It’s that time of year when every travel programme, magazine, writer, photographer and blogger on the planet produces their travel inspiration and recommendations for destinations worth visiting the following year.
I’m about to shamelessly jump on the bandwagon and produce my own recommendations, with a slight difference; all those included will be exceptional destinations, once in a lifetime trips which are certain to inspire.
This Indonesian adventure, in Kalimantan, Borneo has everything, and even on my own shortened version of the cruise, there was plenty to experience. Visiting the camps based in the forests of Tanjung Puting, seeing orang-utans up close and personal is the prime reason for visiting, but the slow journey down the Sekonyer River is a worthy trip in its own right.
The chance of seeing wild orang-utans, proboscis monkeys, hornbills and other forest wildlife is a good reason for remaining observant, but the culture of the river is equally fascinating. Wooden klotoks cruise slowly up the river, the people of the region live and work from the boats, providing for the many tourists. Smaller vessels act as taxis and supply craft, ferrying up and down the river, while fishermen and miners work the waters for their own reasons.
Three to four days is the normal length of a cruise, sleeping aboard the boats, under beautiful, clear and star filled skies, with more time available to explore the forest and possibly see a creature even more difficult to find; a clouded leopard. The search will be exciting, finding one unimaginably so.
Canada is a land filled with adventure, I could have chosen any number of destinations or adventures; Alberta, The Yukon, British Columbia or Newfoundland, but getting as close as we did to polar bears in Manitoba is special. The guides take visitors within fifty metres of the bears, but these are wild animals and unpredictable, they often wander closer still. Thankfully the calm guides, know how to handle these situations and there’s little reason for concern.
Churchill maybe recognised as the polar bear capital of Canada, but staying at a small lodge in the Hudson Bay region of Manitoba, seeing these magnificent creatures among the colours of autumn was a dream come true. There are also wolves, black bears and moose in the area, and the occasional skunk!
The opportunity to see the northern lights, those incredible dancing lights in the sky is another highlight. Don’t worry about going to bed and missing them, sleep soundly and if they appear, the team at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge will ensure you are awake to witness them.
This small, remote island in the middle of the south Atlantic now has an airport, making it more accessible. However, a few issues with wind and it seems the RMS St Helena may not be put out to pasture just yet. A small part of me, likes this, as part of the adventure is the ten-day round trip on this aging vessel, the friendly crew trying hard to keep the passengers entertained.
I often find myself recommending this little island, the people, known as ‘Saints‘ are friendly, there are some great places to hike and swim and even a chance to swim with whale sharks. Some unique wildlife, such as the busy wirebird and possibly the most remote distillery on the planet are just a few other reasons to take the journey.
Getting up early to climb the 999 steps of Jacob’s Ladder for sunrise is a great way to start the first day, follow it with a latte made with locally produced coffee and you’ll be off to a flier.
If I had to choose one highlight of my time on earth it would probably be trekking to see mountain gorillas in Rwanda. The excitement of the very first glimpse of a great ape is a memory I will never forget and treasure forever. Spending just an hour in the presence of these gentle giants was a privilege and convinced me still further we must do everything possible to save these amazing close cousins and the value of projects like this one in Rwanda which helps protect them.
Along the way, we witnessed young children playing and working among the crops and livestock, the culture of this land of a thousand hills is vibrant and fascinating.
The relatively recent genocide should not be forgotten, and visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial should be on the top of any tourists list.
This great island is an adventurer’s playground and a favourite with photographers, as it is one of the most photogenic destinations there is. While Reykjavik is the obvious draw, I’d recommend spending just a few days here and getting out to see the rest of the island. The remote western and eastern fjords shouldn’t be ignored, while the northern city of Akureyri seems preferable to its more well-known southern neighbour.
The land of fire and ice is one of the youngest land masses on earth, born from geothermal activity, it remains one of the most dynamic landscapes on the planet. It could easily be known as the land of glaciers and waterfalls; icefields cover a large proportion of the country and there almost seems to be a cascade around every corner.
Winter is possibly the best time to visit, the days maybe much shorter, but the low sun provides some amazing light, it feels as if sunrise lasts all day.
There seems to be two types of adventurous traveller; those that have visited Australia and those that will visit. The vast country is another which has plenty to offer those with an attitude for adventure, with huge tracts of wild, untamed country, it is the home of the pioneering spirit.
The red centre known as the Northern Territory has one of the coolest towns Alice Springs I’ve ever visited, and iconic landscapes like Uluru and nearby Kata Tjuta. There is also the opportunity to learn from one of the oldest cultures on earth, the indigenous aboriginal people that protect the land. They share their culture through stories and artwork and although generally camera shy, fascinating to spend time with.
Those with the time and feeling especially adventurous may even give the famous Larapinta trail a try, one of the great treks of Australia.
In recent years, with the United States seeming to soften its stance towards the Caribbean island of Cuba, the fear has always been it is about to change. The new President-elect may just make that fear obsolete, but regardless, visiting the vibrant culture of Cuba should be high on everybody’s list.
It’s an island which seems to sway to a salsa style beat, music played an important part in the history and culture of the island, and it seems to ooze from every side street, restaurant and bar of the island. I often found myself following a distant sound to its source, only to find a band jamming in the windowless front room of a tiny residence.
Casas are the way to go, staying in the private homestays of the locals is much more intimate than a hotel, and the money seems more likely to benefit the local economy. It’s another destination which photographers seem to love, with its colourful culture it’s easy to understand why.
Don’t forget to drop in at one of Hemingway’s favourite bars in Havana; La Floridita
A country which is rebuilding itself after suffering a crippling earthquake. The friendly, hardworking Sherpa people, home to the mightiest range of mountains and highest place on earth.
The Himalaya are breath-taking, literally standing head and shoulders above any of the other great ranges, towering above tiny trekkers crawling ant-like beneath their summits among the clouds. Trekking from teahouse to teahouse, past impressive monasteries, over cable bridges which span huge chasms and sometimes having to drop into deep gorges before climbing the steep paths towards the final goal.
Leaving evocative and bustling Kathmandu, the impressive landing at Lukla, the narrow market streets of Namche Bazaar, through spiritual Tengboche monastery and then onward and upward to Gorak Shep. Oodles of dal bhat will probably be consumed along the way, and encounters with yaks and the indomitable Sherpa people will be welcome distractions from the toil of the high-altitude climbs.
Trekking up Kalar Patthar is a must, Everest is not readily visible from base camp, and an early morning hike up to the nearby peak is the best opportunity for a good photograph of the world’s highest mountain.
The Pantanal, Brazil – fabulous wildlife, the largest rodent in the world; the capybara, caiman and the jaguar and a culture of horses and cowboys.
The Atacama Desert, Chile – An amazing landscape, which often looks lunar and even has evocative names like Valle De La Luna. Pink flamingos, wild llamas, endless saltflats and local culture, there’s plenty to tempt.
Visiting the Antarctic is possibly the greatest modern day adventure, however, as I’ve not visited as a blogger, or with a camera it’s not one which is possible to include here. I’m hoping someday soon, I’ll be able to share some photographic inspiration from there too.
This post has provided concise guides to several great destinations and journeys, highlighting the reasons and attractions for visiting. Punctuated with some inspiring imagery, additional options and links to posts for further travel inspiration.
I hope you’re suitably inspired? If not, you may need to check your pulse, otherwise, time to start saving!