Figures not included
Professor E. B. Joyce
Honorary Principal Research Fellow
School of Earth Sciences
The University of Melbourne
Geotourism, or tourism related to geological sites and features, including geomorphological sites and landscapes, can be seen as a new phenomenon, and also a subset of geology and tourism. In this chapter the definition of geotourism is explored, and a working definition of geotourism suggested: people going to a place to look at and learn about one or more aspects of geology and geomorphology. Geotourism development in Australia is discussed, especially in Australia’s National Parks, and an example given of regional geotourism in the young volcanic areas of southeastern Australia, a possible Geopark. Geotourism offers a greater understanding of landscapes and their origins, and also links cultural experience within the landscape to a better understanding of the landscape itself.
Keywords: tourism, geotourism, geomorphological sites, landscape, Geoparks, volcanoes, Australia
Geotourism, or tourism related to geological sites and features, can be seen as a new phenomenon. A working definition of geotourism is suggested: people going to a place to look at and learn about one or more aspects of geology and geomorphology. Gray (2004, p.83) points to an increasing market for geotourism, “either separately or linked with ecotourism”. Reynard et al. (2003) reported on the results of a symposium on the relationship between Geomorphology and Tourism held in September 2001 meeting in Lausanne. The Australian government’s recent Tourism White Paper (Australian Government 2003) discusses building niche markets as a priority, and geotourism would fit in that category. A national government report on Parks and Tourism: Pursuing Common Goals (Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources 2003) examined National Parks and other protected areas of natural and cultural significance in Australia, and their relationships with the tourism industry. The Geological Society of Australia has been working with other organisations to provide accurate and clear information for signboards, leaflets, booklets and maps, e.g. Willmott (2004), Pickett & Alder (1997), Sweet & Crick (1992), Hoatson et al. (1997a, b). In the young Newer Volcanic Province of southeastern Australia a review of the main eruption points, sponsored jointly by the Geological Society of Australia and the National Trust (Victoria) was published in 1994 (Rosengren 1994). The Western Plains portion of the Newer Volcanic Province has a strong cultural heritage, with its complex Aboriginal and early European settlement history, its historic “bluestone” (basalt) houses, bridges, churches, stone walls, and other buildings (Joyce 2001). These, together with its detailed and well-studied geological and geomorphological story, help make it an ideal candidate for nomination as a Geopark. Tourism of geomorphological sites can be used in the future to harness the growing interest in environment and ecology, and educate the public in the story of the landscape.
A definition of geotourism needs to be explored. Geotourism is a new phenomenon, drawing on both geology and tourism. In Australia it is a very new concept, but the Australian natural landscape provides an ideal place to develop geotourism in the future, and the extensive system of National Parks and World Heritage regions is already attracting many local and overseas tourists. Looking after these visitors, and attracting more, is a task requiring research into geological heritage, and how to present it to visitors.
Geotourism is a relatively new term, and does not yet appear in dictionaries. It can be seen as an extension of tourism generally, and a part of ecotourism in particular.. And perhaps geotourism is looking back to the eighteenth-century Grand Tour, where learning, education and self-improvement were the aims.
The Travel Industry Association of America has recently prepared a report “Geotourism: The New Trend in Travel”, claiming that geotourism is a term created by Jonathan Tourtellot, head of the tourism institute at the National Geographic Society. Their definition of geotourism is “tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of the place being visited, including its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents”. While this emphasis on sustainability is praiseworthy, it differs from the definition to be proposed in this chapter.
Another and rather unusual use of the term is that suggested by Buckley (2003), Director of the International Centre for Ecotourism Research at Griffith University in Queensland, northern Australia. He quotes the use of geotourism proposed by the Travel, Industry Association of America (in Stueve et al. 2002) which suggests geotourism is essentially the same as ecotourism. Buckley comments “The older use of the term (geotourism) is as shorthand for geological tourism, travelling to see rocks. This is a rather small specialist subsector!” (Buckley 2003, p.79). Instead he proposes to use the term geotourism to replace the best aspects of ecotourism, when economic, social and financial costs and benefits can be demonstrated, i.e. “Ecotourism can hence be viewed as geotourism with a positive triple bottom line”. This highjacking of the term geotourism is not likely to appeal to geologists.
