Go somewhere a little different, and chart your course for the unusual!
Former French Colony, and fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar is home to hundreds of species of animals that are found nowhere else on Earth, and is an iconic destination that brims with culture, discovery and decadence.
Remaining hidden from human kind for over 300,000 years, Madagascar was not discovered until 500 AD, yet has become an ultimate paradise for wildlife lovers throughout the world. One of only 17 countries worldwide to be considered “megadiverse”, it has flora and fauna you’ll find nowhere else on earth, largely thanks to the fact it was undisturbed for such a long time.
Amongst its resident animals however, you’ll discover more than half of the world’s chameleon population and dozens of species of lemur. Yet you’ll also find sensational birds, including the long-tailed ground roller which is one of the most unique and elusive species in the world, and towering trees that give a strange and almost unearthly feel to the place.
In its long history, Madagascar has had its fair share of brushes with European history, and even had its own mad queen, to boot. Ruling for over 33-years, she had a magnificent castle, the Rova of Antananarivo, constructed which still stands proudly today as a monument to their long history.
Madagascar also boasts a number of World Heritage Sites, including the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga. A 500-year old burial site, it was formerly a fortified royal settlement dating back to the precolonial Merina Kingdom. Considered to be the most significant symbol of cultural identity for contemporary Merina People, it is the final resting place of several key monarchs and remains a place of worship to which pilgrims from all across the world journey to discover.
Boasting iconic “blue safaris” with the chance to discover turtles, whales and dolphins amongst other stunning sealife, Madagascar has a number of sensational and luxurious destinations you can visit and relax in, including resorts that gleam decadently and are a perfect complement to the stunning wildlife that surrounds you. These unique destinations are hidden from the mainstream tourism, and offer you a retreat unlike any other!
An unexpected paradise hidden behind in the pages of history, Botswana is a sensory experience of landscapes and wildlife that crafts memories you’ll forever remember. A lesser known nation of Africa, Botswana is astoundingly set in the middle of stunning conservation regions, and boasts that national parks cover 38% of their land mass.
With conservation taken very seriously in this iconic nation, tourism is a significant factor in the revenue source that funds protection of the environment. However, much more than this, it is a country that is unique for its stunning landscapes and rolling valleys that are untouched by man, and thrive with wildlife.
As one of the few countries in the world to be so sparsely populated, the majority of its land is vacant and left to evolve according to the design of Mother Nature. Wide open plains, stunning vistas that come to life in the melting light of the setting sun and thundering waterfalls that roar as proudly as an African Lion, define many of this nations exceptional locations. Loiter around until the sun has set behind the horizon, and you’ll watch as the black dome of night illuminates as billions of stars fill the night sky, and float as efficaciously as diamonds. Sure to take your breath away, this is an experience that is unrivalled and that you surely won’t forget any time soon.
Botswana boasts the highest concentration of wild elephants in all of Africa, with most of them safely living in the Chobe National Park and Linyanti region, for a combined total of over 50,000. Migrating between the seasons, only the male African Elephant stays consistently in the same spot throughout the year, and favours the Savute area where they designate to live out their lives. For any lover of wildlife, this is an experience not to miss.
Unsuspectingly, however, Botswana boasts an accolade of other achievements that set this nation apart. They have the longest running multi-party democracy in Africa, and low institutionalised corruption, they have had equal rights regardless of sex, gender or orientation since 2014, and the revenue gained from their Diamond exports, pays for primary education of every children until the age of 13.
Yet there’s also so much for the avid sightseer to observe. Whether venturing through the African safari and observing all the animals in their natural habitat, embarking on a luxury tour or reclining in a luxury hotel, this is a nation that can offer you so much more to your holiday.
