World Heritage: Nature

Click here for the background on my World Heritage Sites roundup.

Nature

14 sites

10

Grand Canyon National Park

Last visited: May 2, 2008

After a long day I stood at the edge of Grand Canyon’s Hoppi Point to wait for sunset. The color of the canyon was changing seemingly by the second. From dark orange to bright red then hazy purple, the dramatic color hues were a reflection to the sun’s position. Long after the sun descended below the horizon I stood still and remained in awe. Facing nature at its grandest, how else could I react?

Yellowstone National Park

Last visited: May 2, 2007

We travel to Yellowstone in late April. I would always trade some inconveniences if in return I could have the park all to myself.

The Midway Geyser Basin is, in my opinion, the best Yellowstone has to offer. It is relatively small, but the basin contains two of the largest features in the park – the 60m by 90m Excelsior Geyser and the Grand Prismatic Spring, with a diametre of 110m. The turquoise of the former and the fiery red of the latter are colours you would only expect in a chemical spill, and even after seeing countless hot springs in the park these two managed to put me in awe. Best yet – we were the only people at the basin and the tranquility we enjoyed was priceless.

9

Plitvice Lakes

Last visited: May 3, 2006

When Croatia is mentioned people usually think of the Dalmatian Coast, but it is a pity if anyone misses out on Plitvice Lakes when they are in the country.

The national park’s sixteen lakes form a system of cascade waterfalls; water flows into one lake onto the next one by a network of rivers and waterfalls. While the lakes and waterfalls at the upper level are relatively small, their counterparts at the Lower Lakes area are much larger. The trail system is particularly extensive in this area; some route to the base of waterfalls while others lead to the top of the cliffs.

Volcanoes National Park

Last visited: December 21, 2008

The attractions of the park are the constantly erupting Kilauea and the red lava that flow into the ocean through an extensive tube networks. It is not easy to photograph a wasteland like landscape. This volcano-dominated ecosystem, while not aesthetically pleasing at first glance, is as unique as anywhere else in the natural world.

Wadi Rum

Last visited: October 8, 2012

I love Wadi Rum. I am able to appreciate it only because I have given the amount of time it deserves, as limited as 24 hours might be.

With ample of time before dawn, I had the luxury this time around to trek around the campsite to compare the various foregrounds and angles. As the sky gradually brightened up, the colours of the desert returned with all their glory. The soft morning light brought out something different from the red sand. Where the fiery afternoon sun amplified the tone of the desert, the morning glow in contrast showcased its vastness and multi-layered characteristic.

8

Huangshan

Last visited: April 4, 2010

Two days, two completely different sides of Huangshan.

Covered in fog, I could barely see what’s in front of me on the first day. The only time the visibility was more than a few metres was in the late afternoon when I hiked down to the Xihai Grand Canyon. The iconic granite rocks and pine trees were right in front of me, under a swirling layer of light mist. My appreciation of the surrounding beauty was only enhanced by how fleeting it was, as the heavy fog reappeared a few minutes later.

The next day was sunny and cloudless. Huangshan under a clear blue sky was not as photogenic as it would be covered by a blanket of light mist, but I would gladly take it over the previous day’s damp weather.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Last visited: September 26, 2013

We were drawn to Uluru because it is one of the most recognizable natural landmark in the world. But to the local Aṉangu people Uluru is much more than an imposing piece of lifeless rock. This place is their cultural and spiritual home, the conspicuous setting of many of their myths and legends.

7

Great Barrier Reef

Last visited: October 4, 2013

My dives in the outer reef was disappointing. I had a much better experience flying over the reef. Even though the 25-minute helicopter ride only allowed us to fly slightly beyond the Green Island before returning to Cairns, we got a glimpse of this largest collection of living organisms on earth, visible even from outer space. From this vantage point the Great Barrier Reef captivated us with its overwhelming size while shielded its less-than-pristine reef under the turquoise water.

5

Danxia Shan

Last visited: August 21, 2010

Danxia Shan’s distinctive terrain does merit a visit, especially since it is relatively close to Hong Kong. Most noteworthy is Yuanyangshi (陽元石), loosely translated as the Rock of the Male Origin. Like the name suggested it is a giant piece of reddish sandstone that very much resembled the male sex organ. Many tourists seemed to believe the rock was not merely a natural coincidence, but in fact a mythical object that could grant mind-blowing reproductive abilities to those who worshiped it.

Glacier Bay National Park

Last visited: May 19, 2004

Hard to have a strong impression when I could merely sail past the park on a cruise ship. The highlight was Margerie Glacier. Although huge chunks of ice were breaking away from this 34-km long tide water glacier and into the ocean constantly, Margerie Glacier was not receding or thinning in size and volume.

4

Daintree National Park

Last visited: October 3, 2013

Daintree’s pristine rainforest and beaches might hold significant scientific and environmental values, but over my two weeks in Australia I have visited many similar or even better parks and beaches. Hoping to bump into a wild cassowary might be the only justification to make the trip to Daintree.

Fraser Island

Last visited: July 28, 2004

The world’s largest sand island with hundreds of kilometres of beaches. Unlike on many sand dunes, plant life is abundant due to the naturally occurring mycorrhizal fungi present in the sand, which release nutrients in a form that can be absorbed by the plants.

We joined a weekend tour from Brisbane. Over two days I visited a lake, a mangrove forest and the wreck of S.S. Maheno. I also flew over the island on a seaplane. The island has no paved road and is only accessible on 4WD, and my lasting memory of my time there was seeing an inexperienced driver getting stuck in the sand.

Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park

Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park

Last visited: July 27, 2008

At the tail end of a day trip to Sequim from Vancouver, I made a quick visit to the nearby Olympic. For a quick visit, the Hurricane Ridge trail is the only option. Olympic National Park is composed of three main ecosystems: the mountains, the coastline, and the rain forest. The premier attraction is the Hoh River Rain Forest at the west side of the park, but the Hurricane Ridge does not sound too bad an alternative, especially in summer time when wild flowers are supposed to be in full bloom along the trails.

As the name Hurricane Ridge would suggest, the gale is strong there, even in the heart of summer, and July turns out to be too early to see wild flowers. I did manage to see Mt. Olympus when the sky cleared up for a few seconds.

3

Yangshuo, South China Karst

Last visited: June 13, 2013

I thought I could chill out for a few days, yet I came away filled with frustration. Yangshuo has some scenic spots, but being one of the most popular tourist attraction in China means this place exhibits the very worst of tourism in the country. The tourist infrastructure is poor and completely inadequate to handle such massive amount of visitors. Traveling to Yangshuo requires ample of preparation, especially mentally, because Yangshuo is the place to go if you want an upclose look at the impact of domestic tourism in China.

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