To define geotourism, we should consider what geotourists may be seeking. Geotourism is about tourists relating to one or more aspects of the science of geology:
Š The landscape itself, and its landforms (geomorphology)
Š How the landscape and landforms developed (processes in geomorphology)
Š How old is the landscape (time in geomorphology e.g. a commonly asked question in Australia is “How old is Uluru/Ayers Rock?)
Š How the landscape relates to the underlying rocks and their structure (structure and geomorphology)
Š How the underlying rocks and structure were formed (geological history)
Š Related aspects of geology such as rocks, mineral and fossils
Š The history of the science of geology
Š Famous people and events in the development of the science of geology.
In this chapter, the term geology is used to cover all aspects of the study of the earth, so it includes geomorphology; sometimes geomorphology will be specifically mentioned, but otherwise it is implied whenever the broader term geology is mentioned.
To define geotourism, we might also consider some dictionary definitions.
Tourism: travelling for pleasure (and also–sometimes–the business of attracting tourists and providing for their accommodation and entertainment).
Tourist: A person making a tour or visit as a holiday, often as part of a group.
(Both definitions from The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1993.)
The term Geotourism can not yet be found in dictionaries.
So a working definition of geotourism to use in the following discussion could be people going to a place to look at and learn about one or more aspects of geology and geomorphology.
Who are geotourists?
Š Ordinary tourists with a further interest in one or more aspects of geology
Š Dedicated amateur (and professional) geologists and geomorphologists
Š School and university students on field trips
Š Academic and teacher conference field trip groups
Š Adult Education classes, and commercial ecotour and geotour participants
Š Landscape photographers, artists, historians, etc.
Where do they go?
Š Icon sites e.g. Hutton’s Unconformity in Scotland; Uluru in central Australia
Š Collecting sites e.g. fossils and minerals at many sites world-wide, now often protected e.g. the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona
Š Unusual and striking landscapes e.g. Iguaca Falls in Argentina; The Pinnacles of Nambung National Park in Western Australia
Š Value-added sites e.g. sites at Lake Mungo, in the Mungo National Park, part of the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Region in inland New South Wales, Australia with a Last Glacial landscape and palaeoprocesses, but also associated indigenous archaeological sites, including the oldest human remains in Australia
Š Places in the news, in novels and films e.g. “Japanese Story” which was recently filmed in the scenic Pilbara region of Western Australia).
Why do they go to such geomorphological sites?
Š Because their friends and neighbours are going (e.g. climbing Uluru in central Australia)
Š Curiosity (sometimes based on publicity in books but especially in newspapers, magazines and on television)
Š To learn geomorphology – as students, amateur students, geotour participants
Š For a cultural experience (archaeology, history, literature, art, music)
Š For an aesthetic experience
Š To photograph, sketch, paint, write stories and poems and compose music
Š To broaden their life experience (the Grand Tour)
Geotourists can be assisted by providing information and interpretation:
Š Dedicated books on the area, specifically for tourists
Š National Park signs
Š Reference and reading lists
Š Field study guidelines, and guidelines for collecting (e.g. fossils)
Š Videos, television programs, films.
Finally, how can we–as geomorphologists working with geomorphological sites–gain from geotourism?
Š Raising awareness of geomorphological sites
Š Gaining publicity for the protection of sites
Š Raising public awareness of other aspects of geology such as risks and hazards (see Joyce 2001).
Other aspects of the landscape that interest geotourists are those of Cultural Value (see other chapters this journal). In cultural value Gray (2004) includes folklore or geomythology, archaeological and historical value, spiritual value, and sense of place. Aesthetic value has long been considered by some writers as a geological or landscape value, and Gray (2004, pp.81-82) considers aesthetic value as the visual appeal of the physical environment.
This has not always been so. In the 16th and 17th centuries, wilderness and wild landscapes were considered repugnant, but in the following two centuries the Romantic movement inspired writers and poets to point to the attraction and inspirational values of natural landscapes, a movement which in turn led to the setting aside of natural areas and the beginning of National Parks systems in many countries.
