Our nearest neighbours are on a similar, if not superior, trajectory to New Zealand in our full-throttle pursuit to send Covid-19 packing. It would not be unrealistic to envisage that the Trans-Tasman border is likely to be the first international crossing point to be relaxed for travel-hungry Kiwis. But as much as we feel physically estranged from our Tasman cousins at present, Australia is awash with a spoil of virtual tourism offerings to nurture the traveller’s appetite. Here’s a round up of some of the best virtual encounters with Australian culture and some of their finest creatures.
Central to Australia’s sense of pride and identity is their wondrous wildlife. And for the first time in Taronga's 103-year-history, Taronga Zoo Sydney have gone virtual with the launch Taronga TV. You can tune in daily for a packed schedule of fascinating keepers talks and shows, 24/7 live animal streams, amusing animal antics and behind-the-scenes sneak peeks at what the animals (and the keepers) actually get up to when the zoo is closed.
There are also resources available for teachers and for parents who are home schooling and looking for fun and educational content for their children. Alongside operating its zoo in Mossman, in addition to Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, Taronga’s prowess as a wildlife rescue and conservation leader is second to none. Their activities range from caring for injured native wildlife and cryopreserving the Great Barrier Reef, to breeding and releasing Bellingen River Turtles. Catch a flavour of Taronga at https://taronga.org.au/taronga-tv
The Australian Reptile Park has also recast its riches online. You can connect with their wildlife virtually with keepers still working hard to feed and look after all animals. Making educational videos to for house-bound children, check out 'Animal Tales With Tim Faulkner'. The Australian Reptile Park is also live-streaming zookeepers daily showcasing their favourite animals and answering viewer questions. This will include feeding Elvis, the saltwater crocodile, play time and cuddles with dingoes, feeding cuddly koalas and virtual tours of different areas within the park. https://reptilepark.com.au/arptv
For something educational to watch with the kids, if not a little geeky, unlock the mysteries of the Great Barrier Reef and see what some of Australia's favourite Reef animals are up to with Reef Tracks by Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef. With real-time data, track turtles, sharks and manta rays which show their movements and location since they were first tagged by researchers to better understand these amazing creatures. https://citizensgbr.org/explore/reef-tracks
Live vicariously through one of Australia's most beautiful birds via BirdLife Australia Discovery Centre's EagleCAM, a live stream of a resident pair of Sydney's white-bellied sea eagles. The live stream is an interactive, interpretive hub that provides opportunities for people to learn about and engage with the eagles in their natural habitat. www.sea-eaglecam.org
Down at the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) in Tasmania, in true Mona style, you can live stream Tim Steiner between midday and 6.30pm NZT daily. Since 2011, Tim has sat at Mona for over 3,500 hours and with the museum now closed to guests, Tim is clocking up some additional hours while also practicing social distancing. A former tattoo-parlour manager from Zurich, Tim Steiner has an enormously elaborate full-length tattoo on his back that was designed by a Belgian artist and sold to a German art collector, Rik Reinking, for 150,000 euros. Tim received a third of the sum. 40 hours of tattooing across his entire back created the image of a Madonna crowned by a Mexican-style skull, with yellow rays emanating from her halo.
As part of the deal, Tim spends his days sitting in galleries so people can admire his work of art, yet his back (or canvas) legally belongs to the art collector – so Tim is essentially the temporary frame. When he dies, his back is to be skinned, and the skin framed permanently, taking up a place in Reinking's personal art collection. How bizarre is that! https://mona.net.au/tim-live-stream
Transport yourself to the Outback in the Northern Territory and explore the mystery and majesty of Uluru and Kata Tjuta National parl. Story Spheres provides you with 360-degree images and storytelling to serve as excellent research for when you can visit this magical part of the world. https://storyspheres.com/search?q=uluru
For those dreaming of the gorgeous Sydney Harbour, Webcam Sydney provides a panoramic livestream where you can easily spot the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Circular Quay and The Rocks. Make sure to sneak a peek when the sun goes down to see a beautiful sunset followed by the harbour's glittering night-time lights. https://webcamsydney.com/
The Sydney Opera House offers a 360-degree tour where you can explore the iconic site at your own pace - and check out a number of online exhibits and performances by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. They have also launched a weekly digital programme called “From our House to Yours”. It includes full-length performances, live recordings and never-before-seen footage, all free. Viewers can access digital content on demand, with new content released every day from Wednesday to Sunday on the Opera House website. A weekly schedule of upcoming performances is refreshed every Tuesday. https://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/digital
For lovers of classical music, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is hosting live streams of their scheduled performances so you can enjoy the works of Beethoven, Bach and Mendelssohn live from the comfort of your own living room. www.mso.com.au/media-centre/broadcast/
The largest classical ballet company in Australia, The Australian Ballet is now offering free morning classes to those at home. Artistic Director David McAllister will teach five simple but effective ballet exercises that are perfect for small spaces. First up is the plié, which begins every ballet class. https://australianballet.com.au/tv/
For lovers of dance music, Australian DJ Hayden James is streaming a live DJ set each Saturday from 2pm NZT from his backyard instead - a virtual house party, from his actual house! https://twitter.com/hayden_james
Finally, during its temporary closure, Arts Centre Melbourne is keeping the show going by live streaming its upcoming performances and then making them available for viewing on their YouTube channel, starting with a celebration of legendary icon Edith Piaf, in a stunning mix of authentic French chanson and contemporary sounds. Home to so many companies, from Australia Opera and the Australian Ballet, to the Melbourne Theatre Company and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, there’s a wealth of streaming performances on offer. https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/
Mike Yardley is our Travel Correspondent on Jack Tame Saturday Mornings.