Explore Australia's magnificient coast up close aboard a small ship.
Australia is the world's largest and most diverse island. This magnificent country beholds an assortment of breathtaking landscapes and assorted cultures which draws people from all over to partake in the unique experience of the outback. Although much of Australia is characterized by harsh savanna land, rocky outcrops, shifting deserts, and dry salt lakes, the coast in spectacular contrast offers a refreshing retreat of beauty and
tranquility that can not be passed up. Whether looking for a nice walkabout in the alpine scenery of Tasmania, exploring the rain forests in Queensland, or taking the plunge on a scuba diving extravaganza in the world famous Great Barrier Reef, Australia has something for every traveler to enjoy. Secluded from other continents, Australia has an abundance of unique plant and animal life including charming koalas, bouncing kangaroos, untamed emus, and slithering reptiles. It has 10 percent of the world's biodiversity and a great number of its native plants, animals and birds exist nowhere else in the world. Therefore Australia has an array of protection procedures including World Heritage listings and many national parks and wildlife sanctuaries all committed to conserving its unique environment and natural heritage.
HISTORY: Australia is one of the world's oldest landmasses and has been populated by human beings for an estimated 60 000 years. Before the arrival of European settlers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples inhabited most areas of the continent. Australia's contemporary history is relatively short, with the first European settlement established by Great Britain on 26 January 1788.
GEOGRAPHY: Australia is the smallest continent and yet the largest island in the world. It lies amidst the Arafura and Timor Seas to the north, the Coral and Tasman Seas of the South Pacific to the east, the Southern Ocean to the south, and the Indian Ocean to the west. Its coastline including its islands covers 59,736km (37,119 miles). The landscape is comprised of low plateaus, with lakes and rivers bounded by coastal mountain ranges. There are rain forests in the far northeast (mainly in Queensland). The southeast is a huge fertile plain. Further to the north lies the enormous Great Barrier Reef, a 2,000km (1,200-mile) strip of coral that covers a total area of 345,000 sq km (133,000 sq miles). Although Australia is among the driest lands on Earth, it nevertheless has enormous snowfields, the size of Switzerland. There are vast mineral deposits.
CLIMATE: Australia is in the southern hemisphere and the seasons are opposite to those in Europe and North America. There are two climatic zones: the tropical zone (in the north above the Tropic of Capricorn) and the temperate zone. The tropical zone (consisting of 40% of Australia) has two seasons, summer ('wet') and winter ('dry'), while the temperate zone has all four seasons. Spring to summer: Warm or hot everywhere, tropical in the north, and warm to hot with mild nights in the south. Autumn to winter: Northern and central Australia have clear warm days, cool nights; the south has cool days with occasional rain but still plenty of sun. Snow is totally confined to mountainous regions of the southeast. Drought is becoming more widespread with southeast Queensland, Victoria and South Australia all badly affected.
RECOMMENDED CLOTHING: Lightweights during summer months with warmer clothes needed during the cooler winter period throughout most of the southern states. Lightweight cottons and linens all year in the central/northern states with warm clothes only for cooler winter evenings and early mornings. Sunglasses, sunhats and sun block lotion are recommended year round in the north and during the summer months in the south.
LOCATION: Indian/Pacific Oceans / 7,686,850 sq km (2,967,909 sq miles).
POPULATION: 21.2 million (official estimate 2007). Population Density 2.8 per sq km.
GOVERNMENT: Constitutional Monarchy. Gained independence from the UK in 1901.
LANGUAGE: The official language is English. Many other languages are retained by minorities, including Italian, German, Greek, Vietnamese, Chinese dialects and Aboriginal languages.
TIME: Australia spans three time zones:
GMT + 10 (GMT + 11 from October to March, except Queensland; starts a month earlier in Tasmania).
GMT + 9.5 (GMT + 10.5 from October to March, except Northern Territory).
GMT + 8 (GMT + 9 from October to March, three-year trial in Western Australia until 2009 followed by referendum).