Asylum Sailing To Australia Takes Deadly Turn

australia
John Yavuz Can/ Flickr

In North America, we occasionally hear stories of cruise ships spotting and assisting a raft-full of Cuban refugees seeking asylum in the United States. Australia has a similar situation with refugees from Indonesia. Now, the dead and missing numbers are not looking good for these asylum seekers, missing after their boat capsized near a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean. It highlights just how dangerous life at sea can be.

A full-scale hunt using 15 ships and 10 aircraft is under way in a giant search and rescue mission. That’s because 55 men, women and children were on deck when the vessel was first spotted via aerial surveillance. Taking the next logical step, a navy vessel was sent to intercept. Arriving on the scene, the asylum ship was gone. The following day, aerial searches caught the ship’s submerged hull.

Survivors, on the other hand, have options.The U.S. wet foot/dry foot entry test is a simple “did ya or didn’t ya get here on your own?” thing. If they did, they stay. If not, they go back rather quickly. The Indonesian version is a bit different.

The trek from Indonesia to Australia is a much more dangerous, 500-mile ocean voyage. Cuba to the U.S. is just over 100 and a good raft will get you there. In the past, when refugees got picked up by ships in Australian waters, they might have been offered the “Pacific Solution.” Under that policy, the asylum seekers were taken to the nearby Republic of Nauru where their refugee status was considered, rather than in Australia where it is not.

The current Australian government’s policy is mandatory detention for asylum seekers until their status is determined, a process that can take up to two years or more. In this case, it appears that few of the refugees will get that opportunity.

“We are humans and the human dimensions of the circumstances are very difficult to deal with,” Border protection commander Rear Admiral David Johnston said in a New Zealand Herald article.

This video gives us a nutshell version of the issue involving asylum seekers and refugees and their impact in Australia.

Celebrate World Oceans Day With A Live Tour Of The Great Barrier Reef

Celebrate World Oceans Day with Live Reef
Kraig Becker

This coming Saturday, June 8, is World Oceans Day, a global event designed to celebrate the important role that the oceans play in keeping our planet a vibrant place for us to live. Throughout the day there will be hundreds of events taking place across the globe that will help educate us on the importance of keeping our oceans healthy, while raising awareness of the challenges they face in the 21st century. One such event is an ambitious 12-hour live tour of the Great Barrier Reef that will give us a very personal look at one of the most important and beautiful marine ecosystems on Earth.

Stretching for more than 1600 miles along the coast of Queensland, Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is home to a dizzying array of species including sea turtles, dolphins, whales and countless smaller fish. Massive in size, the reef covers more than 133,000 square miles and is large enough to be visible from space. It also attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors on an annual basis, many who come to snorkel or dive the GBR’s breathtakingly clear waters.

Beginning at 10 a.m. Australian Eastern Standard Time on Friday, June 7, a team of marine biologists will launch a live event that will stream to the Internet via Google Hangouts. They’re calling this event “Reef Live” and throughout the 12 hours that follow, they’ll be broadcasting from their floating “Sea Studio.” While the event is ongoing, divers will share live images from the reef, while taking us on a guided tour of this very special place both above and below the ocean’s surface.
The event won’t be just about streaming pretty pictures from the waters off the Australian coast, however. Anyone who attends the Google Hangout will be able to ask the team questions about what they are seeing on their screens at any given time, while also interacting with a group of expert panelists who will be in attendance as well. This will give us unprecedented access to marine biologists and reef experts who will be able to provide the insight and knowledge that will make this event a unique and special one.

Reef Live is melding technology, the Internet and social media in new ways to deliver a live event that just wouldn’t have been possible a few short years ago. Streaming real-time video across the Internet while millions look on and have the opportunity to directly participate is a fantastic idea. I can’t wait to see how it all comes together in a few days time. If you want watch the live broadcast and participate in the event, there is a handy countdown clock available on the Reef Live site that will help you determine when the project has officially started. Find it by clicking here.

Go On A ‘Beach Safari’ In Tanzania

Take a beach safari in TanzaniaSanctuary Retreats, a company that deftly mixes both adventure and luxury travel, has announced that it is adding two new lodges to its already impressive portfolio. Starting June 1, the company will offer guests the chance to stay at either the Sanctuary Saadani River Lodge or the Sanctuary Saadani Safari Lodge, both located in Tanzania. These two new destinations will offer guests a wonderful boutique atmosphere while still providing a safari experience unlike any other.

The Sanctuary Saadani River Lodge falls inside the Saadani National Park, one of Tanzania’s premiere wildlife destinations. The park sits along the Indian Ocean, which gives it a different feel from the some of the country’s other top safari destinations. This lodge features 18 treehouse-style suites designed to complement the natural environment in which they are set. Comfortable balconies overlook the passing Wami River, which is home to all manner of creatures including hippos, crocodiles and flamingos. And at the end of the day, guests can indulge themselves with a relaxing massage in the on-site spa.

