Virtual vacations: Travel through your screen with northern lights livestreams, otter cams, and Osaka street tours

PHOTO: Unsplash

There's a bug going around now that the world's on lockdown - the travel bug, that is.

Now that our globetrotting is on hold for the year, there's no reason we can't stay curious with a world of livestreams and virtual tours at our fingertips.

Want to immerse in nature, watch animals frolicking live, or explore the world's most iconic museums?

Wherever your wanderlust takes you, you've got front-row tickets with these 11 on-screen thrills.

Nature Escapes

Northern Lights, Manitoba

Chill out on your couch and let the Arctic put on a glorious show for you.

Polar Bears International and have teamed up to live-stream the aurora borealis in all its bewitching colours, through a camera planted right beneath the aurora oval in Churchill, Manitoba.

It's the perfect time of year to go aurora hunting too - the long nights of late winter to early spring are known to be ideal.

Tune in around 9.30pm-1am CDT (10.30am-2pm SGT) for a dose of nature's magic.

Stream the Northern Lights here

Yosemite Falls, California

One of the world's tallest waterfalls, Yosemite Falls plunges a dramatic 2,425 feet down lush granite cliffs.

Thanks to a webcam focused on the Upper Falls by the Yosemite Conservancy, we can now enjoy live views of this rugged landscape.

Visit the feed around 6am PDT (9pm SGT) as dawn breaks over the falls - the tranquil light and cascading waters are enough to wash our stress away.

Stream the Yosemite Falls here

St. Mark's Basin, Venice

When it comes to picturesque waterways, where better to turn to than Venice?

Set off the coast of Venice's main island, this live cam offers postcard-worthy vistas of St. Mark's Basin and, just across, the little island of San Giorgio Maggiore.

Get your fix of Mediterranean zen with this stream of calm waters lapping, boats drifting past, and the famous spire of the 16th-century church in the background.

Art buffs might recognise this same view captured in Monet's dreamy San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk.

Stream St Mark’s Basin here

Animal Sightings

Tembe Elephant Park, Africa

Set up camp in your blankets and embark on an on-screen safari with Tembe Elephant Park.

Tucked deep in the sand forests of Maputaland, the reserve's live channel gets us up close and personal with South Africa's majestic wildlife.

By day, catch elephants and impalas grazing around the waterhole; by night, the prowling leopards are a sight to see.

Stream Tembe Elephant Park here.

Monterey Bay Aquarium, California

Is there any marine critter more otter-ly adorable than sea otters?

Now temporarily closed to visitors, non-profit Monterey Bay Aquarium stays devoted to bringing us aquatic cuteness with live feeds of their otters, sharks, penguins, and fish-rich reefs.

Nothing buoys our spirits like seeing otters frolicking with fuzzy tummies up, or penguins lining up oh-so-politely at feeding time.

Stream Monterey Bay Aquarium here

Katmai National Park, Alaska

Set over Alaska's scenic Brook River Falls, this live stream offers a window into prime salmon spawning ground - along with the brown bears which come to the buffet.

With waters frothing, salmon leaping, gulls crying, and bears busily fishing, it's a scene of nature at its most serene yet savage.

You'll be hard-pressed to get back to urban reality.

Stream Katmai National Park here

Cincinnati Zoo, Ohio

It's a zoo in here with Cincinnati Zoo's ingenious Home Safari series.

Every day at 3pm EDT (3am SGT), the Zoo takes us on a live meet-and-greet with the animals that call it home.

Kicking off in mid-March, the series has already brought viewers into the enclosures of their sassy meerkats, baby hippos, fluffy red pandas, and more.

If you can't catch the livestream, head over to browse past clips on the Zoo's Facebook and YouTube pages.

Stream Cincinnati Zoo here

Urban Exploration

Le Musee du Louvre, Paris

We might not be able to explore the City of Lights right now, but we can tour the crown jewel of its artistic riches.

The Louvre has crafted four virtual tours from its sprawling feast of art, ranging from Egyptian antiquities to Romantic paintings.

Take a time machine into the Pharaonic period, or 'walk' the remnants of the Louvre's moat in medieval days.

If you're feeling a little more modern, marvel at the soaring ceilings of the Galerie d'Apollon - decorated by the greatest artists of Louis XIV's reign - and explore 'The Advent of the Artist', a new exhibition tracing the artist's emergence as creator from classical antiquity to the 19th century.

Tour the Louvre here

Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo

Doing the Shibuya scramble is a rite of passage for tourists in Tokyo, but watching the controlled chaos unfold is almost as fun.

Run by the All-Nippon News Network (ANN), this live feed offers street-level views of Tokyo's beating heart.

While the world's busiest crossing isn't its bustling self these days, the nostalgia can tide us over till our next Japan trip.

Stream Shibuya Crossing here

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

This Dutch national museum is home to masterpieces from some of the world's most influential painters, including Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Vermeer.

Their interactive tour allows you to savour it all in crystal clear detail - get up close with Rembrandt's largest-ever painting The Night Watch, aided by handy audio-guides of its history and secrets.

Don't miss out on Jan Asselijn's dramatic The Threatened Swan and Vermeer's mysterious The Milkmaid as well.

Tour Rijksmuseum here.

Osaka, Japan

Travel videos on YouTube are a dime a dozen, but Osaka-based Rion Ishida is doing something a little different.

Ever since the Covid-19 outbreak reached Japan a month ago, he's been live-streaming three-hour-long footages of himself strolling down Osaka's streets.

With iconic spots like Dotonburi still bright and buzzy, it's a delicious dose of normalcy for those of us staying in.

Ambling in leisurely style through the streets and panning slowly across its neon-lit sights, you can almost feel the city's energy through your screen.

Stream Osaka's streets here

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.

This article was first published in City Nomads.