Why visit … Just a short flight away from Dubai, the Himalayan nation of Nepal is a beautiful and inspirational destination. Home to historical sites and some of the world’s most breath-taking natural landscapes, Nepal is ready to welcome tourists following the devastating earthquake in April 2015. I recommend a twin center- immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Kathamandu, then head to the mountains to Dwarika’s Dhulikhel Himalayan Shangri-La for some rest and relaxation.
Why visit … when you feel like taking the road less travelled, head to www.mulupark.com. A UNESCO World Heritage site with lush, equatorial rainforest and mystical caves systems dating back more than 40 million years, the park is tucked into a hidden corner of North Sarawak on the island of Borneo. Home to more than four million bats and swiftlets which make their way out of Deer Cave each evening at sunset, the park is at once eerie and awe-inspiring.
There is never a good place to get a puncture. Deep in the heart of lion country is probably bottom of the list. We are in Kenya’s Masai Mara reserve, spiritual home of the safari, where a golden landscape of savannah and scrubland populated by acacia trees stretches as far as the eye can see. The Mara, for once, is empty of tourists. We have the park to ourselves during a fleeting moment when predators outnumber safari trucks and human traffic is at an all time low.
Why visit … known as Land of the Thunder Dragon, the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan holds an allure as the destination many regard as the last Shangri-La. The reality is perhaps equal to the myth. Soaring mountains, hidden valleys, sacred monasteries and ancient fortresses dot the landscape of this beautiful and little known nation. Tucked in the Himalayas between China and India, Bhutan is the last remaining Buddhist state in the region.
Why visit … because there are few occasions in life where you can disappear off the grid and into the desert. An easy drive from Abu Dhabi or Dubai, city life soon slips away behind you and your gaze is filled with golden dunes stretching as far as the eye can see.
Why visit …. because there are few things in life better than staycationing in your home town or adopted city. Suddenly, everything slows and you can appreciate the beauty of your home at a leisurely pace. I was staying at the newly opened InterContinental Dubai Marina, which although just a short distance from my apartment, was a world away – a home-from-home in the heart of Dubai Marina.
Stay in …the perfectly appointed residences and suites offering sweeping views over the pool and marina. With a daytime backdrop of yachts reflected in the water and a breathtaking evening perspective of Dubai Marina’s bright lights – day or night you get a real sense of place of being in the heart of this vibrant, exciting city. With unexpected touches such as red Emperor Penguins guarding the pool and a ‘Mae West lips’ style sofa by the lift, the property is not your usual InterContinental.
There are few better ways of understanding a country than jumping on a train. Sri Lanka is no exception and this beautifully compact island nation with its contrasting countryside and coastline is perfect for exploration by rail. Ceylon Government Railways launched its first carriages in 1864 during the colonial period, and today, a century and a half later, Sri Lanka is a patchwork of train routes, operated by government and private companies. We were taking the grandly named Rajadhani Express which we had booked for less than a fiver for a ticket on the Colombo Fort to Matara branch which we were reliably informed would not only be the ‘most comfortable train journey you will ever take in Sri Lanka’ but crucially would drop us just a stone’s throw from where we were staying in the fishing town of Koggala.
I’m not much of a runner. I prefer to take things slow and enjoy the scenery. However, I will be joining 400 proper runners this evening at The North Face Night Rock Run in Ras Al Khaimah home to desert landscapes, such as Wadi Al Shawka.
I do like mountains however, and some of you will remember when I climbed Kilimanjaro and reached Uhuru Peak. I climbed with Exodus and Friends of Conservation for the Tanzania Porter Education Project and you were all very generous in your sponsorship.
A few years ago I visited Nepal with Exodus and fell in love, not just with the landscapes but with the generosity and spirit of the Nepali people.
So if “Life is a Journey, Not a Destination” as highlighted by Ralph Waldo Emerson, then the arrival must surely be an experience to be savoured.
I clearly recall the delicious thrill more than a decade ago of being swept away by a seaplane and being transported magically to a desolate sandbank in the Maldives.