Of the 1007 properties on the UNESCO World Heritage List, only two meet a record seven out of the ten criteria used to make the list.
The first is Mount Tai, one of five sky-scraping mountains in China’s Shandong Province. The second is the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage site.
Tasmania’s Parks & Wildlife Service describes the area, composed of six national parks and covering one fifth of Australia’s southern island state, as one of the world’s last true wilderness regions. The wildest, largest and most isolated section of the territory is Southwest National Park, containing 6,000 sq km of glacial lakes, winding rivers, open ranges and thick rainforests.
The park is drenched from lashing rains and pummeled with hurricane-like winds for the majority of the year, but when the summer months eventually come around, the park does see some visitors.
Around 1,000 independent hikers visit the territory each year, landing by plane on the south coast of Tasmania. Hikers that brave the 84 km trek to the eastern hamlet of Cockle Creek must be highly experienced, carry food and equipment supplies to last weeks, and bring emergency survival equipment in preparation of the unknown. 100 or so others join one of Roaring 40’s eight annual kayaking trips as well, which run from early December to mid-March. These expeditions range from three to seven days, and take travelers through the waters of Port Davey Marine Reserve, the most remote part of Southwest National Park.
The isolated wilderness of Tasmania may be disappearing soon, however. Tasmania’s Parks & Wildlife Service is looking to turn the area into the new ecotourism capital of the world. Government officials are considering the development of a luxury guided walk along the South Coast Track, including permanent huts and helicopter landing sites. The changes would make it easier for visitors to access the park, but would change the exclusive nature of the protected site – possibly forever.
“There’s also talk of upgrading the landing strip at Melaleuca into an instrumental airfield,” said Reg Grundy, Roaring 40’s expedition leader. “If that goes ahead, planes would be able to take off and land 12 months a year and it would make it economically feasible to build a bunch of eco-lodges here. Whether or not that happens, I think it’s inevitable this place will change.”