Holidays in National Parks

Written by  Jordan-Ashley Baker

I grew up exploring national parks - I had manoeuvred an obstinate mule down the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, hiked five miles admiring the foliage in the Great Smoky Mountains and scaled a dusty bluff in the Badlands, all before I was old enough to drive a car.

Yep, the appeal of national parks was ingrained into my brain at a very young age, and I still find myself drawn like a magnet to any place in the world where the serene and the sublime, the romantic and the dangerous can exist simultaneously in one as they do in national parks.

There’s something about the scale of it all – the wild, unadulterated vastness of these places that makes you stop momentarily and take a deep, slow breath just to prove that something as minuscule as you can exist within something so grand. Moments where your head swims with the dizzying height, your ears ring from the rush of pounding water and your heart beats against your chest from sheer pleasure or extreme fear - these moments are as addictive as a drug.

But more often than not, a visit to a national park is demoted to a brief excursion from the main journey – the cookie-cutter image from a five minute roadside photo-op that is quickly shuffled to the back of the stack in favour of pictures of lavish parties and fruity cocktails. It would be utter blasphemy to snap one panoramic picture of Paris then scamper off to another destination, completely satisfied with your Parisian experience. And it is equally sinful to do the same with a national park.

The grandeur and allure of national parks lies in their diversity – of animals, people, scenery, places and experiences. There is no singular feeling that people take away from a national park because the experiences mean something different to everyone. And if you can share those unique experiences with friends or loved ones, what better way to establish a relationship or deepen one that's already there.

And while it may be tempting to put my feet up and soak in the sights from the panoramic window of a posh resort, I love to get out in the park and actually do something. Whether it’s swimming in the spray of the Iguazu Falls in Argentina or taking a safari through the Chobe National Park in Botswana – why not experience everything that the park has to offer first hand? If you do this the right way, you may find yourself spending days, weeks or even more in these places, and you’ll leave wishing you still had more time.

Immerse yourself in a national park like you would a large, diverse city. Learn its history, observe the locals (whether they be plants, animals or humans) in their natural habitats and never be afraid to get your hands dirty while exploring.

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