UNESCO World Heritage Site #253: Pitons Management Area

UNESCO World Heritage Site #253: Pitons Management Area
UNESCO World Heritage Site #253: Pitons Management Area

From the World Heritage inscription:

Dominating the mountainous landscape of St Lucia are the Pitons, two steep-sided volcanic spires rising side by side from the sea. Gros Piton (770 m) is 3 km in diameter at its base, and Petit Piton (743 m) is 1 km in diameter and linked to the former by the Piton Mitan ridge.

The Pitons are part of a volcanic complex, known to geologists as the Soufriere Volcanic Centre which is the remnant of one (or more) huge collapsed stratovolcano. The volcanic complex overlies a tectonic plate subduction (underthrusting) zone which stretches 700 km along Lesser Antilles, forming a volcanic arc.

The Pitons are the eroded cores of two lava domes formed on the flanks of the stratovolcano. Today they tower above a caldera-like formation, produced by a gigantic gravity slide or structural collapse which formed the Qualibou Depression, 7 km in diameter. Near the centre of the depression are the Sulphur Springs, an active, high temperature geothermal field with sulphurous fumaroles and hot springs. The Pitons occur with a variety of other volcanic features including cumulo-domes, explosion craters, pyroclastic deposits (pumice and ash) and lava flows. Collectively, these fully illustrate the volcanic history of an andesitic composite volcano associated with crustal plate subduction.

The Marine Management Area is a coastal strip 11 km long and about 1 km wide. It comprises a steeply sloping continental shelf with fringing and patch reefs, boulders and sandy plains. The coral reefs, which cover almost 60% of the marine area, are healthy and diverse. A survey to a depth of 20 m revealed 168 species of finfish, 60 species of cnidaria, including corals, molluscs, sponges, echinoderms, arthropods and annelid worms. Hawksbill turtles are seen inshore, and whale sharks and pilot whales offshore.

Pitons Management Area

The Pitons might very well be the most awe inspiring view in the entire Caribbean. The peaks are so important to the identity of St. Lucia that they appear on the national flag, the most popular beer in the country is named after it, and it appears on almost every souvenir you can buy on the island.

It is situated above the town of Soufrière in the south-west corner of the island. It is probably the most popular attraction on the island and there are many day tours which visit the area. It is also a popular destination for people visiting for the day on a cruise.


Pitons Management Area

The Pitons Management Area is a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site in St. Lucia. It was inscribed in 2004 and consists of two lava domes or volcanic plugs. Not only is this site one of the most recognizable tourist attractions in St. Lucia, it is also known widely for its volcanic history and aesthetic qualities.

The Pitons Management Area is where you will find and relish at the view of two lava domes: Gros Piton and Petit Piton. This area is also known as a great starting point for any explorations in this island nation.

About the Pitons Management Area

Pitons Management Area

The Pitons Management Area is located in the island of St. Lucia. The UNESCO site is specifically located 3.3 miles south of downtown Soufriere. The entire protected area covers a total land area of about 2,909 hectares. The highlight of this protected area by UNESCO is the two mountains that seem to overlook the entire island. The first one is Gros Piton, which is at 770 meters high. The second one is Petit Piton, which measures at 743 meters high. These two lava domes are linked via the Piton Mitan ridge.

The Pitons are not technically volcanoes. However, they do exhibit volcanic features such as hot springs, explosion craters, the deposits of pumice and ash, lava flows, and sulphurous fumeroles. Due to the volcanic activity within the area, there are also several other notable attractions within or near the World Heritage Site. For example, the Sulphur Springs Park is located within the first 2 miles from the Pitons Management Area. Other notable attractions that offer a wide range of other activities include Fond Doux Holiday Plantation and Tet Paul Nature Trail.

The volcanic complex within Pitons Management Area consists of a geothermal field made up of hot springs and sulphurous fumeroles. There is also a nearby marine area, which is made up of about 60% coral reefs. During the study in the area, it was determined that there are about 168 finfish species, 60 cnidaria species, 15 anthropods, 14 sponges, and 11 echinoderms, to name a few.

Pitons Management Area

When it comes to the terrestrial vegetation, the Pitons Management Area is also known for its diversity. The landscape in the area consists mostly of tropical moist forest to subtropical wet forest. The summit area is filled with wet elfin woodland and some areas are filled with dry forest. Hence, the type of topographical feature will vary according to where you are at the site.

Finally, there are over 27 bird species (5 of these are endemic), 8 reptiles, and 3 amphibians that inhabit the Pitons Management Area. Hence, it serves as a natural habitat for both flora and fauna species.

Visit my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in St. Lucia.

Visit my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Morne Trois Pitons National Park

UNESCO World Heritage Site #252: Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica

From the World Heritage inscription:

Morne Trois Pitons is located 13 km east of the town of Roseau in the highlands of south-central Dominica and it is the basaltic spike-like remains of a former volcano rising to approximately 1,300 m, within 8 km of the sea.

