Travel isn’t the same as it was before the borders reopened. For one, we now want to travel with intent, looking to make the most of holidays through experiences that transform us and enable us to experience every moment deeply. There is also a need for us to connect with the people we meet on our trips and learn and embrace new cultures. Here are six ways to travel deeply and slowly in Australia for a truly immersive experience:
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Uluru’s Field of Light and the Sounds of Silence dinner
Nothing comes close to sustainable creativity in Australia’s Northern Territory like the Field of Light in Uluru. I was absolutely captivated by artist Bruce Munro’s solar-powered installation of 50,000 spindles of light; twinkling and swaying in the desert of Uluru. The installation which opened next to one of the world’s most famous rocks in 2016, lights up at dusk, glowing gently and rhythmically throughout the night till dawn. Walking across the field was like having the stars right next to me. If you’re a morning person, you can even go through the field on a camel just before dawn. The experience is a lot more enriching at night, in my opinion, because you can even indulge in the Sounds of Silence dinner at Ayers Rock Resort. This 4-hour experience began with canapes and chilled sparkling wine upon a dune top overlooking the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. With the didgeridoo (an aboriginal wind instrument) setting the tone for the much-awaited dining experience, I was welcomed to an interactive chef’s station where we were served some exotic dishes from their freshly prepared, bush tucker-inspired menu incorporating native bush ingredients.
A good night’s sleep on the Great Barrier Reef
One of the most life-changing experiences I had was the Reefsleep Experience off the coast, where I enjoyed a sleepover unlike any other. While most tourists leave the Reef by 3 pm, Reefsleepers have the pleasure to stay back for a night-time soiree. What you need to do is book the cruise with Cruise Whitsundays which will take you to the outer reef through the gorgeous Whitsunday Islands. As we passed through, I spotted the migrating Humpback Whales, which were beauties to behold. This was followed by a ride in a semi-submarine to the underwater observatory where we watched the reef come to life with unique aquamarine life, from clown fish to clams to sharks and manta rays. This was followed by an evening meal with the fresh sea-to-plate produce that I was waiting for since I boarded the cruise. I ended the night by heading to the pontoon’s top level and slipped into my cozy Reefbed, with just me, the ocean, and a cluster of stars above me. Dawn on the reef is peaceful and unhurried. It’s also one of the best hours to go snorkelling, so after breakfast, I walked along the sea bed and rode an underwater scooter, called the ‘Scuba Doo’.
Wining and dining in Adelaide’s nature-scapes
When exploring Adelaide, I recommend getting up close and personal with the native wildlife, apart from indulging in the homegrown wines. For the latter, no place hits home like the beautiful Barossa Valley, just a one-hour drive north of Adelaide. This is perhaps Australia's most famous wine region, renowned for its big and bold shiraz-based wines. I visited Jacob's Creek, which has been producing wines in the Barossa Valley since 1847. You can explore all the vineyards on a bicycle. As you ride down the valley, you get quite the landscape view (and scents) of the vineyards. After all that riding around, I munched away at produce from the winery's kitchen garden. Jacob's Creek Gourmet Picnic had some of the best local produce including meats and cheeses, chutneys, olives, and wood-fire bread. The next day I headed to Kangaroo Island on the mainland of South Australia, which is home to native kangaroos, koalas, Australian sea lions, wallabies, and dolphins. Have breakfast at the Rustic Blue Café where kangaroos graze in the paddocks.
Cruising through the Tasmanian wilderness on Gordon River
Exploring Tasmania’s west coast is best done by visiting Strahan, a small, quaint town with a population of just 600 locals and then embarking on the serene Gordon River Cruise – Spirit of the Wild. The cruise is taken on a catamaran with a local guide taking you through Macquarie Harbour and out to the infamous Hells Gates before cruising past Sarah Island and up the Gordon River. This is a must-do cruise if you have an affinity for exploring the wilderness. Tasmania boasts of having the freshest air on the planet and the entire experience is absolutely surreal, especially when the captain switches off the boat engine and floats down the river. At the end is scrumptious grub followed by a brisk walking tour in the wilderness.
Great Beach Drive on the Sunshine Coast
If you enjoy road trips, Sunshine Coast is home to the best beaches and hinterlands that are perfect for driving into the depths of Queensland. And they don’t come much better than the Great Beach Drive, a 380 km off-the-beaten-track adventure from Noosa to Hervey Bay. Whether you take your own wheels, rent a 4x4 or outsource the driving to an expert, this is one exhilarating beach drive you won’t want to miss. I started my road trip from Rainbow Beach and drove to Fraser Island. Along the way, I got to see towering sand cliffs alongside the seaside town. Locally referred to as K’gari, meaning "paradise" by the Butchulla people, Fraser Island is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed Island known for being the largest sand island in the world and the only spot where rainforests grow on sand. My favourite part was spotting humpback whales yet again, but this time at Hervey Bay, where I also got a chance to go kayaking and jet skiing. The drive from Hervey Bay to Noosa was on sealed roads, but one where the scenery quickly transitioned from forest to beach to farmland.
The writer is country manager, India & Gulf, Tourism Australia
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