Monthly Archives: January 2009

Go Oman!

Posted by on January 19, 2009

I picked the right day to come to Oman. The night I arrived Oman beat Saudi Arabia in the Gulf Nations Cup in Soccer. The last two days everyone has been going nuts, wearing Omani flags and scarves, driving around with cars decked out in red, white and green, honking and cheering.

I’m typing this at an internet cafe in Muscat as I wait for the bus to take me to Nizwa. I’m beginning to think that renting a car might have been a smarter option. Gas is really cheap, and all the road signs are in English as well as Arabic. I might do that in Nizwa still. The early bus to Nizwa left at 8am and I showed up at 9:30am not knowing the bus schedule. The next bus leaves at 2:30pm, so I sit and wait.

I wasn’t really planning on visiting Oman, but I’m glad I did.

On some related news from places I’ve been before, officials in Japan have closed the Tsukiji Fish Market to tourists for a month. Having been to the Tsukiji Fish Market, I’m amazed at some of the things people were doing. I was hyper aware of the fact that I was in the middle of an active market where people were earning a living. It is really no different than being on the floor of a stock exchange….except it is fish. You have to get up really early to visit the fish market, and if you are drunk at 5am, you have issues.

On a personal level, must say I was glad to hear no Americans were involved.

You can read more about my experience at the Tsukiji Fish Market.

Fraser Island

Posted by on January 18, 2009

World Heritage Site #36: Fraser Island

Fraser Island: My 36th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for Fraser Island:

Fraser Island, also known by its Aboriginal name of K’gari, lies along the eastern coast of Australia. The property covers 181,851 hectares and includes all of Fraser Island and several small islands off the island’s west coast. It is the world’s largest sand island, offering an outstanding example of ongoing biological, hydrological and geomorphological processes. The development of rainforest vegetation on coastal dune systems at the scale found on Fraser Island is unique, plus the island boasts the world’s largest unconfined aquifer on a sand island.

The property has exceptional natural beauty with over 250 kilometers of clear sandy beaches with long, uninterrupted sweeps of ocean beach, strikingly colored sand cliffs, and spectacular blowouts. Inland from the beach are majestic remnants of tall rainforest growing on sandy dunes and half of the world’s perched freshwater dune lakes.

Fraser Island is a very popular stop on the route from Sydney or Brisbane to Cairns. As the largest sand island in the world, all the vehicles which operate on the island have to be 4-wheel drive. This includes tour buses. The island is a popular location for overnight camping and independent exploration. I ended up taking an organized tour which, in hindsight, I sort of regret doing. It would have been more fun to just rent a jeep and drive on the beach.

The most notable fauna on the island are the dingos. The Fraser Island dingos are considered the most “authentic” in all Australia as they have been protected from interbreeding. While they normally cause no problems, they are dangerous and only a few years ago a pack of dingos killed a 9-year-old boy on the island.


Fraser IslandFraser Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Queensland, Australia. It is located along the southeastern coast of the state and approximately 250 kilometers from Brisbane, the state’s capital city. The island measures at 120 kilometers in length and 24 kilometers in width. For this reason, it is recognized as the world’s largest sand island. It is also the largest island in Queensland and sixth largest island in Australia.

The Fraser Island was inscribed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Australia in 1992 under the Natural category.

How to Get Here

There are direct flights to the Fraser Coast if you are coming from Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne. Once you reach the Fraser Coast, you need to board a ferry that will travel for 50 minutes to reach Fraser Island. If you have hired a 4WD vehicle (highly recommended when exploring Fraser Island), you must ride the barge at Inskip Point at the northern tip of Rainbow Beach. Another option is to travel via River Heads, which is located 20 minutes south of Hervey Bay.

Unique Geology and Landscape

Fraser Island

Not only is the Fraser Island the largest sand island in the world, it is also has an unusual feature – this is the only place on Earth wherein rainforests grow on sand dunes. You can also find half of the world’s perched lakes within this island. These are lakes that were formed at the depression of the sand dunes that were filled with water and permanently formed into lakes.

The total volume of sand within the Fraser Island located above sea level is 113 cubic kilometers. On the eastern part of the island, there is a slow erosion process that is ongoing resulting in some of the beaches eroding and causing the sea level to rise. This process has often been attributed by scientists to climate change. The sand that forms the Fraser Island is made up of 98% quartz.

