A summer holiday doesn’t need to involve lazing on a beach for hours each day. Ring the changes and head to one of these destinations for both an experiential and memorable trip.
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When most people think of the Great Migration, they think of the epic river crossings that take place between July and October each year. Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve is the perfect spot to see this incredible spectacle in action. The migration – which involves around 1.5 million wildebeest, 400,000 zebra and 200,000 gazelle – is actually a continuous event. The herds travel constantly along a route through the Maasai Mara in Kenya and the Serengeti in Tanzania, following the rains throughout the year.
Undoubtedly, the most dramatic part of this movement is the annual river crossings, where the animals must plunge across the Mara River to reach the Maasai Mara. They face the constant, well-documented threat of crocodiles who wait all year for this moment.
Seeing the Great Migration is a real bucket list experience. Watch as the herds gather nervously on the banks of the river, until eventually one of them makes a break for it. The animals follow en masse, leaping off the banks and into the river, thundering across and – hopefully – making it to the other side.
Aside from witnessing the migration, Kenya is one of the continent’s best safari destinations, with lashings of culture, history and beautiful landscapes. The Mara is especially good for its big cat sightings. Book early (aim for a year ahead) to ensure availability over the river crossing season.
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The peak season for Borneo is June to September, when the weather is at its most comfortable. Borneo is the world’s third largest island and split between Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. Sabah and Sarawak are the two most popular areas of Borneo, both located in Malaysia’s northern portion of the island, and Kalimantan in Indonesia is another of the most visited regions. For families and nature lovers, Borneo is a wonderful destination.
Here, you can explore the dense Bornean rainforest, visit orangutan sanctuaries and take river cruises through the jungle. You might be lucky enough to spot Sumatran rhinos or the Bornean pygmy elephant, too. Stay in tribal villages or rainforest lodges to really amplify your experience.
It’s not just about the jungle. Mount Kinabalu is one of the highest peaks in Southeast Asia, but easily accessed by anyone with a relatively good fitness level. The hike usually takes two days, with an overnight stay at Laban Rata lodge, just a couple of kilometres below the peak. At 2am, you’ll set out for the summit, where you’ll arrive just as the sun is rising – when the weather is clear, dawn at 4,095 metres above sea level is a truly glorious sight.
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Culture In Peru
The best time to visit Peru is July, when the weather is driest. Although there is a whole host of things to do in this huge, diverse country, most first-time visitors will usually head to Machu Picchu. This ancient citadel is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and for good reason: perched amid mountainous terrain, Machu Picchu, which means ‘old mountain’, is an ancient Incan city, often dramatically shrouded in mist. The Spanish colonisers never found it – and so it remained hidden and intact until the American explorer Hiram Bingham rediscovered it in 1911.
You can either hike to Machu Picchu through the Sacred Valley or take the train from Cusco. Either way, you’ll usually have to spend a night acclimatising in Cusco before heading further up into the Andes. Cusco, like the capital Lima, is full of world-class restaurants to discover, such as possibly the best museum cafe in the world, the MAP Cafe.
Aside from high-altitude destinations, Peru is also home to its own slice of the Amazon jungle. You can take a river cruise into the rainforest, stopping for hikes along the way. Spot monkeys, river dolphins and dozens of vibrant bird species as you cruise.
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Galápagos Islands Exploration
The Galápagos Islands are a year-round destination and one of the must-see sights of the world. Cruises are the usual method for seeing this cluster of unique and striking islands, but with a growing amount of eco-lodges, it’s also possible to see the islands from the land and on day-trip excursions.
A black, volcanic land with azure (but chilly) sea, the Galápagos Islands are most famed for their plethora of wildlife. Giant tortoises living to over 100 years old met Charles Darwin when he sailed here to develop his theory of evolution. The blue-footed boobies and tiny Galápagos penguins – the most northerly penguins in the world – potter around the rocks. Marine iguanas bask in the sunshine and the curious, playful sea lions will swim right up to snorkellers.
Activities from your boat might include Zodiac trips around the coast, snorkelling, kayaking, hiking volcanoes and horse riding. If you’re qualified, the diving here is some of the best in the world, and you might see whale sharks, hammerheads and manta rays, amongst many other marine species.
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Polar Bear Spotting in Svalbard
Norway’s northern island of Svalbard is one of the top destinations for seeing polar bears in the wild. July and August is the season for spotting the giant mammals, as the melting ice means better access for boats. Less ice also means more concentration of bears and there are endless daylight hours with the Arctic’s midnight sun.
There are around 3,000 bears in and around Svalbard (the same number as the population of Spitsbergen), so the chances of spotting them are high. The best expedition ships are usually low-capacity, which means they can venture further into the sea ice.
On a cruise around Svalbard, you’ll get a chance to hike the tundra, take Zodiac trips around the coastline, kayak in the frosty water, and admire beautiful fjords and glaciers. Aside from polar bears, you might also see reindeer, seals, puffins and walruses.
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