The allure of Iceland is plenty and a visual assault on the senses. There are the fantastical northern Lights, whale spotting, glorious glaciers, snorkeling between continental plates, taking a dip in the sparkling warm Blue Lagoon, exploring ruins of the brutal Vikings, cascading waterfalls – the list of things to see and experience are endless. Dramatic landscapes greet you in Iceland, the home to hot springs, volcanoes, geysers, lava fields and glaciers. The Nordic nation is distinctive in every facet, a perfect harmony of fire and ice co-existing in one place. Cloaked in mystique, you could either witness the magnificent colors of the Northern lights or the midnight sun, depending on when you visit.
Currency: Icelandic Krona
When to go: Warmest – June to September
Northern Lights – September to January
Midnight Sun – June
Basic Icelandic phrases: Hello – Halló , Thank you – Takk fyrir
Top five attractions
1. Blue Lagoon
Iceland’s Blue Lagoon draws you in with its surreal swirling mists and milky water. This popular geothermal spa is an enormous man-made hot tub situated smack in the middle of a lava field. Submerging yourself in the warm waters of the pool along with a glass of Icelandic beer or cocktails is a wonderful way to relax. Soak in the rich minerals which are self-cleansing and do try on the free clay masks while you’re at it. The self-cleansing water renews itself every 40 hours. Once you’re done, you’ll leave the spa with your skin feeling invigorated and smooth. Leaving the experience aside the view is spectacular, so immerse yourself in this man-made wonder.
Travel tip: Make sure you pre-book your entrance ticket. Ticket prices range from €40 to €70
Located at the border of the South Icelandic highlands, this tongue twister of a volcano burst into the headlines in 2010. The massive ash cloud from this volcano delayed flights across Europe. The grandeur of this glacier volcano is best observed from a distance. Meaning “The Mountains of the islands”, this huge and powerful volcano is entirely covered by an ice cap. Neighbouring glacier volcana Katla and Eyjafjallajökull are considered too tricky to hike up. A year after the eruption, the Þorvaldseyri Visitor Centre opened. A family run-business on a farm, their aim is to give tourists a peek at what living at the door step of a volcano is like.
Travel tip: This stratovolcano is best explored through a volcano glacier walk
A hot stop along the Golden Circle is the Geysir Hot Spring Area. Lively Strokkur (The Churn) is the main attraction, a mere 100 meters south of the Great Geysir. You get to watch a blast of boiling water water spout as high as 30 meters at 10 minute intervals. Boiling mud pits, and exploding geysers are par for the course.
In fact the English word geyser which means a periodically spouting hot spring was derived from the Icelandic Geysir. Keep your cameras ready to capture the remarkable jet of steam spewing from the boiling cauldron below. A distinctive and memorable part of the visit at Geysir is assisting a chef boil eggs in a hot spring. Or you could dig up bread that has baked for 24 hours underground.
Travel tip: Don’t miss trying the ‘hot spring bread’ or boiling eggs over a hot spring
Gullfoss is Iceland’s Niagara falls. Pictures don’t do justice to the gigantic falls. The main attraction in the Golden triangle of Iceland, hearing the thundering water is an experience in itself. Known as “The Golden falls” as the water cascades fown the crevices the sun beams give it a golden hue. A visual treat the water cascades down three tiers of stairs. Keep an eye out for perfect rainbows over the falls on sunny days. The biggest, most powerful and popular waterfall means it’s difficult to avoid the crowds. Winter views are stunning as the waterfall freezes over into rippling waves of gleaming ice.
Travel tip: Bring a coat in case the weather changes. Hire a raincoat if you want to go close to the falls
Located in Iceland’s Southern Highland, The people’s pool or Landmannalaugar is a vast stretch of splendour. This matchless geological wonder is at the edge of the Laugahraun lava field. Surrounded by mountains whose hues constantly vary depending on the movement of the sun, you could appreciate purple, pink and red mountains. Renowned for its hiking trails, this is the normal start point for a four-day hike. An oasis for weary travellers, there are plenty of natural geothermal baths around to recuperate after an intense hike. The notable trails in this area include the path to Sulphur Wave Mountain and Blue Peak volcano. The panoramic views once you reach your destination are worth the climb.
Travel tip: If you’re not up to the task of walking, you can opt for the Icelandic horse rides
Croatia is the perfect unspoiled Mediterranean treasure with an astounding 1224 islands. This gem in Eastern Europe gives you a chance to feel the sand between your toes, get a perfect tan on the long beaches and dig into scrumptious sea-food. There is much more to this coastal country than Dubronik. For Game of Thrones fans, Dubronik is a must visit as part of the series is filmed here. Plitvice Lakes National Park the oldest park in South East Europe is a UNESCO site. Crystal clear water of the lake interspersed with wooden bridges makes this a nature lover’s paradise. Zagreb, Split, Danube and Korcula shouldn’t be missed in this gorgeous country by the Adriatic Sea.
