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DIVE THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
The trip: Let's face it, few of us will actually get to explore outer space, despite the best efforts of Sir Richard Branson. But we can come pretty darn close by donning a mask, an oxygen tank, and a pair of flippers to float through some of the 2,800 coral reefs that make up Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Drifting through the water really is akin to spacewalking, and the creaturesyou'll be lucky to identify even a third of themare decidedly otherworldly. Choose a private, low-impact area such as Wilson Island as your base camp. A coral cay that's actually part of the reef, it contains a mere six tents housing only 12 guests at a time. Since you're the only guests, beaches are deserted, and you can snorkel first thing in the morning. It's also located in-between the two prime dive sites of Lizard and Heron islands, with 1,500 species of fish and loggerhead turtles. After toweling off, you'll sip an Australian chardonnay, dine on local ingredients, and slumber in king-size beds. Which is a lot more appealing than strapping yourself into a spaceship.
Why go? The world's coral reefs are swiftly disappearing. But the eco-oriented Wilson Island allows you to both see the threatened treasures and help preserve them for your grandchildren.
What to pack: Wrinkle-free clothes. There are no irons on Wilson Island. No electricity either, for that matter.
Difficulty: 3 out of 10. No diving experience is necessary.
Your guides: Voyages Hotels & Resorts, the group that owns Wilson Island. They're best known for helping to protect, through sustainable tourism, another Australian treasure: Ayers Rock.
Tel: 011 61 2 8296-8010
Four-night package, including lodging in a luxury tent, meals, drinks, and snorkeling gear, $1,620 per person; $263 additional for four days of diving (three dives per day) from nearby Heron Island