BEST WILDLIFE EXPERIENCE
Set in the primeval jungles of Malaysian Borneo, the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre has been rescuing the rusty–haired creatures since its establishment in 1964. Approximately 760 orangutans have been admitted since then, many of them refugees from hardwood forests that have been stripped to make way for palm oil plantations. The centre gives orangutans a chance at survival, and travelers the (increasingly rare) opportunity to observe them in their natural habitat. gadventures.com.au/borneo.
BEST GLAMPING EXPERIENCE
Sal Salis is the only accommodation set inside the UNESCO-protected Cape Range National Park, clasped between the crystalline waters of Ningaloo Reef and the rusty outback beyond. So it feels as though you have the park to yourself, as you lounge in your glamping tent watching roos bounce along the dunes, or sip rosé on the private beach. Sunrise gorge hikes put you face-to-face with wallaroos, while reef boat trips see you swimming alongside whale sharks. salsalis.com.au.
BEST OUTBACK HOTEL
It doesn’t get much more quintessentially Aussie than South Australia’s Prairie Hotel. This sophisticated outback pub is set in an historic stone building in remote Parachilna (population seven), on the plains just west of the Flinders Ranges. Guest rooms are surprisingly chic, and from the front patio you can catch spectacular sunsets with a glass of their Fargher Lager in hand. An ideal base for day trips into the desert, to discover ancient fossils and fascinating wildlife. prairiehotel.com.au.
BEST CONSERVATION EXPERIENCE
A 40-minute boat ride from Sandakan in Malaysian Borneo sits Libaran Island, home to a turtle hatchery and eco-camp that’s attempting to raise numbers of Green and Hawksbill turtles. After a day spent swimming and chatting with local villagers on this mangrove-fringed island (which was covered in rubbish until being reclaimed in 2011), visitors can watch baby turtles hatch at dusk, then release them into the ocean. Afterwards, dinner and low-fi glamping await. gadventures.com.au/borneo.
BEST PRIVATE ISLAND
You hire a private Fijian island for you and seven friends. Each couple has their own elegant, timber-floored bure. Maybe you paddleboard around the island, maybe you have a massage, maybe you laze under the palms by the infinity pool. Whichever way, when you start to get peckish your personal chef will pull seafood from the ocean and cook it up for you. Sound like a fantasy? Dolphin Island is the real deal. dolphinislandfiji.com.
BEST POLITICAL TOUR
This edgy establishment in the West Bank city of Bethlehem is known for being one of the world’s great art hotels, created in collaboration with street artist Banksy. But it also runs a fascinating tour, led by local Palestinians, that takes travellers along a portion of the 800-kilometre separation wall, and to the nearby Aida Refugee Camp, which has existed for a shocking 70 years. walledoffhotel.com.
BEST APARTMENT RENTAL
Apartments Actually lets you take on Paris like a local, through their selection of elegantly styled apartments in the chic Marais neighbourhood, as well as sprawling houses in Provence. They’ll arrange neighbourhood tours, private yoga and cookery classes, which means all you have to do is book your plane ticket. apartmentsactually.com.
BEST HOT SPRING EXPERIENCE
Picture this: you’re inside a canyon at 400 metres below sea level, having all your worldly concerns washed away by mineral-rich hot spring waterfalls. When you’re done soaking you head to the spa: massage, scrub, or facial? Post-pamper, you watch the sun set over the starkly beautiful canyon, and eat a decadent dinner accompanied by live Jordanian music. Days at Ma’In Hot Springs Resort, just 20 minutes from the Dead Sea, really are this magical. visitjordan.com.
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