Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 25 October 2020

From virtual hot springs to digital safaris: four ways to 'holiday' at home

You can journey through an onsen in Japan to a queen's tomb from Ancient Egypt, then head over to Kenya

Lion cubs at the Sabi Sands Game Reserve in South Africa's Greater Kruger National Park. Ariadne Van Zandbergen / Lonely Planet Images
Lion cubs at the Sabi Sands Game Reserve in South Africa's Greater Kruger National Park. Ariadne Van Zandbergen / Lonely Planet Images

You may be safely ensconced in your home amid the global Covid-19 pandemic, but that does not mean your wanderlust has to wane. So if you are itching to get out and see the world, try these four virtual holidays.

Create Japan's hot springs at home

Sink into the warm waters and let yourself relax. Enjoy the soothing sounds of flowing water and the sight of cherry blossoms stirring in the wind.

A group of Japanese inn owners in the country's oldest hot-spring town, Arima Onsen, have joined forces to share the joy and healing properties of their bathing facilities. They are broadcasting a series of virtual-reality videos on YouTube, depicting the traditional hot-spring experience.

There are four videos on the channel so far and each offers up a peaceful setting for you to immerse yourself in.

To enjoy the tour, all you have to do is take a soak in your tub, don a pair of VR goggles with 4K capability and select your favourite hot-spring bath scene. Bath salts are recommended, but not mandatory.

Tour Ancient Egypt

Pictures on the stone walls show Queen Meresankh III with her children, and mother, Queen Hetepheres II. Elsewhere, Meresankh’s unique underground chapel contains beautifully carved and painted scenes of servants, artisans and funerary priests, as well as the rich burial goods that would have been placed in her tomb: statues, fine furniture, boxes containing food, clothing and jewellery.

Meresankh III was the granddaughter of Egyptian pharaoh Khufu, for whom the Great Pyramid of Giza is believed to have been built. The Egyptian Tourism Board is now offering a virtual tour of her tomb, thanks to 3D modelling by Harvard University. Virtual visitors can navigate the tomb, taking in the reliefs and decorative features on the upper-floor chapel, and photos of the original excavation and YouTube reconstruction videos. Most striking is a row of 10 statues cut into the rock wall in the tomb’s northern chamber, all of which represent women – uncommon in Ancient Egypt's male-dominated society.

Travel down a rickety staircase until you are in the tomb’s burial shaft, five metres underground, to see where Meresankh’s black granite sarcophagus was discovered.

Lost for 4,000 years and discovered by archaeologist George Reisner in 1927, the archaeological site is being given a new lease of life by the most modern of technologies. You'll even see the footsteps in the sand, left behind by others who have been there before you.

Windows into the African wild

A leopard struggles to climb a tree with its morning meal – an antelope – in its mouth; lions lie prostate in the middle of a dirt road; and two male elephants indulge in a friendly tussle. And, there is not a single tourist in sight.

Game lodges across Africa are live streaming their daily game drives, as well as 24-hour webcam coverage of their surroundings, offering you the opportunity to spot the continent’s astounding wildlife in real time.

Tintswalo Safari Lodge in South Africa’s Manyeleti Game Reserve broadcasts daily safari highlights via its Instagram page and has also set up a live wildlife webcam so people can experience the anticipation of being on a safari and waiting for animals to appear.

If a Kenyan safari adventure is more your speed, head over to a live stream of the Ol Donyo Lodge waterhole, which sits in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. Clouds gather dramatically over a luscious green landscape as the bushes in the foreground rustle. Is it a big cat emerging for a welcome drink? Or merely a couple of skittish birds?

A Greek wellness retreat

Enjoy the benefits of a fully fledged wellness retreat with a new five-week virtual experience from Euphoria Retreat, a holistic well-being destination in the Peloponnese region of Greece.

Dubbed the "Euphoria Healing Journey Through the 5 Elements", the free programme will focus on the properties of water, wood, fire, earth and metal. The resort’s founder, Marina Efraimoglou, says the team thought extensively about what they could offer in these times that “would be of substantial value and as close as possible to the healing journey you would experience at Euphoria Retreat”.

The result is “a free, five-week, immersive virtual retreat that will give you the necessary tools to handle these times, that will help you embrace change and find the inner balance and strength to the part of the new world”.

Every Tuesday and Friday, Efraimoglou and Mary Vandorou, Euphoria’s spiritual mentor, will host a 45-minute session on the features and characteristics of each of the elements, as well as a guided meditation. Every Wednesday, a video will be uploaded showing energy and qigong exercises to support the element of the week, while on Thursdays they will demonstrate yoga asanas and pranayamas. Sessions on Saturday will focus on theta healing techniques.

Updated: April 30, 2020 01:00 PM

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