A brief review of geotourism and its relationships to Geoparks
A search on the web using Google (January 2005) produced 7,340 hits for the whole world but only 22 for sites with Australian web addresses. Many of the sites found were in the United States, and many were activities of the National Geographic Society, sometimes working in conjunction with the Travel Industry Association of America. A recent study on travellers’ environmental and cultural attitudes and behaviours in the USA (The Travel Industry Association of America 2003), identified a group who are “conscious of the environment and are inclined to seek culture and unique experiences when they travel”. The report demonstrated to the travel industry that “millions of travelers are poised to support geotourism practices with their travel dollars”.
Gray (2004, p.83) points to an increasing market for geotourism, “either separately or linked with ecotourism”. He provides listings of geological/geomorphological wonders (icons) including the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Old Faithful geyser, the Norwegian Fiords, Uluru/Ayers Rock, geothermal lakes in Iceland, and recently (since the Lord of the Rings films) certain areas in New Zealand. Four famous waterfalls are on some lists (Angel Falls, Niagara Falls, Iguaca Falls, Victoria Falls). Larwood & Prosser (1988, p.99) are quoted in Gray (2004) as concluding that “Tourists, whether they are aware or not, will in some way all be geotourists.”
Reynard et al. (2003) reported on the results of a symposium on the relationship between Geomorphology and Tourism held in September 2001 meeting in Lausanne. This symposium considered the impact of geomorphological processes on tourism activities and infrastructures, and in turn the negative effects or impacts of tourism itself on geomorphological processes and forms, such as soil erosion and slope instability. Among examples given: the 1973 eruption of Heimaey in Iceland which in creating a new volcano also provided a new opportunity for tourism; the vulnerability to slope erosion of the high valleys of Nepal, increased by tourist activity.
There is a growing interest in Europe in Geosites, and their links to Geoparks and Geotourism, as indicated by the many papers and posters presented in sessions at the 32nd International Geological Congress in Florence in August 2004.
Geoparks is a new initiative supported by UNESCO which aims to identify nationally important geological sites, and lead to their use for local economic development, employment and geotourism (Gray 2004, pp.193-195). This goes beyond the listing of sites as World Heritage or in the Global Geosites of Europe. Geoparks will encompass one or more sites of scientific importance for geology, but often also sites of archaeological, ecological or cultural value; have a management plan that fosters sustainable geotourism and socio-economic development; provide a means of teaching geoscientific disciplines and broader environmental issues; and be part of a global network that demonstrates best practice in Earth heritage conservation and its integration into sustainable development strategies (Gray 2004, p.194).
At a recent count China had 11 Geoparks and the European network had 15. A preliminary list is being prepared for Australia. The 1st International Conference on Geoparks was held in Beijing, China, from the 27th to 29th June 2004, and Dr Susan Turner is coordinating an Australasian-Pacific network for Geoparks (Turner 2004).
A new problem for tourism in coastal areas may arise from possible climate change. For example, Becken (2004) in Fiji has investigated the effect of climate change on tourism, due to possible changes in hazards such as cyclones, storm surge and flooding, sea level rise, erosion, transport and communication interruption, and reduced water availability. Most of the tourist infrastructure in the Pacific islands is located in coastal areas, and vulnerable to such changes. Tourism stakeholders and operators recognise that environmental factors, such as healthy reefs and clear water, are essential for tourism in Fiji.
To conclude with a short personal ‘geostory’ which might be entitled Honeymoon Geotourism in Hawaii. In 1986 the author drove alone through rain and mist to a lookout above the young eruption crater of Kilauea Iki, on the Big Island of Hawaii. As he sat in his car, with heavy rain falling, a newly-married Japanese couple drove up, ran through the rain to the edge of the mist-shrouded crater, and quickly photographed each other, before returning to their car, and driving away. Other sites the Honeymooners in the mist would probably have visited include Volcano House, the famous 19th century hotel, with its view over the rim of the main caldera, the mud pools and steam vents of the nearby geothermal area, and the Thurston Lava Tube, perhaps the first lava tube to ever be opened to tourists.
The ancient links between landscape and travellers, and the desire to record observations and ideas, and preserve memories, is a continuing aspect of human activity, and extending back from the Hawaiian honeymooners to the prehistoric cave artists of Lascaux in France and Kakadu in northern Australia.
