UNESCO’s globally recognised list of World Heritage sites contains places of special cultural or physical significance. Four World Heritage sites are located in Western Australia; three of them include WA parks (Shark Bay, Ningaloo Coast; Purnululu).
WA’s three park-related World Heritage sites are:
- Shark Bay
Shark Bay earned the title of WA’s first World Heritage-listed area in 1991. This westernmost point of Australia is a truly unique place. Perhaps most famous for the friendly dolphins of Monkey Mia, Shark Bay is home to a wealth of other sea creatures such as turtles, manta rays and whales. It also boasts a large dugong population, the largest and richest sea-grass beds in the world, and unique stromatolites (colonies of algae which form hard, dome-shaped structures and are known to be among the oldest forms of life on earth). Throw in stunning white beaches touching startlingly red sand dunes and some of the clearest water ever seen makes this a World Heritage area that is definitely worth visiting.
It is one of only a select few sites around the world that meets all four natural criteria for selection:
- contains superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;
- is an outstanding example representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;
- is an outstanding example representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;
- contains 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.
Ningaloo Coast including the Ningaloo Reef (Australia’s largest and most accessible fringing reef) stretches more than 260 kms. Step off the white sandy beach and into the pristine turquoise waters and you will be immersed in an underwater paradise. Snorkel and scuba dive to get up close and personal with magically colourful coral, more than 500 species of fish, and majestic creatures like whale sharks, turtles and humpback whales.
This World Heritage area also includes a portion of dry land as well, featuring an extensive network of underground caves and watercourses. It really is a special place to visit.
- Purnululu National Park.
Purnululu National Park in the legendary Kimberley region is said to be a magical and life-changing experience and has achieved recognition for its unique scenery. Purnululu, which means ‘sandstone’ is home to one of the world’s most remarkable geological landmarks, the Bungle Bungles.
These unique orange and black sandstone domes are a fascinating sight and best experienced with a view from above on a scenic flight. The eroded sandstone towers have been produced by over 20 million years of weathering. The park is also home to soaring cliffs and hidden gorges best explored on foot, along the marked trails.
Roughly 130 bird species call Purnululu National Park home, as do native animals like the short-eared rock wallaby.