Currency: Croatian Kuna
When to go: High season – July to August
Shoulder season – May to June September
Basic Croatian phrases: Hello – Bok , Thank you – Hvala
Top five attractions
1. Plitvice lakes national park
Tourists throng to see 16 sparkling lakes intertwined by waterfalls within this forested national park. The low hum of the waterfalls, turquoise blue lake waters and 100-year old trees give you a sense of serenity. With its diverse flora and fauna, the park is home to 1,267 plant species. If you’re lucky you’ll get to spot a brown bear. With two entrances to the park, Entrance 1 gives you access to the lower lakes while Entrance 2 leads to the higher lakes. An entrance fee that goes towards the upkeep of the Park is collected depending on the time of year. Prices start from 55 Kuna (€7.25) in off season to 180 Kuna (€24) in the peak months of July and August.
Travel tip: If you plan on exploring the entire park on foot it will take you a good 6 hours, you can save time by availing of the free buses and boats at the Park
The off-beat capital of Croatia has plenty to offer in the way of arts, music and architecture. Discover the three areas of the city: Gornji grad or Upper Town, Sabor and Lower Town or Donji grad. If you want to walk down cobbled stone streets and visit the museums, head to Sabor where the majestic Croatian Parliament is located. St Mark’s Church and the Zagreb Cathedral which is the tallest building in Croatia, shouldn’t be missed. It’s not known as the museum city for nothing, with plenty to discover. Drinking a cuppa coffee is serious business in Zagreb. Get your caffeine fill at numerous coffee houses across the city.
Travel tip: Go on a free walking tour, you will discover a lot of fun trivia about the city. At the end of the tour don’t forget to tip your tour guide
Split is one of the top Mediterranean destinations. The seaside town on the Dalmatian coast has plenty to offer. On the top of your list, visit Old Town Split.
The 1700 year old Diocletian Palace, an UNESCO heritage site has the Roman ruins towering over the Split harbour. It is an architectural marvel that you can spend hours admiring. Explore Split on foot in order to savour the narrow hidden alleys and cobbled streets. Try to find Europe’s narrowest street known as Let me Pass or Pusti me proc. The Riva Promenade is a perfect spot near the harbour. Enjoy great views and food at the cafes by the harbour. Try your hand at Picigin a local ball game at the Bacvice beach. If you want a fun night out, join a pub crawl tour.
Travel tip: Get a panoramic view of Split from the Bell Tower, go early to avoid the crowds
This timeless beauty is one of Croatia’s most treasured islands. This historic walled town has a lovely port and fabulous wine. Medieval squares, grand churches, palaces and gorgeous houses make this the perfect destination off the beaten track. The most striking Gothic and Renaissance building is St. Mark’s Cathedral in Old Town Korcula. While soaking in the culture of the island, don’t forget to watch Moreska. This traditional sword dance is a mock between soldiers with swords. Dancers are usually clad in red and black attires for the performance. Only men from Korcula town families are allowed to perform. Customarily the moreska is performed on St. Theodore’s Day (July 29) but you can also catch shows weekly in the summer. Korcula is also known for their stonemasonry.
Travel tip: Plan your trip in summer when ferries ply more often than the rest of the year
Have a splashing good time at the Istralandia water theme park near Umag, Istria. This coastal city has merged the old and new. The Aquapark Novigrad is a great place for a family outing, with something for everyone. You can cool off in three different swimming pools or enjoy a hydro massage. The exciting part though is trying the twenty different slides around the park. The highlight is probably the 27m high free-fall slide. If theme parks are not your thing you could stroll around Novigrad. Rates vary depending on how much time you want to spend at the park. In the off season four hours which counts as half a day will cost you 110 Kn (15 €) while a full day will cost you 140 Kn (19 €).
Travel tip: The gazebos, sunbeds, umbrellas and lockers will cost you extra, so be prepared.
South Africa entices you with its diversity. Want a desert, mountain, beach or tropical forest along with the best wildlife? South Africa offers it all. With nine varied provinces in the Rainbow Nation, you are spoiled for choice. You can choose from the big game viewing experience at Kruger National Park. This Safari experience offers you the chance to see the ‘Big Five’ – lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino. A multi-cultural experience at Cape Town, visits to the old-fashioned farms and valleys of the Winelands or the secluded and untouched beauty of the wild Elephant Coast. For history buffs who want a peek into South Africa’s colonial past KwaZulu Natal is the place to be. A reflection of the country’s cultural diversity is visible in their colourful arts and crafts especially with beads.