Activities available at the River Lodge include mountain biking tours, walking safaris, game drives and more.For a completely different experience, travelers will want to consider a visit to the Sanctuary Saadani Safari Lodge, which actually falls on a secluded beach along the East African coastline. Located on the park’s southern border, this lodge offers easy access to the white sands that line the shore of the Indian Ocean, allowing guests to spend their days exploring the untamed bush and then return to the premises for a little relaxation on the beach. There are few places in Africa that offer this type of access to amazing wildlife, tranquil shorelines and luxury suites with abundant amenities.

Activities at the Safari Lodge include game drives, snorkeling, dolphin spotting and much more.

These two lodges are just a sampling of what Sanctuary Retreats has to offer. The company has boutique lodges throughout Africa, as well as Egypt, China and the Galapagos. If you’re looking for an adventurous escape without skimping on the luxury, you’ll definitely want to review everything they have to offer. In June, they’re even offering a special in which visitors can book four nights for the price of three.

[Photo Credit: Sanctuary Retreats]

#OnTheRoad On Instagram: Reunion

reunion

This week on Instagram, Gadling is off to the Indian Ocean island of Reunion.

The Indian Ocean bridges Africa in the west and Southeast Asia and Australia in the east. Much less familiar to Americans than Europeans, the region’s islands challenge the Caribbean for the attention of upscale Europeans, and can lay claim to some of the world’s dreamiest properties. Some of its countries, like the Comoros, are very poor; others, including Seychelles and Mauritius, can be found at the top of Africa’s per capita income tables.

Most popular among French-speaking tourists, Réunion is a French overseas department whose closest neighbor is Mauritius. Like Mauritius, Réunion is a true creole hodgepodge of a place, with a melting pot population; unlike Mauritius, it boasts a volcanic, mountainous interior so dramatic that it is often likened to Hawaii.

I’m here for the hiking, the mountain villages, réunionnaise cuisine, the tropical fruit and the heat. It’s been an interminable, wet, gray winter and I want to warm up. I’ll be sure to pass along some warmth to you.

Do you have any photos you’d like to share with a wider audience? If you mention @GadlingTravel in your own photo AND use the hashtag #gadling, your photo will be considered for our Photo Of The Day.

[Image: Flickr | Aleix Cabarrocas Garcia]

Cocos (Keeling) Islands: Australia’s Indian Ocean Idyll

cocos (keeling) islands

The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are possibly the most beautiful place I have ever been.

This is strange to admit, even embarrassing. Travel writers are not supposed to make such claims. We’re supposed to give information, provide historical context and show how our readers might make the journey we’re sketching. We’re not supposed to lose our cool and submit to the sheer gorgeousness of a particular place.

But the fact is that the Cocos Islands, an Australian external territory, are exquisite. The beaches are damn near close to perfect and the lagoon is full of exotic marine life. For anyone who has gone out of his or her way to visit deserted beaches, the Cocos Islands are the Holy Grail. And for those who have waited for hours to witness a single sea turtle clamber ashore on one or another Caribbean beach, the thousands of sea turtles simply hanging out in the Cocos lagoon will come as a revelation. The same goes for the reef sharks, of which there are an impressive number.

It’s also hard to beat these islands for their remoteness. They’re 1700 miles and two time zones to the west of Perth, the most practical launching pad for the islands. (It’s also possible to book a charter flight to the Cocos Islands from Kuala Lumpur via Christmas Island on a Malaysian airline called Firefly, but most visitors fly from Perth with Virgin Australia.) It takes over six hours to reach Cocos Islands from Perth, with a 50-minute refueling stop on Christmas Island.cocos (keeling) islands

In terms of geography, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands consist of two coral atolls, 26 islands in all. Of these, just two are inhabited: West Island, home to the territory’s airport, most of its administrative offices and around 100 mainland Australians, and Home Island, home to around 500 Malay descendants of the indentured servants brought to the island by its previous owners, the Clunies-Ross family. (I’ll write more about the territory’s tangled colonial history soon in a later post.) The island is characterized more or less by residential self-segregation, though there is some mingling – students from Home Island take the ferry to West Island daily and people travel in both directions for work.

The Cocos Islands are by no means a five-star outpost of luxury in the Indian Ocean; the territory cannot compare on this front to Seychelles, the Maldives or Mauritius. For high rollers, Cocos’ basic guesthouses, motels and house rentals will seem terribly simple. That’s fine. The rest of us – who by the way will have already paid a pretty penny to get to Cocos – will not mind simple accommodations in a place as beautiful as this one.

So who visits Cocos? Government officials, kitesurfers, birdwatchers, fishers and divers – and me. I visited in November, soaking up enough tropical heat to last me through the impending winter. I have a few posts forthcoming on Cocos, on island activities and the different cultures of Home and West Islands, as well as some notes on the nature (and future) of tourism in such a remote and remarkably gorgeous place.

[Images: Alex Robertson Textor]