Destination and attraction live streams: Reviewed and rated | A couple of travel makers
Check out our list of the destination and zoo live streams worth tuning into – as well as a few that you can skip.
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It's been six weeks since we started working from home and we're getting used to relying on the virtual world to explore the wider one.
Last fortnight, we walked through 10 history and art museums around the world and we loved it so much that we thought we'd continue the series.
This fortnight, we checked out live streams of destinations and attractions in Australia and around the world. What we love about this is that many run 24/7, so for anyone who is still working the 9-5, you can pop in to see what's happening in the world during your breaks or before or after work.
We took 10 of them for a whirl and this is what we thought.
We're Stef and D, a pair of married jetsetters. Together, we've visited 55 countries and we're determined to see even more – all while working full-time and paying off a mortgage. We count our dollars at home and while away, and we're here to share our tips on how you can travel on a budget.
P.S. Our ratings aren't a reflection of the destination itself. Where we've said to "skip", we've merely found the stream lacking.
Stay safe, we'll see you on the other side of this.
Must-see live streams:
SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium
SEA LIFE Sydney is hosting scheduled and curated live streams that read much like keeper talks at the aquarium. They're held on Facebook live and include educational information about the animals as well as general commentary such as animal names and habits.
To date, the Sydney aquarium has featured gentoo penguins being fed, a live Q&A session on coral, a shark feed and a turtle feeding.
All streams are scheduled during daytime hours for about 10-15 minutes which is a nice break from the workday. However, if the timing doesn't work for you, SEA LIFE is keeping an archive of the videos on its website below.
We really enjoyed how these are curated. You know exactly what creature of the deep you're tuning in to see and get a quick educational soundbite while seeing how the keepers interact with the animals.
As the streams are run on Facebook, this allows for seamless audience participation. You can ask questions and have them answered in real time, much like you would if you were attending a keeper talk.
Australian Reptile Park
With almost 50 reptile species to flaunt, Australian Reptile Park is one of the biggest and best zoos to get up close and personal with the native reptiles.
The park is running live keeper talks which you can access on the park's official YouTube channel either in real time or afterwards.
Each stream can focus on a single reptile or on a group of reptiles – for example, the lizard stream features the knob tailed gecko, dragon lizards and the shingleback skin.
The videos are very well structured, starting with a keeper presentation before taking on viewer questions.
Live streams occur almost daily and are kept on the Australian Reptile Park's YouTube site to allow you to access them at your convenience.
The quality of these videos is exceptional which is a unique point of difference compared to the other live streams we caught, which weren't as crisp. We especially loved this as it meant we could analyse the animals almost to the extent that we felt we were really there. The videos are very in-depth, running for around 20 minutes each and are engaging throughout.
The Northern Lights
Yup, you read that correctly: there's a camera poised over the Manitoba Canada sky ready to capture the blank canvas as it lights up in the brilliant colours of the aurora borealis.
The camera runs 24/7 which means most of the time you'll be watching the sky and listening to the rustling of the wind in your ears (we know we did). To see the lights in real time, you'll have to time your visit to when it's the dead of night in Manitoba (around midday AEDT time).
If that doesn't work for you, take heart because you can rewind the camera back 12 hours. Simply track back to when you can see the lights then gaze in wonder.
We get the whole idea about live streaming but really if you're going to be focused on the aurora borealis, you only need to stream in the evening. Nonetheless, this is a fantastic way to see the night phenomenon if you've never done so before and aren't planning to head to the Arctic anytime soon. When we took a look, there was literally hours of footage of the lights to replay. The best bit? You don't have to stand out in the cold to see them.
LEGOLAND Discovery Centre
Melbourne's LEGOLAND is hosting live workshops twice a week. These happen on Tuesdays and Sundays at 11am on Facebook Live where its master builder teaches you how to build something. And by you, we mean your kids. Yup, this is very much a kid-friendly event, though of course you can (and should) be there with them to assist, too.
Each workshop, you'll learn to build something new. To date, kids have learned how to build a penguin, a fish and a Victorian tram. You can see the upcoming schedule here which is also where you can download a free activity pack with details on how to prep for the next workshop.
This was fun to watch; however, it's definitely for a certain clientele – that being primary school aged kids. The workshop runs for approximately an hour which feels long for anyone older than that age range. Still, it's a great activity and kids can ask questions and are encouraged to show off their creations on the LEGOLAND Facebook page afterwards.
This one's pretty darn adorable. Sydney's Taronga Zoo has set up cameras in its otter, elephant, tiger, meerkat and seal enclosures which lets you check out what the animals are up to.
