Living it up, Australia styleFeatured

Written by ABHILASHA OJHA
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Rated among the most fabulous destinations around the world, Australia charms you with its curated experiences and indescribable moments

In his celebrated travelogue, Down Under: Travels in a Sunburned Country, author Bill Bryson confesses to being completely “smitten” by Australia. “The people are immensely likeable… Their cities are safe and clean… The food is excellent. The beer is cold. The sun nearly always shines. There is coffee on every corner… Life doesn’t get much better than this.”

It’s so easy to agree with Bryson when you experience Australia for yourself — you taste the sea in the perfectly-grilled ocean trout, you discover meditation in the depths of the oceans, you find love while hugging a koala, you wake up on a pontoon in the middle of the ocean to discover the most beautiful morning of your lifetime... At every step Australia inspires you with its curated experiences and glorious moments.

Here’s a list of the most unique experiences that will make your holiday in Australia a memorable one.

Reef sleep: There’s no bigger high than experiencing the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef structure. While snorkeling and scuba diving will get you up, close and personal with the rich marine life, what’s worth experiencing is the one-of-its-kind Reef Sleep adventure that Whitsundays Tourism organises. Imagine sleeping in the middle of the ocean, on a pontoon, and watching around you the changing landscape — the flaming red and orange hued skies with the setting sun in the background, and the earthy brown texture of coral reefs gets revealed to you as the low tide starts and it emerges from the water. The sight is breathtaking. You have the reef to yourself (not more than 12-14 people are allowed to stay overnight on the pontoon) and that’s why there’s no better way to enjoy a dive in the Great Barrier Reef the next morning. Our dinner was fantastic — scrumptious prawns, warm bread, grilled veggies served on a bed of mashed potato. You allow the gentle light of the moon to drift you to sleep. And then you wake up to the most fabulous sight, a glorious sunrise even as the coral reef is partially submerged under water again. http://www.cruisewhitsundays.com/

Hugging a Koala bear: While all other parts of Australia allow you to stand close to a koala and pose for pictures, it’s only in Queensland that you can actually cuddle one. I experience this at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary where I meet Peppermint, a one-year-old rescued koala. I rest my hands gently to allow Peppermint in my arms, reassuring the animal by stroking her back while she rests her head in my chest, giving me a warm hug. There’s more you can do here — feed kangaroos, walk through the natural bushland and rainforests, engage in ziplining, and other adventurous activities that Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary lines up on a daily basis. Top the experience with treetop walking followed by breakfast with koalas. http://www.cws.org.au/

Hot air ballooning followed by champagne breakfast in an 18th century vineyard: You cannot come back from Australia without hopping into a wicker basket and chasing the wind on a hot air balloon. There cannot be a more spectacular dawn for you to experience, there cannot be a more memorable breakfast — English breakfast with bacon, eggs to order, creamy mushrooms, grilled — and giant — tomatoes, baked beans, freshly-baked bread and croissants at O’Reilly’s Canungara Valley Vineyards. www.hotair.info

Dinner in the desert underneath the stars and 50,000 “bulbs” of light: As darkness falls and Uluru is thrown into silhouette, a “field of light” illuminates. The Field of Light art installation, a global phenomenon by internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro, has come “home” to the place that inspired it - Uluru. More than 50,000 slender stems crowned with frosted-glass spheres bloom as darkness falls over Australia’s spiritual heartland. The installation comes to life under a sky brilliant with stars. There’s no greater experience than nature and art coming together and a dinner underneath the stars with the massive sandstone monolith in the heart of the Northern Territory’s Red Centre desert in the backdrop. https://www.voyages.com.au/

Luxury helicopter safari in Kimberley: It is landscape as old as time itself and this is a curated experience you wouldn’t want to miss — the extraordinary views of Kimberley, Western Australia’s sparsely settled northern region, known for large swaths of wilderness defined by rugged mountains, dramatic gorges, outback desert and isolated coastal sections. To truly appreciate the size, scope and beauty of the Great Barrier Reef, a scenic helicopter flight is a must do! www.helispirit.com.au/

The Outback train stretch: Regarded as one of the world’s greatest train journeys, the train tracks of the Ghan (shortened form of Afghan) cuts through the heart of Australia, allowing you to see the heart of Australia through the comfort and solitude of your private cabin as you spend three nights, four days in Katherine, Alice Springs and Coober Pedy, watching Australia at its dramatic best. http://www.greatsouthernrail.com.au/trains/the_ ghan/

Penguin parade: One of Australia’s most popular attractions, the world’s smallest penguins waddle up the beach to the safety of their homes in the sand dunes. It’s a magical procession, not to be missed. Since Phillip Island has among the largest penguin colonies in Australia, it’s a great idea to observe this spectacle. What’s more, you can also adopt and sponsor little penguins to aid in their protection and welfare. https://www.penguins.org.au/

Walk through timeless tropical rainforests: I’d rate this as one of my favourite experiences. Arriving in O’Reilley’s Retreat, the hinterland of Gold Coast, which hugs the UNESCO World Heritage site, Lamington National Park, it’s charming to escape to a world of ancient forests and the magic of the subtropical rainforests complete with 160kms of walking trails, over 500 waterfalls and 250 species of unique Australian wildlife. The piece de resistance is a night session with glow worms. Underneath the canopy of ancient trees — many of them not seen anywhere else in the world — it’s an achievement to walk in an area that’s a rich remnant of an ancient landscape, going back 300 million years! https://oreillys.com.au

Do the bridge climb in Sydney: Ascend the arches of the historical Sydney Harbour Bridge (it opened in 1932), 134m above sea level, right in the heart of the magnificent city for an uninterrupted panorama of the city and surrounds. The 3.5-hour climb offers you panoramic views of the Sydney Opera House, Blue Mountains and more. http://www.bridgeclimb.com/

Sunset at Hamilton Island: If you want to experience heaven on earth, head to the sunset point in Hamilton Island for what can be rated among the best views on earth. You’ll see several cockatoos, the sweet laughter of children around you, the fabulously coloured sky and the pristine water sparkling with the reflection of the glazed orange sky as the sun sets on the horizon. http://www.hamiltonisland.com.au/

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