Your holiday time is precious – why not invest it in a once-in-a-lifetime experience? If you’re looking to make your next break a real show stopper – the world’s most precious natural places, UNESCO natural World Heritage sites, should be top of your list. Recognised by UNESCO for their outstanding universal value, World Heritage sites offer far more than just stunning views and culture. You’re also likely to spot some of the globe’s most precious wildlife, including many species that are listed as endangered, whilst seeing how people living in and around these protected landscapes experience the boon of these natural wonders.
For many business travellers, these Heritage sites may be just a short escape from UK or international business trip and they will provide an unforgettable experience. With many of them facing uncertain futures due to threats from industrial activity, there has never been a better time to tick them off your bucket list. Your visit can also make a difference – the visitor fees at these sites help fund projects to protect natural heritage, benefitting local people and incentivising them to want to protect the outstanding universal value for generations to come.
Not sure where to start? We’ve picked some of the most pristine and extraordinary experiences across the globe:
Starting closer to home
There are 3 incredible natural World Heritage sites right on our doorstep here in the British Isles – have you visited any of them? From Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway, to the Jurassic (Dorset and East Devon) Coast and St Kilda in Scotland, each offers something unique. The Giant’s Causeway is made up of some 40,000 uniform polygonal columns of Basalt, which have inspired legends of giants roaming Ireland throughout history and becoming the symbol of Northern Ireland.
If giants were to use the causeway to cross the ocean over to Scotland, they’d reach St Kilda in the Hebrides. Boasting some of the highest cliff faces in Europe and offering a home to many rare and endangered birds, this volcanic archipelago is a trip not to be missed. This breathtaking area of outstanding beauty harbours evidence of human dependence from over 2,000 years ago.
Lastly the Jurassic coast, which spans the Dorset and east Devon coastline. If exploring rocky arches and collecting fossils sounds like a day well spent to you, then the Jurassic coast is a must see. Spanning a magnificent 155km of the UK’s shoreline, the chances are you’ve visited one of the many undeveloped beaches included in this World Heritage site already. For those that crave a peaceful and secluded walk, the Jurassic coastal path is an essential for your bucket list.
Belize – the world’s second largest barrier reef
Crystal clear turquoise waters, glorious sunshine, coral reef stretching along 360 kms of coastline and over 500 species of fish to see during your ocean dip. Step away from your desk and the bustle of the city and experience the tranquillity of scuba diving in the world famous Blue Hole Natural Monument, one of the 7 Protected Areas that make up this UNESCO World Heritage site. At 125 meters in depth, the collapsed cave is home to many species of shark, including the iconic hammer head – but it’s not only sharks you’ll be likely to catch a glimpse of. Three species of turtle inhabit the waters of Belize, as well as the slow and elusive manatee. Whether this amazing place will survive for the next generation depends on whether the government of Belize follows through with protection commitments they made to UNESCO. The site has languished on the ‘in danger’ list since 2009. If you are in Central America, it’s a natural heritage experience not to be missed nestled in the only English speaking country in the region.
One of Africa’s oldest game reserves – Selous, Tanzania
If your business takes you to Africa, you can’t get much further away from your ordinary life than this stunning, largely untouched Tanzanian game reserve. Home to almost half of Africa’s lions, the largest population of wild dogs, as well as elephants and rhinos, in the dry season you’re practically guaranteed to get a close up view of these precious species. Sadly, poaching has dramatically decreased the reserve’s elephant and rhino numbers. Industrial scale threats to the heritage including oil, gas and mining concessions and poaching have resulted in UNESCO listing Selous as ‘in danger’ in 2014. The landscapes are not to be trifled with, with the flowing rivers, luscious woodlands and miles of photographic opportunities, it’s earned its place amongst the world’s most precious places.
Indonesia’s tropical rainforests of Sumatra
Already in Asia? The Sumatran rainforests might sound like something from a Hollywood movie, but this World Heritage site offers unlimited real life adventure opportunities to soak up natural heritage. Spanning 2.5 million hectares, the canopy of vibrant greens is estimated to be made up of 10,000 species of plant and offers a home to an impressive repertoire of mammals, such as the orangutan. Despite its rainforest title, there are a diverse range of varying environments to explore, with the highest volcano in Indonesia falling within one of the three National Parks that makes up the heritage site, cave systems, rocky backdrops and the highest lake in Asia, all ready to be explored.
Everglades National Park, USA
Many United States business travellers take advantage of being in Florida. Florida offers hours of burning sunshine and beautiful beaches, but this World Heritage site is a sanctuary of wilderness in an otherwise bustling state. Sitting right at the southern tip of Florida, it offers a walk on the wild side for those who like adventure, with the potential for dangerous encounters with crocodiles, alligators and the Florida panther. UNESCO noted that the site has seen a significant reduction of both marine and estuarine biodiversity. However it remains the most important breeding ground for wading birds in North America. The mangroves offer a peaceful sanctuary for any advanced or novice fisherman – in fact, the park has been named one of the best places in the world for fishing. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for flashes of pink as the flamingos pass you by.
A European experience – Doñana National Park, Spain
This stunning European World Heritage site of unique beauty can be found in Andalusia, Spain. If you’re an avid bird watcher, this is the one for you. Six million migratory birds visit the largest wetland in the European Union during the winter months, including some that are rare and elusive. Tranquillity doesn’t even begin to describe the 38 kms of pristine, construction-free beach that you could have at your disposal. If it’s varied wilderness and solitude that you’re looking for, look no further than Doñana.
With 238 World Heritage sites that are listed for their natural features by UNESCO in almost 100 countries, you won’t ever be too far from a visit. The UNESCO World Heritage brand signals the most precious in protected areas around the world.
Is there a natural World Heritage site you’re itching to discover on your next business trip?