The landscape is characterized by volcanic piles with precipitous slopes, and deeply incised valleys (glacis slopes). There is also a fumarole known as Valley of Desolation (or Grand Soufriere), with fumaroles, hot springs, mud pots, sulfur vents and the Boiling Lake, which is the world’s second largest of its kind. The valley is a large amphitheater surrounded by mountains and consisting of at least three separate craters where steam vents, small ponds, and hot springs bubble up through the ground. Boiling Lake is surrounded by cliffs and is almost always covered by clouds of steam. The Valley of Desolation drains into the Pointe Mulatre River, which flows into the Atlantic.

Other outstanding features in the area include the Emerald Pool, fed by the Middleham Falls; Stinking Hole, a lava tube in the middle of the forest; and the Boeri and Freshwater lakes. The Freshwater Lake is the largest and second deepest of Dominica’s four freshwater lakes. The Boeri Lake is the second largest in Dominica and is located in the crater of an extinct volcano. Both lakes are separated from each other by Morne Macaque (1,221 m) and vary in depth with the season. Both are thought to have originated some 25,000-30,000 years ago. The park also encompasses almost all the headwaters of the streams and rivers in the southern half of the island.

Morne Trois Pitons National Park

Morne Trois Pitons National Park is the jewel of an island which itself might be the jewel of the Caribbean.

Dominica is a wild island that is still volcanically active. There are few beaches on the island, but the lack of beaches are made up for by 365 rivers, many mountains, the world second largest boiling lake and stunning lush scenery. Many parts of the part are only accessible by hiking. Some spots, like the boiling lake, require a full days hike to get there and back.

The waterfall in the photo is Upper Trafalgar falls which is right next to Lower Trafalgar falls. Despite being right next to each other, the falls from rivers with completely different sources.

Dominica is the least visited country in the Western Hemisphere because the airport cannot handle large airplanes, but that shouldn’t deter you from visiting. It is unlike any other island in the Caribbean.


Morne Trois Pitons National Park

The Morne Trois Pitons National Park is a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Dominica. It was inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1997 during the 21st session. This UNESCO site was established as a park in 1975 and spans a total of 17,000 acres in land area. This park covers the 4,672 feet-high three-peaked dormant volcano, Morne Trois Pitons, to which the park was named after. There are also several other volcanoes that are located within the park premises such as Morne Watt, Morne Anglais, and Morne Micotrin.

Aside from its recognition as a UNESCO site, the Morne Trois Pitons National Park was also the first park to be established in the country.

About Morne Trois Pitons National Park

Morne Trois Pitons National Park

The Morne Trois Pitons National Park is an area known for its significant volcanic activity. The fact that the highest mountain in Dominica is located here, and there are a few others volcanoes too, can explain that. The volcanic activity within and near the park premises has also resulted in several amazing natural formations and phenomena. Aside from the Morne Trois Pitons volcano, the Valley of Desolation is one of the highlights of the park. This valley serves as a region consisting of small geysers and boiling mud ponds.

Aside from the Valley of Desolation, there are several other unique features in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park. They are as follows:

Boiling Lake

Morne Trois Pitons National Park

The Boiling Lake is part of the UNESCO site Morne Trois Pitons National Park. It is a flooded fumarole that is made up of bubbling greyish blue water that is covered by a cloud of vapor. The lake itself measures around 200-250 feet across. The lake was initially discovered in 1870 and has since been closely studied as an important geological feature in the area. The lake sits on a sinkhole-like basin and is surrounded by high rock walls.

Titou Gorge

Titou Gorge is another important feature within the Morne Trois Pitons National Park. The term literally translates to “Little Throat”. This feature was formed due to volcanic lava flooding this area and splitting it open to form a natural cave. Beneath the gorge, there is a swimming area, which is like a natural pool.

Emerald Pool

Morne Trois Pitons National Park

The Emerald Pool in Morne Trois Pitons National Park is part of a nature trail. This pool is located at the base of the pool within the park, which is one of the most photographed parts of the park. This is a 40-feet waterfall grotto and is accessible after about half-hour hike.

Visit my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Dominica.

Visit my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

When One Ecosystem Isn’t Enough – The Montreal Biodome

A lot of Montreal’s charm lies in the outdoors.  It is a green city, and perfect for outdoor adventure if you are visiting in the summer.  But if you visit in the winter, or there is rain in the forecast, it is smart to have an inclement weather plan.  The Biodome is perfect for this.  It is completely indoors, so it should be near the top of your bad weather destination list.

Even if you are visiting Montreal in beautiful, summer weather you should consider checking out the Biodome.  This is especially true if your family has an interest in science and animals.  It is impossible to visit without learning something new, and there wasn’t a child present that didn’t have a smile on their face.