Currency: South African Rand
Language: Afrikaana, Zulu, Xhosa, English
When to go: Cape Town – March to August
Whale Watching – July to November
Kruger Safari – May to August
Basic Afrikaans phrases: Hello – Hallo, Thank you – Dankie
Top five attractions
1. Boulder Beach
Always wanted to take a selfie with a penguin? Then there’s no better place than Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town. This beach is spotless and seldom crowded as it falls under the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area. The beach gets its name thanks to the gigantic primeval granite boulders that shield you from the wind and waves. The stars of the show though are the tuxedoed local inhabitants. African Penguins are found in droves on the beach. You can spend hours watching them groom themselves, waddle along happily, soaking up the sun or transforming in a moment when they hit the water. The waters here are perfectly safe to swim in, once you’re done with your penguin fun.
Travel tip: The best time to visit is in the summer, avoid September and October as there will be fewer penguins around
2. Cape of Good Hope
Half an hour from Cape Town is The Cape of Good Hope – the southernmost tip of South Africa. This iconic coastline has stunning views from the top. You can walk to the top along a paved path to the lighthouse at the top and get a breath-taking view. If you’re too lazy to walk you can pay a fee and take the Flying Dutchman funicular ride to the top. Be warned that there could be a queue of people lined up to take pictures alongside the Cape of Good Hope sign board. Home to 1100 native plant species Keep an eye out for Cape mountain zebras, ostriches, eland and also be cautious with the baboons roaming around.
Travel tip: A fabulous spot for whale watching from June to November
3. Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park, the largest South African game reserve with its inimitable vastness is a true master piece. A premiere safari destination where you can see the Big Five up close and personal, the options are limitless. Game drives, bush walks, foot safaris, wilderness trails are all at your disposal based on your preferences. Knowing what animal you would like to see can enhance your experience if you pick the right region. Half the lion population is in the central region in Satara along with leopards, cheetahs and hyenas. Far north is ideal for rare bird sightings; norther region is primed for hippos and elephants while the south has the white rhinos. To truly experience the wild life sleep in tents or huts and spend a minimum of five days.
Travel tip: Don’t forget to pack your binoculars and to fully charge your camera batteries.
4. Sani Pass
Looking for a wild experience, then drive up the Sani Pass to get your adrenaline rush. Driving on the narrow dirt roads on the edge of a mountain with no guardrails is an exhilarating and scary feeling. Driving over the Southern Drakensburg Mountains you cross over from South Africa into a tiny country Lesotho. You can only make your way to the top is in a 4×4 vehicle that is ideal for the gravel and dirt roads. After navigating hairpin bends galore and getting pictures along the way you finally reach your destination also known as Kingdom in the sky. The icing on top of it all is arriving at the highest pub in Africa at 2874 meters above sea level. Enjoy a pint of beer or gluwein as you soak in the views.
Travel tip: Hire a 4×4 vehicle from a reputable agency in order to have a safe journey
5. Table Mountain
The Table Mountain got its name thanks to it being a flat mountain. There are two ways to get to the top a 5 minute cable ride or a long hike up the picturesque route. The plateau provides a dramatic back drop for Cape Town and is flanked on the west by the Lion’s head and on by the Devil’s Peak on the east. There is plenty to do once you reach the Table mountain summit. You could explore one of the three hiking trails and soak in the rich flora in the areas. If you want an informative trip you could join a thirty minute guided tour. Thrill seekers can try their hand at abseiling. Or you could just relax and soak in the glorious views from the top.
Travel tip: The first cable to Table Mountain leaves at 8am and the last cable down is at 7pm. Least rush is around lunch time. A return tickets cost R255.
Pulsating beats and colours, carnival, passion for football, samba, bio-diversity beyond compare, sexy beaches and rich cuisines describe a small part of Brazil. Rio de Janeiro alone boasts of a host of world famous sights. They include the Christ the Redeemer Statue and lively Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. Sugar Loaf Mountain offers panoramic views of the city. The exotic Salvador is the Brazilian New Orleans while Olinda has stunning colonial architecture complimented by cobbled streets. Adventure seekers can go kayaking in the flooded forests of the Amazon. The magnificent spectacle of the Iguaçu Falls shouldn’t be missed.
Capital: Rio de Janeiro
Currency: Brazilian Real
When to go: Best weather – March to June, September to November
Rain Forest – June to November
Carnival – February to March
Basic Portugese phrases: Hello – Ola, Thank you – Abrigado
Top five attractions
1. Christ the Redeemer statue and Corvocado
You can’t go to Brazil and miss one of the seven modern wonders of the world – the Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue that towers over Rio. Located at the peak of the 710m high Corvocado Mountain in Rio’s Tijuca National Park, the imposing statue stands 38 meters tall excluding the pedestal. Made of concrete and soapstone this is one thing you won’t want to miss. You get astonishing views from here as well. The surrounding area of the national park also is home to waterfalls, natural springs and 200 varieties of birds. This way you can tick off visiting one modern wonder of the world from your bucket list.
