National Geographic Traveler
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November/December 2006
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World Heritage Destinations Rated: Africa

Introduction    Africa (sub-Saharan)     Asia      Australia & New Zealand

    Middle East & North Africa   North America & the Caribbean  

South and Central America

Panelists exchanged comments, which were kept anonymous to maintain survey neutrality during the rating process. These lightly edited excerpts offer a glimpse of panelists' varied points of view and the reasoning behind each score. They are not the views of the National Geographic Society.

Ethiopia: Rock-hewn churches, Lalibela
Score: 48

"Three key problems: 1) A desperate need for a management plan before increasing tourist numbers do more serious damage to the soft rock of the churches 2) Awful roof structures which seriously detract from the experience 3) The very poor, local people don't get real benefits from a valuable heritage site which is also a great economic/tourism asset."

"A site of immense interest, importance and character in an area of considerable poverty. The role of the church in linking visitors, income, management, and community is not transparent…. When I visited in 2004, roofing of some structures was physically intrusive—can better solutions be found?"

"Tourists are still a minority among the pilgrims, but the presence of too many tourists will become a nuisance to the pilgrims and spoil the atmosphere of the place."

South Africa: Cape Floral Region, with Table Mountain
Score: 67

"A superb natural setting, a world 'postcard' icon. Parts of Cape Town are historically great. On another side of the mountain is one of the world's finest botanical gardens, which is in itself a tourist attraction. But shanty towns are evident in other near areas."

"The obvious ecological problem is the invasive species, and while the government does a great job in terms of employing low income people as the workforce for alien vegetation removal, little is done in terms of education of tourists on these issues."

"Urban sprawl too rapid and developers often show scant interest in environment; extensive golf/estate development; benefit to locals limited; losing authenticity; policies seem to be in place, but often disregarded or adapted to suit development."

"The fact that visitors have to take an aerial lift to the mountain may help to keep crowds down and minimize damage to the site. It is good, too, that the tourist areas in the Cape Floral Region are widely dispersed. Cape Town proper offers a variety of hotels, activities and services to the visitor and the wineries and towns are thriving from tourism, but it is not clear how locals outside the traditional and exclusive groups are benefiting."

"I live in Cape Town and visit the National Park almost every day. Urban sprawl presents grim environmental challenges.  For the most part I am personally nervous that many of the species will not last another 20 years."

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Tanzania: Kilimanjaro
Score: 59

"Some outfitters—mainly the priciest ones—are really making an effort to pay porters a fair wage, keep them in appropriate gear, and train them in safety techniques and in keeping the mountain clean—but they're still minimal."

"The impacts of climate change are obvious despite both the government's and community's improved commitment to ecological preservation of the site. Extensive programs to provide alternative routes to the mountain and increase local participation in the conservation of the site and provision of services."
"Excellent system of one-way control of trekkers. Very clean. There are projects with local communities, including schools, surrounding the park to reduce illegal use of natural resources and encourage pride in the World Heritage site and in sustainable development."

"The environmental and ecological quality was quite worrisome. Huge trash heaps littered the Machame route almost to the top. There was little concern by mountain guides on what to do with the trash."

Tanzania: Serengeti National Park and environs
Score: 61

"The wildlife in this park is perhaps the greatest concentration of mammals in the world. Nowhere else is the relationship between predator and prey so well displayed."

"One of the world's last great wilderness areas. Natural drought issues and increased visitation are taking a toll on the environment and the wildlife."

"Tourists often leave more than footprints behind. The National Parks Board is doing a fair job of controlling off-road driving. As more tourists visit the Serengeti, more revenue comes into the area, including to the Maasai. Money has a way of changing a culture."

"Not sure how much Maasai people are benefiting. Most visitors sucked into a tourist treadmill without much autonomy of where to spend money, since most trips are pre-paid."

"Tourism bush camps seem to be sensitive to the impact they have on the local environment."

Tanzania: Stone Town, Zanzibar
Score: 57

"Diamond in the rough. Absolutely remarkable heritage at the heart of Indian Ocean trade route."

"A living city—not just a relic of the past. The annual international film festival provides great community pride and brings in necessary funds to help continue development during the year."

"Conflicts between Muslim inhabitants and beach visitors over dress and behavior. Historical coral structures being replaced with poorly constructed new facades. Locals often own small hotels, but larger chains beginning to dominate."

"The narrow streets offer great photographic appeal. More instructional signs for visitors would be helpful."

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Uganda: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Score: 62

"Outstanding management of the National Park and the gorilla safari operations. The integration of the local communities is exceptional. Authentic local tours with involvement by many community members, with one big exception—the Pygmies are obviously segregated."

"Political threats and insecurity along the border compounded by efforts to promote high-end tourism (in contrast to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park). Park rangers deserve recognition for their efforts to educate tourists about mountain gorillas, and to protect the park's wildlife and natural environment."

Zambia: Mosi-oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls (Zambian side only)
Score: 64

"Zambia is on the ascendancy and Livingstone is benefiting from the troubles in Zimbabwe, resulting in more (and better) management and facilities. The ravages of poverty are still visible and real."

"The gateway to the Zambian side of Victoria Falls is pleasant and the high end accommodations are excellent, but it has no remarkable features. The falls are heavily visited, but the volume doesn't negatively impact the experience. The views along the mist-covered paths are great and paths are well constructed and safe. More emphasis on explaining the site would be helpful, both the history and some explanation of the geology and natural heritage."

"An incredible spectacle. However, very little information about local histories and traditions around the falls. Trip to small island on very edge of falls in the river is an incredible experience (cream teas in amazing setting). Bungee jumping and rafting are away from falls themselves, so do not interrupt views. Limited tourism facilities in Livingstone. No information on local people provided—nor their involvement. "

"Livingstone hopelessly under-managed, given its cultural importance."

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