Australia has developed its own approach to the assessment of geological heritage (reviewed in Joyce 1995, see also Joyce 1994), with heritage workers in the Geological Society of Australia adopting ideas from the U.K. and working with the national government’s Australian Heritage Commission on suitable methodologies for identification, documentation, assessment and management of features and sites in the Australian landscape. The use of sites and features are then listed as education, research and reference , and recreation/aesthetic . A typical research and reference site may be of limited geotourism interest (Fig. 1) but recreation/aesthetic sites may attract many tourists (Fig. 2).
As geotourism develops in Australia in the future, a different approach to that of northern hemisphere countries, with their different geological and geomorphological histories, might be expected.
Australia is well known for its icon sites, such as the Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park, Kakadu National Park, and the Great Barrier Reef of Queensland. These areas are in well-established National Parks, and many are now World Heritage listed. At the Shark Bay Marine Park and World Heritage Region, in Western Australia, tourists may see modern dolphins and learn about their place in the ecosystem, but they may also study living stromatolites, and consider their significance in understanding the earliest life on earth, preserved as fossil stromatolites in nearby Proterozoic rocks.
Some less known geotourism sites in Australia include the dinosaur footprints at Lark Quarry, Winton, Queensland, and the Devonian fossil fish beds at the Age of Fishes Museum at Canowindra, New South Wales. The Tertiary fossils at Riversleigh, Queensland, and Naracoorte, South Australia were also less known, but their recent listing as World Heritage will increase public interest.
Australia’s interest in geology for the public goes back to the mid-19th century. In 1866 the Jenolan Caves area in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales was specifically set aside for the use of tourists. In 1879 the first Australian national park was established 25 km south of Sydney, influenced to some extent by the current national park concepts in the United States of America. Originally called just “National Park”, it is now the Royal National Park.
The Australian government’s recent Tourism White Paper (Australian Government 2003) discusses building niche markets as a priority, and geotourism would fit in that category. However, in Australia much emphasis is given to non-geological landscape values, such as plants and animals, and the biological environment. Indigenous Tourism (i.e. involving Aboriginal people, their art and also their understanding of the landscape) is singled out for discussion in the White Paper, and strong demand for Indigenous Tourism by tourists from Germany, the United Kingdom, other European counties and North America is recorded. Geotourism might be seen as fitting into a similar niche to Indigenous Tourism (although in practice it can be difficult to present the two approaches together). An outcome of the White Paper has been the establishment of a National Tourism and Heritage Taskforce which has prepared a report “Going Places: Developing Natural and Cultural Heritage Tourism in Australia”. Among the priorities given in the report is “Telling the Story – making heritage stories more effective in tourism”.
A national government report on Parks and Tourism: Pursuing Common Goals (Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources 2003) examined National Parks and other protected areas of natural and cultural significance in Australia, and their relationships with the tourism industry. A Case Studies volume discussed access arrangements, infrastructure development, community-based conservation and indigenous (i.e. Aboriginal) development. The term “nature-based tourism” was used, suggesting the unfortunate but common emphasis in Australia on biology and environment, and excluding much of geology. However case studies discussed in the report, such as the Naracoorte Caves, Kakadu and the famous Twelve Apostles limestone rock stacks of the coastline Port Campbell National Park in Victoria, indicate the scope for geotourism.
Three Australian textbooks aimed at tourism students provide some further background to the local scene. An early text is Weiler & Hall (1992) which used the term Special Interest Tourism (SIT). This was defined as being for travellers whose “motivation and decision-making are primarily determined by a particular special interest”. While geology might be expected to fall under this definition, no aspects of geology are discussed in the book, and such sites as Ayers Rock-Uluru and Kakadu are discussed without reference to their landscape or geology. The sole geology-related section of the book is a chapter on “Fossickers and Rockhounds in Northern New South Wales” which describes the tourist potential of the New England area of eastern Australia, where interested visitors come to search for gemstones. The book points out that for fossickers the source of information about possible areas to visit is mainly “word of mouth”rather than published or official sources. Fossickers provide some income to the local area by often staying in paid accommodation for lengthy periods, and often returning for further visits.
