Asia-Pacific World Heritage Sites you should visit before they’re gone forever

The natural habitat of the Sumatran Orangutan is under threat from logging. Source: Sergey Uryadnikov/Shutterstock

FROM the pyramids of Giza to the Australian Great Barrier Reef, the world’s most spectacular sites of both man-made and natural beauty have always piqued our curiosity and been the focus of many of our travel plans.

But these world heritage sites should not be taken for granted, as far too often they are under threat from outside forces, whether its climate change, mass tourism, or conflict.

In a bid to protect these unique destinations, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) places those considered under the most serious threat on the List of World Heritage in Danger. These include some obvious ones, such as the site of Palmyra in Syria which was devastated by Islamic State, and some not so obvious ones, like the center of Vienna, Austria, currently under threat from the spread of high-rises and new development.

There are sadly a handful of precious sites highlighted in Asia-Pacific. Hopefully, the protection efforts will work, and these will be around for a long time yet. But just in case, these are the sites to add to your travel plans before time runs out:

Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre, Micronesia

Located off the south-east of Pohnpei, Micronesia, Nan Madol is a series of more than 100 islets that were constructed with walls of basalt and coral boulders.

The ruins date back to 1200 CE and house spectacularly complex network of palaces, temples, tombs and houses. According to Unesco, the buildings represent the ceremonial centre of the Saudeleur dynasty, a vibrant period in Pacific Island culture.

The location of waterways surrounding the site is contributing to the unchecked growth of mangroves. This spread is undermining the existing edifices and placing them in danger of destruction.

Sumatran Rainforest, Indonesia

The 2.5 million hectares that make up the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra are home to some of the world’s most diverse ecology and a raft of endangered species.

The biodiversity of the area is exceptional in terms of both species numbers and uniqueness an estimated 10,000 species of plants and an impressive number of mammals and birds. These, of course, include the captivating Sumatran Orangutan for which the state is famous.

Other key mammal species include the Sumatran tiger, rhino, elephant and Malayan sun-bear.

Road development plans, as well as agricultural spread, pose a serious threat to the rainforest. The access provided by new roads facilitates illegal logging, encroachment and poaching which all pose significant danger to the integrity of this natural wonderland.

East Rennell, Solomon Islands

East Rennell is part of Rennell Island, the southernmost island of the Western Pacific, Solomon Islands Group. As the largest raised coral atoll in the world, the island is a natural laboratory for scientific study.

Right in the center is the peaceful Lake Tegano, which was the former lagoon on the atoll. A number of rocky islets are scattered across the lake, ideal stopping off points to explore the wildlife and culture of this castaway-esque island.

The remote nature of the island means that it encompasses a number of marine, coastal and forest values, combined in one place and in a relatively undisturbed state. But this could sadly be set to change as potential logging operations in West Rennell could have severe adverse impacts on the forests.

Lake Tegano is also experiencing increasing water levels and salinity induced by sea level rise due to climate change, which threatens plant growth in low-lying areas.