World Heritage Errata

Here are a few other lists I’ve compiled from the first 50 World Heritage Sites I’ve visited on my trip:

Most Disappointing

1) Royal Exhibition Building – Australia

Nice, but not that nice.
Nice, but not that nice.
Why this place is a world heritage site is beyond me. Having met people involved with UNESCO, much of what goes into making the list has to do with politics and putting together a good presentation. This really benefits rich western countries. The Royal Exhibition Building is an old building. The end. There are any number of buildings its age around the world, and even in Australia probably, which are as impressive. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice building, but it isn’t THAT nice.

2) Sangiran Early Man – Indonesia
Sangiran is the location of where the fossils of Java man was found. Many other fossils have been found in the area as well, making it a valuable resource for paleontologists. There was really nothing to see here, however. There is only a museum, and a poor one at that. You can’t see any of the actual humanoid fossils. You can’t visit a dig site. I recently visited the Ban Chiang site in Thailand which is also an archeological site, and at least it had a very nice museum.

3) Sydney Opera House – Australia

I think Australia is very good at writing proposals for World Heritage Sites
I think Australia is very good at writing proposals for World Heritage Sites
The Sydney Opera House is an iconic building, but there are lots of iconic buildings which are not on the World Heritage list. I think there should be some sort of age test for a property. If the Sydney Opera House can make it, why not other iconic new buildings like Skydome in Toronto or the Bird’s Nest in Beijing? The Opera House isn’t even that impressive as you get up close. The Harbor Bridge is more deserving than the Opera House. The tile on the building looks like the teeth of someone who has been smoking two packs a day for 20 years.

4) My Son Sanctuary – Vietnam
The Vietnamese have done well with what they have to work with, which isn’t much. My Son is like one of the minor outer temples in the Angkor complex which doesn’t get much tourist traffic. The site itself isn’t very big. Moreover, the condition of the temples is pretty bad as they have been around a lot longer. The ruins are truly ruined. That being said, the visitor center at My Son is nicer than anything you’ll see in Angkor, but that doesn’t change facts of the case.

5) Great Barrier Reef – Australia

The only way to really appreciate the reef is from the air. Preferably from space.
The only way to really appreciate the reef is from the air. Preferably from space.
How could I possibly put the Great Barrier Reef on this list??? The “greatness” of the reef can only be appreciated by looking at a map or from satellite photos. If you are on the coast of Queensland, you’d never know there was a reef because you can’t see it from land. It is an hour boat ride away (at least), and once you are there, it really isn’t different than most other reefs, and you can only appreciate and see the small part of it which is immediately around you. You can get a better reef experience in the Pacific where the reef is very close to the shore and there is a definite lagoon area. The Great Barrier Reef is much more interesting in theory than as a tourist destination. While it gets a lot of tourists because it is in Australia, I wouldn’t put it in the top diving locations I’ve been to. I’m not saying the Great Barrier Reef shouldn’t be a World Heritage Site, only that really isn’t much to see first hand.

The ones I didn’t get to but wish I did

1) Lord Howe Island – Australia
The southernmost coral reef in the world and one of the favorite spots on Earth of the world’s most traveled man, Charles Veley. The photos I’ve seen of the place make me want to go there. It looks stunning. I also hope this show I’m not being too hard on Australia.

2) Komodo – Indonesia
Komodo dragons in the wild. C’mon.

3) Ujung Kulon National Park – Indonesia
This the location of Krakatoa which erupted in the 19th century. It was the largest volcanic explosion in recorded human history.

4) Shiretoko – Japan
Shiretoko is a peninsula on the tip of northern Hokkaido in Japan. It was December when I left Japan and the temperature was already cold in Hokkaido. I’d love to come back in the summer and visit.

5) Haeinsa Temple – South Korea
I also skipped this due to the cold snap in South Korea when i was there. Haeinsa Temple has a program where you can stay overnight with the monks. The temple itself is the home to some of the oldest Buddhist writings in the world.

Ones I wish I had spent more time at

1) Tongariro National Park – New Zealand
My stay in New Zealand was somewhat hurried because I had to book tickets out of the country before I got there. I would like to have gone hiking in the area.

2) Kinabalu National Park- Malaysia
Hiking to the summit of Kinabalu is doable for anyone in reasonable health. It is usually a two-day trip and you time it so you are at the peak at sunrise. Weather conditions on the mountain prevented me from making the attempt.

3) Shark Bay – Australia
I had spent a good amount of time and money in Exmouth diving and swimming with the whale sharks. Had not been so burned out from weeks of driving across Western Australia, I might have spent more time here. I did get to spend quality time with the stromatolites at least.

Places which should be World Heritage sites but aren’t

1) Nan Modal – Federated States of Micronesia

More people should know about Nan Modal
More people should know about Nan Modal
This site is on a par with Easter Island in my mind, yet it isn’t even one of the proposed sites on the Micronesia list. I think the property is privately owned, but I’m not positive. Nan Modal is reason enough to visit Micronesia, and there are a lot of other reasons. I always talk up Micronesia when people ask for suggestions for where to travel. It isn’t easy to get there from anywhere, but it is well worth the trip. This is an easy #1 in my mind.

2) Rock Islands/Jellyfish Lakes – Palau
The lagoon area around Koror is one of the most unique aquatic environments on Earth. The jellyfish lakes are one of a kind. Why this isn’t a World Heritage site is beyond me. If it were, it might have been #1 on my list of natural attractions. It is just that good. I highly recommend travel to Palau.

