Bucket List Holidays to Book for 2021
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Bucket List Holidays to Book for 2021

Unforgettable travel with meaning in mind

The new way to travel is to undertake trips with meaning in mind. Lucy Cleland and Holly Rubenstein outline the once-in-a-lifetime journeys to make your travels count in more ways than just racking up air miles

Bucket List Holidays to Book for 2021


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Jao Reserve

Walk on the Wild Side in Botswana

Long considered one of Botswana’s finest safari spots, an $11 million rebuild last year has elevated Jao camp to the ultimate wildlife adventure destination. The owners’ aim to ‘create a bush retreat that would appeal to the increasingly design- savvy traveller, but would last and be more sustainable’ delivers on all fronts.

Situated in the heart of the Okavango Delta, the camp’s aesthetic is inspired by its rich natural surroundings. Entirely solar powered, it’s a light-impact camp that minimises its footprint every step of the way. Pick between five tented suites and two private villas, each with a private plunge pool and terrace, as well as a car, guide, chef and butler.

There are numerous ways to experience the abundant wildlife, and get a shot at spotting the Big Five, from thrilling game drives and day excursions to fauna-rich Hunda Island (gourmet picnic in tow), to climbing aboard a traditional mokoro canoe and taking to the water. If all that excitement sounds exhausting, escape to the camp’s sensational spa, hidden beneath the boughs of African ebony trees, overlooking the soothing water below.

Book it: From approx. £1,088 pp per night sharing in November 2020, all inclusive with twice-daily camp activities, park fees and all local drinks. wilderness-safaris.com

Norway fjords

See the Great Outdoors in the Norwegian Fjords

Western Norway and its majestic fjords is one of the world’s most beautiful destinations, with towering mountains that plunge into glistening turquoise waters. The launch of HMS Gassten, a newly renovated exclusive hire boat, gives small groups the opportunity to reach otherwise inaccessible spots, all from the comfort of a five-bedroom floating home. Guests can also be confident in the knowledge that it’s one of the most environmentally progressive boat operators in the world, with tours designed to have the least impact on the fjords.

Visit in the summer for endless daylight, Viking BBQs and mountain hikes. The winter offers guide-led access to the deserted slopes of the majestic Sunnmore Alps, before returning to the ship for candlelit feasts – the epitome of hygge.

Book it: From £37,500 for one week with up to ten people, with full crew, meals, e-bikes and watersports equipment. redsavannah.com

The Brando, Tahiti

French Polynesia: A Far-Flung Eco Paradise

When Marlon Brando arrived to film Mutiny on the Bounty on the atoll of Tetiaroa, 30 miles from Tahiti, he fell in love, ‘[It’s] more gorgeous than anything I anticipated,’ he said. ‘If the mermaids can’t sing for me here, Christ they never will.’ Having also fallen for his Tahitian co-star, who he later married, a couple of years later Brando bought the atoll, returning throughout his life, and founding The Brando, a self-sustainable and carbon neutral eco-resort.

It comprises 12 tropical islands, protected by a reef that teems with tropical fish and forms a dazzling lagoon, the centre of diving, water sports, boat trips and exotic birding outings. Thirty-five beach front villas offer total privacy, with their own stretches of beach, plunge pools and outdoor bathtubs. The newly opened three-bedroom Brando Residences come complete with a team of dedicated chefs and butlers.

Book it: From £12,795 for seven nights all inclusive at The Brando, including all flights, one spa treatment per villa per day and one excursion per person per day. turquoiseholidays.co.uk

North Island

A Lovers Paradise at North Island, Seychelles

North Island is the spectacular Indian Ocean retreat that hosted the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their honeymoon – and later, Hollywood royalty, with George and Amal Clooney. Each spacious villa is surrounded by a few acres of jungle garden with its own pool and beach access, so that guests rarely encounter other visitors.

