Ride the waves. Watch a lion feeding on its prey. Get into a party mood on Times Square….all this in one day, from the comfort of your own home. Welcome to the world of virtual vacations, where you may roan unhindered by restrictions of cost, time, energy and ability. The world over, web cameras are being installed in places where travelers throng, to give a whole new meaning to the old term, armchair travel.
 Why should I be aware of this?
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There are more than a million webcams, short for Web cameras, on the internet which are offering images in real-time across the world, ranging from one in the port of Paros in Greece and some in wedding chapels in Las Vegas, to some in the heart of the African jungle. While some are live streaming video 24-7, others refresh the image every few seconds or longer.
Virtual tours are no substitute for actually visiting a place, but they have their own advantages.
- They are cheap – no airfares, no hotel bills and no car hires
- They are convenient – Just imagine, a holiday with no worries about whether you’ll get bookings. You don’t get jet lagged. You don’t get affected by the weather there, nor do you need passports or visas.
- They take you to places you might never get a chance to go to in real life – non-swimmers can go scuba diving, non-skiers can go skiing or you could go to Antarctica or Greece or on that cruise you never had the money for!
- They are eco friendly. Just imagine, you see and experience a place without impacting its ecology or leaving any carbon footprint. Anyway, in the long run, web cams may be the only way to explore environmentally sensitive regions – like rain forests, coral reefs and mountain peaks.
 All about virtual vacations
There is no end to where you can go for a virtual vacation, but here are some things available to you at the click of your mouse button.
- Party at the New York’s Times Square. The next time you’re working till late and want a break, take a virtual walk down Broadway with the added advantage of being able to zoom in and out.
- Stake out a water hole at The Mashatu Game Reserve in Bostwana. Watch bears, deer and other animals feed at the water hole, and if you’re lucky, you might even catch a lion or two on camera.
- Dive into one of EarthCam's top 25 webcams, in The New England Aquarium in Boston. You can watch sharks, eels, turtles and 150 other sea animals while they are quite unaware of your presence! Take this vacation during daytime only, as the lights of the aquarium are switched off at night.
- Go scuba diving without donning a wet suit, by clicking on Bonaire National Marine Park in the Netherlands Antilles. The camera is 49 feet below the water surface and offers panoramic views of the coral reef.
- Wind surf in Hawaii. Two webcams catch the waves on two of Hawaii’s most famous surfing spots -- the Uppers Kanaha and Camp 1. Watch the action as pros train during the winter months right in front of the camera. (Note: The camera runs from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. HST but replays the previous 12 hours during dark hours).
- Ski down a precipitous Ski Slope and get a sense of what it feels to go hurtling down the slopes at Sugar Mountain Resort in North Carolina. Daredevils might like The Tom Terrific expert-level slope even better.
- Get married in Las Vegasor [www.gretna-bride.co.uk/webcam/ Gretna Green], and invite friends and family across the world to a virtual wedding!
 What can I do?
 System requirements
While one doesn't need air tickets or visas for Virtual Travel, what one certainly needs is an up-to-date computer with some basic software. Here is a list --
- On a PC with Microsft Windows you will need one of the following web browsers
- Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0
- Mozilla Firefox
- Netscape 9
- Opera 9
- On a Macintosh:
- Mozilla Firefox
- Adobe Flash Player version 8
- If you want to see live streaming images, you may also need version 10 (or higher) of Microsoft's Windows Media Player.
 Some necessary software updates
- Get the latest version of the Media Player
- Install the Adobe Flash Player free of charge.
- Virtual Vacations are a great way to see a place you may never get to, plan a holiday or revisit a cherished spot.
- More and more holiday destinations across the world are now installing web cameras at strategic locations to allow virtual tourists to explore freely.
- Virtual vacations are also a great way to explore ecologically sensitive areas like rain forests and habitats of endangered animals without leaving a footprint.
- More on Virtual Vacations
- For Virtual Vacations to Africs, Las Vegas and the tropical Isles
- For details about Google Earth
- For live webcam images of the San Juan Islands, Washington State
- To embark upon a Virtual Safari
- For live images of the African jungles