Travel tip: You don’t have to climb 220 steps to reach the top instead you can access the escalators and elevators to reach the foot of the statue or you could buy a tram ticket and ride your way to the top
2. Gruta do Lago Azul
The Blue Lake Grotto or Gruta do Lago Azul is an enormous cave filled with a pool of sparkling blue water. With an estimated depth of 200 feet, the magic happens when sunlight filters through a hole in the cave ceiling. When illuminated the water glistens in the light. Other than being one of the biggest flooded cavities on earth, the cave has intriguing stalactite formations. It’s fascinating to see the fossils of giant mammals underground. You are allowed to visit this wonder but only along with a guide from the municipality of Bonito. Only the physically fit should attempt this as there is a steep incline and no hand-railings.
Travel tip: Wearing sneakers or tennis shoes is an absolute must; wear light clothing.
3. Ipanema and Copacabana beaches
The one place that is absolutely free of cost and where you can just go and relax and unwind is at two of the most popular beaches in Rio – the Copocabana beach and the Ipanema beach. There are also live music events and a host of other activities that take place on the beach, so do check with the locals to so that you don’t miss out on a fun experience. Ipanema seems like a better bet of the two as it the western side is flanked by mountains called the two brothers and you can see two off-shore islands as well. The water is also cleaner at Ipanema than at Copacabana. If you want to ditch the crowd you could book a cruise on one the traditional fishing boat Jangada or on a sailboat. For the adventurous souls you could always give para sailing a go.
Travel tip: Most of the buzz and activity in Rio happens on the beach and its surrounding areas. More so once the sun goes down and the neon signs go up.
4. Sugarloaf Mountain
Standing majestically 396 meters above the harbour is the Sugarloaf mountain – a granite and quartz peak. Getting its name due to resembling the shape of a finely refined sugar loaf this is one of Brazil’s most popular attractions. If you’re up for a challenge and enjoy hiking you could walk up to the summit. For those who would just like to relax and enjoy their holiday you can take the scenic route in a glass-walled cable car. You get a complete 360 degree view of the city from this vantage point. Don’t forget to take your camera as you will get stunning photographs.
Travel Tip: The cable car runs between 8am-9pm, every 20 minutes, the last ticket is sold at 7.50pm
5. Fernando de Noronha
In what you could be one of Brazil’s best kept secrets, the Fernando de Nornha is a dream come true. As you fly in this Archipelago with pristine sand and turquoise blue waters beckons. The highlight of this gem lies under water. The snorkelling experience offered is worth every bit of money that you pay. The most picturesque stop is Baio do Sancho. So what makes Noronha different from all the other places you could visit? For starters you get to see dolphins jump high out of the water in acrobatic twists. With the protected marine eco-system here you are sure to see plenty of marine life. The best time to visit is when it’s sunny from September to March.
Travel tip: You have to pay an Environment Protection Tax if you wish to visit this untouched archipelago
In Argentina, the scenery changes dramatically from the barren and arid north to the mind-blowing Patagonian glaciers. Add wine, the fiery tango, hiking on the Andes, the best beef and partying to the equation and you have the recipe for a stimulating journey. The long walk to get a view of the “Devil’s throat” at the Iguaçu Falls is worth every minute. The thundering sound of the falls accompanied by the steep drop are both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Cordoba shines as the culture capital of the country with its vibrant colours. Mendoza is a must for food and wine lovers, the picturesque vineyards have the Andes towering over them.
Capital: Buenos Aires
Currency: Argentina Peso
When to go: Best weather – March to May, August to November
Andes, Patagonia – December to February
World Tango Fest – October
Basic Spanish phrases: Hello – Hola, Thank you – Gracias
Top five attractions
Second only to Mount Everest, Aconcagua is part of the Andes and second highest in the seven summits. Only seasoned climbers who have trained should attempt to scale this peak. The Normal walk seems easy enough but the altitude poses problems later on. The Andes and their enormity, their colors and impressive glaciers are a feast for the eyes and the soul. Find a good vantage point to get a view of the entire expanse. If you are extremely keen on hiking you can go till the first base camp in order to experience the power of the mountains.
Travel tip: Each person will need to purchase a permit costing 200 pesos per person before starting your hike
2. Los Glaciares National Park
Los Glaciares owes its name to the numerous glaciers covering roughly half of the World Heritage property. A host of activities include trekking, horse-back riding, fishing and nautical sports. Calving is something to look forward to. It’s when spiky glacier walls, gigantic chunks of ice fall into the lake and other submerged ice chunks shoot up to the surface. For a real feel of the glacier – walk on it. The lakes and rivers are great spots to catch fresh trout. Rafting across the rapids on River Santa Cruz or River De Las Vueltas is equally thrilling.