A later book with the same title (Douglas et al. 2001) defines Special Interest Tourism as “the provision of customized leisure and recreational experiences driven by the specific expressed interests of individuals and groups”. The term geotourism is not used in the book. Heritage tourism and educational tourism are discussed, but geology or landscape is never referred to.
The most recent text of this type is by Newsome et al. (2002), and in their book “Natural Area Tourism: Ecology, Impacts and Management” they index the term “geology” but there is little discussion of geological aspects of tourism, apart from a short section on caves, and a mention of soil and wind erosion under the heading “abiotic components” when discussing environmental impacts of tourism. It is hard to believe that a modern textbook devoted to “Natural Area Tourism” could have such little reference to geology, geomorphology, landforms and landscape, which provide the basis of all natural areas. The term geotourism is not mentioned anywhere in the book.
What geotourists in Australia expect
The Tourism & Transport Forum, an Australian industry group, initiated a report in response to concerns that Australia’s National Parks and other Protected Areas were not achieving their tourist potential. The report, A Natural Partnership: Making National Parks a Tourism Priority, (The Tourism & Transport Forum 2004), was prepared by the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre, a government-sponsored research group. In the report some valuable data on visitor numbers, their interests and other data on tourism are summarised.
The national average for employment in tourism is 6%, but in some areas adjacent to important tourist attractions this may rise to as much as 40%. (In remote areas such as Uluru all except the actual tourists may well be considered as employed in tourism!) To visitors, ease of access is important, as well as quality visitor centres, signs, maps, safety directions, scenic outlooks and so on. Project Papers (for example Griffin & Vacaflores 2004) point to the need for higher quality visitor experiences.
It is estimated that Australian National Parks and Marine Parks attract approximately 80 million visits each year. Visits to Australian Protected Areas in general are growing steadily. Domestic tourists are the vast majority (at least 90%) of visitors to Protected Areas. Most visitors travel by private motor vehicle, with only 1% as part of a tour group. Most domestic visitors live in cities, and most are of Anglo-Celtic or north-western European background, rather than of southern and eastern Europe and Asia. Visitors to National Parks are more environmentally aware, better educated, and with above average incomes, compared to the general travelling public. In contrast, only 41% of international tourists to Australia visited a National Park during their trip. The iconic National Parks are most attractive, with 70% of visitors to Uluru being international visitors, 61% to the Great Barrier Reef, and 52% to Kakadu. International visitors are generally from Europe, North America or North-East Asia, and in the age group 20-34.
The most common motivation for visiting such areas is the enjoyment or experience of nature. Learning is often rated low in the motivation scale except where the parks have significant Aboriginal (indigenous) heritage values, such as Kakadu and Mungo National Parks, or iconic natural features or wildlife such as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
In Australia there is almost a complete lack of geologists or geographers on the staff of the National Parks system. This reflects a general lack of interest in geology in Australian education, both school and university, in comparison with biology and general environment studies. In general the Australian public is less skilled in geology than its 19th century ancestors, who lived at a time when mining for gold and other minerals, and locating coal and building stone, were major economic activities. This lack of geological understanding can today sometimes lead to laughable misunderstanding, sometimes referred to as “busdriver’s dreaming”- a reference to the stories told by ill-informed tour guides, and making use, in a somewhat derogatory way, of the term used for the indigenous peoples’ stories of the Dreamtime, the period in the early history of their people in Australia when the earth and its features were formed.
The 22 web sites for Australia found in a Google search (January 2005) show the beginnings of interest in geotourism at several universities, government departments, and local government bodies, and individuals carrying out research. As well there are a few geologists who are leaders of geotourism tours and related activities. The boundaries between the well-established ecotourism industry and more specific geotourism activities is not always easy to distinguish. This will probably improve in the future.