Fraser IslandMeanwhile, the hills on the island were formed due to sandblowing. When wind moves across the island and on those parts wherein there is lack of vegetation, it causes the formation of dunes and hills on the island. The south-easterly winds that hit the island each year results in a growth of 1 to 2 meters on the dunes and hills each year. These hills and dunes can reach a maximum of 244 meters in height.

As for the differently colored sands, those are the result of thousands of years of conglomeration with clay. And the presence of a mineral pigment known as hematite causes the sand to bind and harden (like cement), which explains how steep cliffs had formed.

Lakes on Fraser Island

As mentioned earlier, the Fraser Island consists of the largest collection of perched lakes in the world. There are more than 100 freshwater lakes on the island. It is second only to the state of Tasmania in terms of the number of lakes in Australia. Lake Mckenzie is the most popular of these lakes, which is a perched lake measuring at 150 hectares in land area. However, there is little nutrient and high pH level on this lake and many other perched lakes on Fraser Island. For this reason, many species are unable to find a habitat in these lakes, not just Lake McKenzie.

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 3, 2017 @ 6:49 pm

Gondwana Rainforests of Australia

Posted by on January 17, 2009

World Heritage Site #35: Gondwana Rainforests of Australia

Gondwana Rainforests of Australia: My 35th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia:

The Gondwana Rainforests contains the largest and most significant remaining stands of subtropical rainforest and Antarctic Beech (Nothofagus moorei) cool temperate rainforests in the world, the largest and most significant areas of warm temperate rainforest and one of only two remaining large areas of Araucarian rainforest in Australia.

Questions related to the small size of some of the component parts of the property, and the distance between the sites for the long-term conservation and continuation of natural biological processes of the values for which the property was inscribed have been raised. However, noting that the serial sites are in reasonable proximity and are joined by corridors of semi-natural habitats and buffers, compensation for small size and scattered fragments is being made through intensive management consistent with approved management plans and policy.

Since inscription, there have been significant additions to the protected area estate in both New South Wales and Queensland in the region encompassing the Gondwana Rainforests. These areas have undergone a rigorous assessment to determine their suitability for inclusion in the property and a significant extension of the property is planned as indicated by the addition of the property extension to Australia’s Tentative List in May 2010. In relation to ongoing evolution, the level of legislative protection provided for World Heritage properties will minimize direct human influence and enable the continuation of natural biological processes.

Unlike most World Heritage sites, the Gondwana Rainforests isn’t one particular place, rather it is a huge expanse of forest that covers much of southern Queensland. It covers multiple national parks, so there are multiple options on where you can visit.

I visited Springbrook National Park just outside of Gold Coast, Queensland. From the hills, I could see the Gold Coast skyline and the ocean beyond. Springbrook is an easy drive from Gold Coast or Brisbane. I was there on a school holiday and the park was packed. In addition to some stunning waterfalls, there is an overlook where you can view the plains of New South Wales.


Gondwana Rainforests of AustraliaThe Gondwana Rainforests of Australia is an extensive subtropical rainforest located in New South Wales and Queensland in Australia. It used to be known as Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves. It consists of a large warm temperate rainforest that includes most of the Antarctic beech cool temperate rainforest. This area is also remote and isolated that majority of the plants and animals that live within the forest are relatively unchanged from the ancient times based on the fossil records gathered within the forest.

It was inscribed into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Australia in 1986 under the Natural category. However, extensions to the area covered within the heritage site were finalized in 1994.

Gondwana Rainforest as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia is a collection of over 50 separate reserves that encompass more than 366,500 hectares of land area. It starts from Newcastle to Brisbane! Hence, it is one of the largest rainforest in the world.

