Blog Connections

Dependent Territories

When this blog post is published, I have just arrived in Curacao. Curacao is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands at the same level as the Netherlands, Aruba and Sint Maarten. It has its own currency, the Netherlands Antillean guilder. It’s a 10 hour flight from Amsterdam. Flights depart Schiphol from the non-Schengen zone. You have to show your passport to enter and to leave. However, when the Dutch Prime Minister adviced against all non-essential travel abroad during the 2nd wave of Covid, the Dutch Caribbean including Curacao was notably exempted as it was considered domestic travel.

Curacao’s only WHS, Willemstad, is included in the total Dutch count as well. It got me thinking about the odd positions of other WHS in Dependent territories. Of course we have a connection for them already!

What is a Dependent territory?

Wiki defines a Dependent territory as “a territory that does not possess full political independence or sovereignty as a sovereign state, yet remains politically outside the controlling state's integral area.” 

Characteristics to look for include:

  • a great degree of autonomy from its controlling state (for example having their own parliament)
  • often former colonies
  • having their own ISO 3166 country code

Which countries do have WHS in their dependent territories?

Denmark has Greenland with 3 WHS. Greenland has far-reaching self-rule, which may eventually lead towards full independence from Denmark.

Australia has Heard Island and Norfolk Island with a WHS each. They are both external territories. Norfolk Island has a colonial history but recently seems to be on the road to closer association with Australia. Heard Island has no permanent population but does have its own country code.

France has 3 WHS in its dependent territories. The French Southern Territories (French Austral Lands and Seas) is an Overseas Territory, French Polynesia (Taputapuātea) an Overseas Collecitivity and New Caledonia has a status all of its own. Reunion on the other hand is an overseas department (part of the eurozone, voting for the French parliament) and is not considered a dependent territory (although it has its own country code).

The UK has WHS in the 4 British Overseas Territories of Gibraltar, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, The Pitcairn Islands and Bermuda. 

The USA has a WHS in both the unincorporated territories of Puerto Rico (La Fortaleza) and the United States Minor Outlying Islands (Midway Island in Papahanaumokuakea).

We can also add Macau, which is a Special Administrative Region of China. They “greatly differ from mainland China in administrative, economic, legislative and judicial terms, including by currency, left-hand versus right-hand traffic, official languages and immigration control.”

A few special cases

In our original connection we also listed Jeju, Rapa Nui and the Sub-Antarctic Islands. These have a lesser degree of autonomy than the territories mentioned above and do not have their own country code:

  • Jeju is “is the only self-governing province in South Korea, meaning that the province is run by local natives instead of politicians from the mainland”. They are represented by 3 constituencies in the National Assembly of South Korea.
  • Rapa Nui is a “special territory of Chile”. Administratively however it is governed as a province of a mainland region. It has little autonomy and only a few distinct legislations(*). 
  • The Sub-Antarctic islands are part of the the New Zealand outlying islands. "Although considered as integral parts of New Zealand, seven of the nine island groups are not part of any region or district, but are instead designated as Area Outside Territorial Authority.” As they are unpopulated, they lack their own government or country code.

I am considering delisting these 3 cases from the connection, but would like to hear your voices on this subject first in the comments section below. And if we allow (some of) them, shall we then also add Reunion?

Els - 29 November 2020

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Wojciech 29 November 2020

Territories without permanent population should be delisted if they don't belong to other dependent territory. Dependency without people makes no sense. So Gough should be kept, Heard, French Lands etc. deleted.

Jay T 29 November 2020

Welcome to the Western Hemisphere! Hope you enjoy your time in the Caribbean. I don’t have strong opinions about Jeju, but I have thoughts on the other two sites. Rapa Nui is a province of Chile, and that seems counter to the definition of a dependent territory; I’d be fine delisting it. As for New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands, I think they should stay based on their sponsorship by New Zealand; they seem to me in a similar position to the islands making up Papahānaumokuākea in the US.