Travel tips: Sun glasses and sunscreen are an absolute must as the sun is very harsh here
3. Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi
The most popular way to discover the national park is via the Circuito Chico. It requires an entire day though if you follow the marked routes. The focal point of Nahuel Huapi is its namesake lake, a glacial remenant that spans over 100km. The channels stretch across the land heading eastewards. The Tronador ice clad volcanic summit has definitely earned its name the Thunderer. A loud thunderous clap resonates when frozen ice blocks plunge into the valley below. Summer is a beautiful time of year to visit as wildflowers cover the alpine slopes. The huemul (Andean deer) and the miniature deer known as pudú are native to this area
Travel tips: It’s not advisable to hike certain trails outside the high season. 48 hours before your hike you have to give your details to Registro de Trekking for your safety.
4. Perito Moreno Glacier
Patagonia’s greatest marvel the Perito Moreno Glacier is located at Los Glaciares National Park. The glacier which is in El Calafate, Argentina is widely considered as the 8th natural wonder of the world. This glacier is one of the few that keeps growing. An interesting phenomenon takes place every four to five years when dammed water breaks a wall of ice due to the intense pressure. This leads to a massive rupture that sends shards of the glacier into the lake. Incidentally the glacier has the third largest reserve of fresh water in the world. Trekking across the glacier is popular but be careful not to venture too close for your own safety.
Travel tip: The best time to view the rupture is in the afternoon when the sun warms the glacier
5. Iguaza Falls
Dividing Argentina and Brazil, the side that is visually more stunning is in Argentina. The Niagara falls pales in comparison to Iguazu that is taller and twice the width of its American counterpart. Formed due to a volcanic eruption, the falls are made up of 270 individual small falls. The intimidating Devil’s throat with the thundering sound is one the Argentine side. The Argentine access, across the forest, is by a Rainforest Ecological Train. There are also inflatable boats that take visitors close to the falls. The lower base path leads to the base of the falls where you will get water sprays while the upper path gives you a view from the footbridge.
Travel tip: The best times to visit Iguazu Falls are in the spring and fall
There is something for everyone in Australia. No amount of time is sufficient to explore this gorgeous and varied island country. You could explore the diverse natural beauty, sun-kissed beaches, and traditional lifestyle of the Aborgines, exceptional food and beer or explore the Outbacks. Home to the world’s largest barrier reef, a scuba diving experience at the Great Barrier Reef is a once in a lifetime experience. The reef spans 2300 kms and includes more than 2900 colourful coral reefs. Sydney is home to the spectacular Sydney harbour and iconic Opera house. For a taste of Australia’s famous outback, Alice Springs is the place to be. The red crab migration at Christmas Island, Kangaroo Island, salmon pink Lake Hillier and a spectacular drive up the Great Ocean Road in Victoria with a view of the 12 apostles are visual treats.
Currency: Australian Dollar
When to go: North Coast – April to October
South Coast and Tasmania – October to April
Outback – September to November, April to June
Basic phrases: Good day mate
Top five attractions
Cairns is a laid-back city and the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. A city with plenty of outdoor activities you will be spoiled for choice here. Always dreamt of seeing the colourful coral, then swim, snorkel, dive or sail in this masterpiece that is alive. The vibrant colours and varied marine life can give you the adventure of a lifetime on a luxury or shoe string budget. Snorkelling is not the only activity here. Skydiving above Whitsunday Island, sleeping on the Reef, getting close to Stingrays on DayDream Island, turtle hatching at Heron Island or spotting koalas on Magnetic Island are various alternatives. Also don’t miss visiting the oldest Rainforest Daintree. Recharge your batteries by tucking into some local tropical fruits or succulent seafood.
Travel tip: Budget enough for your trip to the Great Barrier Reef as it is a once in a lifetime experience and worth every dollar.
Uluru is an exemplary Australian outback experience, filled with history and native culture. There are a number of ways in which you can see the massive sandstone rock formation known as the Rock of Ayers. Sacred to the Pitjantjatjara Anangu, Aborigine people of the area, the rock is surrounded by waterholes, caves, springs and ancient paintings. Camel rides, helicopter tours, sky diving or just good old walking are the ways in which you can experience Uluru. Amble across the red sand dunes on camel back and take in your surroundings. If the ordinary is not your cup of tea, sky diving in tandem with an instructor over the formation is an option. A 12 kilometres guided walk is another option.
