A! List Guide to Oceania & Antarctica

Five-star travel from Australia to Tahiti and beyond
Saturday , 23 July 2011
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Oceania & Antarctica
From the frozen Antarctic continent to central Australia’s red deserts and the idyllic islands of Oceania, the contrasts couldn’t be greater or more spectacular than you can find in this region. It’s a long haul for most travellers but that usually spells greater rewards for those in search of places untapped...

Wolgan Vall, North Australlia
80 million years ago, Australia separated from the landmass Gondwana. Advancing northwards on a slow but steady march, voracious volcanic activity ensued, causing the Great Dividing Range. Chiselled and wrought by water and wind erosion, patches of the original sandstone can be seen alongside its deep valleys and gorgeous gorges. It goes without saying that the undeveloped valley in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales is ideal ‘oohing and aahing’ territory.

The Wolgan Valley Heritage Trail, following the route of a former standard gauge private railway, is a great hike that takes you through two tunnels – the second of which is brilliantly illuminated with glow-worms! With plateaus, a forest and a welcoming long downward section, this is also meritorious mountain biking terrain.

For a special occasion, check into the Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, located at the foot of Mount Wolgan and Donkey Mountain and Emirates Holidays will arrange it for you! Surveying the 4,000-acre Greater Blue Mountain Heritage Area like the lord of the manor, Wolgan’s 40 villas are cosy and intimate – well, as cosy as 900-square foot houses with indoor and outdoor swimming pools can be.

Travel note
The multi-million dollar Wolgan project is Australia’s first conservation-based luxury resort. It’s also Emirates Airlines’ first property outside Dubai!

www.wolganvalley.com

The Kimberley, North West Australlia
One of Australia’s hidden treasures, The Kimberley is an immense and complex landscape that encompasses winsome waterfalls, gorges and cave systems.

These days it’s a wonder in itself visiting a place where you’re compelled to take plenty of photos, not just because the scenery is so breathtaking, but also because there’s nowhere to buy postcards!

This northwestern region, around three times the size of the UK, is one of Australia’s last frontiers. Until recently, its 2,000 miles of unsullied coastline and tawny coloured caves containing Aboriginal paintings, said to date back 40,000 years, was the sole domain of archaeologists. With more cruise ships cottoning on to its untapped attractions, the tides have turned indeed.

The queen of these seas is the 106-passenger Orion, the swanky rooms of which come with marble bathrooms. A trip on one of their Zodiac boats will escort you to the robust King George Falls as well as the Montgomery Reef teeming with turtle, shark and ray.

Travel note
Orion Expedition Cruises is the leading cruise operator in Asia Pacific. With its environmental management technology, sustainability is paramount to their ethos and you feel helpful just experiencing it!

www.orionexpeditions.com

Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica
It looks like a giant, flat-topped bright white Toblerone. The earth’s largest ice shelf, together with the rest of Antarctica, contains 70 per cent of the planet’s fresh water. It is 600–3,000 feet thick and about 600 miles long (about the size of France), which is extremely fascinating!

An important gateway for explorations of the Antarctic interior including those of Scott and Shackleton, the great white barrier wall of the shelf’s front was first sighted in 1841 by the British polar explorer James Clark Ross.

From time to time fissures form and large slabs break off or ‘calve’ to create tabular icebergs that float into the Ross Sea. In fact, in March 2000, the world’s largest recorded iceberg was calved from the Ross Ice Shelf. It was slightly larger than Belgium.

Some of the cruise ships that visit the Ross Ice Shelf and the McMurdo Sound area allow passengers to go ashore via Zodiac boats, which is very exciting.

Travel note
Cool Antarctica and Expedition Trips mark the 100th anniversary of Douglas Mawson’s extraordinary Antarctic expedition this year. The highlights of this 31-day trip include Ross Ice Shelf, The Phantom Coast, the Amundsen Sea and the Macquarie Islands.

www.coolantarctica.com

Wellington, North Island, New Zealand
with new zealand being the 2011 host of the rugby world cup, fans of the so called ‘gentleman’s game,’ will be streaming into Wellington in the months of September and October. The proud proprietor of five pool and two quarterfinal matches, Wellington’s even greater claim to fame is its buzzing entertainment scene.

With more coffee shops, bars and restaurants per capita than even New York, Wellington prides itself on its food and beverage industry – and it’s got the accolades to prove it. According to Adam Cunningham, the chair of the Hospitality Association who has witnessed the city turning into a well-trodden path for revellers, the reason for this success is, “We do it a bit differently in Wellington.”

Add to this, a surrounding wilderness – rugged, raw and expansive – and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a vacation well had. With or without the men in tight shorts!

Travel note
Cuba Street, a delicious balance of boutique and bohemia is widely considered the coolest corner in the country, don’t forget to pop down there!

www.loganbrown.co.nz, www.matterhorn.co.nz

Makaturi Lodge, South Island, New Zealand
Described by Conde Nast traveller as ‘One Of The Hottest Places To Stay In 2011’ Makaturi Lodge is the quintessential alpine getaway. The posh property comprises just 11 suites for added intimacy and drama. Let’s face it, when your suite is hovering over the shimmering Lake Wakitipu and is designed by one of Time Magazine’s ‘Design 100’ entries, Virginia Fisher, you can’t really go wrong.