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Unreviewed TWHS: Hirkan Forests

During the past week Azerbaijan has replaced its TWHS “Hyrcanian State Reserve”, dating from 1998, with “Hirkan Forests”. This revision follows the change in the national park structure that happened in 2004 and a further enlargement of the protected area in 2008. Though it may seem like a minor administrative adjustment, a change like this usually indicates an upcoming official nomination of the site. In this case it would be an extension to the Iranian Hyrcanian Forests WHS from 2019. The new Azeri TWHS is known for its ancient, deciduous mixed broad-leaved forests - in normal language that means: trees that shed their flat, usually veined, leaves. It comprises 3 locations.

A similar, but smaller site was nominated for inclusion in the WH List already in 2006 as “Hirkan Forests of Azerbaijan”. It was Deferred at the time with the option to renominate it as part of a transnational serial property with other Hirkanian forest areas in Iran.

When I re-read that IUCN evaluation now, I see no strong argument to either include or reject it. The forests are said to be of equal importance to sites known for vascular plant diversity already on the List, such as the Great Smoky Mountains. The Azeri site’s size is small, but there might be OUV if linked to Hirkanian forest sites in Iran. (I do not really understand this point as all components of a serial site should show OUV individually, so this alone should not have been a reason for Deferral). The removal of illegal settlements from the area however may have been a precondition.

I “visited” one of the 3 locations of the revamped TWHS on my way from Azerbaijan to Iran in 2016. I was well aware that I would quickly pass it by bus and sat ready with my camera in front of the windows. This explains the blurriness of photo 1 and 2 accompanying this post. To me it was a forest like any other, but I decided that I earned my future ‘tick’ when I noticed a park entrance gate marked Hirkan Milli Parki (photo 2). The road to Ardabil (in Iran) straddles the border and the Hirkan National Park. I am unsure about the proposed site’s exact borders, but will count it anyway as it is unlikely that I will ever visit Azerbaijan or this region again.

According to its new TWHS description, the area includes “living fossils” among its tree species such as the Persian Ironwood, Caucasian Wingnut and Caucasian Elm. The text even includes a cliffhanger: "...further endemic, rare, and threatened species ... will be detailed in the nomination dosser". 

These Azeri forests are not contiguous with Lisar, currently the most western part of the 15 locations of the Iranian Hyrcan Forests WHS. And to add to the confusing storyline - last week Iran has launched a new TWHS to add 2 more locations which are in a wholly different area. All together, this serial transnational Hyrcanian Forests (T)WHS seems to imitate the pointless extension upon extension of the Ancient Beech Forests of Europe. If you have allowed one location in, locations of similar value (and there are many in these cases) will get into the List also. Even the Colchis Wetlands and Forests of Georgia (up for the WHC of 2020/2021) is related. All these "survived the ice age periods as extremely rare “Tertiary relict forests”".

Els - 22 November 2020

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Blog Connections

Mammal WHS

Finland this week announced to submit “Saimaa ringed seal habitats in Lake Saimaa archipelago” to its Tentative List. It protects the Saimaa ringed seals, among the most endangered seals in the world with a total population of only about 400 individuals. Thanks to Sjobe we were discussing it at the Forum. Could this be the first time a WHS would aim at protecting a single subspecies? I believe so – WHS protecting named mammal species aren’t that common in general and focusing on an almost extinct subspecies is unheard of.

Below I will discuss the relationship between mammals and WHS, in ascending order of importance: from (relatively special) mammal species that occur in WHS to ones that are part of the OUV of their WHS, from "flagship species" to mammals that even made it into the name of the WHS.

4. WHS with a mammal connection

We do already have individual connections for the following mammal species / families: Anteaters, Bears, Bovines, Chimpanzees, Elephants, Gorillas, Gray wolves, Jaguar, Otters, Rhinos, River dolphins, Seals(!), Siraneans, Sloths, Snow leopards, Strepsirrhini, Tapirs, Tigers and Whales. Each of these connects between 6 (gorillas and river dolphins) and 63 (bears) WHS where the named mammal can be found in the wild. Over the past days I checked and updated them all, clarifying descriptions, removing connected sites (such as the perished rhinos of Mana Pools, which were part of its OUV) and adding connected sites mostly to the Bovines.

A family of less obvious mammals is the Bat. These flying creatures can be found in a number of WHS as well, so I created a new Bat connection that links WHS Notable for bats. It includes for example the Wrinkle-lipped free-tailed bat of Gunung Mulu, the Lesser Long-Nosed Bat of El Pinacate and the Philippine pygmy fruit bat of Mount Hamiguitan.