In 1996 the conference of the Geological Society of Australia was held in the national capital Canberra, and two presentations were concerned with geotourism – perhaps the earliest mention of the term amongst the Australian geological community. Casey & Stephenson (1996) spoke from their practical experience and provided “tips and practical experience” on putting geology in tourism. They argued for the use of simple explanations of geology, avoiding the use of jargon, and they suggested including links to indigenous (aboriginal) legends, and also making use of the public’s interest in orchards and wineries. W. Mayer’s 1996 paper discussed geology and tourism, and suggested Australia was well–suited to nature tours, for example in areas such as Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef. Mayer (1966) also referred to geotours in the Hamersley and Pilbara regions of far northern Western Australia, and argued that geotourism needed “small, compact, but well-illustrated guidebooks”; he suggested that the Geological Society of Australia might help produce these.
Indigenous sites in Australia may have scientific or social significance to the broad community (Pearson & Sullivan 1999, p.159) as in such World Heritage sites as Kakadu and the Willandra Lakes, but additionally they have a special significance for Aboriginal people, both in the broad landscape itself, but also at specific “sacred sites” which might include for example cave art sites attractive to tourists. Local Aboriginal owners now often have some control of site management and must be consulted when tourist access is being planned.
Pearson & Sullivan (1999) discussed aesthetic significance of heritage for Australians - “The concept and symbolism of old things, and the evidence of the accretions of time, have a strong effect on many Australians. When this is combined with a pleasing aesthetic experience, it creates a powerful emotional effect.” “Eighteenth-century English nobility did the ‘grand tour’ of Europe to add polish to their French and Italian, and to gaze at, and be edified by, the ancient ruins and picturesque remains of earlier civilisations.”
Ollier (in Joyce 1995. pp.A2.8-A2.10) has examined the work of the national government’s Australian Heritage Commission and also the Geological Society of Australia on assessing the aesthetics of geological and geomorphological sites. Comparing this work with assessment techniques used elsewhere, Ollier concludes that in Australia “It is not an easy task, but it may be worth while using some sort of aesthetic evaluation in geological and landscape sites”.
Pearson & Sullivan wrote mainly about heritage places such as buildings, but recognise that the concept of aesthetic significance also applies to landscape. The Australian Heritage Commission has attempted to devise criteria for assessing the aesthetic value of landscapes, although it still presents problems in its application.
Pearson & Sullivan (1999, p.277-306) reviewed “Visitor Management and Interpretation” in Australian heritage places. “The aim of visitor management is to enable visitors to maximize their appreciation and enjoyment of the heritage place, while minimizing the risk of damage to the place…”. Visitor management studies of caves with Aboriginal art in the Northern Territory of Australia have shown that it is possible to control visitors and reduce vandalism with simple techniques. Surveys and observations of visitors yielded many ideas for managing and marketing sites, educating visitors, and providing appropriate and useful interpretation at the site.
Discussing “Recreation/Tourism Pressures” Gray (2004, p. 159-163) listed an increase in visitor numbers, overcrowding, pollution, landscape damage, especially by foot traffic and the effects of off-road vehicles, and the reshaping of landscape for paths, for uses as camping areas, and for skiing and other activities. In some countries like Australia we might add increasing the local fire hazard, and generating search and rescue problems which may in turn lead to calls for more restricted access.
Much of the work on geological heritage in Australia has been carried out by members of the Geological Society of Australia, working in conjunction with the national government’s Australian Heritage Commission. In the southern island state of Tasmania, members of government departments , particularly those working in forestry, have also done much work on geomorphological sites (see discussion in Gray 2004, pp.249-254). In the 1960s and 1970s, geological heritage was often largely concerned with sites containing fossils, minerals or stratigraphic sequences (Fig. 1) but now the whole range of geology and geomorphology is considered, with landforms and modern processes taking their full part (Fig. 2).
Some available geotourism guides for Australia
As well as developing methodologies, listing sites, and making suggestions about their management, the Geological Society of Australia has worked with other organisations in providing accurate and clear information for signboards, leaflets, booklets and maps.
In a new guidebook sponsored by Geological Society of Australia, Willmott (2004) explains how scenery in National Parks in southern Queensland has developed, by first grouping parks with similar geological history and explaining their common origin, and then giving details of the rocks and landscapes in each group. The book is aimed at visitors, tourists and bushwalkers, as well as teachers and students. It is the most recent book in a series prepared and published by the Queensland Division of the Geological Society of Australia. Other Divisions of the Society in the various Australia states have done similar work.