Even the surrounding mountain peaks have an elevated name – The Remarkables. The recreation on offer, which includes helicopter trips, skiing and bungee jumping, is also for high rollers. It took years for American hedge fund billionaire Julian Robertson Jr to find a property in New Zealand’s South Island to complement the handsome pair of resorts he owns on the country’s North Island. Good things come to those who wait.

If the two-person bath with its view over the snow capped mountains and the roaring fireplace don’t help to put the va va voom back into your life, the seductive holistic spa treatments sure will. Just try it all and you’ll see.

Travel note
The lodge is only a 20-minute drive from Queenstown Airport, but you can request a helicopter for extra showmanship if you like to live large!

www.matakaurilodge.com

Turtle Island, Fiji
The setting for the film The Blue Lagoon, Turtle Island is how we have all come to view paradise. But that wasn’t it only Honeywood foray, both Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears enjoyed idyllic honeymoons at this gorgeously romantic retreat.

Curly coral and silicone sands fringe the privately owned resort that entrancingly sit in the Yasawa Island group. With just 14 ‘bures’, traditional thatched cottages handcrafted by Fijians, we suggest you go big with a ‘grand bure’ which includes a Jacuzzi, a four-poster king bed and a veranda with a daybed.

Fijians are famed for being the friendliest nation in the world and here they take the stuffy out of butler, assigning you with a cheery Bure Mama instead! She’ll take self-satisfied snapshots of the pair of you, arrange beach picnics that belong in a romcom and arrange your activities too. Snorkelling, sport fishing, scuba diving, kayaking, horseback riding and biking are all included in your honeymoon packed with fun.

Travel note
Tune into the gentle rhythm of the tides. Turtle Island’s sustainability policy means no TVs or airfields. They’re also committed to the preservation of the island’s wildlife and natural habitats, and the integrity of the Fijian culture.

www.turtlefiji.com

Paperbark Camp, Australia
While camping in the Australian bush is a scary thought for even the most wilderness-friendly folk, Paperbark Camp offers a luxury camping experience fit for kings, just a few hours outside Sydney. Wake up to the sun filtering through the leaves and into the window of your large, raised tent, complete with en-suite bathroom. Sip coffee and enjoy breakfast on your private veranda while reading the morning news amongst eucalyptus trees and gum tree mangroves. Take a bike and ride through the wilderness or a canoe to explore the calm waters off shore. And return in time for an afternoon siesta, before enjoying a romantic, candle-lit dinner at a treetop restaurant.

Jervis Bay has plenty of attractions in and around the area, from Botanical Gardens to Maritime Museums, and even tours where you can learn the ancient medicinal secrets of the aboriginal Australians.

Travel note
Visit hidden caves and alcoves concealed behind bends in the cliff and only reachable by kayak and then take a guided tour to truly discover the fantastic secrets of the Bay.

www.paperbarkcamp.com.au

ST Regis Bora Bora Resort, Tahiti
‘Iaorana Polynesia!’ When one wakes up in paradise it’s so much easier to greet the day with a smile. If the St Regis Bora Bora Resort is not already on your bucket list you better cross a few things off to make some room quickly.

Ozzies Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban came back from their honeymoon, at the resort’s Royal Estate, beaming from ear to ear. The power couple’s villa included 24-hour butler service, a private whirlpool and their own sandy beach bordered with a tropical garden, although we doubt the fair-skinned redhead spent much time topping up her tan.

Last summer, country singer Carrie Underwood and hockey star Mike Fisher also flew to Bora Bora for their honeymoon. There must be something in that electric blue water…

The overwater villas – practically a honeymoon staple – have magnetic views of extinct volcano Mt Otemanu. You don’t even need to put your swimsuit on to see the myriad manta rays, but there’s no resisting the sea’s invigorating charms.

Travel note
Covetting a celebrity lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean splashing loads of cash. Travel operators ‘Pacific For Less’ can tailor-make the perfect Tahitian trip for you.

www.stregisborabora.com

The Poseidon Undersea Resort, Fiji
Not a big fan of people? You’re in good company as the fish at the Poseidon Undersea Resort more than outnumber the guests. The first permanent pressurised undersea structure in the world – yes, it beat Dubai, sigh – the 22 startling guest rooms have 270 ˚ glass walls and ceilings.

Your week-long stay (starting at Dhs110,000 per couple) is a suavely James Bond affair. From Fiji’s Nadi International Airport you’ll be jetted onboard their twin-engine turbine aircraft to Mystery Island. Surrounded by a 5,000-acre lagoon, its pristine waters, replete with kaleidoscopic sea life, reach 90-feet in depth. Two nights will be spent submerged in the big blue followed by four in a breezy beachfront bungalow.

Ensuring that every one of your childhood daydreams comes true, you’ll be trained to pilot a 1,000 ft Triton submarine. To guarantee they haven’t left any of your fantasies out, the Poseidon offers a range of watersports, a treetop bar, a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, a spa and an underwater library. You can even get married in their chapel under the sea. That’ll be a different way to say ‘I do’!

Travel note
Log onto their website now to be one of the first to experience this underwater kingdom.

www.poseidonresorts.com