3. WHS where a mammal species is part of its OUV

Criterion X is the selection criterion to meet when proving Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) for mammal species and their habitats. Its definition is “to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.”

156 WHS are based on that criterion X and in 95 of them one or more mammal species are named - usually the big and iconic species.

There is also value attributed to lesser known mammal species. These include for example: the Jamaican coney (a rodent) in the Blue and John Crow Mountains, the Hastings River Mouse in the Gondwana Rainforests, the Bush Dog in Iguacu, the black-faced lion tamarin in the Atlantic Forests South-East and the Dingiso tree kangaroo in Lorentz NP.

2. WHS with mammal "flagship species" and last resorts for specific mammals

A special subcategory here comproses the “flagship species”, a species selected to act as an ambassador, icon or symbol to represent its environmental cause. “Flagship species are charismatic animals that capture the public's imagination, and encourage people to support conservation projects.” Parati for example has the Southern Muriqui, a woolly spider monkey. Hubei Shennongjia has the Golden snub-nosed monkey. Other WHS even claim to have multiple flagship species, which by definition would be hard – only one ship can be the flagship and lead.

Similar to the Saimaa ringed seal, some WHS are the last resorts for a certain mammal species.  Ujung Kulon has the Javan rhino (only ca. 60 are left), Rio Abiseo the Yellow-tailed Woolly Monkey, Fanjingshan the Guizhou Snub-nosed Monkey, Sangay NP the Mountain Tapir.

1. WHS where a mammal species is part of its full name

The highest honour a mammal can get is to be included in the full name of the WHS. I’ve found 5 occurrences of these:

  • Chiribiquete National Park – “The Maloca of the Jaguar
  • Wood Buffalo National Park
  • Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries - Wolong, Mt Siguniang and Jiajin Mountains
  • Okapi Wildlife Reserve
  • Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino

(Plus there is of course the legendary Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, but Buffalo do not live there anymore in the wild)

The Saimaa ringed seal would fall into all 4 categories mentioned above, so this tentative Finnish WHS would certainly become a special addition to the World Heritage List.

Els - 15 November 2020

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Juha Sjoeblom 16 November 2020

Good post, nothing to add here. Just a small linguistic note. Russian word nerpa and Finnish norppa look very similar because nerpa is a borrowing from Finnic languages. A good reminder of interaction of these two languages that are not related with each other.

Frédéric M 15 November 2020

Great post! I think that one mammal related site worth mentioning would be the Gulf of California, which was inscribed on the danger list because of the declining vaquita population.

Els Slots 15 November 2020

I saw it at the museum aquarium as well (Sept 2019) - like a goldfish in a bowl, very sad.

Jarek Pokrzywnicki 15 November 2020

Michael, it is very difficult to spot nerpa in Baikal Lake as the animal is very shy (it tries to avoid human populated places). Anyway, there is a small museum in Listwianka (Baikal Museum) where you can see nerpa in aquarium - at least it was possible to the animal when I was there (June, 2008)

Els Slots 15 November 2020

No I did not see any, you really have to go and look for them at specific spots.

Michael Ayers 15 November 2020

Nice post, Els. I haven't had much of an opportunity to see any interesting mammals for several months, but I may have some more chances before the year is out, if things work out.

Did you see any Nerpa when you went to Lake Baikal? That's another species which I really wanted to see, but won't have a chance now...

Blog TWHS Visits

Sanxingdui in 2007

I hold a long fascination for China, which hit an early peak when I choose to study Sinology at University when I was 18. The course didn’t really work out for me and I quit after 2 years – I did not have the discipline at the time to put in the hours to master the language. But I have always stayed interested, do speak ‘basic Chinese’ and have now visited China 5 times. In 2007 I embarked on a 3 month solo trip across China, one of my best journeys ever. On that trip I managed to visit 20 new WHS; later WHC meetings added another 2 retroactively. 