Travel trip: Admission to the park costs 25 Australian dollars and is valid for three days
3. Fraser Island
The largest sand island in the world, Fraser Island can be found in Queensland. An extraordinarily stunning place – the island has endless stretches of white sandy beaches, is flanked by beautiful colored sand cliffs and complimented perfectly by 100 freshwater lakes. A perfect and safe spot to bathe in is at the Champagne Pools. The pool gets its name due to the frothy effect formed when waves cascade into the pools. The turquoise and emerald waters of Lake Wabby and Lake MacKenzie are worth seeing. You could also spot the Maheno shipwreck on this island. A word of caution, do be wary of wild dingos in the area.
Travel tips: Try and visit the island on a weekday to avoid the influx of people over the weekend
4. Lake Eildon
Situated at the northern foothills of Victoria’s Central Highlands is the Lake Eildon National Park. On the shore of the Lake, craggy hills and open woodlands go through dense forests to encompass the park. The go to place for boating enthusiast, this inland waterway houses 760 water boats that are perpetually moored. While you can rent a house by the lake and enjoy a glorious morning view you can leisurely use the lake too. Lake activities include fishing, water skiing, speed boats, canoes or boating. If you’d rather stay on terra firma you can enjoy bushwalking or riding mountain bikes.
Travel tip: River currents are very unpredictable and strong, check if it’s safe to swim in the waters before getting in.
5. Mount Oberon
The spectacular view when you reach the summit of Mount Oberon is worth the long climb. Mountain Oberon may not be the biggest and tallest mountain around but you can scale it in two hours both ways. The scenic route with granite boulders and lush ferns will keep you going. Just follow the tracks and enjoy the climb. Some sections of the hike may be steep and have a rough surface so try to familiarize yourself with bush walking if possible. With brilliant panoramic views you can see the intense meeting of sea and land at the base.
Travel tip: The summit can be windy and cold even during summer, so wear something slightly warm. Be cautious near the cliff edge
Maldives is the embodiment of paradise on earth. Pristine beaches with sparkling white beaches, turquoise lagoons, coral reefs and fancy villas greet you. Strewn across the equator smack in the center of the Indian Ocean; these islands are a unusual tropical dream. Fun activities that you could indulge in include snorkelling, a swim with sharks or just relaxing and enjoying a well spent day at the spa. Travelling between islands can only be done via a ferry or sea plane. Want to experience heaven on earth? Witness the sea of stars at Vaadhoo Island by night. The unusual but visually stunning phenomenon occurs thanks to a species of plankton.
Currency: Maldive Rufiyaa
When to go: Best weather – December to February
Shoulder season – March to April
Low season – May to November
Basic Maldivian phrases: Hello – Assalaamu Alaikum, Thank you – Shukuriyyaa
Top five attractions
Renowned as the divers island of the Maldives, Bathala is pure bliss for snorkelers and scuba divers. You can opt to reach the island either by taking the scenic route with a 20 minute chartered seaplane ride or a 75 minute speedboat ride. With one of the finest reef houses in the area, marine life that you could see swim past as eagle rays, grey reef sharks. manta rays and nurse sharks. You will never run out of options as there are more than 50 dive spots to discover. Night Fishing, snorkelling Excursions, visiting local islands, watching dolphins and Sand Bank Excursion are all available here. The proximity to clear blue water and shoals of reef fish and turtles are unparalled.
Travel tip: Make sure you make a reservation early as there are only limited bungalows on this island
The only one-island atoll of the Maldives is Fuvahmulah. This gorogeous island has characteristics that differentiate it from the other islands of Maldive. For starters the sand is pebble-like and exclusive to the Fuvahmulah beach. Black pebbles compliment the white sand on the south east side of the island. Enjoy viewing the flying fish in flight. This island also has a fish and bird only native to them. The rare Kattelhi fish is found only here in the Maldives though it is found in other countries. The locals believe that once you taste their favourite soup Kattelhi Rarudhiya you are bound to return. The fruits on this island are splendid and include oranges, mangoes, pineapples, pomegranates and guavas. You could go and explore the countryside on foot.
Travel tip: Plan for your travel to and fro from the island in advance in order to avoid any confusion
While relaxing on the beach, watching gorgeous sunrises and sunsets and exploring coral reefs are a given at Male. There are other ways in which you can immerse yourself in the culture of the capital. Visit the local market for a sensory trip and to sample the local fare. Sample the street food which you may miss out at the more fancy resorts. Don’t miss the famous majaa which is a food tray with dried fish, coconut, mango, garlic, pepper seed and salt. Go scuba diving or snorkelling to get a true feel of the richness of marine life underwater. Offset by the blue waters surrounding the place. Bright tall colourful buildings add more life to the capital that is always buzzing with activity.