For the recently-declared World Heritage area of the Blue Mountains in NSW, a 34 page A4 colour booklet with photographs, maps, a geological introduction, detailed descriptions of 36 sites, a geological map, notes on early investigators and geologists, and a glossary has been prepared by the NSW Department of Mineral Resources, in conjunction with the Geological Society of Australia, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, and the University of Sydney (Pickett & Alder 1997).
The major icons of central Australia, Uluru & Kata Tjuta, listed as World Heritage in 1987, have been provided with a detailed geological account by Sweet & Crick (1992) as the first in a series of publications by the Australian Geological Survey Organisation. This booklet discusses post-settlement history and explorers, remote sensing, geological history, and the shaping of Uluru & Kata Tjuta, and provides a tour with site descriptions (domes, caves, gorges, jointing, pavements, faults, springs), a glossary and further reading.
The relatively newly-discovered Bungle Bungle Range, in the East Kimberley of Western Australia, was only proclaimed as the Purnululu National Park in 1987. Its unusual beehive-shaped layered red domes are described by Hoatson et al. (1997a) in a guide to the rocks, landforms, plants, animals, and human impact. Following a television nature series on the Bungle Bungles in 1983, and further media exposure, the number of visitors has increased annually, from an estimated 2,350 in 1986 to 14,500 in 1996.
The World Heritage area of Kakadu & Nitmiluk National Parks, in the Northern Territory of Australia, has an up-to-date guide to the rocks, landforms, plants, and animals, the Aboriginal culture of the region, and the effects of human impact, prepared by the Australian Geological Survey Organisation, Canberra, and sponsored by the Geological Society of Australia and the uranium mining group Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (Hoatson et al. 1997b). The booklet includes a welcome in five languages, and discusses visitor numbers, and management problems, as well as Aboriginal heritage. In this area with major geomorphological values, visitor number rapidly increased after its listing in 1981 as World Heritage for its natural and cultural values in - from 46,000 in 1982 to 225,000 in 1988 and 1999.
Elery Hamilton-Smith has described “The emergence of a caves industry” in Australia, which began in the mid-19th century (Finlayson & Hamilton-Smith 2003, pp.160-171). There are now well over fifty show caves in Australia (defined as “available for inspection by the general public”). In 1989 The Australasian Cave and Karst Management Association was founded, and it now holds biennial conferences and produces a quarterly journal.
Work on guidelines for collecting fossils and minerals is needed in Australia as the geotourism industry develops (geotourism operator Monica Yeung pers. comm.) The Shire of Yass, near the National capital of Canberra, is an example of a local government organisation developing a geotourism program. The state Geological Survey of Western Australia has published a guide to field collecting (Grey 2002).
The mining industry is well-developed in Australia, and has helped inspire and establish several major museums and exhibitions e.g. The Mining Hall of Fame in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, and the Sovereign Hill Village and Gold Museum at Ballarat, Victoria. These provide valuable related experiences for geotourists in Australia.
The young volcanic regions of southeastern Australia, known as the Newer Volcanic Province, occupy broad coastal plains, and an elevated upland to the north of the plains. Beginning about 6-7 Ma ago, but mainly since 5 Ma, a new volcanic province was formed, and nearly 400 small, monogenetic scoria cones, maars and lava shields were built up by Strombolian/Hawaiian eruptions. Fluid basalt flows spread laterally around vents, often for many tens of kilometres down river valleys (Fig. 3). Where the lava flows blocked drainage, lakes and swamps were formed. Phreatic eruptions deposited ash and left deep maar craters, often now with lakes. The first recording of past volcanic activity was in 1836 (Fig. 4) and now, over a century and a half later, while the cause of activity still remains largely unexplained, further activity is considered to be likely.
The youngest dated eruption is that of Mt Gambier in southeastern South Australia, at 4000-4300 B.P. The highest volcano is Mt Elephant, near the centre of the plains. It rises a striking 240 m above the plains to an elevation above sea level of 393 m, with a crater 90 m deep, and is similar in size to Mt Kooroocheang, the highest volcano in the Western Uplands. First identified as a volcanic region nearly 170 years ago (Fig. 4), the Newer Volcanic Province of southeastern Australia is now one of the best studied of the world's many young basaltic monogenetic lava fields.
