey Creek roadhouse (truck stop), which is three hours from the town of Kununurra….which is in the middle of nowhere.

The primary attraction of Purnululu are the erosional features of the Bungle Bungles. The beehive domes are the most famous feature, but the gorges are also stunning. The photo above is of Cathedral Gorge. Click on the photo to see the larger version of the photo get a sense of scale. The woman is the photo was our bus driver/tour guide for the day.

Purnululu is only open a few months each year during the dry season. During the wet season, the creeks can get very high with very rapid currents.

Overview

Purnululu National Park is a Natural UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Western Australia’s East Kimberley region. The national park measures at nearly 234,000 hectares in land area. The park was established in 1987 but was inscribed into the UNESCO list in 2003. It is currently managed by the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife.

Purnululu National Park

The Purnululu National Park is best known for the Bungle Bungle Range or sandstone domes that rise 578 meters above sea level. These domes also exhibit an alternating stripe of orange and grey bands that make these domes more visually striking than they already are.

How to Get Here

To get to Purnululu National Park, you can travel by road via the Spring Creek Track. By the end of this track, you will find the park’s visitor center. The track is 53 kilometers in length and is accessible only during dry season. It is therefore recommended that you check the weather or season prior to your planned visit, especially if you wish to access this track to get to the park.

There are also helicopter flights that provide service to the Purnululu National Park. This is a less demanding way to travel and you can take off from the Bellburn Airstrip.

About the Purnululu National Park

Purnululu National Park

Australia is not alien to unique landscape and geological formations. However, Purnululu National Park and its Bungle Bungle Range are a unique specimen. The sandstone towers, domes and banded beehive structures are a result of millions of years of weathering and erosion. The bands that appear on the sandstone domes were due to the presence of cyanobacteria, which provides a beautiful contrast against the light orange color of the sandstone. Cyanobacteria is one of the oldest life forms on Earth; hence, this speaks to the number of years that these structures had evolved.

Another interesting feature about the beehive domes and sandstone towers at Purnululu National Park is that the appearance changes with every season. Even after the rain, the colors of the towers and domes change remarkably.

The scientific value of the karst and sandstone formations at Purnululu National Park isn’t to be dismissed either. For more than 25 years, geomorphologists have studied the cone karst formation on the sandstone and they have not come into a conclusion about what could have caused this natural phenomenon yet.

Purnululu National ParkAside from the towering domes and sandstone structures at Purnululu National Park, there are several other notable landscape and geological formations at the park. From gorges and waterfalls, you can find the most picturesque outback landscapes in this national park. Scientists believe that the variety of biological features within the park showcases how the neighboring desert environment and rainfall-rich zones adapt to the season.

Guide to Exploring the Park

There are several ways to explore Purnululu National Park. You can find this guide to help map out your itinerary:

  • If you can, hire a flight over the park so you can enjoy the imposing sight of the Bungle Bungle Range and the surrounding landscape.
  • Several visitors explore the Purnululu National Park on foot and most explore the Piccaninny Creek route. Some even take an overnight camping experience.
  • There are two campgrounds in the park: Kurrajong and Walardi. If you plan to camp, you need to carry your food and water since there are no nearby shops to get your supplies from.
  • The last 53 kilometers of the park consists of a rugged terrain. This area of the park is only accessible by 4WD vehicles.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Australia.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Jul 22, 2017 @ 1:48 pm

Kakadu National Park

World Heritage Site #29: Kakadu National Park
Kakadu National Park: My 39th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for Kakadu National Park:

Kakadu National Park is a living cultural landscape with exceptional natural and cultural values. Kakadu has been home to Aboriginal people for more than 50,000 years, and many of the park’s extensive rock art sites date back thousands of years. Kakadu’s rock art provides a window into human civilization in the days before the last ice age. Detailed paintings reveal insights into hunting and gathering practices, social structure and ritual ceremonies of Indigenous societies from the Pleistocene Epoch until the present.

The largest national park in Australia and one of the largest in the world’s tropics, Kakadu preserves the greatest variety of ecosystems on the Australian continent including extensive areas of savanna woodlands, open forest, floodplains, mangroves, tidal mudflats, coastal areas and monsoon forests. The park also has a huge diversity of flora and is one of the least impacted areas of the northern part of the Australian continent. Its spectacular scenery includes landscapes of arresting beauty, with escarpments up to 330 meters high extending in a jagged and unbroken line for hundreds of kilometers.

The hunting-and-gathering tradition demonstrated in the art and archaeological record is a living anthropological tradition that continues today, which is rare for hunting-and-gathering societies worldwide. Australian and global comparisons indicate that the large number and diversity of features of anthropological, art and archaeological sites (many of which include all three site types), and the quality of preservation, is exceptional.

Many of the art and archaeological sites of the park are thousands of years old, showing a continuous temporal span of the hunting and gathering tradition from the Pleistocene Era until the present. While these sites exhibit great diversity, both in space and through time, the overwhelming picture is also one of a continuous cultural development.

Kakadu National Park doesn’t get as much attention as other sites in Australia, but it is arguably the best. Kakadu is home not only to more wildlife than you will find almost anywhere else in Australia but is also the home to some of the oldest rock paintings on the continent.

Kakadu National ParkKakadu is a 2-3 hour drive from Darwin in the Northern Territory. In addition to saltwater crocodiles and kangaroos, you can see stunning waterfalls and enormous termite mounds.

