Whether you've had to cancel travel plans or are just getting restless at home, cure your wanderlust with these virtual travel experiences
Travel restrictions are in place across the globe, with famed landmarks that are usually abuzz with tourists now lying empty. Due to the colossal impact of COVID-19, the world has come to a standstill with more than one third of the global population now practicing social distancing. But beyond catching up on Netflix and finding ways to stay production at home, there are still many bucket list experiences you can enjoy – all from the comfort of your sofa. Whether you've always wanted to see the corals of the Great Barrier Reef, tour Japan's greatest attractions or even catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis, there's no time like the present. Though you may not be able to visit in person, we're letting you know how to access the next best thing. Even if these experiences don't quite cure any itchy feet, they can at least offer some light respite from the news, and even give some inspiration for the next trip you can go on.
1. Visit the Great Barrier Reef
You may not be able to hop on a plane to Australian, but you can still visit – albeit virtually – and appreciate one of the seven wonders of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef. Fans of BBC's Plant Earth and Netlix's Our Planet will be thrilled to hear that the tour will be guided by none other than Sir David Attenborough.
The project, titled “David Attenborough's Barrier Reef,” takes guests on a virtual adventure, guiding them through everything from how coral grows to the environmental impacts and hazards such as coral bleaching. “With over 1,500 species of fish, 600 coral species and 30 different whale and dolphin species, it is one of the most biodiverse and complex ecosystems on the planet.” Attenborough said in a statement. The program includes a number of chapters to guide you through 2,300 kilometers of Australia’s coastline, which includes a map that lets you know just how far you’ve travelled along the coast.
Aside from providing cultural entertainment, Attenborough hopes to raise awareness for the “beautiful but threatened” Great Barrier Reef. The program also includes actionable steps that need to be taken in order to ensure the ecosystem’s long term survival.
Find out more at attenboroughsreef.com
See also: 25 Ways To Go Green In Hong Kong
2. See the Aurora Borealis
An often elusive experience for travellers, the famed Aurora Borealis can now be viewed online. Offering a little zen to calm those cooped up at home, the bucket-list experience can be enjoyed virtually on the site Lights Over Lapland.
The website states that "nothing is as exciting as an evening of chasing the northern lights in person, we believe that we may have found the next best thing – watching the lights in virtual reality!", with the site showing viewers recent footage of the lights, as well as working to create even better VR experiences. The site also offers stills from a live webcam of popular viewing spots.
Find out more at llightsoverlapland.com
3. Experience an African game drive
If seeing the Big Five has always been on your bucket list, you're in luck, as high-end tour company andBeyond and wildlife broadcaster WildEarth have teamed up to offer a unique virtual experience. The twice daily game drive livestreams will be available throughout the month of April, and will give viewers a look inside two renowned South African game reserves, andBeyond Ngala Private Game Reserve and Djuma Private Game Reserve.
Each game drive will last approximately three hours and will be hosted by expert andBeyond and WildEarth field guides, with viewers able to interact with their safari hosts and have their questions answered in real-time – just like if they were on a real game drive. What's more, if you can't tune in live, andBeyond has highlights from previous game drive livestreams available to view at any time, including a sunrise safari featuring elephants swimming, and a sunset view of the Birmingham lion pride.
Find out more at andbeyond.com
4. Tour America's National Parks
Famed for their natural beauty, America's National Parks range from snow-peaked mountains to gleaming lakes and dusty canyons. Yet another of the global experiences you can now enjoy at home, The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks is a new Google Arts & Culture is an interactive documentary and virtual exhibit that allows you to explore corners of the American wilderness that most people will never see.
Each virtual tour is guided by a local ranger who shares facts and relevant figures as they lead you through the wild, with destinations including Alaska’s Kenai Fjords, Hawaiian volcanoes, the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, Florida’s Dry Tortugas, and the Bryce Canyon in Utah.
Find out more at artsandculture.google.com
5. Tick off Japan's landmarks
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics may have been postponed, but you can still tour some of the Japan's most extraordinary sites through VR.
Japan may only be a short plane journey from Hong Kong, but with travel off the cards for the foreseeable future, those looking to get a culture fix now can from the comfort of their own home. All you need is a smart phone and you can enjoy 360 degree movies of landmarks including Tokyo Tower, the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, the world-famous Shibuya crossing and even watch sumo wrestlers in action.
Find more information at visitjapan-europe.jnto.go.jp
See also: 48 Hours In Tokyo, Japan
6. Get a taste of life as a royal
You may be at home in your loungewear, but with an array of new virtual tours, you can now get a peek inside some of the world's most famed castles and palaces.
Many may have witnessed the Changing Of The Guard in London, but how many have actually had a look inside Buckingham Palace? Through a new virtual tour, those staying home can wander the halls of the Queen's official residence, including the Grand Staircase, the White Drawing Room, the Throne Room and the Blue Drawing Room. Other famed UK landmarks such as Windsor Castle, The Tower of London and even 10 Downing Street can also be explored.
7. Catch the spring cherry blossom
Around the world, April signifies the beginning of spring, with blossom in full bloom everywhere from Tokyo to London to Washington.
Luckily, thanks to Google Earth's new Cherry Blossoma Around The World collection you can now virtually visit 10 of the top-rated cherry blossom sites from around the world – perfect if you're looking for a breath of fresh air and something to brighten your mood. The locations have been chosen by visitors and locals who have written reviews on Google Maps, and include the likes of the Kew's Royal Botanical Gardens in London, Meguro River Cherry Blossoms Promenade in Tokyo, Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver and more.