Photo Essay – Paradise Bay, Antarctica

Paradise Bay was one of the last stops on the G Adventures tour I took to Antarctica in January. It is home to the Chilean González Videla Antarctic Base, which we visited as well as having some of the best photography I saw in all of Antarctica. I had a list of shots I wanted to get while I was in Antarctica and I was coming up empty on many of them before we arrived in Paradise Bay. There I was able to cross most of them from my wish list. It was absolutely the best location we had for viewing sea ice. I feel the need to note that the blue colors you see in many of the images was not manipulated. The blues were literally that deep in color.

Continue reading “Photo Essay – Paradise Bay, Antarctica”

UNESCO World Heritage Site #179: Cultural Landscape of Bali Province

UNESCO World Heritage Site #179: Cultural Landscape of Bali Province
UNESCO World Heritage Site #179: Cultural Landscape of Bali Province

From the World Heritage inscription:

Cultural Landscape of Bali: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophyforms acultural landscape of five rice terraces and their water temples that cover 19,500 hectares. The temples are the focus of a cooperative water management system of canals and weirs, known as subak, that dates back to the 9th century. Included in the landscape is the 18th-century Royal Temple of Pura Taman Ayun, the largest and most impressive architectural edifice of its type on the island. The subak reflects the philosophical concept of Tri Hita Karana, which brings together the realms of the spirit, the human world and nature. This philosophy was born of the cultural exchange between Bali and India over the past 2000 years and has shaped the landscape of Bali. The subak system of democratic and egalitarian farming practices has enabled the Balinese to become the most prolific rice growers in the archipelago despite the challenge of supporting a dense population.

I visited Bali in 2008 during my trip to Indonesia. It was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage site list in July 2012.

That Bali should be a World Heritage site is without question in my mind. What I don’t quite understand is what exactly is considered part of the heritage site and what isn’t. It seems clear that the rice terraces are included, but I’m not positive if it includes some of the larger temples.

Regardless, Bali is a very unique place in the world and should have been added to the list much earlier.


Cultural Landscape of Bali Province

The Cultural Landscape of Bali Province is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Indonesia inscribed into the list in 2012. This cultural site is focused around the Subak system that showcases the Tri Hita Karana philosophy of traditional farming. This site comprises five rice terraces and the water temples associated with these terraces to provide irrigation.

This UNESCO site is linked to a thousand year-old farming method that was innovated by the local farmers in the area. The irrigation system used by these farmers was ahead of the times.

About Cultural Landscape of Bali Province

Cultural Landscape of Bali Province

The Cultural Landscape of Bali Province was recognized by UNESCO as one of its World Heritage Sites for the cultural value and significance to the region. Specifically, it focuses on the efficient use of an irrigation system that supported numerous rice terraces. The water from the volcanic lakes, along with the rivers and other water systems are tapped through the irrigation system towards the rice fields. There are over 150 rivers and streams in Bali that are fully utilized to develop an efficient irrigation system.

In order to celebrate the cultural landscape of Bali province, the water temples are celebrated through a festival every 105 days. The 105 days also correspond to the same length of time that as the rice-growing season of Bali. This cycle is used by the people of Bali, especially the farmers, as guide to determine the efficient deployment of water to the rice terraces.

Tips for Visiting

Cultural Landscape of Bali Province

Want to experience the cultural landscape of Bali province? Use these tips as guide:

  • The best time of day to visit the rice terraces in Bali is in the morning or late afternoon. Most tourist buses will arrive at 10 AM; hence visiting there early or late will mean that you won’t have to deal with the crowd.
  • There are many accommodation options in Ubud if you want to stay longer and explore all of the rice terraces in the area.
  • Always bring water and sunscreen when exploring the rice terraces, especially when it is summer in Indonesia.
  • When exploring the rice terraces, some farmers or locals might ask for donation. You can support them as the funds will go towards developing paths and bridges that will make it easier for tourists to explore these sites.
  • If you aren’t going on a tour bus, there are several ways to get to the rice terraces in Bali. One of them is to rent a motorbike. You can also hire a taxi to get you there. This is the most convenient option but can also be one of the most expensive ones.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Indonesia.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau)

UNESCO World Heritage Site #178: Rock Islands Southern Lagoon
UNESCO World Heritage Site #178: Rock Islands Southern Lagoon

From the World Heritage inscription:

Rock Islands Southern Lagoon covers 100,200-hectare and numbers 445 uninhabited limestone islands of volcanic origin. Many of them display unique mushroom-like shapes in turquoise lagoons surrounded by coral reefs. The aesthetic beauty of the site is heightened by a complex reef system featuring over 385 coral species and different types of habitat. They sustain a large diversity of plants, birds and marine life including dugong and at least 13 shark species. The site harbors the highest concentration of marine lakes anywhere, isolated bodies of seawater separated from the ocean by land barriers. They are among the islands’ distinctive features and sustain high endemism of populations which continue to yield new species discoveries.

