Choose Your Own Adventure
From chasing the Northern Lights across Iceland to exploring the wilds of Africa on safari to surfing the top breaks in Hawaii, Alex Pasquariello rounds up six adventures across the world to add to your bucket list
Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan, India
This spectacular 150-square-mile swathe of dense jungle at the junction of the Aravalli and Vindya hills was the private hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Jaipur until the early 1970s. Their work to preserve this landscape and its game enabled the creation of a national park to protect its population of Bengal tigers, and today this is the place to see the magnificent — but extremely endangered — cats. The other Indian treasure protected by this park is the 10th-century Ranthambore Fort perched atop a rocky plateau. Explore ancient Rajput palaces and temples, including one to Ganesh the elephant-headed Hindu deity that has come to be a patron of arts and sciences. SLEEP: Although the accommodations at the Oberoi Vanyavilas outside the park are called tents, there’s no such thing as roughing it here — each of the 25 spacious units features hardwood floors, a four-poster bed, a clawfoot tub, private garden and sun terrace.
Midgard, Highlands of Iceland
How does vast emptiness sound? If you’re the type that treasures absolute nothingness, Iceland’s highlands, where you’ll find nary another soul for hundreds of miles in every direction, is paradise. Devoid of lights, pollution and the other trappings of human civilization, this vast arctic plain of snow and tundra is perhaps the world’s premier locale for seeing the aurora borealis. Though it looks as though the gods are putting on a show just for you, the greens, pinks, yellows and blues dancing across the sky are actually the result of collisions between gaseous particles in the atmosphere above the planet’s magnetic poles with charged particles from the sun. SLEEP: There’s just one option out here, and that’s a lovely little Midgard hut, the haven of a local family for decades. Warmed by a crackling fire, this is traditional Icelandic living: two bedrooms with twin beds and two lofts.
MalaMala Game Reserve, South Africa
Sandwiched between Kruger National Park and the Sabi Sand Reserve, this private 33,000-acre game reserve is bisected by the Sand River, a watering hole that attracts an amazing array of wildlife. This well-protected stretch is home to one of the African continent’s largest concentration of leopards, and limited access to this reserve ensures that safari outings spot the solitary and secretive cats almost daily — in fact, leopards were seen in the reserve by safaris on all but 17 days in 2012. Want to spot your own leopard? Look for a tail hanging over tree branches, because these cats spend most their time aloft — they’ll even hunt from above, with their spots camouflaging them amongst the leaves until its time to pounce, and haul their kill back up into the branches to protect it from scavengers. SLEEP: Opened in 1962, the reserve has three camps, all on the western banks of the Sand River to limit the human footprint. The MalaMala Main Camp is a classic safari lodge with 18 suites and a deck overlooking the riverbank where elephants, antelope and other wildlife come to drink and cool off.
Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii
Hawaii's Kamehameha clan cherished Waikiki as their private tropical playground, and you can still roll like royalty on this two-mile strip of sand. The grande dame resorts that rose on Waikiki in the early 20th century witnessed the birth of modern surfing, led by watermen like the legendary Duke Kahanamoku, whose wave riding awed and inspired distinguished guests from around the globe. Before you hit the waves these original Beach Boys pioneered, pay homage to Duke at his bronze statue welcoming all to Waikiki's Kuhio Beach Park with open arms. With gentle waves and a shallow sandy bottom, the Waikiki surf is perfect for dialing in your turns. Queens Surf Beach Park, south of the Kapahulu Groin (a.k.a. The Wall, a walkway extending into the water), has wide right and left breaks that are ideal for groms riding rented longboards. If you master this wave, show off your hang ten at Canoes, one of the most popular waves on the planet. It breaks right in front of the Duke's statue, so bring your best moves. SLEEP: Just around the iconic Diamond Head crater from Waikiki, the 338-room Kahala Hotel & Resort is beachfront bliss complete with five gourmet restaurants and its own pod of dolphins (in the resort’s 26,000-square-foot natural lagoon).
Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
Attention Lord of the Rings nerds: If that rocky ridge along Mount Ruapehu in the North Island’s Tongariro National Park looks familiar, it’s because this is where Frodo, Sam and Gollum first looked out over the Gates of Mordor in Peter Jackson’s epic film trilogy. But you don’t have to have memorized the complete works of J.R.R. Tolkien to enjoy this epic national park, where three snow-covered andesitic volcanoes, including Mounts Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe, are sensational ski slopes when they’re not spewing ash. Other draws the azure waters of the 238-square-mile Lake Taupo, a caldera created by a supervolcanic eruption more than 25,000 years ago with perfect pumice sand beaches to lend it an inland ocean feel. SLEEP: Opened in 1924 as a fishing lodge, Huka Lodge is a luxe 25-room escape on 17 acres along the banks of the Waikato River fit for royalty – HM Queen Elizabeth was one of its first guests — though anglers are king here, and the lodge’s team of expert guides can take you to hidden fishing holes teeming with trout.
Clayoquot Sound World Biosphere, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
Vancouver Island’s wild west coast sees the Cypre, Megin and Tranquil rivers braid their way through old-growth temperate rainforests and lush meadows into Clayoquot Sound. These waterways are a fly-fisherman’s paradises, teeming with cutthroat trout through June and spawning salmon through July and into mid-August. Just be mindful that you might be sharing your fishing hole – come late summer, black bears flock to these rivers to fatten up on salmon in preparation for fall’s chill. SLEEP: Accessible only by a scenic 45-minute seaplane flight from Vancouver, Clayoquot Wilderness Resort’s 20 luxury tents are refined, eco-chic retreats (complete with ensuite bathrooms) amid the splendor of the Clayoquot Sound World Biosphere. In case you don’t reel in the big one, chef Ryan Orr prepares locally sourced gourmet grub like grilled Clayoquot Sound oyster chowder in a cumin and thyme broth.