I started that journey from the Sichuan capital of Chengdu with a day trip to Sanxingdui. This Bronze Age archaeological site is now part of the Archaeological Sites of the Ancient Shu State TWHS, but wasn’t when I visited. It had rained overnight and I changed my program for the day from the WHS of Dujiangyan to the more indoor experience of the archaeological museum in Sanxingdui. There was a daily direct bus from Chengdu’s southern bus station to Sanxingdui. Unfortunately, despite a last minute taxi effort through the dense traffic, I missed that one. On to the northeast bus station then, from where buses left every few minutes to the town of Guanghan. A local bus would take me the final few kilometers to Sanxingdui. When I wanted to disembark after 45 minutes at the bus station in Guanghan, I noticed that other people remained in the bus and I accidentally had hit a direct bus to my destination.

Sanxingdui turned out to be a huge complex, big enough to handle thousands of Chinese visitors at once. It consists of two exhibition halls and a surrounding park. Fortunately there weren’t many visitors, only some parents with children and a few Chinese groups. The Sanxingdui excavations made the world press in 1986 when hundreds of bronze, gold and earthenware objects were found in the fields. These are ceremonial tombs of the Shu, an empire that ruled this region from 3000 to 800 BC. Sanxingdui was the center of this Shu state. It was a walled city of 12 square kilometers.

I found the route through the exhibition halls to be cleverly designed. It starts with the historical story and with the less spectacular earthenware vases, pots and figurines. The last room of the first hall, which is dedicated to "sacred trees", was fascinating. In it were displayed bronze trees with many branches and leaves that were buried with the dead. Birds sat on the branches for better communication with the gods.

The second hall is about ten minutes away and contains the collection's prize pieces. For example a grave full of elephant tusks. It also holds a 40 centimeter high bird's head, a symbol that returns again and again in the ritual life of the Shu. Furthermore, dozens of bronze heads have been found, some of them with golden masks. The heads don't really look human, they look like aliens. The background music in the hall was appropriately adjusted to mystical bleep-bleep-bleep sounds.

Sanxingdui is a treasure trove of spectacular archaeological findings, displayed well and accompanied by explanation panels in both Chinese and English. The only thing that could keep it from being inscribed is the lack of tangible remains in situ, so we're actually inscribing a museum instead of an archaeological site. But a clever nomination dossier (it is already pitched as a counterpart to the Mesopotamian Civilization in the TWHS description) and the inclusion of some excavation sites could avoid this pitfall. This video by China's state news channel CCTV gives a good overview of the area.

Els - 8 November 2020

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Zoë Sheng 8 November 2020

Love it, glad you got around to add something and it sounds like you have very fond memories.

There is now an eCar taking visitors from the front hall to the back if those few minutes walking (10 is very, very leisurely) is too much for you.

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WHS #740: Su Nuraxi di Barumini

I finally gave up on public transport in Corsica & Sardinia at Barumini: there's no way to do it on a day trip by bus or train. Not that the experience of renting a car for a day was such a pleasure: I found the Hertz office at Cagliari-Elmas airport understaffed at 9 am, their printer did not work so they had to write my contract by hand (oh, I so wish for a full digital transformation of car rental companies) and the directions where to pick up my car were immensely vague. I guess the lady behind the desk had lost her sense of direction because of the stress. Together with a German tourist I went on a thorough search for our cars, which we finally spotted after 20 minutes using a high vantage point. It turned out that there is an additional parking lot just in the shadow of the large parking garage.

All these delays meant that I could throw overboard the plans that I had to visit another site or two besides Su Nuraxi di Barumini. If you have your own wheels and a full day to spare from Cagliari, you could easily extend a trip to Barumini to the Sulcis Iglesiente TWHS and the Temple of Antas.

Fortunately, the visitor experience at Su Nuraxi di Barumini is exemplary. There’s free parking and a (book) shop. The 14 EUR entrance fee is steep, but in addition to entry to two museums in town it also provides employment to the guides and tours are frequent. Together with a German couple I was given a tour in English within 20 minutes of my arrival. A guide is really necessary here because otherwise it’s the proverbial ‘heap of stones’.

The prehistory of both Sardinia and Corsica is an interesting subject to contemplate while travelling in this part of the Mediterranean. There are findings from the Paleolithic in Sardinia and early Sardinians crossed the Strait of Bonifacio to Corsica around 9000 BC. In Corsica I had already visited the archaeological sites of Filitosa and Cuccuruzzu-Capula. Both are really fun to explore, as they cover large areas and display those cute menhirs. These sites pre-date the Nuragic civilization, of which Su Nuraxi di Barumini is the showcase.