Gondwana Rainforests of Australia

There are several national parks in Queensland that are covered within this heritage area including the following:

  • Lamington National Park
  • Mt Barney National Park
  • Main Range National Park
  • Springbrook National Park

As for the New South Wales division of the rainforest, these national parks and reserves are included in this world heritage area:

  • Acacia Plateau Flora Reserve
  • Wilsons Peak Flora Reserve
  • Mallanganee National Park
  • Mount Clunie National Park
  • Mount Nothofagus National Park
  • Tooloom National Park
  • Border Ranges National Park
  • Limpinwood Nature Reserve
  • Nunimbah Nature Reserve
  • Wollumbin National Park
  • Iluka Nature Reserve
  • Gibraltar Range National Park
  • Washpool National Park
  • Fenwicks Scrub Flora Reserve
  • and parts of Cunnawarra National Park, Dorrigo National Park, Mount Hyland Nature Reserve, New England National Park, Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, Werrikimbe National Park, Willi Willi National Park, Barrington Tops National Park and Mount Royal National Park.

Natural Features

Gondwana Rainforests of Australia

The rainforest recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site is the same location of the former supercontinent Gondwana. To this day, it continues to be recognized as the most ancient type of vegetation in the country and the continent. Hence, the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia provides an important link that showcases the evolution of Australia. There are few places on Earth like the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia wherein the plants and animal species that live within the area are relatively unchanged from their primitive times, based on the fossil records. In fact, the oldest ferns and conifers are found within this massive rainforest.

The rainforest and its landscape also provide a glimpse into how erosion has helped formed the land within the area. It has produced steep gorges and high waterfalls, which are common features in Gondwana Rainforest. Erosion is also a natural process that helped form the Great Escarpment and Tweed Valley.

Aside from the land formation, the vegetation and features of the rainforest has also contributed to the preservation and evolution of new species (for both plants and animals). For this reason, there is an extremely high conservation value for the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia since it has also served as a habitat for more than 200 threatened or rare species of plants and animals. This world heritage area is currently managed by the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service along with the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency.

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 2, 2017 @ 11:35 pm

Oh, Man! First Thoughts On Oman.

Posted by on January 17, 2009

Going from Dubai to Muscat isn’t just crossing a border and moving a few hundred kilometers, it is going back in time 100 years. This is not to imply that Muscat is backwards. They have every modern amenity and an excellent infrastructure. However, you get the feel that you are really in an old port city when you are here. It is especially pronoucned after coming from Dubai.

In Dubai, you could be fooled into thinking you weren’t in a desert. The area is flat and until you get out of the city, you forget where you are. In Muscat there is no doubt; rocky hills all over the city. The harbor area is surrounded by rocky hills, which must have made for an excellent defense in an earlier age. It is easy to see why a city was built here.

Life seems a lot slower here. Men playing cards on the sidewalk and just shooting the breeze. I think there is a big soccer match tonight. Lots of Omani flags are flying.

My plan is to stay in Muscat for about 2 or 3 days then head inland to Nizwa to visit some nearby World Heritage Sites. Then I’ll head back to Muscat to fly to Doha, Qatar, probably via Abu Dhabi.

Oh, the internet here seems much better than Dubai, which I really find surprising.

You Say Dubai, I Say Hello

Posted by on January 16, 2009

I’m off to Muscat, Oman in about an hour. I take a bus which will leave Dubai at 7:30am and arrive in Muscat in 1:30pm. Hopefully I’ll be able to use the time on the bus to write up some of my thoughts on Dubai…..or I might just sleep.

My current plan is to spend about 3 days in Muscat then head inland to Nizwa for a few days, visit some of the World Heritage sites there, then return to Muscat for a flight to Qatar.

I’m hoping the internet connectivity in Oman is better, but somehow I really doubt it. I’m again in a position where I’m carrying too many books with me. There are no hostels in this part of the world, so no place to exchange books.

I hate leaving this early in the morning, but I hate arriving when it is dark even more, so it is worth it I guess.

Tasmanian Wilderness

Posted by on January 16, 2009

World Heritage Site #34: Tasmanian Wilderness

Tasmanian Wilderness: My 34th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for the Tasmanian Wilderness:

In a region that has been subjected to severe glaciation, these parks and reserves, with their steep gorges, covering an area of over 1 million ha, constitute one of the last expanses of temperate rainforest in the world. Remains found in limestone caves attest to the human occupation of the area for more than 20,000 years.