Guide at the Montreal Biodome

The Montreal Biodome contains five ecosystems – tropical forest, Laurentian maple forest, St. Lawrence Marine, the Labrador Coast and Sub-Antarctic Islands.  Each ecosystem has been meticulously developed to showcase how you would encounter it if you were visiting it out in the world.  The ecosystems are stocked with small animals that make that ecosystem their home.

With the focus on the ecosystem, it makes the learning experience different than what you expect from a zoo trip.  The animals are there, but you can truly learn about how they interact with their environment in the wild.

Montreal Biodome vs Biosphere

It might not be confusing in French, but it is in English.  The Montreal Biodome is not what you would consider a dome – and the dome that is a very visible part of the Montreal landscape is actually the BioSPHERE.  The Biosphere is an environmental museum that has various green exhibits.  See?  It is massively confusing.  To help clear it up, I have this illustration for you :

>montreal biodome vs biosphere

The Biodome is not visible from far away like the Biosphere.  The location is easy to see from afar, however.  It is located right underneath the Olympic Stadium.

So now that you are in the right place, what can you expect to find?

The Montreal Biodome Ecosystems

  • Tropical Forest – The Biodome’s Tropical Rainforest is modeled after the Amazon rainforest and is its largest ecosystem.  An indoor stream cuts through the exhibit and creates a lush valley and a marshland to observe.  There are a diverse selection of animals.  Among the hundreds of animals in this ecosystem, you can find piranhas, caimans, sloths, anaconda snakes, and a multitude of birds in this section.
  • Laurentian Maple Forest – A reproduction of a Quebec forest, this was my favorite exhibit.  I love to learn about the ecology of the place I am visiting, and this was the best place to do it within the borders of Montreal.  Just like in the rest of Quebec, the temperatures change along with the seasons, and you can see the changes in the vegetation as the year progresses.  You follow a mountain stream through a birch/maple forest and view a beaver dam and the changes that they make in the environment.  Lots of amphibians and birds inhabit this area, along with otters, beavers, porcupines and lynx.
  • St Lawrence Marine Ecosystem – A true underwater observatory, this area allows you to view hundreds of fish within twenty species.  Don’t forget to look up!  There are birds flying about!  This area doesn’t change as much as the maple forest does as the seasons’ change, but you can see subtle differences and feel a slight change in temperature.
  • The Labrador Coast – Steep, ice-covered cliffs that contain the cutest species of all birds – the puffin.  I know there were other birds hanging out with them, but when puffins are around, I only have eyes for them.   The climate stays relatively constant here, despite the time of year.
  • The Sub-Antarctic Islands – I’ve got one word for you – PENGUINS.  Four different species of penguin (Gentoo, King, Macaroni, and Rockhopper) live in this small ecosystem, and they are fascinating to watch.  They interact with each other, swim, jump into the water… all the things you expect from penguins.  They also smell pretty awful, which is also to be expected.  I could have spent an hour in here, just chilling with the penguins.

Parrots in the Rainforest ecosystem in the Montreal Biodome

Getting to the Montreal Biodome

The easiest way to get to the Biodome is to take the subway.  The Viau station is where you want to get off.  It is easy to see the area where the Biodome is located because it is directly underneath the very distinctive Olympic Stadium.

View Larger Map

Resources : Montreal Biodome Website – this website has detailed information on the plants and animals in the Biodome.  A great place to follow up with your kids to learn even more about what you saw during your visit.

I was a guest of the city of Montreal during my visit to the Biodome.

Behind the Lens – Jellyfish Lake in Palau

jellyfish lake palau

One of the most incredible things I’ve ever done is gone swimming with jellyfish in Palau.

Palau is a small island country of approximately 20,000 people in the Pacific Ocean, east of the Philippines and north of Indonesia. It is also home to, what I believe, is the greatest diving in the world.

The most unique feature of Palau however, doesn’t require any SCUBA gear to experience: the jellyfish lake.
Continue reading “Behind the Lens – Jellyfish Lake in Palau”

UNESCO World Heritage Site #251: Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

UNESCO World Heritage Site #251: Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park
UNESCO World Heritage Site #251: Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Brimstone Hill Fortress is of historical, cultural and architectural significance, a monument to the ingenuity of the British military engineers who designed it and supervised its construction and to the skill, strength and endurance of the African slaves who built and maintained it. In some of its architectural features, notably the Citadel, are expressed elements of different stages of fortress design; ?it is an embodiment of European imperialism, and the emergence of a distinctive Caribbean culture. It is indicative of the competition for power and wealth at a crucial stage in world history, and it provides a medium by and through which the geology, ecology and history of the Caribbean can be understood. As managed by a competent local organization on behalf of the people of a young nation, the majority of whose citizens are descended from former slaves, it is a symbol of a colonized African people and of the integrity of Caribbean culture, and as such it can be an inspiration to other young nations in a post-colonial era.

