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The natural high of a holiday perched above tropical waters is a memory that lasts forever. Our travel writers share their experiences.
When it comes to dream tropical getaways, does it get any better than dangling your toes into a dazzling blue-green lagoon from the deck of your own over-water bungalow?
An outdoor bath overlooking a nearby coral-laden, crystal-clear bay goes close. Or what about your own villa-on-stilts plunge pool?
From the Pacific to the Indian Ocean, set-on-water accommodation has enchanted our writers. And as they relive the magic of luxury in harmony with water, they reflect on the emotions of the experience.
It's the ultimate balcony scene - enough to send the average ichthyologist into a fish-like feeding frenzy. Hundreds, if not thousands, of tropical fish are swarming, in the most translucent ocean water I've ever seen, below the timber deck of my luxurious over-water bungalow set above a shallow, coral-festooned Fijian lagoon.
Strangely, while there is seemingly no shortage of fish in Fiji (it is said there are 1200 species in this lagoon alone), this is one south Pacific island nation that's not exactly up to its gills in over-water accommodation of the kind for which the likes of Tahiti has become renowned. Likuliku Lagoon Resort is the only resort in Fiji with such irresistible accommodation.
At Likuliku, located in the Mamanuca group of islands, north-west of Nadi, fish soon become your friends at one of the 10 over-water bures, even though they're an expected focal point of the menu at the resort's gourmet restaurant on the island proper.
There's certainly no escaping the fish. Not only can they be easily viewed from the spacious deck of your accommodation, there is also a see-through glass panel thoughtfully embedded in the living room floor, right next to the sofa, and another one running the length of the twin wash basins and vanities in the bathroom.
It renders the otherwise tedious task of shaving, or make-up application, more of a delight than the usual chore as you watch the lagoon's technicoloured fish swim by in all their fluorescent majesty.
Oh, and what's an ichthyologist? I had to look it up, too. It's the term given to someone who studies fish, and I can't think of a better place to do so than from the balcony of one of Likuliku's over-water bures, cocktail in one hand and a Fijian tropical fish chart (available for purchase in the resort shop) in the other.
To book an over-water bure at Likuliku Lagoon Resort, phone Holiday Specialists (holidayspecialists.com.au/Fiji) on 13 13 81. Rooms from about $923 a night, which includes breakfast, lunch and dinner (food only) and complimentary use of non-motorised water sport activities. The resort can be reached via a 45-minute catamaran transfer from Nadi or via chartered helicopter or float plane. Air Pacific (soon to be rebranded Fiji Airways) operates regular flights to Nadi from Sydney.
More info airpacific.com.
Everyone's heard of the guy abandoned on his wedding day, who decides to go through with the honeymoon on his own ... right? So that was me ... OK, we weren't married, but we'd lived together for three years ... close enough.
She left; but I couldn't cancel.
We'd wanted to avoid the honeymooners and the filthy rich on Bora Bora and had heard the plane there from Tahiti often stops on Huahine. Few people, apparently, get off on an island that's every bit as beautiful.
I land on my own and am whisked away by boat across an enormous blue lagoon to Te Tiare Beach Resort, where there's the most romantic over-water bungalow you ever saw: think thatched-roof hut with a sprawling private deck that straddles a perfect tropical-blue lagoon. The sun even sets right in front of me, pulling at my heart-strings.
The first night is torture.
Te Tiare's restaurant Ari'i is said to be French Polynesia's most romantic: can you imagine how it feels to eat alone? Oddly, by day two, I begin to cherish the solitude. I start each morning with a swim, opening my eyes underwater as parrot fish swim through coral all around me.
I spend entire days in this lagoon: paddling kayaks across it, surfing nearby reef breaks, sunbaking on the nearby white-sand beaches. I only leave it to read entire novels in my jacuzzi.
I don't leave entirely healed - I'm not as shallow as this lagoon.
But being at Te Tiare does make me realise the world's not so mean after all.
To book Select Vacations has a seven-night package from $3249 a person, twin share (including airfares from Australia with Air Tahiti Nui and transfers), for travel between November 1 and May 31, 2014. 1300 731 531, tahitinow.com.au.
More info tetiarebeachresort.com.
For many kids in Australia eager to celebrate the end of high school, Schoolies is the ultimate release. For some, it's also the first opportunity for international travel - as it is with me, flung sideways into the Pacific on a cruise ship bound for Port Vila, Vanuatu.
It does not go well. Having spent months daydreaming every detail - the vast ship like a floating palace, drifting through palm-fringed paradise - I find reality less appealing. The ship is frail and cramped and the journey is rocky.
So I file my south Pacific fantasy away in the "future" box, promising to do it differently. And 12 years later, I find myself in Port Vila again, sitting in an over-water villa at the Holiday Inn Resort.
There is something magical about this. I can't help but think of my pokey stateroom, replaced here by epic splendour set among 20 hectares of lush tropical gardens.
And while the building is meant to look like a traditional hut, it looks to me like a capsized boat, hovering above the water. I spend my time pretending that the accursed ship of Schoolies had tipped over, shaken up, and given me the rich experience I always wanted.
If holidays are about making dreams come true, this is a good one. I push off from my private balcony straight into the ocean. A man paddles past in a kayak; there is adventure all over this island named Efate. Plus, the shimmering pool with a full-service bar is just across the way - and I'm legal age!
History has been corrected.
To book Holiday Inn Resort Vanuatu offers over-water villas from $1056 a couple a night, including breakfast, for travel before August. Phone 1800 007 697 or see ihg.com/holidayinnresorts for details. Air Vanuatu flies daily from Sydney to Port Vila, with return economy fares starting from $559. airvanuatu.com.
More info vanuatu.travel.
Grumbling about the downside of travel writing is akin to winning a million bucks and complaining how heavy the bags of cash are. So I won't grumble, other than to say life on the road can get lonely.
My visit to Club Med Kani in the Maldives could have gone that way. Located on a private atoll of pristine white sand and swaying palm trees, Kani offers the absolute luxury of "suites on stilts". From the private wraparound terraces, it's a dive or step straight into the warm turquoise sea. It is hands-down the most romantic place I have been.
Was I lonely in paradise? Not a bit.
It turns out an island of mostly honeymooners and couples is the perfect place for a single gal. From the chef who greeted me each morning with elaborately carved fruit, and cries of "hello my future wife!", to the French architect who asked if he could join me for dinner, I never felt alone.
When a handsome local village guide whisked me away for a private moonlit tour of the islands by speedboat, I was sated with the romance of my life.
On the flight out of Male International Airport, saltwater still in my hair, sand between my toes and a sparkle in my eyes, I found myself sitting alongside six members of the French Olympic men's wrestling team.
There really is something in the water in the Maldives.
To book Club Med Kani has a special Winter Sun Free Nights offer: Stay for seven nights, pay for five in high season. Or, stay for seven nights and pay for four in low season. Bookings must be made by June 30 for travel until October 31. clubmed.com.
More info maldives.com.
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