Despite the popularity of Australia as a tourist destination, many people never get to Tasmania, which might be the most unspoiled and beautiful place in the entire country. You can find some of the largest trees in the world (giant eucalyptus) and most unique animals on Earth (Tasmanian Devil).

From an ecotourism standpoint, Tasmania might be the best place to visit in all of Australia.


Tasmanian WildernessThe Tasmanian Wilderness is one of Australia’s largest conservation reserves. It covers more than 1.6 million hectares of land area and is one of the three largest temperate wilderness areas within the Southern Hemisphere. Hence, it was inscribed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Australia in 1982 as a mixed site. The site covered by the heritage area was expanded in 1989 and 2013.

Within the Tasmanian Wilderness is a large expanse of national parks, nature reserves, steep gorges and other similar natural features. In addition, there are also limestone caves within the reserve that was home to human remains that were traced back to 20,000 years ago.

National Parks

The Tasmanian Wilderness Heritage Area consists of national parks and nature reserves. Below are some of the parks that it encompasses:

Nature Reserves

  • Central Plateau Conservation and Protected Areas
  • Devils Gullet State Reserve
  • South East Mutton Bird Islet

Tasmanian Wilderness

National Parks

  • Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park
  • Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park
  • Hartz Mountains National Park
  • Mole Creek Karst National Park
  • Southwest National Park
  • Walls of Jerusalem National Park
  • Mt Field National Park

About the Tasmanian Wilderness

The Tasmanian Wilderness consists of a rugged landscape with spectacular natural beauty. It is believed that the wilderness area contains a rock from every geological period! In fact, the oldest rock formation found within the wilderness area dates back to 1,100 million years ago, or during the Precambrian period. In addition, the wilderness area also consists of limestone and karst formations such that you will find one of Australia’s largest and deepest caves in here.

Tasmanian WildernessThe diverse vegetation is another important natural feature in the Tasmanian Wilderness, which not only helped gain recognition from UNESCO but also from the International Center for Plant Diversity. This recognition was given by the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN. The varied flora species found in the wilderness area of Tasmania includes open and closed forests, alpine communities, buttongrass moorland, and unique mosaics. In addition, some of the longest living trees (pines and conifers) can be found here as well.

In addition to featuring a diverse range of flora species, the Tasmanian Wilderness holds global significance for being the habitat to many endemic species and relict groups that had ties to an ancient lineage. The rich vegetation and variant soil and topography combine to provide a habitat for almost every type of fauna species imaginable. Among the endemic, threatened or unique fauna species that thrive here include the Tasmanian devil, marsupials, eastern quoll, Tasmanian pademelon, freshwater crayfish, ground parrot and many more.

Cultural Significance

The Tasmanian Wilderness was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the Mixed category. Aside from the natural importance and value to Australia, it is also considered an important archaeological site. Researchers conclude that it has the densest concentration of human occupation sites that date back to the late Pleistocene period or early Holocene period. In addition, the caves within the wilderness area show remnants of a hunting and gathering lifestyle from its early settlers. In addition, the archaeologists were also able to discover animal bones, hearths and other tools within the caves.

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 2, 2017 @ 8:59 pm

Sydney Opera House

Posted by on January 15, 2009

World Heritage Site #33: Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House: My 33rd UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for the Sydney Opera House:

The Sydney Opera House constitutes a masterpiece of 20th-century architecture. Its significance is based on its unparalleled design and construction; its exceptional engineering achievements and technological innovation and its position as a world-famous icon of architecture. It is a daring and visionary experiment that has had an enduring influence on the emergent architecture of the late 20th century. Utzon’s original design concept and his unique approach to building gave impetus to a collective creativity of architects, engineers. and builders. Ove Arup’s engineering achievements helped make Utzon’s vision a reality. The design represents an extraordinary interpretation and response to the setting in Sydney Harbour. The Sydney Opera House is also of outstanding universal value for its achievements in structural engineering and building technology. The building is a great artistic monument and an icon, accessible to society at large.

OK, I get it. I understand that the Sydney Opera House is the symbol of Sydney, if not of all Australia. However, I’m not sure that any 30-year-old building should really be declared a monument of human culture which should be preserved. It really isn’t even that impressive close-up.

You can hear my thoughts on the Opera House on this episode of the podcast.