Much of what you experience will be determined by the time of year you visit. I visited at the beginning of the dry season, which was a great time to view crocs on the river, but not so great for going to the waterfalls (the roads were closed).

Many of the outback scenes from the movie Crocodile Dundee were shot in Kakadu National Park.

Overview

Kakadu National Park is a national park and protected area in Darwin, Northern Territory in Australia. The park specifically sits within the Alligator Rivers region with a total land area of nearly 20,000 square kilometers. The park is equivalent the size of Slovenia or nearly half of Switzerland! The park was established in 1979 and was inscribed into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1981. In 1987 and 1992, there were extensions to the area in Kakadu National Park that is covered by the heritage area.

The park is the largest terrestrial national park in the country and also contains the most productive uranium mines in the world – Ranger Uranium Mine.

About Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park is a land of extraordinary landscape and rich diversity when it comes to ecology and biology. It also transforms according to every season; hence, this makes it possible for a wide variety of plants and animal species to thrive.

The geology of Kakadu is all about the ancient landscape. The heritage area consists of some of the oldest exposed rocks there is with most of them dating back to 2,500 million years ago. About 140 million years ago, Kakadu is part of a shallow sea. As time went on, the sea drained and the former sea cliffs are now transformed into dramatic escarpment walls. If you explore the land at the Kakadu National Park, you will discover various landscape features that were formed out of various geological activities over the years. These landscape formations include vast floodplains, cross bedding, ripple marks, igneous intrusions, conglomerates, and unconformity.

As mentioned above, the park is also known for its biological diversity. There are six main landforms within the park and each one is home to different species of plants and animals. According to researchers, there are more than 2,000 plant species in the park and many of them had been used by early Aboriginal settlers for medicinal and weaving purposes. Meanwhile, the diverse ecosystem also enables mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians to thrive in this environment. Many endangered, endemic or rare species are living in the Kakadu National Park.

Cultural Value

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park is more than just a park showcasing the natural beauty of the Northern Territory in Australia. It is also of cultural importance to the land where it is located. Before the national park was established, it is a living cultural landscape. The original settlers on the land were the Bininj Mungguy. They settled in the area where Kakadu National Park is for more than 50,000 years. Hence, they have established a deep spiritual connection to the land and are integral parts to the history of Kakadu.

Safety Tips

Kakadu National ParkThe Kakadu National Park in Australia is a wild place. Hence, it is important to be aware of your surroundings when exploring and follow these safety guidelines:

  • Drink lots of water when you are hiking. Pack at least four liters of water for a day tour.
  • Wear sturdy but comfortable shoes.
  • Always use sun protection. In a barren landscape, there is little place to find shade.
  • On your visit to Kakadu National Park, always listen to instructions from the park rangers and your guide. Do not go off exploring on your own.
  • If you are bringing your own children, make sure to supervise them at all times.
  • When exploring, always stay on marked tracks. There are also designated visitor areas that you should stay in.
  • Obey all warning signs. They were placed there for a reason.
  • There is no mobile phone coverage on most parts of the park. If you plan to leave for to tour the national park, make sure to let someone know.
  • Prepare for the heat. Use protective gear such as sunglasses and hats/caps. The hottest time of day in the park is between 2:30 PM to 6:30 PM with temperature reaching 30 degree Celsius or more.
  • Saltwater crocodiles are common in bodies of water. Beware when exploring via boat.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Australia.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Apr 5, 2017 @ 3:31 am

Three Strikes In Nizwa

My time in Nizwa has been frustrating to say the least. There are three World Heritage Sites I wanted to visit in this area. All three are within easy driving distance, but I’ve had some terrible luck.

I rented a car yesterday and drove about 150km from Nizwa to the village of Bat hoping to visit the archaeological Sites of Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-Ayn. I navigated my way to Bat flawlessly, but couldn’t find what I was looking for. There were no signs. Nothing. I stopped to try and get directions, but no one knew what I was talking about or didn’t understand me. I ended up spending several hours driving around for what amounted to nothing. I never ended up finding it. Strike one.

The second site was the Bahla Fort. That was easy to find as I drove past it on my way to Bat. When I stopped there on my way back, there were no signs or anything to instruct you where to park or where to go. No entrance, no nothing. The fort is under construction so I assume it was closed, without any signs saying it was closed. I took a few photos from the outside, but that was it. Strike two.

The third site I wanted to visit was the Aflaj irrigation systems of Oman. There is no one location, but I knew that one of the irrigation channels was in Nizwa, so I figured I could easily take my rental car and go visit the next morning. I ask for directions and am told that I need a 4-wheel drive to there. Also, there is no water flowing right now. I didn’t see the point in getting a special vehicle to visit an empty irrigation channel.Strike Three

All that being said, the mountains in this part of Oman are dramatic and beautiful. The landscape is very similar to what you can find in the mountainous deserts in Nevada or Arizona. Had I not come to Oman on a whim, this would be a great country to road trip in. I’ve met many travelers who are running about the country by car. All the roads are in great condition and the signs are in Arabic and English. Fuel is dirt cheap at 0.114 Omani Rial per liter (about $1.12 per gallon).

There is a surprising amount of tourism here. I was going to stay at this hotel another day, but it is booked solid tonight, mostly it seems with large tour groups.

I’m off to the Nizwa Fort (which looks much better than the Bahla Fort to be honest) and the souk today. I’ll probably take a bus back to Muscat or get another room for the night. I’m not sure yet. I’m more frustrated than disappointed to be honest. While I didn’t get to my destinations, the drive was worth it for its own sake.