During the day, you can watch the animals scurry about, socialise with one another, play with their toys, stretch out in the sun and dine on their meals. At night, nocturnal cameras are poised inside or near their sleeping quarters to catch them cuddling up to one another (the otters in particular) and tucking in for the day.
While all cameras are live, you can track the otter and one of the tiger cams back to the last 12 hours to catch up on what you've missed. And yes, fast forward to when there's a little more activity.
This is a really lovely way to keep in touch with some of the animals at the zoo. The cameras are positioned as a single point of view. Similar to being at the zoo, you have to wait or Where's Wally your way through the image to discover where the animals are hidden. The wide variety of animals on show means you're almost always guaranteed there will be some activity on your screen.
Atlanta Zoo (PandaCam)
If pandas are more your thing, PandaCam is the way to go. This stream is from Atlanta Zoo which means when it's night time in Australia, it's day time and high activity time in the US. This makes it ideal for anyone who can't stream during the work hours.
There are two pandas in the pen (or at least there are two that we noticed) and they're extremely active during waking hours. There are cameras throughout their enclosure and the feed follows them around so the likelihood of you being stuck with no panda action is low.
Similar to other cameras, you can access up to 12 hours of previous footage to keep up with the pandas' day. Unfortunately there is no nocturnal camera so when they're asleep you'll see a black screen.
We're probably being a bit biased here but we completely feel for PandaCam. It's the kind of thing you could have running in the background for hours and not get tired of checking up on. It's probably because the panda was super playful and active so kept us amused and laughing, but it worked for us.
Live streams to skip:
Lone Pine Sanctuary
The world's largest and oldest koala sanctuary is running live streams of its cuddly residents day-in, day-out. There are seven koala cams to explore, one trained on the koala forest where the female koalas live, a few trained on the baby joeys and a few close-ups to change things up.
Nocturnal cameras run by night, letting you peep into their goings on after-hours.
On top of the koala cams, Lone Pine is running a handful of dingo cams to watch the pups at play by day and asleep by night.
We loved the diversity of the cameras which allow you to meet various members of the sanctuary's koala family. During the day the keepers tend to their cages which gives the streams a bit of life, but especially seeing as koalas are such sedentary characters. Still worth a watch but don't expect to be watching these streams for long periods at a time.
African River Wildlife, Laikipia County
Set upriver from a watering hole in Laikipia County in Kenya, this camera aims to capture African beasts along a popular wildlife corridor.
Watching it, it feels as though there are multiple cameras running as the angles change constantly. As the set-up is in the wild, you'll never know what animal you might come across. There's promise of elephants, giraffes and kudos.
But also, as the set-up is in the wild there's really no promise of activity at all. If there isn't anything happening on this cam, there are multiple live cam suggestions in other African locations that you can tune into instead.
This idea is fantastic but when we tuned in to this particular cam, all we saw was the river and its accompanying bushland. Trawling through 12 hours of footage, the most we saw was a bird. However, looking to alternative live cams in the area was a godsend as there was more than enough activity at watering holes and elephant parks to wow us for a little while. Unfortunately, what also let this one down is that the quality of the feed is poor. It's pixelated and choppy and doesn't really give you a sense of the animals you're witnessing.
Port Phillip Bay Reef Cam
The Nature Conservancy Australia has overwater and underwater cameras at Port Phillip Bay to capture both sides of the picture. Known as Reef Cam, the cameras are at Pope's Eye which is at the entrance of the bay leading out to Bass Strait.
The cameras have been set up to educate the general public but also to support the annual Great Victorian Fish Count and assist teachers as a resource to educate their students about marine life.
The overwater camera predominantly captures birdlife perched on the Reef Cam infrastructure while the underwater cam introduces you to a world of green leafy underwater plants and the occasional passing fish.
While it's wonderful how deep you can see underwater and it's actually quite serene on screen, there really isn't much going on down here. Overwater, all you witness are flocks of birds while underwater mostly the camera captures foliage swaying in the current as the occasional fish swims by.
Overlooking the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, this one's ideal for those who miss the big smoke. The camera is static, taking in the city's icons and the cityscape and runs 24/7. The downside is that you can only access it for a few minutes at a time before your session cuts out. You can automatically reconnect though.
Rating: 1/5. The view is undeniably beautiful but there's nothing this stream can do for you that a simple photo of the Sydney Harbour can't. Sure, the occasional passerby makes it on video but other than that we'd give this one a pass – especially since you can't keep it running all day long on your screen.
What have you been doing to keep the travel bug alive while at home? Let us know in the comments below.
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