The island’s extraordinary nature has undergone an extensive rehabilitation project in recent years, so that endangered Seychelles flora and fauna could be reintroduced. Now, birdlife thrives, hawksbill and green turtles nest on the beach and 100-year-old giant tortoises roam the island. Plunging into its pristine turquoise waters, divers and snorkellers can spot whale sharks and manta rays, as well as a cornucopia of tropical fish. And with the island’s proximity to the equator, it’s one of the best places in the world to be at sundown. How’s that for romance.

Book it: From £5,816 per night B&B with private butler, a villa golf buggy and complimentary activities. north-island.com

Conrad Bora Bora Nui

Get marooned on a desert island in Polynesia

Become Robinson Crusoe and forget the throbbing pressure of city life as you maroon yourself on the Polynesian island of Bora Bora at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui. You won’t, however, have to scratch around for survival but can play your own Desert Island Discs in a light-filled villa, set within a lush garden or over water on the lagoon, where your residence boasts transparent floors to see the secretive marine life below. The ultimate switch-off.

Book it: Turquoise Holidays offers 10 nights from £4,945 per person B&B, including five nights in a deluxe garden pool bungalow at Hilton Moorea and five nights at Conrad Bora Bora Nui in an Overwater villa, international flights and transfers. Call 01494 678400 or visit turquoiseholidays.co.uk

Four Seasons Columbia

Get high without the drugs in Colombia

Forget Narcos, Colombia – and its capital Bogota – has blossomed as a tourist destination in recent years and there’s no better way to enjoy it than at the Four Seasons, which is offering the most stylish city stay (at one of two hotels) enhanced by an unforgettable day trip into the Sierra Nevada by helicopter. You’ll be flown to ancient cities, irreplaceable nature reserves, remote villages and then onto pristine beaches and tropical forests. Breathtaking.

Book it: Excursion from £2,639 per person. fourseasons.com

Costa Rica Monte Verde Cloud Forest

Go wild for the wildlife in Costa Rica

With Costa Rica set to be the world’s first country to ban single-use plastic in 2021, this rugged, rainforested Central American destination is also home to one of the world’s few Blue Zones – areas of the world where people are known to live longer, healthier and happier lives – and is committed to being carbon neutral by 2050, so a huge shout out for its eco credentials. A trip here encompasses everything a wildlife lover will fall for – including coming face-to-face with the three-toed sloth, perhaps seeing turtles nesting – and hatching – depending on the time of year, swimming with the world’s largest dolphin pod and tagging baby hammerheads in the mangroves.

Book it: Black Tomato offers a 12-night trip from £3,500 per person not including international flights. blacktomato.com

Belmond Le Manoir aux Qua'Saisons

Eat like a king in Oxfordshire

For foodie fans globally, a stay at Raymond Blanc’s exquisite Oxfordshire manor house never fails to disappoint. The beautifully tended gardens, dotted with sculptures, the orchards, the two-acre kitchen garden, the produce of which will later on land on your plate in seasonally prepared brilliance and the elegance of the house itself are quintessential Anglo-French perfection. Raymond Blanc has held on to his two Michelin stars for over 35 years – and Le Manoir is the best place to see and taste the soul of one of the world’s greatest chefs.

Book it: Deluxe suite from £695 B&B. belmond.com

Great Ocean Road, Australia

Hit the road in south-eastern Australia

Take to the Great Ocean Road in Australia’s smallest mainland state, Victoria, which is home to 30 per cent of its native wildlife. Just 151 miles long, it’s packed with nature at its best, along with fantastic design hotels, world-renowned restaurants and stunning vineyards, best known for their Riesling and pinot noir. There are plenty of beauty spots to stop along the way as you meander your way slowly down the coastline in this stunning seven-night trip.