Travel tip: Dress modestly in the capital city and remember that alcohol is not available as Maldives is a Muslim country
4. Banana Reef
The first diving site to be discovered in the Maldives, the Banana Reef is still extremely popular. The colourful underwater life gives snorkelers an added incentive to visit this reef. A protected marine area, the dazzling corals entice fish like the morays, oriental sweetlips, barracudas, squirrelfish, snapper, Napolean Wrasse, groupers, bannerfish, jack fish and even the rare banana fish. Banana Reef gets its name due to its shape when viewed aerially. You are bound to enjoy an experience of a lifetime along with capturing stunning photos for a lifetime.
Travel tip: There are underwater strong currents at the Banana Reef, so be careful
5. HP Reef
Another Reef worth exploring is the HP Reef in the North Malé Atoll. Also known as the Rainbow Reef you will see plenty of stunning colourful soft corals while snorkelling. The top reef is entirely packed with reef, caves and crevices. There are abundant soft blue corals and a vertical swim through called “The Chimney”, that moves all the way to the uppermost part of the rock. It is easy to spot schools of rainbow runners, tuna, barracuda, jack and trevally here. If you love photographing marine life, this is a perfect place for you.
Travel tip: If you see a red flag flying don’t dive in the water as it is an indicator of the strong currents.
If you want to go on an African safari to witness wildlife at its rawest, Kenya is your destination. The Masai Mara National Reserve is a varied habitat spans across 1510 sq. kms of South Western Kenya. An idyllic spot to notice prides of lions, herds of elephants on the move, buffaloes and rhinos in their natural habitat. Watching The Great Migration of the wilderbeest is an absolute spectacle and will take your breath away. Visiting a Masai village and experiencing their culture heightens the experience. Their craftwork is exquisite and includes beaded jewellery and wood carvings. The majestic African Elephant can be spotted grazing at Amboseli against the backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Currency: Kenyan Shilling
Language: Swahili, English
When to go: Game Safari – January to March, June to September
Kilimanjaro Treks – January to February, September
Bird watching – October to April
Basic Swahili phrases: Hello – Hujamba, Thank you – Asante
Top five attractions
1. Chyulu Hills
Nestled between Tsavo West National Park and Amboseli National Park, you will be treated to outstanding and varied landscapes at Chyulu Hills. Lush undulating green hills, clear blue skies and remarkable landscape views are on offer for nature lovers at the “Volcano hills”. Remnants of its volcanic origin are visible in the jagged wilderness and you get some of the best views of Kilimanjaro. If you’re lucky you’ll also get a glimpse of leopards, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, bush pigs, bushbucks, elands, giant forest hogs and reedbucks. You can enjoy camping, horse riding, hiking and bird watching at this hidden gem.
Travel tip: Pack clothes keeping the hot weather in mind and also some insect repellant
2. Lake Nakuru
A three and a half hour drive away from Nairobi lays the stunning Lake Nakuru National Park. Encircled by grasslands and charming ridges the lake lies on the floor of the Great Rift Valley. Nakuru which means “place of the waterbuck” in Swahili or “little soda lake” in Maasai is the capital of the expansive Rift Valley province. This is a bird lover’s paradise as you enjoy the varied natural diversity and habitats. Famous for its birding, the gleaming water works as a perfect foil for millions of pink flamingos. There are a myriad of other birds that reside around the lake like the pied kingfisher, African fish eagle, Verreaux’s eagle, Goliath heron and hamerkop. You could also indulge in game drives and spot lion, rhino or giraffe.
Travel tip: Best time to spot flamingos would be in January and February when it is hot
3. Masai Mara
A jungle safari that is an absolute must on everyone’s list has to be the Masai Mara. In a land of awe-inspiring landscapes, rich wildlife and sprawling plains. The biggest draw to this safari though is turning up in time to watch the Great Migration made by two million animals. The National Reserve is renowned for the abundance of big cats. Close views of lions, leopards and cheetahs in their natural habitat are regular occurrences during game-drives. A true spectacle is watching the yellow savannah speckled with dots of black zebra, antelope and wilderbeest on the move. More than 1.5 million animals in search of food and water migrate from the Serengeti to the Mara. A sight to behold is the Masai herdsmen grazing their cattle side by side with predators and prey.
Travel tip: The best time to visit is during the Great Migration from July to October, plan your vacation accordingly.
4. Mount Longonot National Park
Mount Longonot rises from the Great Rift Valley like an old relic – home to an extinct volcano. The distinctive feature of this mountain is the dense forest within the crater of the mountain. The crater rim is a great vantage point delivering lovely scenic views of the Rift Valley extending all the way to Lake Naivasha. Wildlife you can expect to see here are lions, buffaloes, elands, leopards, giraffes, zebras and gazelles. You can hike up the mountain but be aware that the climb up is steep and could last three to four hours. Keep an eye out for birds while you’re here.