Sydney Opera HouseThe Sydney Opera House is easily one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks. It is located along the Sydney Harbour and represents the country’s most creative and technical achievement. The Sydney Opera House started construction in 1958 and was completed in 1973. It was also formally opened to the public on the same year of its completion.

The building is a performing arts center and features an Expressionist style of architecture. The building of this performing arts theater was commissioned for by the New South Wales Government. Currently, there are several tenants to the building such as the Opera Australia, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and The Australian Ballet, to name a few.

Architectural Details

The Sydney Opera House exhibits a modern expressionist style. The large pre-cast concrete ‘shells’ are the most distinctive feature of the building. Each shell is made up of a sphere measuring at over 75 meters in radius. These shells form the structure of the building’s roof and are each set on a monumental podium. The entire building sits on over 1.8 hectares of land area. From a distance, these ‘shells’ appear as white in color. In actuality, they feature a uniform chevron pattern consisting of a glossy white and matte cream finish.

Sydney Opera House

Since the start of construction in 1957, it took 16 years to construct the Sydney Opera House. This is partly due to the complex engineering involved in the building process. The vision of Danish architect Jorn Utzon together with the help of Danish engineering firm Ove Arup and partners, they were able to overcome the complex engineering problems that constantly faced them in the process of the creation of this building. In fact, the construction of the Sydney Opera House was met with controversy due to the escalating costs of its construction. The construction of the roof alone posed a lot of engineering challenges; in fact, it took the team four years to solve this problem.

However, the controversy surrounding the fact that the building was becoming far too expensive was subsided when it was completed and the locals were able to experience its beauty and achievement. Utzon’s design was selected in an international design competition.

The location of the building is right along the end of Bennelong Point and in juxtaposition with the harbor. It was also built close to the Harbour Bridge – hence these two structures are regarded nearly as one iconic landmark. There are also other nearby attractions to the Sydney Opera House such as Circular Quay and Macquarie Street. There are several viewing points to witness and marvel at the Sydney Opera House – from the bridge, ferry, on foot or from the air.

When the Sydney Opera House was completed, it was acclaimed worldwide as an outstanding architectural feat for the 20th century. In fact, it has been commonly referred to as a sculptural building. You can see and experience it from all sides! Hence, it is more than just an architectural prowess but has become an integral part of the Sydney Harbour experience and reflects the character of the city.

Current Use of Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

Today, the Sydney Opera House is a center for natural and cultural activities. Since it was constructed and completed, it gained national and international interest as a performing arts venue. The building consists of a concert hall, drama theater, opera house, a playhouse and studio. It is therefore the perfect venue to showcase some of the world’s best performers. When Utzon worked on the design for this building, he envisioned it to be a place to foster the creative history of Australia. In his own words, it will serve as an “individual face for Australia in the world of art”. And with that promise, he was able to accomplish it!

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 2, 2017 @ 7:17 pm

Greater Blue Mountains Area

Posted by on January 14, 2009

World Heritage Site #32: Greater Blue Mountains Area

Greater Blue Mountains Area: My 32nd UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for the Greater Blue Mountains Area:

The Greater Blue Mountains Area (GBMA) is a deeply incised sandstone tableland that encompasses 1.03 million hectares of eucalypt-dominated landscape just inland from Sydney, Australia’s largest city, in south-eastern Australia. Spread across eight adjacent conservation reserves, it constitutes one of the largest and most intact tracts of protected bushland in Australia. It also supports an exceptional representation of the taxonomic, physiognomic and ecological diversity that eucalypts have developed: an outstanding illustration of the evolution of plant life. A number of rare and endemic taxa, including relict flora such as the Wollemi pine, also occur here. Ongoing research continues to reveal the rich scientific value of the area as more species are discovered.

The geology and geomorphology of the property, which includes 300-metre cliffs, slot canyons, and waterfalls, provides the physical conditions and visual backdrop to support these outstanding biological values. The property includes large areas of accessible wilderness in close proximity to 4.5 million people. Its exceptional biodiversity values are complemented by numerous others, including indigenous and post-European-settlement cultural values, geodiversity, water production, wilderness, recreation and natural beauty.