I like it that Barumini was chosen as the example to represent the nuraghe – had it been proposed in a later year we probably would have had a serial WHS called “Nuraghe of Sardinia” (there are 8,000 of them left). But this is the biggest, the best and it tells the story. There may be an extension on the radar though: Sardinia's nuragic culture

The stones that define the image of Su Nuraxi di Barumini are not all related to the nuraghe / tower. Much of them belong to a later settlement which grew in the shadow of the then ruined tower and re-used stones from it. The guide brought a picture book showing the original shape of the tower. It looked like a medieval castle, with high ramparts and watchtowers. Stairs and plateaus were made of wood, which (except for one plank) have not been preserved. As with the other nuraghi in Sardinia, the top is gone. A modern wooden staircase has been installed to climb and look into the 3-storey nuraghe itself. I found the solid building style particularly striking when seen in close up. The stones were stacked loosely, cement was still unknown. Smaller stones were used towards the top. Looking down from the top you see a courtyard with a well.

Els - 1 November 2020

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Wojciech Fedoruk 1 November 2020

On the contrary, my memories from renting a car in Cagliari are positive. I rented for 2 days in Locauto in low season (Dec '19) and everything was super fast. As Els said, car is a must if you want to visit this WHS and not to lose a whole day or more using public transport.

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Archipelago of La Maddalena

The La Maddalena archipelago comprises the Italian part of the future Strait of Bonifacio transboundary nomination. After having visited the Corsican side earlier on this Mediterranean trip, I also checked out this Sardinian location. It has a very different feel about it, nothing like the steep cliffs at Bonifacio. However it must be said that I did not visit the Corsican Lavezzi Islands (“miniature paradise of sandy creeks and crystal-clear water”) which may be more similar to La Maddalena. 

Between Palau (where I was staying overnight) and La Maddalena ferries sail back and forth in 20 minutes all day long. La Maddalena is the 'capital' of the La Maddalena Archipelago, a national park consisting of seven larger and many smaller islands. La Maddalena itself is a fairly large town, so for the real nature experience you have to go to one of the other islands. For example the neighboring island of Caprera, which is connected to La Maddalena by a dam. The island measures only 15 square kilometers, so I was going to explore it on foot.

The bus dropped me – the only passenger - at the Garibaldi museum. I had planned to do a hiking trail along the north coast from here, but I couldn't find the starting point! So I first walked to the other side of the island via the main road. The scenery here on Caprera is captivating: large boulders that seem to have fallen from the sky, surrounded by typical Mediterranean low plants and shrubs. The road goes through a lovely pine forest: the trees are all bend to the same side, crooked by the wind.

On the south side of the island I followed hiking trail #1, a narrow path through the bushes and along the coast. It ended after about 20 minutes in the village of Stagnali. I had read beforehand that they want to develop tourism here. There is a geological museum, but I found it closed. The rest of the village also seemed completely deserted and there are many dilapidated buildings. A dog angrily barked at me from afar. I left quickly.

I walked a little further southwards and then arrived at a large parking lot where I continued on trail #4, to Cala Portese. This one was also poorly indicated, but using on my phone and some sense of direction I manage to reach the end point. Cala Portese is a textbook example of what Caprera and the La Maddalena archipelago are known for: an idyllic beach. Due to the shallow sea, the sea water is very clear. I sat here on a rock for a while, enjoying the view. Later a guy arrived for a swim; in the distance an old man was fishing. We were the only 3 humans around.

Some practical notes on visiting Caprera to conclude. You can get there on the local Turmo Travel bus #1 (schedule), it departs from the Garibaldi column near the port in La Maddalena. Tickets have to be bought at the tobacco shop some 200m down the Via Oberdan. At Caprera, the bus does not go to the eastern side of the island (it does stop at the crossing towards it though). So if you want to explore that side, you’d have to walk over there right away or rent a bike / scooter in La Maddalena town. The connecting dam is walkable too, so as a last resort you always could walk to Caprera but it will add another 5km each way to your hike. There are a few small road side eateries on Caprera where they sell drinks and snacks. 