Travel tip: Make sure you carry sufficient cash, the Kenyan Wildlife services does not accept cards here
5. Nairobi National Park
One of the oldest parks in Kenya is the Nairobi National Park and it is ideal for those who don’t want to travel too far out for a safari. Renowned for its Black Rhino Sanctuary, the park is home to four of the Big Five animals. Lions, leopards, buffalos and rhinos can be seen despite it being close to the city. Hyenas, giraffes, zebras, elands, and wildebeest are also commonly seen. The Embakasi River is home to hippos and crocodiles. You can experience the wildebeest migration on a smaller scale here as well in the summer. You can also visit the Ivory burning site where former President Moi burned 12 tons of Ivory in a bid to get rid of the slaughter of African elephants.
Travel tip: You need a smart card to enter inside the Nairobi National Park and the park is open from 6am to 7pm daily.
If you want to be part of the legendary walking safari, book your ticket to Zambia. This raw experience gives you access to real Africa and the high is irreplaceable. The dry season is ideal for game viewing as all the animals flock to the waterholes and rivers. Hippos are aplenty with an estimated 6000 hippos at the South Laungwa National Park. National Parks, waterfalls, vast lakes, rich rivers and major towns are all at your disposal. Adrenaline junkies can indulge a host of activities in Zambia. Highlights include lion walks, walk with cheetahs, flights over the falls, gorge swinging, river rafting and boarding and bunjee jumping to name a few.
Currency: Zambian Kwacha
Language: English, Nyanja
When to go: Game Safaris: May to September
High Season: July to October
Low Season: November to April
Best Weather: April, May and September
Basic Nyanjan phrases: Good morning – Mwauka bwanji, Thank you – Zikomo
Top five attractions
1. Devil’s pool
Known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya or the Smoke that Thunders, Zambia’s Devil’s pool is a true force of nature. A natural deep pool, the Devil’s Pool rests delicately on the brink of the Zambian side of the Victoria Falls. Only true dare-devils will attempt to jump into this pool and have their heart in mouth moment before being stopped by a rock wall from tipping over the edge. To understand the magnitude of bravery required, the fall over the edge is a 360 foot drop. The lip at the top of the cliff is what allows you to jump in and not get swept over. For those not interested in risking their lives, you still get great views and photographs.
Travel tip: The only time it’s safe to swim in the pool is from September to December when water levels are low
At the cost of $5 visiting the oldest museum in Zambia is a real steal.
This old-fashioned remnant of yesteryear; lives up to form in every sense of the word. The museum contains a wide range of memorabilia of Dr Livingstone an explorer who discovered the Victoria Falls. Diaries, authentic maps and tools used by Livingstone will be on display. To get a clearer picture into the culture, history and heritage of Zambia a visit to the museum is a must. You can visit the archaeology gallery, ethnographic and art galleries and history gallery during your tour.
Travel tip: The museum is open to the public from 9:00 to 16:30hrs every day except Christmas and New Year
Take a walk on the wild side while you’re in Zambia by doing the rhino walk. You will be briefed on safety measures and other things before the walk kicks off. In a three hour leisurely walk, your guide will show you other game when spotted while tracking the white Rhino. Once the white rhino is spotted you are allowed to take pictures while standing just a few feet away. The minimum age for people to participate in this tour is 14. You will be provided with some water and refreshments along the way. For the safety of your group an armed Escort Scout from the Zambian Wildlife Authority will accompany you.
Travel tip: Don’t forget to wear suitable walking shoes preferably full covered, hats and bush friendly attire
4. Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls offering a remarkable spectacle of the remarkable magnificence of the Zambezi River. The river cuts a border across Zambia and Zimbabwe. What seems like a mild river transforms into a roaring torrent as it falls over the cliff and slices through a series of dramatic ravines. A basalt wall faces the falls and is covered in mist-soaked rain forests. You can navigate a path through the forest for some unmatched views of the Falls. The vantage points include falls-bridge, lookout tree, devils pool and opposite the Kinfe-edge bridge.
Travel tip: The better view is from the Zimbabwean side but don’t miss seeing it from Zambia either
5. Zambezi Eco Adventures
The options are limitless for adventure junkies in the eco adventures package. You can opt to gorge swing, bunjee jump, abseil, go on an elephant back safari, zipline or take a helicopter ride over the falls. Rates start from $50 to $160 based on what adventure you pick. While the gorge swing can be intimidating to do along, you also have the option of dragging a companion along on the tandem gorge swing. Buckle up and get ready to scream your lungs out. All the activities come along with stunning views of the Batoka Gorge.
Travel tip: This is not for the faint hearted, so unless you have a thirst for adventure, skip this attraction