Greater Blue Mountains AreaKatoomba and the Blue Mountains National Park is about an hour outside of Sydney. The amazing thing about Katoomba is that the town is located right on the rim of a canyon, which is one or the largest canyons in the world. You can literally walk through town and look out over the edge of the canyon.

The most prominent feature in Katoomba is the Three Sisters (shown above). In addition to the Three Sisters, you can take cable car rides to the bottom of the canyon where are the walking trails, several waterfalls, as well as hiking trails near the canyon rim.

The Blue Mountains is a must see for anyone visiting Sydney. You can easily take a train or drive to Katoomba from Sydney for a day trip.


The Greater Blue Mountains Area in New South Wales, Australia is one of the state’s most notable tourist attractions. Aside from being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is also unique in that it is a deeply incised sandstone tableland. It covers more than 1.03 million hectares of landscape that is dominated by eucalyptus trees within inland Sydney.

The area covered by the Greater Blue Mountains Area spans 8 adjacent conservation reserves. It also comprises some of Australia’s largest and protected bushland. Due to its ecological diversity and immense taxonomic features, it is quickly recognized by UNESCO for how it illustrates the evolution of plant life.

Greater Blue Mountains Area

How to Get Here

If you are traveling from Sydney, the Great Blue Mountains Area is about two hours’ drive away. You can travel by car but there is also an option to travel by train or coach tour. The Sydney Airport is located about 1 hour and 30 minutes from the Blue Mountains.

Landscape of Greater Blue Mountains Area

As mentioned above, the Greater Blue Mountains Area consists of rugged sheer cliffs, tablelands, rivers, lakes and inaccessible valleys. All of these land features are teeming with life and is one of the most beautiful yet inhospitable parts of Australia’s New South Wales. There are also several plants and animal life that thrive in this natural place that exhibits Australia’s antiquity (more on that later).

With a total land area of more than 10,300 square kilometers dominated by forested landscape, the Greater Blue Mountains Area is approximately 60 to 180 kilometers from the Sydney CBD Area. It is a vast expanse of wilderness that is twice the size of Brunei. It is dubbed as “Blue Mountains” because of the visible spectrum of blue light that is propagated by the mountains as impacted by the atmospheric temperature and essential oils from the eucalyptus trees dispersing into the air.

Greater Blue Mountains AreaAside from the 8 protected areas that are encompassed within the Great Blue Mountains Area, it is also home to 7 national parks. These are the following:

  • Blue Mountains National Park
  • Wollemi National Park
  • Yengo National Park
  • Nattai National Park
  • Gardens of Stone National Park
  • Thirlmere Lakes National Park
  • Kanangra-Boyd National Park

Aside from the 7 national parks listed above, the Greater Blue Mountains Area also includes the famous Jenolan Caves Karst Conservation Reserve. Even though it is dubbed as Blue Mountains, the world heritage site does not consist of mountains in the most basic sense of the word. These are sandstone rising plateau that rise over 100 meters above sea level (in their highest point).


Aside from the thick vegetation and diverse landscape, there are various fauna species that thrive in the Great Blue Mountains Area. There are about 400 different kinds of animals that live within the rugged landscape of the Blue Mountains’ gorges and tablelands. These animals include both rare and threatened species such as the long-nosed potoroo, koala, tiger quoll and yellow-bellied glider.

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: Mar 31, 2017 @ 3:15 am

2008 Travel Year in Review: Part 2

Posted by on January 14, 2009

Read part 1 of my 2008 travel round-up here


Landscape of Coober Pedy, South Australia

Landscape of Coober Pedy, South Australia

July marked my last month in Australia. I flew from Perth to Adelaide. After weeks of driving across Western Australia, the thought of more driving didn’t appeal to me. Adelaide was overcast and cold the entire time I was there, but I did get to visit the central market and Chinatown, both of which were the best I experienced in Australia.

From there I went north by bus to Coober Pedy, the interesting community in the middle of the outback that makes its living off opal mining. From there I went north to Alice Springs where I visited Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) and Kings Canyon.

I ended my Australian adventure where it began, in Darwin, and from there flew to Singapore.


Stamford Raffels Statue in Singapore

Stamford Raffels Statue in Singapore

In Singapore I was able to meet my old college roommate David Bickford, who is currently a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Singapore. He was only the second person I’ve seen since I’ve left the United States that I knew before I left. I hadn’t seen Dave since the early 90s, so it was nice to catch up.