3) Temples of Bali – Indonesia
I bet most people assume that Bali would be on the list. It isn’t. If the list is about identifying and trying to protect important cultural sites, the Balinese culture is one of the most unique on Earth.

4) Gregory National Park – Australia
Home to Australian boab trees, it was a place that I was surprised to discover when I drove through it from Darwin to Purnululu.

5) Victoria Harbor – Hong Kong
The harbor of Hong Kong is more impressive than Sydney. I’d lump Victoria Peak on here and some of the classic buildings of the area. The feeling I had watching sunset on the harbor and watching the lights of Hong Kong turn on is one of my most memorable.

6) Blowholes of Savai’i – Samoa

You haven't lived till you've seen a man throw a coconut into a hole and then watch nature toss that coconut 100 feet into the air.
You haven't lived till you've seen a man throw a coconut into a hole and then watch nature toss that coconut 100 feet into the air.
Watching the blowholes on Savai’i was like watching the fountains of the Bellagio on steroids. An awesome display of nature and one of the most impressive and fun things I’ve seen during my travels. It isn’t even promoted as heavily in Samoa as some other attractions. I don’t think the Samoans are even considering this for inclusion. Tonga also has some impressive blowholes, but not quite as cool as Samoa. It is a trick even finding the blowholes. There is little in the way of signs or facilities when you get there. It is worth the trip if you are ever in Samoa.

7) Hawaiian Cultural Sites of the Big Island
There are three different locations in the National Park Service on the Big Island which celebrate Hawaiian culture. I think they should all be included as a unit. The only site dedicated to Pacific culture is Easter Island, and that really is more about the maoi than anything else.

8) City of Napier – New Zealand
Several cities I’ve visited have been given World Heritage status for the whole town. Napier is an art deco town, and I don’t think there are many of those in the world.

East Rennell

East Rennell: UNESCO World Heritage Site
East Rennell: UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription:

East Rennell makes up the southern third of Rennell Island, the southernmost island in the Solomon Island group in the western Pacific. Rennell, 86 km long x 15 km wide, is the largest raised coral atoll in the world. The site includes approximately 37,000 ha and a marine area extending 3 nautical miles to sea. A major feature of the island is Lake Tegano, which was the former lagoon on the atoll. The lake, the largest in the insular Pacific (15,500 ha), is brackish and contains many rugged limestone islands and endemic species. Rennell is mostly covered with dense forest, with a canopy averaging 20 m in height. Combined with the strong climatic effects of frequent cyclones, the site is a true natural laboratory for scientific study. The site is under customary land ownership and management.

East Rennell

The photo above is that of Lake Lake Te Nggano on the island of Rennell in the Solomon Islands. The lake is a brackish water lake which is about 100m above sea level. The lake is home to the widest diversity of birds in the Pacific. The World Heritage Site is unique for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is the only location which is owned by customary land ownership. The people of Rennell are Polynesian, where as the rest of the Solomons are Melanesian. The remoteness of the island, coupled with the 100m cliffs surrounding the island, and the customary land ownership has protected the island from logging and mining, whereas the rest of the Solomons has been severely deforested.

The large version of the panorama is an enormous photo, so it might take some time to load.

My trip to Rennell was one of the most memorable of my trip, if only for the difficulty and remoteness of the island. You can read my three part report on Rennell here: part 1, part 2, part 3.

Where is East Rennell Located?

East Rennell is located in the southern part of Solomon Islands’ Rennell Island. It is also the southernmost island in the Western Pacific. The entire property covered within this UNESCO listing is estimated to be about 37,000 hectares.

In order to get to East Rennell, you need to take a flight from Honiara to Rennell Island. From there, you have to drive through a rugged road that date back to World War II. It is one of the most difficult to visit World Heritage Sites listed by UNESCO. There are several villages that surround the lake and most of the island. The villagers use power boat as a means of transport and for fishing. The villagers lead a relatively remote and simple life.

How to Get to East Rennell

The only real way to get to the island of Rennell are flights on Solomon Airlines which fly from the capital of Honiara a few times a week. Once you are on Rennell, you have to travel by land to Lake Te Nggano. While only 20 miles, this part of the trip can be incredibly long. It is also the most expensive part of the trip, as getting cars and fuel on the island can be very expensive. Once you reach the lake you have to take a boat to one of the lodges which are on the other side of the lake. Expect the trip to take the better part of an entire day.

Natural Value of East Rennell

East Rennell

The World Heritage property of East Rennell comprises a third of the Rennell Island’s southernmost part and includes up to 3 km of marine area located offshore. Lake Tegano is one of the primary features of this property. It was the former lagoon of the atoll and is the largest lake in the Pacific region. The brackish water is a notable feature of the lake along with the rugged limestone islets that surround it.

The ecological and biological processes in East Rennell combine to offer it natural value enough to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, it is the site of frequent cyclones and other similar climactic conditions making it the perfect place to study the effects of the climate on an island.

Finally, East Rennell is notable for providing a natural habitat for a high number of endemic avifauna species. There are also 10 endemic plant species in the island.

Threat to East Rennell

East Rennell

East Rennell is included among the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger. The threat of logging in Rennell Island continues to deplete the outstanding natural value of the island and its surrounding features.

Prior to the logging problems in East Rennell, the authorities have been able to curtail mining and commercial fishing, which also posed a huge threat to the integrity of this UNESCO site. The logging continues to be an issue and it could threaten the long-term survival of the endemic bird and other wildlife species that inhabit the ecosystem and forests in East Rennell and all of Rennell Island.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Solomon Islands.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Last updated: Jul 28, 2017 @ 10:57 am