I visited the rock islands of Palau back in 2007. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list on July of 2012.

There are few places that were more deserving of World Heritage status than the rock islands of Palau. Despite being one fo the smallest countries in the world, the rock islands feature some of the most unique landscapes on the planet. It is home to my #1 ranked dive spot in the world and my #1 ranked travel experience (swimming with jellyfish).

Not shabby for a country with under 20,000 people!

My only real question is why this wasn’t listed as a World Heritage site earlier.


Rock Islands Southern Lagoon

The Rock Islands Southern Lagoon is located in Palau and is a mixed type UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was inscribed into the list in 2012. The UNESCO site is more commonly referred to as “The Rock Islands of Palau”. It is one of the top tourist attractions in Palau but the tourist visits to the area rose exponentially when it was named a UNESCO site as it garnered global attention.

The Southern Lagoon of Palau’s Rock Islands is located in between the islands of Peleliu and Koror. However, the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon is now an incorporated part of the state of Koror. This group of islands consist of about 445 islands.

About the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon

Rock Islands Southern Lagoon

The Rock Islands Southern Lagoon in Palau is a preserved marine landscape consisting of about more than 400 islands that are uninhabited. These islands are named as such for their iconic shape. The islands within this archipelago are formed out of volcanic origin. The abundant rainfall in these islands has resulted in the formation of diverse habitat in the area, along with the over 50 marine lakes.

Even though the islands that make up the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon are currently uninhabited, there have been records of settlement in some of these islands. In fact, archaeologists and explorers were able to unearth rock art, remains of island settlement, and cave burial sites among these islands in Palau. For this reason, there is a cultural value to the islands, on top of its rich natural landscape and marine life.

There are several notable islands among hundreds that make up the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon. The three largest islands are Ulong, Eil Malk, and Ngeruktabel. There are also several other notable islands that form this UNESCO site namely Bukrrairong, Ongael, Ngeteklou, Ngerukeuid, and Bablomekang, to name a few.

In addition to the record of human settlement, there is also a rich level of biodiversity among the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon. The large reef system on the islands serves as home to various marine species such as 13 species of sharks, 7 giant clam species, endemic nautilus and more than 700 species of fish. Dugongs are also highly seen among these islands. There is also rich diversity among the coral species as there are nearly 400 recorded species of them in the area.

Tourism and Preservation

Rock Islands Southern Lagoon

The tourism industry is one of the largest industries that support the development of the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon in Palau. It is a haven for water sports and activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, and kayaking. There are several notable dive spots in the area including German Channel, The Blue Corner, and Blue Holes. The Jellyfish Lake is its most popular attraction, though. This lake is home to two species of jellyfish: Moon and Golden Jellyfish. Since these two species are unable to sting, the lake is considered safe to swim in.

The rise in tourism activity within Rock Islands Southern Lagoon has given rise to potential threat to the integrity of the natural and cultural significance. The management and supervision of the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon is under the responsibility of the Koror State of Palau. They are the ones to ensure that any tourist activity in the area does not threaten or undermine the environmental regulations put in place on the islands and the archaeological ruins. Since the area is uninhabited, the only major threat to the islands comes from the rising sea levels.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

SGang Gwaay

UNESCO World Heritage Site #177: SGang Gwaay
SGang Gwaay: My 177th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for SGang Gwaay:

At the village of SGang Gwaay llnagaay (Nan Sdins) the remains of large cedar long houses, together with a number of carved mortuary and memorial poles, illustrate the art and way of life of the Haida. The site commemorates the living culture of the Haida, based on fishing and hunting, their relationship with the land and sea, and offers a visual key to their oral traditions. The village was occupied until shortly after 1880. What survives is unique in the world, a 19th century Haida village where the ruins of houses and memorial or mortuary poles illustrate the power and artistry of Haida society.

SGang Gwaay (pronounced Skung Gwhy) is easily one of the most difficult World Heritage sites I have ever visited. Getting there requires a trip to Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) and then a 4-day zodiac trip to get to the island and back.

SGang Gwaay is one of three abandoned Haida villages which are protected by Parks Canada and the Haida Watchmen program. The others include Skedans and Tanu.

