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The world's largest coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef stretches almost 1500 miles into the Pacific from the tip of Queensland. Designated a Marine Park by the Australian government and a World Heritage Area by UNESCO, the reef is home to an extraordinary abundance of species and habitats. Snorkelling, diving and fishing are popular along the reef, nowhere more so than on the Whitsunday Islands, where the silica sands and aqua waters of the Coral Sea create the perfect beach escape.
In this nation of tiny islands and indigenous villages, Port Vila is the exception: a bustling port town with hotels, restaurants and markets to delight visitors and cruise ship passengers. The 150-foot-high Mele Cascades waterfall is the ideal place to refresh yourself in the South Pacific heat. For a glimpse of real Vanuatu culture and traditions, travelers say a trip to Ekasup Village is a must.
Bali is a living postcard, an Indonesian paradise that feels like a fantasy. Soak up the sun on a stretch of fine white sand, or commune with the tropical creatures as you dive along coral ridges or the colorful wreck of a WWII war ship. On shore, the lush jungle shelters stone temples and mischievous monkeys. The “artistic capital” of Ubud is the perfect place to see a cultural dance performance, take a batik or silver-smithing workshop, or invigorate your mind and body in a yoga class.
Colorful Phuket is a mélange of lifestyles, a place where tranquil monks navigate the same streets as pumped up nightclubbers. The ornate temples and lively cafes of Old Town are prime spots for exploration. Check out the Shrine of the Serene Light and the aromatic Nguan Choon Tong herb shop. Browse and bargain for pretty trinkets at the nearby Thai Amulet Market. Don’t miss an opportunity to take in a performance at the epic Siam Niramit Phuket theater, a true cultural extravaganza.
Phuket offers a rainbow spectrum of spectacular holiday sights from blue lagoons and pink sunsets to orange-robed monks. Three wheeled-Tuk Tuks, taxis, buses and long tailed boats transport visitors between these marvels. Phuket's south coast offers its most popular beaches. The north is more tranquil. Koh Phi Phi, Phang Nga Bay and Patong Beach are popular spots. Diving, snorkeling, wind surfing and sailing are just a few active options. Inland, forested hills, mountains and cliffs wait to be explored.