In 1866 the large maar volcanic crater of Tower Hill in western Victoria was set aside as a public park, and in 1892 state legislation was passed which made the Tower Hill volcano Victoria’s first National Park.
Significant geological features and sites in the Newer Volcanic Province were first discussed in Joyce & King (1980), and the internationally important lava tubes or lava caves in Joyce & Webb (1993). A review of the main eruption points, sponsored jointly by the Geological Society of Australia and the National Trust (Victoria) was published in 1994 (Rosengren 1994).
Recent threats to this heritage, which includes many landforms of national and international significance, have included quarrying of cones, housing development inside craters (as at historically-important Lake Gnotuk - Fig. 5) and landform destruction (on the Byaduk lava flow from Mt Napier, Fig. 3). New reserves have however been developed at Mt Elephant and Mt Rouse volcanoes, there have been recent improvements to interpretation at other sites, and across much of Western Victoria a Volcanoes Discovery Trail has been developed, with a well-illustrated colour leaflet for tourist use (Fig. 6). A recent National Trust landscape study of the Stony Rises lava flows, and the establishment of the Penshurst Volcanoes Discovery Centre (Fig. 7), near the Mt Rouse volcano, are also promising developments. In the future the integration of volcanic research, local history study, and heritage interpretation could be the key to developing a greater awareness, not just of heritage values, but also of hazard and risk concepts in the Newer Volcanic Province of southeastern Australia (Joyce 2001).
The Western Plains portion of the Newer Volcanic Province has a strong cultural heritage, with its complex Aboriginal and early European settlement history, its historic “bluestone” (basalt) houses, bridges, churches, other town buildings, and stone walls (Joyce 2001). These, together with its detailed and well-studied geological and geomorphological story, help make it an ideal candidate for nomination as a Geopark, and it has been proposed by the author for a list currently being prepared for UNESCO by Australian representative Dr Sue Turner.
Geotourism can be seen as a modern version of the educational Grand Tour, and also as an expression of modern concern and interest in the environment. Geology was a popular science in the 19th century, but later became a specialised scientific study with little appreciation or understanding amongst the general population. This may now be changing, with an increase in popular interest in the environment, and a greater demand for further education after school. In Australia this is leading to a broadening of geology, which is no longer just a 20th century applied and mining story, but a modern Earth Science which can demonstrate the story of planet Earth, and show how this story ranks alongside stories told by botany, zoology, meteorology, and astronomy.
Australia has an unusual and extensive natural landscape which offers much to geotourists, whether local or from other countries. Tourism of geomorphological sites can be used in the future to harness the growing interest in environment and ecology, and educate the public in the story of the landscape. And at the same time geotourism can provide tourists with a better understanding of the whole environment, and by using links to cultural and historical aspects can better explain the place of humans in the landscape.
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Fig. 1. Cahill road cutting, an important stratigraphic site, and the best surface exposure of the Cahill Formation, the host for large uranium deposits in the Northern Territory. In a 1986 GSA report this was the only geological heritage site listed in or near Kakadu, an extensive area which was later to become the Kakadu World Heritage Region.
Fig. 2. Noorlangie Rock, Kakadu, looking north to the floodplain of the South Alligator River, with the escarpment of Proterozoic sandstone at the edge of the Arnhem Land Plateau to the right; the type of site now also considered important for its geological heritage (compare with Fig. 1).
Fig. 3. The new roadside interpretive sign above the Byaduk valley lava flow of late Quaternary age, with Mt Napier lava shield and scoria cones on the skyline.
Fig. 4. Mt Napier crater depicted in the report of Major Mitchell’s 1836 government exploring expedition.
Fig. 5. Lake Gnotuk maar crater with the volcanic plains and many cones beyond, in a historical painting by Eugen von Guérard in 1857.
Fig. 6. The well-illustrated government-sponsored colour leaflet for tourist use, promoting the Volcanoes Discovery Trail in Western Victoria and adjacent South Australia.
Fig. 7. The new Penshurst Volcanoes Discovery Centre, near Mt Rouse volcano, housed in an historic “bluestone” (basalt) building.