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Six virtual holidays

Chris Carter takes six virtual holidays you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home

Hawksbill Sea Turtle © Steffen Binke / Alamy
Explore the Great Barrier Reef with David Attenborough as your guide © Alamy

Even when you live and work in an exciting place such as Chicago, the chances are you haven’t seen all there is to see. That is as true for penguins as it is for people, it turns out. With Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium closed to the public last month due to coronavirus, some of the penguins were allowed out of their pens to take a tour of the rest of the attraction. Quite what they thought is unknown to any of us as none had yet mastered the art of leaving a review on Tripadvisor. However, holiday snaps of the diminutive tourists enjoying a gawk at their fishy neighbours can be viewed here

A dive down under

Still, nothing can compare to exploring Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – even if it is from the sofa. David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef is an interactive journey around this “beautiful, but threatened world”, says Antonia Wilson in The Guardian. Diving into a world that is home to 1,500 species of fish and 600 types of coral that live on the 133,000-square-mile reef, the interactive map tells “the story of one of Earth’s most biodiverse ecosystems and the damage done to it by climate change – through interactive timelapses, videos, weather maps and even a ‘mantis shrimp vision’ tool”. It was created with non-profit organisation The Ocean Agency as part of the Netflix documentary Chasing Coral, which investigated coral bleaching around the world, caused by warming oceans.

A virtual swim with dolphins

There are also a number of 360-degree subaquatic videos on YouTube, where you are able to control which way the camera is facing. National Geographic made an immersive video of an encounter with a hammerhead shark in the Bahamas and the Discovery Channel filmed one of a slightly less terrifying (but still pretty terrifying) whale shark. The Dolphin Swim Club has created a 360-degree video of a swim with wild dolphins (youtu.be/BbT_e8lWWdo). The research organisation has even developed its own virtual-reality viewing googles “that allow users to swim in real water, with virtual wild dolphins, and experience real therapeutic effects”, according to its website. It is a “cruelty-free alternative for so-called dolphin-assisted therapies with captive dolphins”.

A cruise from the couch

If cruising is more your thing, fear not. Royal Caribbean’s cruise director, Abe Hughes, has come up with one of the most inventive virtual experiences yet during the lockdown. From his Facebook page, Hughes has hosted a “voyage” around the Caribbean aboard the “Virtual of the Seas”. It proved so popular that a few days later he put together another, cruising around Alaska, says Jane Archer in The Daily Telegraph. Each day he posts a new edition of the Cruise Compass, the cruise line’s newsletter, outlining recipes and activities that people can join in with, including quizzes, scavenger hunts and arts and crafts. Embracing the big, wide blue is certainly one way to circumvent the lockdown blues, even if it is from home.

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