While he was doing profession things during the day, I was able to explore Singapore, which I had last visited back in 1999.

I also took a week and went to the Indonesian island of Bintan where I rented a bungalow near the beach for $10/night and edited video.

Returning to Singapore I took the train to Kuala Lumpur and then to Penang. I was stuck in Penang for several days as I waited for protesters to open up the Phuket, Thailand airport.

Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok, Thailand

Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok, Thailand


Most of September was spent in Thailand. My goal in Phuket was to do some diving and get my PADI Rescue Diver certification. I enrolled in a course at SeaBee’s Diving in Phuket and got certified. If you are in trouble while diving with me, I’m your hookup.


Cow in Temple, Angkor, Cambodia

Cow in Temple, Angkor, Cambodia

I started October by visiting the temples of Angkor. It was a really amazing experience. I took several days photographing most of the temples in the Angkor complex, including many of the smaller outlying temples. I also took the day trip from hell to visit the Preah Vihear temple on the border of Cambodia and Thailand. Preah Vihear was the scene of fighting between Thai and Cambodian soldiers in the months before, and weeks after I visited.

I also visited the floating villages of Tonle Sap and took the boat from Sieam Reap to Phnom Penh, where I paid homage to the victims of the Killing Fields. The last few days of the month I took the bus across the border into Vietnam and into Saigon.


Sand Dunes of Mui Ne, Vietnam

Sand Dunes of Mui Ne, Vietnam

All of November was in Vietnam. I started the month in Saigon where I had to purchase a new laptop. My old MacBook Pro was on its last legs. From there I took the bus on Mui Ne which is on the Pacific Ocean an enjoyed cheap, fresh seafood every night. From there I went into the central Vietnam rainy season in Nha Trang, where it rained non stop. A very long overnight bus ride took me to Hoi An just outside of Da Nang where I visited the Hoi An Ancient City and My Son Sanctuary World Heritage sites. I then spent a few days in the former royal capital of Hue before one final marathon bus ride to Hanoi.


December was a busy month. I started by visiting the beautiful islands of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. I returned to Hanoi to fly to Luang Prabang, Laos where I was able to visit the temples of this World Heritage City and take part in the morning alms giving ritual where the locals give food and rice to monks. I then took a bus to the capital of Laos, Vientiane, where I took advantage of the excellent open airs BBQs on the Mekong River. I then went to Udon Thani, Thailand, Chiang Mai, Sukhothai and ended up back in Bangkok, where I rang in the New Year.

Willandra Lakes Region

Posted by on January 13, 2009

World Heritage Site #30: Willandra Lakes Region

Willandra Lakes Region: My 31st UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for the Willandra Lakes Region:

The Willandra Lakes Region, in the semi-arid zone in southwest New South Wales (NSW), contains a relict lake system whose sediments, geomorphology and soils contain an outstanding record of a low-altitude, non-glaciated Pleistocene landscape. It also contains an outstanding record of the glacial-interglacial climatic oscillations of the late Pleistocene, particularly over the last 100,000 years. Ceasing to function as a lake ecosystem some 18,500 years ago, Willandra Lakes provides excellent conditions to document life in the Pleistocene epoch, the period when humans evolved into their present form.

The undisturbed stratigraphic context provides outstanding evidence for the economic life of Homo sapiens sapiens to be reconstructed. Archaeological remains such as hearths, stone tools, and shell middens show a remarkable adaptation to local resources and a fascinating interaction between human culture and the changing natural environment. Several well-preserved fossils of giant marsupials have also been found here.

Willandra contains some of the earliest evidence of Homo sapiens sapiens outside Africa. The evidence of occupation deposits establishes that humans had dispersed as far as Australia by 42,000 years ago. Sites also illustrate human burials that are of great antiquity, such as a cremation dating to around 40,000 years BP, the oldest ritual cremation site in the world, and traces of complex plant-food gathering systems that date back before 18,000 years BP associated with grindstones to produce flour from wild grass seeds, at much the same time as their use in the Middle East. Pigments were transported to these lakeshores before 42,000 years BP. Evidence from this region has allowed the typology of early Australian stone tools to be defined.