Els - 25 October 2020

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Bouches de Bonifacio

The Bouches de Bonifacio (in English: Strait of Bonifacio) is the narrow, navigable waterway that segregates Corsica and Sardinia. This natural ensemble is on the Tentative List of France as a placeholder for a future transboundary nomination with Italy’s La Maddalena Archipelago. The countries are working on the establishment of the joint “International Marine Park of the Strait of Bonifacio”.

The Strait is named after the town of Bonifacio, located at the southern tip of Corsica. It lies on and against a massive rock, part of a rugged coast with vertical rock walls. I stayed there for 2 nights, with the plan to hike in the nature reserve and to make the crossing to Sardinia. “The strait is notorious among sailors for its weather, currents, shoals, and other obstacles.”, Wiki tells us. I certainly got to experience that!

The first day it rained from early on in the morning. Only late afternoon I was able to go out. I still wanted to do the coastal walk that I selected beforehand: the Sentier Campu Romanilu. It would take only an hour and a half. Clearly I was not the only one with this idea: all 50 to 80 tourists present in Bonifacio climbed the rock at the same time. However, we found the path directly along the coast closed: too dangerous, stones could fall down and one could be blown into the sea.

So we took the flat path on the top. This one is broad and normally very easy. But the puddles of rain from the whole day were still there. We managed to maneuver around them with some difficulty, til there was no way forward anymore. I then stuck to taking pictures of the coastline from a distance. You can see Sardinia well.

The coast is made of soft, white limestone. The sea has carved it into interesting shapes. The day before I had driven along part of this coastline with my rental car, that part somewhat to the west is actually prettier than this near Bonifacio. The proposed reserve consists of no less than 16 units on the French side, with a variety of ecosystems including open water (with dolphins), caves, cliffs and beaches.

My bad luck with Bonifacio continued the next day: I had a ticket for the 8:30 am ferry to Santa Teresa Gallura in Sardinia. The crossing, with Moby Lines, only takes 50 minutes. When I arrived at the port, there were already cars waiting and passengers in the terminal. But - no boat. The lady behind the counter had to tell everyone the same thing: boat canceled, too much wind and too high waves. No idea when it would sail, "maybe this afternoon, maybe tomorrow".

I decided to leave the same day by air, flying Figari-Nice-Rome-Olbia to end up in Sardinia after all. So in the end I did not see enough of the Bouches de Bonifacio to make a thorough judgement. But what I did see and experience I did not find special enough to warrant a WH listing.

Els - 18 October 2020

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WHS #739: Gulf of Porto

At spot #728 this is one of the lesser visited sites in Europe among our community members. It comprises a coastal area in northwestern Corsica, recognized for both its marine and terrestrial features. The cumbersome name probably doesn’t help to market it: “Gulf of Porto: Calanche of Piana, Gulf of Girolata, Scandola Reserve” actually comprises one integral core zone with three distinct parts. Only the Calanche of Piana (the correct name should be the plural I think - Calanches of Piana) actually lies in the Gulf of Porto. The Gulf of Girolata is a bay of its own and the Scandola Reserve borders that bay as well.

I visited the site from Ajaccio with 1 of the 2 large companies (Cap Nava, Decouvertes Naturelles) that offer day tours there. My tour costed 59 EUR and we were out for 10 hours on a large ship with some 70 passengers. From Ajaccio it takes 2.5 hours to get to the core zone. If you’re not relying on public transport to get around Corsica as I did, you could start your trip from one of the smaller towns north (Porto, even Girolata). Tours with smaller boats will be available from there. I visited on September 23 and though the low season had started already, there were plenty of boats around.

The Scandola Nature Reserve lies at the northern end of the Gulf of Girolata. We had been crossing a very heavy rain shower on our way north from Ajaccio, but the sky cleared just right on time and the sun actually came out. This is necessary for the rocks to show their beautiful orange-red color. You can see these rock formations not only at the coast but also in the sea. It’s a bit like looking at the karst landscapes in Asia - some of the rocks have anthropomorphic or zoomorphic features.

Around lunchtime we were dropped off at picturesque Girolata, the only village on this coast. About 100 people live here and it can only be reached from the sea or via a footpath. This is the lunch stop for all boats, so there are plenty of restaurants. You can also go for a walk or enjoy the beach. At the beach I found lots of hairy balls, which I recognized from an earlier trip to Formentera as the remains of Posidonia sea grass.

