Great Outdoors & Adventure Destinations 2010
While your resolve to get out and do more in 2010 can still be felt in your ever healthier heart rate take a look over this list of 2010's best destinations for lovers of the great outdoors. Some of these spots have been off limits because of political upheaval, some of them will be a bargain this year, and some of them are, unfortunately, fading fast, so you'd better get in quick to ensure you see them before they're changed for good.
In 2010 the Glacier National Park is celebrating its 100th birthday. But that's only since it's been formally recognised as a National Park. Before that, in 1850, there were more than 150 glaciers within the region now bounded by the park's borders, but in 2010 only 26 were counted, and those are just chilly shadows of their former selves; and if the world's current patterns of global warming continue it's predicted that by 2020 all of the glaciers will have melted. So it's a good time to visit and, through potentially misty eyes, appreciate how beautiful this dramatically rugged, yet lush, part of Montana is.
Drive into one of two main hubs: the Apgar Transit Centre or the St. Mary Visitor Centre, from which you can hop a free shuttle up to Logan Pass, which is at the start of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and one of the highest points in the park. The terrain you'll pass on the way down varies, but mostly between verdant green or grey stone, interspersed with crystal clear alpine lakes. Cougars, black and grizzly bears, big horn and mountain goats and elk can be spotted, along with many less exotic creatures. For most people the best way to experience the park is treading one of the many short trails – the slightly precarious but breath-catching spectacular Highline Trail is a 7.6 mile favourite. Services are open between May and September. In 2010 there are lots of additional birthday celebrations going on, but as well as it being a particularly festive time to visit it might be one of your last opportunities to appreciate some of its glaciers.
These islands have been a popular stopping off point on route between Bangkok and Malaysia for visitors for quite a while – perhentian in the local dialect means 'stopping point'. It's the white sand and bright turquoise water that does it. Or it could be the lively cafes and bars inhabited by carefree backpackers on Kecil, the smaller island, or the resort standard, honeymooner style accommodation on Besar island, or the jungle covered islands, like flotsam and jetsam in the scuba and snorkel friendly waters of the Pulau Redang National Marine Park.
Almost everything shuts down for the monsoon season between November and February, and in past years there's been a tradition of it being acceptable to charge high season prices for the rest of the year – especially on weekends – but this year with less people willing to front up the cash for the flight out to Malaysia, there's a suggestion of a change in the air... There have always been a few resorts that stay open during the monsoon, and opting to travel during 'the wet' is a way to ensure you get a good deal.
Even during the most politically un-rested times in the past decade Everest Base Camp was busy with trekkers – so much so that people are starting to complain about the mess – it's all those jettisoned air canisters etc. that ruin the ambience... And now that the monarchy is no more even more people will be wanting to walk and trek in amongst Nepal's peaks.
Don't be put off by the thought of more visitors: it will bring down prices and help expand and improve the industry, just choose your trek more carefully if you're looking for something adventurous. Still in the Everest or Khumbu region, the Gokyo Ri Trek is supposed to be an alternative Everest, or at least affords wonderful views of the great peak, and the Annapurna region has long been recognised for the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, but also has the Annapurna Circuit and the Mansalu Circuit. Beyond the mountains ripe for exploration on foot is the colourful and friendly culture that's often a pleasant surprise for people who journeyed here purely for a trekking adventure.
The new Koh Samui, and now more like the book ‘The Beach’ than the actual ‘Beach’ or 'the beach’ it was filmed on. Think unspoiled by footprints and coveted possessively by divers for its warm waters and colourful marine population. Think also tiny, white, sandy, private coves, jungle vegetation and perfect tropical views.
As well as the divers and those who have discovered the island and kept quiet about its beauty, Koh Tao has a local population of around 2,000 and lots of Green and Hawksbill Turtles who stop here annually to breed, and that’s about it. The main town is Sairee behind a gorgeous white sandy beach and that’s where the bungalows and building sites of the new resorts are based. There aren't too many creature comforts though so it's a chance to feel like you're properly 'getting away'.
Game fishing is the new diving and the roads are starting to get paved so you’d better get in fast before another island takes its place as the new Koh Samui.
The Samaná Peninsula
The Samaná Peninsula is a narrow strip of land with a lot packed into its 40kms length. The peninsular bit suggests the ocean, which during the winter months, between January and March, attracts Humpback whales. The ocean is lined with protected white sand that is broken up here and there by coconut palms. Behind that are a line of bumpy hills growing into rounded mountains. Of the peninsula's towns Las Terrenas is the most lively as far as a cafe/ restaurant/ bar scene goes, and it's quite European in tone, while Las Galeras is a lot quieter and has the best beaches. The BahÌa de Samaná itself is the place for whale watching, but the best snorkelling is round Playa Frontón.
It sounds like the true definition of the word idyllic, but with ever idyll is a catch, and this one is timing. A new international airport and highway to the capital have just been built so this inaccessible treasure is about to become a lot easier to get to. At the moment the peso is still weaker than other Caribbean currencies so that's even more reason to go in 2010.
While for most of us the most inviting coastlines are those washed by warm waters and sprinkled with golden sands, for some people the ancient creaking stone and deep blue ice of the polar region are infinitely preferable. Svalbard is the most accessible part of the Arctic circle: a place of ice floe filled fjords, ancient glaciers and polar bears. At night you will often see amazing aurora displays, and a wondrous sky so clear that one regularly is able to see man-made satellites with the naked eye. Activities include snowmobiling, ice-caving and dog-sledding. Its definitely not cheap, but well worth the experience. It is the world's most northerly destination for commercial aircraft, with flights available from Tromso and Oslo. But in 2010 the best way to visit is by boat. Independent travel will be more expensive.
Kenya was so destabilised by the riots following the 2008 elections that it was surreptitiously removed from most people's to-do list. Now more stable, Kenya is clambering to be re-included. The Tsavo National Park is Kenya's largest game reserve and one of the best spots in Africa to see some of the action of the wildebeest migration, as well as lions, leopards and elephants. The plains of the Samburu Game Reserve protect antelope, zebra, lions, cheetah and leopards from people but not from each other, but for people the Masai Mara is even wilder.
For something more unusual, car free Lamu Island was one of Kenya's first settlements, and has the 14th Century architecture to prove it, as well as some of Kenya's best beaches.
WR blogger Nora Dunn recommends it because it's become one of the least visited of the Hawaiian islands, but its resorts have also been hit hard by the credit crunch so there are some inexpensive opportunities to sample the pleasures of its water sports, diving, snorkelling, cycling, golf, jungles and volcanoes.
Not many people know it, but Big Island has the world's tallest mountain - if you count from below sea level - it even gets snow! And of course that's before the quintessentially perfect beaches, the surfing or hula are even mentioned.
Let us know if we're missing any adventure destinations you'd recommend for 2010.
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