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With news that Google Streetview sent a camera into Fukushima, the city that was abandoned after a 2011 Japanese earthquake cause the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiich nuclear power plant, we’re now able to see inside the now desolate town. Take a look at the eerie photos and others from around the world. Read more
Google already has your land travel covered, from Google Earth to street views to building plans (see our post on Indoor Maps), but now they want to take you underwater to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, with the help of the University of Queensland, Catlin Group Limited, and some pretty fancy cameras. For the project, the Catlin Seaview Survey will photograph 360 degree underwater panorama views of shallow reefs, which over the next few years will be made available to the public through Google Maps, Google Earth, and even live YouTube streams on a dedicated YouTube channel. You can see a demo of the Street-View-inspired Seaview maps here.
These gorgeous images and maps are made possible by a specially designed camera called the SVII, which acts as an underwater scooter and takes photographs as it moves. The photographs will be analyzed by image recognition software that will quickly catalog the wildlife at the 20 sites chosen for study along the Great Barrier Reef. But there are other components to the project, as well: a deep reef survey, and a mega fauna survey.
Airlines, bloggers, cruise lines, and resorts flood our inboxes daily with travel contests and sweepstakes. The prizes are always tempting, but it’s tough to figure out which giveaways are worth your valuable time (and contact information) and which you should demote to the spam folder. To up your odds of scoring a free vacation, we’ll feature one travel contest each week – and say why it’s worth your while.
Contest: Sponsored by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and Queensland Tourism, this trip is a diver’s dream: Seven nights, including accommodations and coach airfare, for two in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, diving’s Holy Grail, which spans 1,400 miles of some of the world’s most stunning underwater scenery. The trip features three nights onboard the dive ship Spirit of Freedom and the opportunity for 11 dives, as well as a day trip to the Daintree Rainforest, the world’s oldest and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Fellow ShermansTravel.com bloggers Donna Heiderstadt and Andrew Skwarek posted recently about the romantic and scuba-tastic aspects of the Great Barrier Reef, and I was all too happy to jump on the bandwagon last week when Tourism Queensland brought me to Australia for, among other experiences, a full-day reef cruise.
I was expecting the jaw-dropping beauty that Andrew encountered during his trip and found it during my excursion aboard the Calypso (www.tropicaljourneys.com), one of several reef tour boats operating out of Port Douglas. What I wasn’t expecting to find when I stepped out onto one the catamaran’s outdoor decks was a couple with two young kids.
Yesterday (January 18), Oprah Winfrey began airing her four-part taped telecast from Australia, where in December she took 300 lucky audience members (some of whom had never even flown before) on the trip of a lifetime. Their visit included celebrity-studded tapings at the Sydney Opera House (shown above at left; courtesy of Tourism New South Wales) and visits to Australia’s top tourist destinations. While the Land Down Under may be best known for its rugged Outback and Great Barrier Reef adventures, not to mention its only-in-Oz wildlife like kangaroos and koalas, I have visited the country twice and can vouch that it is also dreamily romantic.
Yes, Australia is far away (a 14-hour flight from Los Angeles), but it’s summer there now and all the Oprah hoopla means there are some good deals to be had. Here’s the scoop:
The Luxury The 128-room Pullman Reef Hotel Casino, on Trinity Inlet in Cairns, Australia, features rooms with Jacuzzi-style baths, plush linens, and verandas with water or city views. A special package includes a five-day Learn to Dive course with Pro Dive Cairns and culminates with three days of exploring the Great Barrier Reef.
The Value The Smart Luxury Travel special covers four nights in the hotel, two nights on a dive vessel (expect bare-bones accommodations), nine dives, use of scuba equipment, all meals onboard, and the cost of PADI Gold Open Water Certification. Rates start at $1,265 a person, a savings of more than 25 percent off the standard Learn to Dive course, for travel through March 31.
The Catch Airfare is extra; a round-trip ticket from LA to Cairns, with a stop in Sydney, Brisbane, Singapore, or Hong Kong costs about $1,300.
From the Winter 2010/2011 issue of Smart Luxury Travel magazine by ShermansTravel.com.
For general trip-planning information, see our Great Barrier Reef Travel Guide.
The Luxury The 20-night South Pacific Islands in Style package from Swain Tours takes you on an in-depth journey through Australia, New Zealand, and the Cook Islands. From Sydney city life to the secluded Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef, from a West Auckland winery tour to a wilderness safari, you’ll experience all the South Pacific has to offer – while bedding down each night in the region’s top luxury hotels.
Qantas has lowered round-trip fares to nine Australian cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns, and Perth! The airline is advertising round-trip sale fares starting as low as $678 (taxes not included) but our editors uncovered even better Qantas rates with fares starting at $518! Travelers should note that the average tax included when booking these flights is $300.
Flights leave from 16 cities nationwide so jet-setters from coast-to-coast can take advantage of this deal. With these low fares, down under destinations like the Great Barrier Reef, the Sydney Opera House, and Ayers Rock are easily accessible. Flights must be booked by March 31 and travel is valid between April 19 and September 21, 2010.
Round-Trip Sample Fares (Taxes Not Included):
• San Francisco—Brisbane: $518
• San Diego—Cairns: $668
• Las Vegas—Sydney: $713
• Dallas—Melbourne: $728
• Los Angeles—Perth: $778
• Seattle—Sydney: $843
• Newark—Melbourne: $878
• New York—Darwin: $918
• And more!
Visit www.Qantas.com to book your flight.
Dreaming of a faraway trip to the land Down Under? Summer is a great time to visit Australia – and more gems in the neighboring South Pacific – if you want to save a bundle. This exciting 7-night itinerary gets you a taste of an exciting Australian city, as well as a jaunt to New Zealand. Begin your trip with a 4-night stay in Australia’s Cairns, gateway city to the Great Barrier Reef. Located just one block from the Esplanade, the four-star Hotel Cairns offers upscale guestrooms within easy walking distance of fine shops and restaurants. Enjoy a full-day cruise to explore the vast underwater reefs just off the coast, and take advantage of the included 24-hour Smart Car rental to explore the region’s remarkable rainforests. Next, you’ll fly straight to Auckland, New Zealand’s largest and most cosmopolitan city. Spend three nights at the four-star Skycity Hotel and you’ll have ample time to explore the area’s gorgeous beaches. Priced from just $1,061, this affordable itinerary covers round-trip airfare from Los Angeles via Air New Zealand, flight from Cairns to Auckland, and all transfers. Normally priced at $2,372 per person, you’ll save 56 percent off rack rates if you book by June 30.
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