“The people are so friendly and it is the ultimate escape from city life. Botswana gives you lots of opportunities for safaris and wildlife spotting.” – SHELDON SWEARS, Wright & Turner Travel Associates, Petone
Big, bold and full of exceptional wildlife, Zambia is completely landlocked in the African continent. However, that does not stop it being a powerhouse of wildlife discovery wonders. Home to the “Top Five Wildlife”, Zambia is one of the few nations where you’ll find the five most intriguing wild animals, in the entire world. Including lions, rhinos and elephants, the Zambians have established South Luangwa National Park as a protection zone for these majestic beasts, enabling them to freely live and roam as they would naturally. Venture deeper into the safari and discover termite hills that are the size of houses, and that rise proudly into the air.
Tradition and culture are rife in Zambia and it is a vibrant land of discovery and expectations. Every year, the King of Zambia packs up his entire residence and moves from his dry season home, to his wet season home which is higher up in the country. This act of getting in the boat, and sailing up the Zambezi to the higher ground is known locally as Kuomboka and is a momentous occasion each year.
Yet there are more hidden gems to Zambia than you might expect. Home to the largest man-made lake in the world, Lake Kariba is used for commercial fishing and to supply electric hydropower to Zambia and neighbouring Zimbabwe. This colossal man-made structure provides a source of sustenance to the entire country and is an exceptional sight to behold. Often mistaken for being the ocean, it is impossible to see the other side of the lake directly opposite where you’re standing.
Step out on the wildside however, and discover white-water rafting down the Zambezi - Africa’s fourth largest river - or ride in a helicopter around the beautiful Victoria Falls (one of the Seven Wonders of the World!) which is double the height of the Niagara Falls! Owing to tremendous amount of spray caused by the thundering falls, the forest surrounding it receives a permanent ‘rain’ making it a paradise for wildlife. If you view the falls from the correct angle, in the middle of the day, you might even be able to spy a circular rainbow that wraps itself around the faux rain. Truly a sight to behold, this natural wonder is an added bonus to what is already a monolith of incredible sights.
Veritably littered with monuments and spectacular world wonders, you’ll find your jaw agape as you wander through this mighty country. Famously known as the Land of the Incas, they came from the Peruvian Highlands in the early 1200s and ruled independently for over 300 years until the arrival of the Spanish in 1572. At the peak of its ruling authority, the Inca Empire was one of the largest in the world, covering modern day Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile!
Yet this ancient empire left behind many magnificent monuments, such as the Machu Picchu, which as an ancient citadel is a true sight to behold and echoes with incredible history. Built in the 15th century, yet abandoned soon after, it is renowned for its dry-stone walls that sophisticatedly combine huge building blocks, without the use of mortar. However it also has a number of buildings that play on astronomical alignments and panoramic views and so is an exceptional spot for capturing a family photo, or snapping up a lifelong memory.
This ancient civilisation left behind much more however, including Puyupatamarca which is an ancient high-altitude Incan site with baths (an ancient bathhouse) and the Temple of the Moon, an Incan temple that lies ruined in a shallow cave. For any lover of exploration and discovery, this destination offers so much more than any other and will fully immerse you in its rich lore and history.
For something a little magical and austere, you should turn your attention to the Cantua - the national flower of Peru inspired by the Inca. Found at elevations of over 4,000 feet (1,200 metres) in the Andes, they come in an array of colours and are elongated and bell-shaped. A popular symbol of Inti, the Incan Sun god, it serves as a stunning reminder of the ancient civilisation, and it is very clear to see why it is called the Sacred Flower of the Incas. This peculiar destination also boasts other niche articles also, however, including the overwhelming presence of Llama and Alpaca, which are locally perceived as being akin to the sheep and horse population of any other nation. Yet, this is also quite iconically, the capital of South American Cuisine and boasts many delicious flavours and flavour profiles that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Similar to how Penang is known as the food capital of Asia, so too is Lima the beating heart of the continents culinary scene.
Talk to a Travel Adviser today to plan your next adventure and discover more unexpected destinations around the globe.
This article originally appeared in the Inspirations Winter 2019 Edition.