We sailed back southwards, along the third part of this WHS: the Calanches of Piana. This landform covers a deep valley with steep slopes, partly submerged in the sea. It is less green than the Scandola Reserve. Its steep cliffs however are in the same shade of red. We saw an osprey nest up against one of the cliffs – this area upon inscription was one of the few places in Europe where ospreys reproduced, but in recent years they have been making a comeback elsewhere in Europe (even in the Netherlands). We did not see the birds - if I correctly understood the commentary of the French guide on the speakers, they were already on their way to their wintering place in Africa.

The Calanches are also known for their many caves. The small boats around us sailed in and out, but we also came close with our relatively large ship. The skipper always first pushed the nose of the ship against the entrance of a cave, and then turned 180 degrees so that the passengers in the back could also have a look. Just like earlier in the day at the Scandola Reserve, there was ample time to photograph every rock, view or cave.

Despite the fact that we rarely hear about it, like so many other WHS this has suffered from overtourism in the last decades. While an estimated 30,000 people visited Scandola each year in the 1980s, this had risen to 1.1 million between April and October 2012. The threatened and protected population of ospreys for example has been plummeting in the Reserve. “A joint Franco-Italian study … has shown that tourist activities constantly disturb ospreys at the end of their reproductive season, leading to a decline in reproductive success.”

Els - 11 October 2020

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Astraftis 14 October 2020

Well, often English sticks to the original plural form, that's why I intervened :-) However, we might try an interesting mixed form calancas, which sounds quite Spanish!

Els Slots 11 October 2020

Thanks Astraftis for pointing this out. In the Corsican language it is the same as in Italian, but translated into for example French, English and Dutch they suddenly get an -s at the end.

Astraftis 11 October 2020

Just as a very minor note, “calanche” is already in the plural form in Italian! ;-) The singular is calanca (or calanco, masculine). I know its meaning of particular eroded rocks, but here it should be in connection with “cala” (bay).

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Nice is a French city with 340,000 inhabitants. Tourism on the Riviera was born here, they say. And they want UNESCO recognition for that. I was there for 3 nights during a quiet September weekend. The tourist crowds had either returned home and back to work, or opted out because of the "Code Red" imposed by the French government on this region. However, urban life continued as usual and the anti-Covid measures were being followed in a half-hearted way. Obviously one cannot smoke and wear a face mask at the same time!

The city owes much of its monumental architecture to the arrival of wealthy foreigners who came to enjoy its pleasant climate. Many English and Russian aristocrats stayed here from the end of the 18th century on. Their villas can be found scattered around the current city. I started my exploration on foot in Rue Verdi, where there is some fine Art Deco and mosaics on the façades can be seen. Closeby lies the Museum of Fine Arts, located in the former Villa Kotchoubey. This orange palace is currently being renovated and has been closed to the public all summer.

I then walked down to the famous Promenade des Anglais - a coastal boulevard built in the 1920s on the initiative of the British. In 2016 this was the site of a terrorist attack with a truck, in which 87 people were killed. I don't know exactly where it happened, but I didn't see any blockages anymore or a monument. People nowadays jog, walk, cycle or skateboard up and down the long promenade again.

The most imposing buildings of Nice can be found along this sea boulevard. One to enter is the Musée Massena, which is an elegant early 20th century villa built in neoclassicist style by a Danish architect. It now houses an art collection and a city museum. It is worth a visit alone for its drawings of old Nice - for example, one where all the houses along the boulevard have the name of the (mostly foreign) owner written next to them.

The next day I focused on another part of Nice: Cimiez. This was built on the site of a former Roman town, on a hill northeast of the city center. Bus 5 will take you there. One of the attractions here is the Matisse museum - but I found it closed for 2 weeks to set up a new exhibition. I got off the bus there anyway, to have a quick look at the monastery of Cimiez and the monastery gardens. More interesting are the excavations of the Roman town Cemenelum. They can be accessed via the archaeological museum.