Book it: Abercrombie & Kent offers Great Ocean Road seven-night itineraries from £1,095pp. abercrombiekent.co.ukvisitmelbourne.com

The Nautilus Maldives

Go blissfully barefoot in the Maldives

Sometimes, just sometimes, only The Maldives will do. There have been many tens of openings over recent years, but The Nautilus, in the UNESCO biosphere reserve of Baa Atoll, stands out. Not only is it the islands’ only member of Relais & Chateau, but you can also rent out the whole island in its entirety should you want the shindig to end all others. Come here for complete and utter relaxation – where the world is your oyster and nothing is too much or too little.

Book it: Ocean House from approx. £2,675 B&B, excluding tax and service. thenautilusmaldives.com

lake como hotel

Live la dolce vita on Lake Como

Twinning one of the world’s best hotel groups with Italy’s most famous and magical lake makes for a match made in minibreak heaven. Recently opened on the eastern shores of Lake Como, the new Mandarin Oriental is really the old 18th-century Villa Roccabruna, a stunning neo-classical villa with legendary musical links – it was once the residence of Giuditta Pasta, the muse of Vincenzo Bellini. The romance remains; whether in the vast bedrooms, the sun-drenched terrace or the pottering about on the water exploring tiny villages, hidden waterfalls and ancient palazzos.

Book it: Doubles from €545. mandarinoriental.com

Slow Cyclist Transylvania

Cycle through a land time forgot in Transylvania

Whether you’re a fairweather cyclist or a Tour de France wannabe, the benefits of travelling by two wheels (or two feet) are many and varied, allowing a real penetration and appreciation of your location. That location could not get more beguiling than the Carpathian foothills in Transylvania, Europe’s very own wilderness. You’ll pedal (at your own good pace, thank you very much), walk or even trot in a horse and cart past fortified churches, meadows filled with wild flowers, beech forests and the wildest of wildlife, including bears and wolves, only to bed down in beautiful places at night, your mind full of the day’s discoveries and your own heightened sense of being.

Book it: The Slow Cyclist offers five nights from £1,750pp, including transfers, a support vehicle, Slow Cyclist host and English-speaking guides, all accommodation, meals, snacks and drinks, all activities, bicycle and helmet hire. International flights are not included. theslowcyclist.co.uk

Pelorus Antartic

Adventure on ice

It can take up to six months to get a permit for yacht expeditions to Antartica, so now is the perfect time to book ahead for an unforgettable trip to these icy wastelands – home to the majestic Emperor penguin – and one of earth’s most incredible and hard-to-reach locations. Everything is planned with meticulous detail for a luxurious and edifying experience (accommodation on a superyacht, use of helicopters and submersibles, sea kayaking, ski sailing, paddle boarding, camping overnight on the ice, seeing sea lion colonies and meeting scientists on active research), but mindful of the privilege and responsibility of travelling to such a delicate and precious destination.

Book it: Pelorus can arrange the following experiences in Antarctica either aboard an 18m Antarctic specialist vessel for USD$88,000 per week (8 guests in 4 cabins with two shared bathrooms), or in a much more luxurious motor yacht from USD$ 500,000 per week (26 guests in 13 cabins) or USD$ 635,000 per week (12 guests in 6 cabins). This price does not include international flights. pelorusx.com

Kenya Lewa House

Fly high in Kenya

If you like your wildlife wild, then consider this: a nine-day flying safari where you get to scope out the most endangered of our species, most evident from your lofty vantage point. Enjoy real experts and world-renowned conservationists guiding you over spectacular scenery as you head out to spot Grevy’s zebra, African wild dog, lion, cheetah, African elephant, crowned cranes and black rhino. Learn about the conservation efforts in place to save these remarkable creatures, while staying at some of the finest camps in the land, including Lewa. When not in the skies, you’ll be enjoying game drives, guided walks, picnics in the bush and evening talks.

Book it: Aardvark Safaris offers a nine-day trip from approx. £1,628pp per day. Price based on four guests. Cost includes all activities and meals. Call 01980 849160 or visit aardvarksafaris.co.uk


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