UNESCO was formed nearly seven decades ago. The organisation holds an intercontinental presence and promotes collaboration among countries through various programs: natural sciences, education, communication and information, social and human sciences and culture. One of the most significant functions of UNESCO is to find, register and preserve places around the globe that have cultural and ecological importance. These places are called World Heritage Sites and by 2014, 1,007 such places were listed. The sites are some of the most breathtaking and culturally relevant places on earth.
The Cradle of Humankind – Since 1999
The intriguing name of this World Heritage Site draws visitors with an interest in the origins of humanity from all over the world. Located in Muldersdrift in South Africa about 50 kilometres away from Johannesburg, The Cradle of Humankind is where some of the world’s oldest hominid fossils were found – some as old as 3.5 million years. The site is also home the Sterkfontein caves where the most complete skull of an early hominid type named Australopithecus africanus was found. Besides Sterkfontein, The Cradle of Humankind has nearly 40 fossil rich caves dotted across 47,000 hectares of ground. Because the site was declared as a World Heritage Site it is protected in terms of the National Heritage Act and may therefore not be altered or damaged in any way.
Machu Picchu – Since 1983
Referred to as the ‘Lost City of the Incas’, Machu Picchu is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also the most popular tourist destination in Peru despite issues with tourist safety, including hiking accidents, floods and a high incidence of altitude sickness. Machu Picchu is located 2,430 metres above sea level overlooking the Urubamba Valley, the sacred valley of the Incas, in the Andes of Peru. Speculation about its original purpose range between Machu Picchu being a retreat for royalty, a temple devoted to the Virgins of the Sun and the last Incan city. Because of its remote location it was not discovered by the Spanish during the occupation and therefore remained relatively undamaged, except for its natural deterioration.
Gunung Mulu National Park – Since 2000
Caves, limestone karst formations and equatorial rainforest marks the Gunung Mulu National Park as a no less than spectacular area in the Sarawak region in Malaysia. The Royal Geographical Society sent more than 100 scientists to explore this interesting site for over a year, during which many discoveries were made. The biggest known natural room in the world, the Sarawak Chamber is situated in the park. Measuring around 70m high, 700m long and 396m wide, the chamber could easily accommodate 40 large planes. The Gunung Mulu National Park makes all these natural wonders accessible without denigrating the ecology by making luxurious eco-tourism available to visitors. One of the most popular eco-resorts is the Royal Mulu Resort. Revamped by Australian businessman and eco-warrior Robert Geneid, the Royal Mulu Resort offers world-class accommodation and easy access to the natural marvels of the Gunung Mulu National Park.
Because of UNESCO, the World Heritage sites like these incredible places have a greater chance of being preserved through the ages.