Over the past 25 years I have visited Australasia quite a few times. Some of those trips were for sightseeing only. Other trips were for a mixture of sightseeing and astronomy.
So, the full list - currently - of my trips to this part of the globe are:
a) 1994 - New Zealand - top to bottom
b) 2004 - The tropical Island of Borneo
c) 2008 - China - including seeing a Total Solar Eclipse
d) 2009 - India - Taj Mahal and more
e) 2015 - Australia - mini-grand tour
New Zealand - 1994
There are many reasons to go to New Zealand. From the UK it is about as far away as it is possible to fly as the crow flies.
But there are many others. Unlike the UK, New Zealand has - because of its isolation - some unique wildlife. The people are friendly, the food and wine are superb and - if you venture away from the big cities - the natural scenery is both breath-taking and yet - in the cities such as Auckland or Christchurch reassuringly familiar.
There is one corner of New Zealand - Rotarua - where you could think you were in a warmer version of Iceland - as they share similarities in their volcanic geology.
New Zealand also has its place for adrenaline junkies - Queenstown - the home of Bunji Jumping and other ways of scaring the living daylights out of you.
Mount Cook - South Island New Zealand
Rotarua, South Island New Zealand
Borneo, like New Zealand, is an isolated island which has - like New Zealand - not only some unique wildlife but because of its geology it has some very special tropical environments.
It has also become a place to go if you want both the 4* or 5* luxury Hotel experience alongside the more basic outdoor jungle wildlife experience.
Borneo has some very special places - such as Mount Kinabalu, the cave systems of Sabah and the almost impenetrable jungle and some very special wildlife including the Orangutan, Pitcher Plants and others that would be part of a David Attenborough wildlife documentary
Pitcher Plants on the upland slopes of Mount Kinabalu
The view from near the top of Mount Kinabalu
Travellers tip - if you want a real challenge try the Kinabalu trek from the Rangers Station at 2000m to the top of Mount Kinabalu at 4400m in the space of a 17Km kike
Since finding a passion for stargazing in the mid-1990s I have always enjoyed travelling the world to see astronomical events of one kind or another.
So far I have been to 4 Total Solar Eclipses with another one in the planing stages [USA 2017].
My formula for a successful TSE trip is this - don;t make the TSE the main part of the journey - just look at is as a 'nice to see' part of the trip. That way if the weather goes bad on the day of the TSE your trip won't be something of a disappointment.
My first TSE trip to Zimbabwe in 2001 was for me to experience what a TSE is - and to get some sense of the awesome spectacle as it unfolds
My second TSE trip - in 2002 - was foucussed on the wildlife of South Africa and - being in the rainy summer months of the southern African continent - I knew that I might not see the TSE - but the rest of the trip made up for it
My third TSE trip - to Libya in 2006 - was the first time I made a determined effort to record it 'on film' [as well as digitally of course]
So my 4th trip - to the north-western tribal areas of China was the time to try to get an image of totality - the point where the Sun is totally covered up by the Moon - as good as I thought I could get.
China is a big place so I chose a trip to see a few of the other significant cultural highlights of China - the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Amy of Xian - we also visited the ancient cultural centres in the city of Beijing
Each of these maps is a thumbnial image - click on any image to open up a larger version
The sand-dunes of the Taklimakan Desert near Dun-Huang NW China
Sometimes travel opportunities arrive by chance. Until 2008 I had never thought about visiting the Indian sub-continent. This was because I had never envisaged that there could be an interesting travel journey for me.
So, India is a big country and there are a surprising number of places to go in India with a wide diversity of people, places, things to see, animals and scenery.
Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Rhamthambore
The Taj Mahal - at dawn
For more images from my India trip click on the camera
I have always wanted to go to Australia not least to see the 'night sky form the Bush'.
Coming to Australia my travel instructions said that I would get to Melbourne Airport to be met and transferred to my Hotel from where my adventure would start the next day in the company of travellers from other corners of the globe.
This holiday was another superb voyage across places new - and I'd do it again.
