Spontaneity shapes thrilling travel escapades, but there’s also a case for careful, methodical planning. Often, the preparation – deciding on a route, reading up about a destination – can be just as enjoyable as the trip itself.
Global movements may have ground to a halt, but thoughts can still roam freely. So, use these gifted moments to fantasise about the future, plot epic adventures and set goals to realise lifelong travel dreams.
Always wanted to scale a snow-capped mountain or sit within trunk’s reach of an African elephant? The time is coming. Take inspiration from these life-affirming adventures, accompanied by relevant tips for using lockdown to prepare.
Make winter tracks across Siberia
Watching the world unfurl whilst trundling along train tracks is the epitome of slow, nostalgic travel. Long distance railway journeys provide an opportunity to discover the lie of a land in detail, often accessing off-grid areas and communities – all done from the comfort of a hotel-on-wheels.
The Trans-Siberian is intrepid at the best of times, but a winter departure pushes boundaries even further. Crossing snowy steppes, mountain ranges and eight time zones, the sumptuous Golden Eagle will cover 10,000km, pulled by various steam locomotives.
Visit one of most remote towns in Siberia, sizzle in a traditional Russian sauna (known as a banya), discover the Kremlin Fortress in Kazan and dog sled across the deepest lake in the world, Lake Baikal, frozen solid at this time of year.
Make it a reality: Golden Eagle Luxury Trains (goldeneagleluxurytrains.com) offers the Trans-Siberian Winter Wonderland by Steam trip from $26,450pp (two sharing) including 17 nights onboard and four nights hotel accommodation, with all food, drink, guiding and transfers included. International flights extra. Departs 25 February 2021.
How to prepare: It’s not the easiest language to master, but try learning a bit of Russian lingo before you depart. Download lessons from online educational resource Babbel (babbel.com), designed to arm students with essential and useful phrases using speech recognition for pronunciation.
Form family bonds on a South African safari
Anyone remotely interested in wildlife should do an African safari at least once in their lives. Chances are you’ll want to go back again and again. South Africa is a good choice for families, and prices are much more reasonable too.
Highly intelligent and credited for their strong social bonds, elephants are a favourite to observe in the wild. Expect to see plenty at Addo Main Camp, on the fringes of Addo Elephant National Park in the Cape, close to Port Elizabeth. And the area is reassuringly malaria free.
Hailed as excellent for children, the collection of caravans, tents, chalets and rondavels have access to cooking facilities, a swimming pool, bird hide and floodlit watering hole, where animals come to drink at night. Visitors can explore in their own vehicles without a guide (keeping down costs), although the camp also offers 4WD safaris.
Make it a reality: Expert Africa (expertafrica.com) offers a tailor-made, four-day Addo Self-drive Safari from $390pp. Flights extra.
How to prepare: Get a taste of what’s in store by tuning into a virtual safari online. Every day at 6:30am and 3pm CAT, safari operator &Beyond presents WILDwatch game drives through the Ngala and Djuma Private Game Reserves in South Africa’s Sabi Sands. Join on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube (andBeyond Travel), and interact with guides through Twitter using #wildearth, or email [email protected] The first 45 minutes of each afternoon drive is reserved for questions from children.
Hike through Nepal’s Himalayan valleys
After weeks of being cooped up inside, the idea of walking for days through ever-changing scenery sounds like pure bliss.
The Himalayas present some of the best trekking opportunities on our planet, and although epic Everest is for serious pros, a much more manageable option is the Annapurna Sanctuary, a glacial basin surrounded by mountains.
Regarded as one of the best routes for acclimatisation in Nepal, the natural amphitheatre is revered for its unique plant and animal life, and worshipped as a residence for Hindu and Buddhist deities. Hike through towering forests, sleep in traditional teahouses and watch the sunrise over glistening, cloud-piercing peaks. Join an escorted tour to enjoy the full benefits of a local guide, and the fulfilment of completing a challenge as a group.
Make it a reality: Intrepid Travel offers the 15-day Annapurna Sanctuary Trek from $1570pp. Various departures from October to December 2020 and March to April 2021.
How to prepare: Use this time to get in shape and ready your body for walking up to eight hours a day at altitudes of up to 4000m. Along with long walks, try cycling and light jogging for exercise. Try working out with a backpack so you can get used to carrying a load. It’s recommended to start training three to six months in advance of a trip.
Discover the big blue in Egypt or Indonesia
Nature has been one of the few beneficiaries of lockdown: skies are bluer, birdsong is louder and fish stocks are recovering as trawlers are forced to rest. Very soon the seas will be even more colourful and active, making a dive holiday a top priority to book.
The Red Sea is a tempting option; Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh resort on the Sinai Peninsula is ideally located to explore dazzling Ras Mohammed National Park. Further afield, Indonesian archipelago Raja Ampat is the epicentre of the Coral Triangle, the most biodiverse marine environment on earth.
Make it a reality: Dive specialist PADI Travel (travel.padi.com) offers various trips to both locations: six nights B&B at the Camel Dive Club and Hotel in Sharm El Sheikh costs from $850pp; six nights B&B at the Meridian Adventure in Raja Ampat costs from $2905pp. Both trips include a PADI Open Water course, although international flights are excluded.
How to prepare: The Open Water course has both theory and practical elements. No-one wants to sit in a classroom when the sun is blazing and underwater art galleries are beckoning, so maximise dive time by doing the theory element of the Open Water course at home. PADI (padi.com) offers the Open Water Theory eLearning course from $220.
Savour wilderness with the family in Scotland
If social distancing has sparked a fondness for back-to-basics living, consider a camping trip for your next family getaway; considerably cheaper than staying in a hotel or cottage, a holiday under canvas is a practical option all round and proof dreams can be realised closer to home.
Scenery, solitude and sheer space make Scotland ripe for adventure. Steps away from the beach, Runach Arainn on the Isle of Arran is a three-yurt glamping site adorned with creature comforts; Wheems Organic Farm on Orkney has a mixture of yurts, sheepskin-lined bothies and meadows for tent pitching available.
True boy scouts and girl guides might consider wild camping. Thanks to the 2003 Land Reform Act, it’s possible to pitch a tent on most unenclosed land (although bylaws do apply to East Loch Lomond).
Make it a reality: Cool Camping (coolcamping.com) provides a booking platform for multiple sites in Scotland: yurts at Runach Arainn start from $270 per night; pitches for a family of four at Wheems Organic Farm start from $58 per night.
How to prepare: Alleviate cabin fever by camping with the kids in your back garden; it’ll give them a taste for outdoor life while you have a chance to practise putting up a tent. Complete the experience by cooking inventive meals over a campfire. Download a free collection of recipes from blog Campingwithstyle.co.uk.
What wondrous adventure have you been dreaming up?
– With PA
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