Those of you who follow the Ladies What Travel Facebook page will already be aware that I’ve started looking into making some big travel plans for 2018. This is because next year I turn 40, and I’m hoping to celebrate my birthday with a super special travel experience.
As a travel lover its unsurprising that over the years I’ve amalgamated several dream experiences that I’d like to do, but I have also been asking around to see what others might recommend. Sadly many of the ideas are currently out of my ‘affordable luxury’ budget (maybe I should start saving towards them now to do some of these for my 50th?), but I promise you that one day I’m going to tick all of these bad boys off!
So, here are my 10 dream travel experiences – be warned that most of them involve animals! I’d love to hear if any of you have been lucky enough to experience these for yourself, or if you have any more great ideas to add into the mix for my 40th celebrations! Just let me know in the comment section below…
1 – Sleeping under the Northern Lights in a glass igloo
Image credit: Valtteri Hirvonen/Kakslauttanen
Image credit: Kakslauttanen
What better way to enjoy the Northern Lights than from the comfort of a cosy bed in a glass igloo? There are just a few spots in the world where you can do this, mainly in Finland, and they even have Northern Lights alarms, which will wake you up if there’s an overhead light show you just can’t miss!
Unfortunately this experience doesn’t come cheap, and you can expect to pay on average £600 a night. Although I’d love to do this I struggle with the idea of the cost, as I know I can get two weeks in sunny South East Asia for the same price as three nights here. Which would you prefer to do?
2 – Dog sledding in Greenland
I’m a little bit obsessed with Greenland – and it’s all the fault of that damned Walter Mitty. He started this obsession with Iceland and the big G, and to Justin’s chagrin, one day I will get there.
One of my many Greenland-related dreams is to go husky sledging. Seriously, can you imagine the wonder of being whisked through an arctic wonderland, with the rhythmic beat of the dogs’ paws as your soundtrack? Bliss.
3 – A stay at Giraffe Manor
I heard about Giraffe Manor a good few years ago now, but I still regularly mention it to Justin when we talk about where to go for our next big holiday.
This small but luxurious hotel is on the outskirts of Nairobi, and is home to a group of endangered Rothschild giraffes. The most amazing thing about this place – these guys will literally pop their head in through your bedroom window to say hello to you and you can even have breakfast with them!
I hear they also do afternoon tea out on the veranda, where you might even get joined by the resident warthogs (squee!). This would be an amazing stop for my Global Afternoon Tea Challenge, don’t you agree?
4 – Gorilla trekking
With my health conditions this will be bloody tough to do, but I’d still absolutely adore seeing mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Sadly, they can only now be found in the mountains that straddle Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and there’s only around 850 left in the wild.
Getting close to these guys doesn’t come cheap but the experience sounds priceless. With a guide to keep you safe, you can spend anything from 1-5 hours trekking through the jungle to try find a family, but if you do, you then get to spend a magic hour alongside them. That’s 60 minutes you’d never, ever forget!
Gorilla permits cost anything from US$400 in the DRC through to US$1500 in Rwanda for one hour, but I’d choose to pay the higher fees in order to visit them in a more stable and safe country. On top of that, factor in that you’ll need to pay for the tour, or a private guide, and accommodation etc. So it’s definitely one of the most costly wildlife experiences. Understandably so though.
5 – An overwater bungalow in paradise
Image credit: Four Seasons Bora Bora
Whenever you see those ads for luxury holidays in the Maldives, Seychelles, Bora Bora, there’s always a shot of overwater bungalows with clear blue water below.
How amazing must it be to stay in one of these, with five star solitude and a trap door dropping you straight into the water so you can swim with your aquatic neighbours? This is my idea of utter luxury and something I’ve dreamed of doing for years. As it currently stands this is taking the top spot in my potential 40th trip list!
6 – Visiting the Galapagos Islands
Is this not mecca for wildlife lovers? At the Galapagos Islands you can see giant tortoises in their natural habitat, come across giant iguana, snorkel alongside playful sea lions and even swim with penguins!
There’s a lot more to the islands than its wildlife, for sure, but for me this is the main reason to visit. Every day here would be a dream!
7 – Working as an animal conservation volunteer in Costa Rica
Costa Rica looks oh so beautiful and what better place to volunteer with animals than the home of my absolute number one critter, the sloth?!
There appear to be many different projects available to take part in, so a lot of research would need to be done to find one that is best for the animals and not just about making money. Once you know you’ve found a suitable place though, how amazing would it be to work with and for these beautiful creatures; developing enrichment activities, feeding them, keeping their enclosures clean and even possibly being there to see one returned to the wild!
8 – swimming with whale sharks
I can only imagine how awe inspiring it must be to swim alongside the world’s largest fish. These big boys can grow up to 40 feet long!
There are good spots to swim with whale sharks all around the world; from Mexico and Belize through to Australia and the Philippines.
Sadly though, in some areas locals are taking advantage of these gentle giants to make money, so be aware of ‘whale shark encounters’, where locals will hand feed the sharks, disrupting their natural behaviour.
Here’s a great post I found on the best spots to go diving with whale sharks, which also highlights the places you should avoid.
9 – Visit Torres del Paine National Park
One of my earliest travel dreams was to visit the Torres del Paine National Park, after seeing an image of the mountains in a travel brochure. At first glance I actually thought it was a painting and couldn’t believe this place was real. I thought it was so beautiful that I cut the picture out and pinned it to my wall. It’s worn and curling up now, but is still blu-taked to my world map, where it will stay until I finally make it there.
10 – Taking the Rocky Mountaineer across Canada
I thought I’d end my list with one of my dream experiences I’ve already had the pleasure of doing! A few years ago I spent three weeks travelling across Canada with my mum in the heart of winter. Starting in Toronto and ending in Vancouver, we travelled by train across snowy tundras and into the mountains, with the highlight being the four days we spent exploring the Jasper and Banff National Parks. We spent our time visiting frozen lakes and waterfalls, dealing with roads blocked by mountain goats and having breakfast interrupted by a herd of deer running through the high street!
Ten of my dream travel experiences
So, what experiences are on your personal travel wishlist? Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to tick some off already? I’d love to hear all about them, so please let me know in the comment section below!