Oceania's Earth Wonders
Take a trip Down Under, and visit the most amazing natural wonders in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.
In the South Pacific, Bora Bora is an explosion of color with crisp green hills, deep-blue seas and bright coral reefs that practically glow underwater. The volcanic atoll is just 14.5 square miles wide, but is the most popular stopping point in French Polynesia, with romantic resorts featuring the island's trademark overwater bungalows and great snorkeling in jewel-toned reefs teeming with wildlife. And while it's true that the island will disappear into the sea in the future, you've still got time to visit as Bora Bora sinks at a snail's pace of 1/2 inch every 100 years.
Uluru (Ayres Rock)
Known simply as "The Rock," Uluru is an unusual sandstone formation that rises over a thousand feet above Australia's Northern Territory. The Aboriginal people, who named this special rock, tell many myths and magical stories about Uluru and the neighboring rock formation Kata Tjuta, which have been shaped over millions of years. Uluru, or Ayres Rock, gets its distinctive color as the minerals in the rock formation decay and rust giving way to flaky shards of rough red rock. Visitors come for the sunset spectacle when the rock is alight with a fiery red glow that fades to violet and eventually blue as the sun goes down.
Before the end of the last ice age, a slow-moving glacier carved out the deep valley that filled with water as the ice melted, creating Milford Sound on New Zealand's South Island. Beyond the narrow pass is a network of bays home to playful dolphins, fur seals and rare white herons. Milford Sound is framed by granite cliffs and towering mountains such as Elephant Mountain, Lion Mountain and Mitre Peak, which played the part of Middle Earth in the "Lord of the Rings" movies.
Great Barrier Reef
Stretching an astonishing 106,000 miles along Australia's northeastern coastline, the Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef. This complex is actually made up of 3,000 individual coral reefs, each with a unique community of sea creatures large and small, including the white-tipped reef shark, colorful clownfish and the deceptively beautiful and venomous lionfish and blue-spotted sting ray. Seabirds fly overhead and stop for a rest on the many coral cays, a system of 900 islands on top of the reefs that are formed by fish skeletons, plants and fragments of coral.