While SGang Gwaay is the best preserved of the villages, there is still remarkably little left from when the village was abandoned in the late 19th Century. As is Haida tradition, the poles are being left to return to the earth. As such, every year there is less and less which is visible. The only efforts which are being taken in SGang Gwaay in terms of preservation are removing moss and plant growth from the poles, keeping the area around the poles clear and propping up some of them. Beyond that, nothing is being done to stop the decay of the wood.

In other villages such as Tanu, there is almost nothing left. Other than some moss covered logs on the ground which happen to be parallel, it would be hard to guess there was ever a human settlement there. Many of the poles in the other villages (which are not part of the UNESCO site) have been completely taken over by the root system of other trees.

The remaining poles in SGang Gwaay are all mortuary poles, wich served as tombs for high ranking Haidas. A box was literally put atop the pole where the corpse of a person was put. It is believed that this way they are close to the heavens. Other poles, such as house poles and memorial poles, have been taken down and placed in museums.

Because of the Haida policy of letting the poles and longhouses revert back to the Earth, there will probably be little to nothing left of SGang Gwaay in 20 years. The other villages have almost disappeared and what little remains will probably vanish even sooner. If you want to see this last remnant of original native Northwest Pacific village culture, you had better act quick.


SGang Gwaay

SGang Gwaay is a cultural site recognized by UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites in Canada. It was inscribed into the list in 1981 as a significantly archaeological and pre-Columbian site. With the naming of this site as a UNESCO protected area, it will hopefully aid in the preservation of an ancient Haida village located on the eastern part of Anthony Island. According to expert archaeologists, this village is important as it provides insight into the traditional First Nations village site in the Northwestern Coast of Canada.

In fact, when you visit SGang Gwaay today, you will still find many remains from the traditional village. These remains include cedar loghouses and totem poles.

About SGang Gwaay

SGang Gwaay

According to the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing, SGang Gwaay is an archipelago located on the western coast of British Columbia, Canada. This area showcases the culture of Haida in the region. There are several art remains like carved poles that remain in the area and are one of the best examples of this type of art and culture in the world.

The Haida community was one of the strongest communities in Canada during its heyday. However, this was a small and intimate community consisting of only about 300 people. Today, the only proofs of the small community’s existence are the loghouses and carved poles that are impressively preserved. Aside from the poles, there are also fragmented house frames, mortuary and memorial sites that have remained intact in the area.

Some of the carved poles that were recovered at the site protected within the SGang Gwaay UNESCO site were moved to a museum (there are about 15 of them). The process of moving these poles took place from the 1930s to the 1950s. Other aspects of the village had been overcome by nature and the elements. However, the 10 houses and 32 mortuary poles are preserved to serve as symbol of the power of the Haida community from the past.

It is believed that the Haida village and community, despite being small, thrived because they relied on both the sea and forest for resources. According to archaeologists, the people of Haida relied on salmon and shellfish as their staple diet. They also utilized the giant red cedars within the nearby forest to build canoes, totem poles, and plank houses. This society thrived for thousands of years until they disappeared; all that is left are the remains of the society’s source of living and the houses they built. This story of how the Haida people utilized their natural resources to build a settlement and their own little society is one of the reasons why UNESCO considered it of global significance.

Tips for Visiting SGang Gwaay

SGang Gwaay

If you are going to visit SGang Gwaay, here are some tips you need to keep in mind:

  • SGang Gwaay is extremely remote. You can only access it by air or sea.
  • Kayaking or the use of boats is not allowed in the bay right across the village. This helps to preserve the experience for the visitors to this UNESCO site.
  • This village is considered a sacred site by the Haida culture since many of the villagers and ancestors were buried on the site.
  • There are walking paths provided within the village. Make sure to stay on the path to avoid walking onto sacred sites.

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

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

Last updated: Sep 11, 2017 @ 6:40 am

8 Facts You Might Not Have Known About Haida Gwaii

Map of Haida GwaiiI’ve arrived in the islands of Haida Gwaii in the Canadian Pacific Northwest. It is an area which doesn’t get a lot of visitors and few people are familiar with. It is a shame, because it is one of the most special places in North America.

1) Haida Gwaii exists

If you’ve looked at a map of Canada or North America, you’ve probably seen it even if you didn’t know what it was. It is a triangular group of islands about 120km off the coast of the British Columbia mainland. If you think of the panhandle of Alaska as a handle of a dagger, Haida Gwaii would be the blade (and if you look at it on a map, it sort of looks like a knife blade!). The island group consists of two main islands (Moresby and Graham islands) and over 150 smaller islands. To get here you can fly from Vancouver or take a ferry from Prince Rupert, BC. Continue reading “8 Facts You Might Not Have Known About Haida Gwaii”