Coming to Australia in the Winter season may seem a bit odd - but the benefits are : cooler weather [i.e. no flies], clearer skies [most important for my stargazing] and it is quite a sight to see Bondi Beach with seven [yes I did say seven] people on it.
My overall impression of Oz is friendly people, wonderful food [and wine of course!], amazing places to see and things to do and no one walking around with T-shirts and trousers with arrows on them :>).
When you get to Melbourne you expect shining metal and glass buildings of a modern city and yes there are some. But also what you get is Victorian and Edwardian arcades, wonderful shopping and eating places along with a superb old Tram system. The city is easy to get around and there is also some nice open green spaces to spend some time just chilling out.
Alice Springs and Uluru
Alice Springs is one of those places that many people have heard of but are not really sure what it is other than its 'dry as a bone' and that is absolutely true as it is in the middle of Australia's Red Centre.
There are a few iconic places to go see in Alice Springs - such as the Telegraph Station - where the very first means of quick communication across Australia took root; the Royal Flying Doctor Service - that provides medical cover for vast areas of the Red Centre and elsewhere in Australia and the School of the Air - the world's first effective on-air Educational service that again like the RFDS covers a vast area of Australia reaching out to children in the remotest parts of the continent
Naturally visitors come to Alice Springs to see these special facilities and to see the nature of the Red Centre such as Uluru and wild camels and if you are lucky some of the perfectly adapted animals as well.
For me it was an opportunity to hopefully see the Southern Milky Way from a very remote and dark part of Australia on a 'Dining under the Stars' outdoor fine-dining experience
Cairns - Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef
Cairns is in the Tropical Queensland part of Australia. That said its climate is often very different to many of the major cities of Australia which are mostly in the south part of the continent.
So here you need a new set of clothes to deal with the tropical feel of Cairns even in the nominally Winter season.
The Great barrier Reef has fascinated me for many years - having seen some of the images on nature documentaries. So I decided that I wanted to see it for myself and the only concern was - as a non-swimmer - would I get full value from the trip - ,as it turned out the answer was a resounding yes - with a little help form some technology and a helping hand from my fellow travellers who did the underwater camera-work
On top of that Cairns also has nearby rainforest which is worth exploring - though take a guided tour as there are some big Crocs in the waterways of the Daintree Forest
Sydney has a lot to offer the tourist. From the cultural icon of the Sydney Opera House, to the restaurants of Darling Harbour, the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and the historic Sydney Observatory and much more.
Sydney is synonymous with a British ship captain cum adventurer Captain James Cook. His influence is everywhere around the city from street names to his statue to his voyages around Australia and the southern Pacific have become legendary. On one of his voyages was a young botanist Joseph Banks. Banks is not too well known but his observations of wildlife and the drawings and illustration he did so marvelously, were the foundation for Charles Darwin's Origin of Species. Without the expert navigation of James Cook, Joseph Banks may not have been able to get the information that provided the foundation of Darwin's theories of evolution. Darwin is of course another major City of Australia but Banks does not get a landmark named after him - the Cook Straight is part of the Southern Pacific Ocean.
Click on the Camera icon to see more online picture resources from my Australia trip
For more of my Total Solar Eclipse images from the Taklimakan Desert click on the camera below...
Thumbnail views of - from left to right - The Great Wall of China, Image of Totality of the Total Solar Eclipse of 1st August 2008, The Emperor's Palace Beijing and a view of a Chinese Theatre production
Gate at the entrance to Delhi city
The Red Fort at Agra
A view of the Taj Mahal from across the water gardens
Rhanthambore Railway Station
Shopping arcade Melbourne
Uluru at sunset
Click on a thumbnail to see a bigger picture
A small part of Uluru
One of the domes of Katja Juta [also known as the Olgas]
A view of the Southern Milky Way taken from 10Km outside Alice Springs on the Fine Dining under the Stars event
GBR Tour Boat - which has food and diving gear onboard
The GBR as viewed from a helicopter
Corals of the GBR - taken using a GoPro camera
Month-old Croc on the Daintree River
Flowers of the Daintee Forest
Fish of the GBR as viewed from the pontoon's underwater observatory
Sydney Observatory and time ball
Sydney Opera House
Sydney Harbour Bridge