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Into the wild: 5 epic trips to reconnect with nature

Mother Nature loves to show off — and lucky for those of us who are brave enough to venture away from our WiFi routers (even if just for an hour or two), she’s got plenty of breathtaking places to reconnect with the great outdoors. 


Here are our top picks for a wilderness-centric adventure:

1. Norway’s Northern Lights

Sunsets and sunrises are something special — but the aurora borealis is undisputedly one of the planet’s ultimate shows. Caused when atmospheric gases collide with charged particles from the sun, the Northern Lights are a heavenly nocturnal dance of colour that should be on every discerning traveller’s bucket list

They can last from a few minutes to a few hours, as yellowish-green curtains of light, or white spirals or violet, white or red arcs.

The Northern Hemisphere’s winter months (from October to February) are favoured by aurora hunters trying to avoid the crowds in September or March. 

To capitalise on the great conditions, Inspirations Travel and Tours (ITT) is offering 12-day expeditions with Norwegian cruise company Hurtigruten. They’re so confident you’ll have an incredible sighting that they’re making a very special Northern Lights Promise: if there’s no sighting, you’ll get another Hurtigruten cruise free*.

Hurtigruten's 12-day cruise from Bergen to Kirkenes and back to Bergen is “The World’s Most Beautiful Voyage”, according to Lonely Planet. It explores Norway’s entire coastal route with a special Polar Circle crossing — and, of course, there’s the guaranteed Northern Lights sighting.

Experience the magic with Sure Travel

Ask your nearest Sure Travel agency about ITT’s Northern Lights Promise promotion, which applies to Hurtigruten’s 12-day voyages (round-trip from Bergen, Norway), departing from 1 October 2019 to 31 Mar 2020. Cruises start from R26,150 per person sharing*. Visit www.suretravel.co.za for more details or call +27 (0)861 47 48 49.  

*Terms & Conditions: price based on selected dates in Nov 2019 and Jan 2020. Offer is subject to availability, for an unspecified outside cabin on full-board basis. Flexi-pricing applies and subject to currency fluctuation. Full Hurtigruten Ts + Cs also apply

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2. Thailand’s glowing phytoplankton 

When Christopher Columbus first sailed the coast of Bermuda in 1492, he was captivated by a faint, shimmering light in the water, “like the light of a wax candle”. What was this glowing phenomenon, called by sailors “the burning of the sea”? 

Turns out, they’re tiny planktonic creatures (that shimmer with the same bioluminescent enzymes that give fireflies their glow). They use light to communicate, find love, hunt and yield off predators — and flare brightly when disturbed, creating a glittery blue-green halo effect that’s truly magical.

One of the best places to see this glowing natural wonder are Thailand’s Phi Phi Islands – the conditions are just right in places like Maya Beach (made famous in Leonardo DiCaprio’s film, The Beach). While the Thai government has indefinitely closed access to the beach for tourists to allow its mangrove and coral reef ecosystems time to recover, island-hopping and sunset tours do still operate. Visitors can swim or snorkel with the bioluminescent plankton under a starry nighttime sky and discover the treasures of the Andaman Sea for themselves. 

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3. Tanzania’s Great Migration

Enjoy front-row seats to one of the most dramatic wildlife displays on earth. Each day, herds of wildebeest brave crocodile-infested rivers, prides of hungry lions and other dangers in search of food and water. The best spot to see them in action? Africa’s World Heritage-listed Serengeti National Park

Plus, while you’re in Tanzania, stop off at Lake Natron — it’s both beautiful and haunting at the same time. This salt-water lake is so caustic that animals are turned to stone; its pH balance is reportedly almost as high as ammonia.  

While it’s no place to swim (water temperatures can rival 60 degrees Celcius), the lake is still an attractive spot for photographers and birders (keep an eye out for flamingoes!). 

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4. China’s mountain 'skyscrapers'

You’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven when visiting the sandstone pinnacles of Wulingyuan scenic area in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (China’s oldest national park and first Unesco World Heritage Site). These mountains, buried deep in Hunan province, inspired scenes from the movie Avatar and have been formed from physical erosion over thousands of years. 

It’s home to the world’s tallest outdoor lift — the Bailong Elevator — which transports visitors 236m from base to peak in less than two minutes. Each of the three great glass elevators can hold up to 50 people at a time. There’s also a glass bridge — not for the faint of heart!

Don’t expect to be on your own; word’s spread about these stunning natural wonders and the masses have followed. But the national park is still worth a visit, especially if you opt to hike along the river’s edge into the forest rather than just head straight for the Bailong Elevator (as most tour buses do).

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5. Turkey’s mountainside infinity pools

The tiered limestone pools at Pamukkale are a sight to behold: surrounded by snow and frozen waterfalls most of the year — but with steaming hot, mineral-rich water. 

Nicknamed the “cotton castle”, this is the sort of destination you need to see to believe — and lucky for you, it’s easily accessible from Istanbul. 

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Interested in planning your own nature-inspired trip? 

Contact your nearest Sure Travel Agency to enquire or book, or call +27 (0)861 47 48 49.

Go there!

Norway
from R18,660 p/p sharing
Christmas markets and festivities in Scandinavia
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