Half way down the hill lies the museum of another well-known French artist: Marc Chagall. Chagall is best known for his stained-glass windows, of which there are 3 exhibited here. But the museum also has 2 large mosaics by his hand and many colorful paintings and drawings. The museum is not that big but I found it very beautiful. Cimiez in general is a pleasant area to visit. It has a few grand buildings from the early 20th century too, such as the Ancien Excelsior Régina Palace and the Manoir Belgrano.

A bit out of the way, in the railway station area, lies the Russian Orthodox cathedral of Nice. This building too was created by foreign visitors to Nice: it was a gift from the Russian Tsar Alexander II to the local Russian community.

As other reviewers have remarked already, the impact of the “birth of tourism” on Nice is too fragmented to warrant a WH inscription for the whole city. I did enjoy Nice’s vibe in general though – it has many pleasant cafés, palm trees and lots of greenery. It felt both a bit French and a bit Italian (Nice only became part of France in 1860). I also thought it was in better shape than many other cities in southern France.

Els - 4 October 2020

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Blog TWHS Visits

Mediterranean Alps

Monaco was my penultimate country to visit in Europe (only Moldova is left now). This tiny city-state has no WHS but it does have a transboundary candidate: the Mediterranean Alps. Monaco has been heading this proposal, allowing its partners Italy and France to have another go in the same year. In 2019, the 3 countries withdrew their nomination after a negative advice by IUCN. The idea is still alive though, it has a dedicated website and news reports suggest that they are aiming for the WHC of 2021.

When I zoomed into what this site entails for Monaco, it transpired that the Principality only participates in 1 of the 8 locations that comprise this TWHS. Furthermore, its contribution is only marine and that marine zone starts way off Monaco’s coast, kilometers far into the territorial waters. Probably because otherwise the anchored yachts of a Saudi prince or Roman Abramovich would have been affected or Prince Albert’s land reclamation efforts disturbed? To consider this a Monégasque nomination is a farce in my opinion.

To get a feel anyway for location 6 of this TWHS, the territorial waters between Cap Ferrat and Canyon della Roya, I hiked from the train station of Carnolès to Monte Carlo via Cap-Martin. Here, a few "Caps" or headlands border the nominated sea area. I used the former custom officer’s path, which has been relabelled ‘Promenade le Corbusier’ as it passes his Le Cabanon.

The day before I had already noticed how hot it can get here, so I left early. It is a 9km walk to Monaco on a paved and fairly wide path. There are a lot of benches along the route, probably set up for the many retirees that spend the winter at the Mediterranean coast. Along the way I mostly met joggers on their morning routine though. The route starts with a loop around the peninsula of Cap Martin, what I found in hindsight the prettiest part of the hike.

The Mediterranean Alps has been nominated solely for its geological values, or to be more precise its tectonic values such as “continental rift and associated volcanism”. It’s hard to explain in a few words what the oustanding value would be – IUCN found it too narrow and specialized to recognize. Especially this location 6 and the marine part have been criticized. I had no idea what to look out for, so I just photographed the pointy rocks at the shoreline which may be of volcanic origin. They also feature in images on the nomination website.

The path was easy to follow. After the Cap Martin peninsula you walk next to the railway towards Monaco, which with its skyscrapers can be seen from afar. It even directly passes Le Cabanon, a beach house by the architect Le Corbusier and one of the 17 locations of the WHS dedicated to him. Unfortunately it wasn't accessible - there are guided tours but this year from September on they closed until the next season. After a hot walk of more than 2 hours I arrived in the streets of Monaco. There is no border control, just a sign as if you were entering the next municipality. But visited country #117 it is!

Els - 27 September 2020

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Daniel Chazad 30 September 2020

In my opinion, they could have underlined the application by adding the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco with its direct association with significant oceanographic campaigns and the first maps of the world's ocean depths. It is one of the best examples of Baroque Revival architecture worldwide and was built on challenging terrain ("between the Alpes and the Méditerranée"). It would also honor Jacques Cousteau, who was director from 1957 to 1988. Ultimately, it would make it possible for ordinary mortals to visit a component of this (T)WHS without having to wear a wetsuit.

Clyde 29 September 2020

It's more of a way of 'awarding' at least one WHS per country; a tendency that became evident in recent years.

winterkjm 27 September 2020

I wonder if Monaco will provide an IUCN representative with a scuba experience within their territorial waters to prove there is some geological value?

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