Since inscription, the discovery of the human fossil trackways, aged between 19,000 and 23,000 years BP, have added to the understanding of how early humans interacted with their environment.

Willandra Lakes RegionIf the Royal Exhibition Building was the most disappointing World Heritage site, then Mungo National Park in the Willandra Lakes Region was one of the most surprising. I really had no idea what to expect when I visited Mungo because it isn’t one of the more popular tourist destinations in Australia. It is out of the way located in the corner of NSW where it meets Victoria and South Australia.

It is about an hour drive from Mildura, Victoria through an unpaved desert. When I was there the temperature was 40C (104F) in the sun. The flies were terrible but disappeared once the sun went below the horizon. Our guide for the day was Graham Clarke, who was an aboriginal from the area who actually quasi-famous. He was the outback spokesperson of the year and I’ve seen him on some TV commercials for Australia.

Mungo is a dried lake bed, which used to be a watering hole during the last ice age. It was also a camp for human beings about 20-40,000 years ago. It is some of the earliest fossil evidence of modern homo Saipan. They have also found some evidence of ritual human cremation.

Just walking around we were able to find the bones of wombats in the sand that were tens of thousands of years old.

If you ever get the chance, take the time to visit Mungo National Park.


Willandra Lakes Region

The Willandra Lakes Region in New South Wales, Australia is a massive area filled with an ancient lake system that formed over 2 million years ago. Most of these ancient formations are shaped like lunette or crescent dunes. It is believed that the ancient aboriginals in Australia lived in the shores of these lakes about 50,000 years ago.

It was recognized by UNESCO as an important cultural site in 1981. In 1995, the original boundary of what was comprised in the UNESCO property was modified. Aside from being a UNESCO site, it is also a National Heritage Site.

About Willandra Lakes Region

The Willandra Lakes Region encompasses more than 2,400 kilometer square of land area in the Murray Basin, New South Wales. It is composed of a semi-arid landscape mosaic, dried saline lake beds, woodlands with grassy undertones, sand dunes, and saltbush communities.

The Willandra Lakes Region is the site of several Pleistocene lakes that took its form over 2 million years ago. Today, these lakes have turned dry and are now replaced by crescent-shaped dunes. The Mungo National Park belongs to the property covered by this World Heritage Area. This park encompasses two-thirds of Lake Mungo and the Walls of China lunette. The rest of the area covered within the Willandra Lakes Region consists of the pastoral leasehold properties.

The ancient shorelines of the former lakes in the Willandra Lakes area have been stratified into three major layers. These sediments were deposited into the lake bed at various stages in the history of the lakes formation.

Cultural Significance

Willandra Lakes Region

Aside from its interesting landscape and dry lake formation, the Willandra Lakes Region also holds a cultural significance to the area. This is where indigenous people have settled in for more than 50,000 years. In 1968, there were excavations performed at the area and the cremated remains of the so-called “Mungo Lady” was discovered. Further studies revealed that the cremated remain is roughly 40,000 years old! It led scientists to hypothesize that the area is the oldest known site of ritual cremation. Six years later, the ochred burial of a male Aboriginal was discovered near where the “Mungo Lady” was excavated. This remain was called the “Mungo Man” and was also estimated to be about 40,000 years old.

Over the years, more studies and excavations were performed in the Willandra Lakes Region. By 2003, a total of 460 fossilized human footprints were uncovered in the nearby areas. These footprints span from a child to an adult footprint!

Life in Willandra Lakes Region

Aside from a rich history depicting former human settlement, the Willandra Lakes Region in New South Wales is also home to numerous plants and animals species. The vegetation is rather minimal due to the semi-arid landscape. However, there are undertones of grasses, herbs and small shrubs like the mallee eucalypts. There are also a variety of saltbush species that thrive within the region.

As for the fauna species, there are 22 species of mammals that have been recorded in the area. In addition to mammals, there are reptiles and amphibians that thrive in the Willandra Lakes Region. The bird life is also comparable to other similar landscapes in Australia with finches, parrots, and cockatoos among the recorded bird species.

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: Mar 30, 2017 @ 11:41 pm