Known as Liamuiga (Fertile Island) to the native Amerindians, Saint Kitts was the first Caribbean island to be permanently settled by both the English (in 1623) and the French (1625), who shared it between 1627 and 1713, when it came under sole English control through the Treaty of Utrecht. Known as the ‘Mother Island’, it provided the model and springboard for English and French colonization in the Caribbean. African slaves were brought in from the earliest years of European settlement, and it was on Saint Kitts and the other early colonies that the plantation system, based on sugar production and slavery, had its roots.

Because of its reconstructed and very formidable defenses, Saint Kitts became known as the ‘Gibraltar of the Caribbean’. It successfully drove off an attack by the French Navy in 1806. From that time onwards the British Navy was able to ensure the security of its island colonies in the Caribbean. The fortress was abandoned as a result of British defense cuts in 1853. The wooden buildings were auctioned and dismantled and masonry buildings were plundered for their cut stone; natural vegetation progressively took over.

Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

The Brimstone Hill Fortress is the only world heritage site in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. The island of St. Kitt’s (aka St. Christopher) was the home of the first English and first French colony in the Caribbean. Few original wooden buildings in the Caribbean remain. The stone structures of fortresses and some warehouses are all that remain of the former colonial past.

The fortress is far and away the best preserved historical site I’ve seen in the Lesser Antille, with only St. Eustatius coming close (and they should probably be a world heritage site also).

If you visit St. Kitts, the fortress will undoubtedly be on any tour you take as it is the touristic and historic highlight of the island.

If you are visiting from a hotel or resort, look into taking an organized day trip instead of renting a car. Gas on the island is very expensive and there is a $25 temporary drivers license that they charge on top of any car rental, which makes anything less than $75/day for a car impossible. You can easily book a day trip for half that amount that will visit the fortress.


Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Saint Kitts. It was inscribed in 1999 and is a well-preserved fortress located atop a hill in the island of St. Kitts. The national park itself was established in 1987. The fortress was designed by British military engineers but it was built and maintained by the African slaves.

Aside from the cultural significance of the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, it is one of the best preserved historical forts in the Americas. The park is named after the Brimstone Hill, to which the fort is built on.

About Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

Even though Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park is a cultural site, it is also known for its historical and architectural value. During its heyday, the Brimstone Hill was called “the Gibraltar of the West Indies” due to its imposing height. During the late 18th century, a siege was held by the French troops at the fort. This siege prompted the nearby island of Nevis to surrender. Hence, all of the guns and supplies were brought to St. Kitts to be used against Brimstone Hill. After a month of siege, the British garrison was forced to surrender too. The Treaty of Paris was enacted a year later that returned control of Brimstone Hill and the St. Kitts island back to British rule.

Due to the siege, the British decided to augment the fort to do a better job at protecting the island from invaders. The island is settled by the French and English, which became the ticket to colonialism in the Caribbean Islands. This made the wealth of the Caribbean Islands more prominent during this era, which also made it worth defending.

The Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park is a park established around the Brimstone Hill Fortress. It is also notable for its use of the “polygonal system”, which is a unique style of fortification. The hill is 800 feet with steep slopes. Meanwhile, the wall of the fortress is made mostly out of stone that are fashioned from hard volcanic rock.

Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

There are several components to the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park. Each of these structures forms a significant portion of the entire complex. The first of them is the Prince of Wales Bastion, which is where the Main Guard Barracks, Brigade Office, and the Powder Magazine is located. Today, it is open to be used as a social facility such as public functions and weddings. Another important feature in the ruin is the Barrier Redan. This is where four cannons are mounted to protect the road and nearby structures.

There are other notable features within the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park. These features include the Artillery Officers’ Barracks, Visitor Center, Fort Charlotte, and the Citadel. The Citadel is the most important feature and is where you will find the Fort George Museum.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in St. Kitts.

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

Behind the Lens – The Milky Way over La Palma, Canary Islands

astrophotography la palma canary islands

I am not an expert in Astrophotography. Nonetheless, I had the chance to try my hand at it when I was on the island of La Palma back in 2011.

La Palma, along with Mauna Kea in Hawaii, is one of the most important locations for professional astronomy in the world. It is the location of the world’s largest single mirror telescope as well as many other high end devices. The reason why La Palma is such a great place to do astronomy is because the top of the mountain there is almost always above the clouds which means there a large number of nights each year where you can see the heavens.

I had the opportunity while I was on La Palma to go out one night and shoot the stars with my camera with a local amateur astronomer. I jumped at the chance. Continue reading “Behind the Lens – The Milky Way over La Palma, Canary Islands”