Being trapped on a beach with a million other tourists is not always our definition of fun, especially when there is a whole world of untouched adventures waiting to be explored.
The low-down: The easternmost state of Malaysia, Sabah, is located on the northern portion of the island of Borneo. With no distinct wet or dry seasons, it is warm throughout the year with occasional tropical rain showers and cooler afternoons which help keep the rainforests green. That being said, it is an eventful place with the month of May being the busiest time of the year. To escape the crowds, head over to Sabah when the population is steady and you can really immerse yourself in the jungle experience.
X-factor: Visit one of many conservation areas or national parks and experience first-hand the thrill of jungle trekking or night safaris. Turtle Island Park acts as a home for endangered sea turtles, and at Tabin Wildlife Reserve you may be able to catch a glimpse of the Bornean elephant, Sumatran rhinoceros and even the Bornean clouded leopard.
The area is also known for its coral reefs; snorkelers and fledgling divers can enrol in classes at any of the dive resorts so you too can take part.
Best for: Trekking fanatics. The mountain climber in you will relish a visit to Kinabalu Park. Climbing Mt. Kinabalu can be done in two days, but it is definitely more comfortable to do it in three. The best thing about it is that no special skills are required, just a basic fitness level. With a registered mountain guide at your side, you can take the summit trail to the top.
Stay overnight at one of the mountain huts and then set off again to catch a stunning sunrise. In clear weather, you will be able to see all of Sabah spread out below you.
South Island, New Zealand
The low-down: Surrounded by water, New Zealand has a maritime climate where the weather changes rapidly. Tourists arriving in the midst of the winter season, however, will find that there is plenty to do. While you may encounter some closures, mostly in small towns that close for the season or have reduced hours during the winter months, you might also find some great rates for accommodation. Pull on some layers and be ready for rain as well as excitement.
X-factor: The South Island is still a hub of activity in July and August. Visit the Hanmer Springs Thermal Reserve, an outdoor complex where you can bathe in natural geothermal pools, and feel the muscles in your body relax. The springs are set amongst a beautiful backdrop of mountains and valleys. Hanmer forest offers many lovely scenic bush walks. If you want to experience something a bit more challenging, then the Franz Josef Glacier is widely regarded as the place to go. Offering a range of glacier hiking tours to suit all levels of fitness and ability, it is the ultimate New Zealand adventure.
Those who want to experience a bit of culture can tour the Waipara Valley in north Canterbury, the area’s premier wine growing region. It boasts over 80 vineyards and wineries, many of which provide guided tours.
Best for: Skiers. June to August is the skiing high season. Although the warm-weather beach towns might be sleepy, the snow encrusted mountaintops are definitely heating up. There are many public ski areas, as well as numerous private and club ski fields to choose from. An added bonus is the Winter Games, a major international sporting event, played out in late August across several locations.
St Lucia, South Africa
The low-down: A small town nestled under a canopy of trees and rich with wildlife, St Lucia’s popularity continues to grow as the demand for eco-tourism increases. Endless accommodation options, restaurants, and other tourist facilities mean that visitors can enjoy the lakes, mangroves, marshy grasslands and coastal dunes in peace. Life is laidback and your holiday will be too.
X-factor: The Great St Lucia Wetland Park is South Africa’s third largest park and home to the nation’s largest population of hippos and crocodiles, as well as leatherback turtles, black rhino, leopards, and more than 500 species of birds. Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve covers 90,000 hectares and is the oldest in Africa. Arrange for a day trip with a safari provider who will pick you up from your accommodation, drive you through the reserve and even feed you a fine meal in the bargain. You can also try to score a reservation in the park itself which is ideal for panoramic views.
Best for: Water babies. St Lucia is an ideal stop for those who delight in water sports and activities. Whales frequent the waves from June through September and the park is also a very popular fishing destination. Sodwana Bay has become a haven for diving enthusiasts from around the world with colourful tropical reefs and a stunning variety of sea-life.
Although the best conditions are during the warm summer months, visibility over 25m from February to August means you can still enjoy the sights both above and under water.