Cam4668By  Nathan  Horton

Action plan - Inspiration

It’s a long way to go just to lie on a beach, so why not combine your winter sun in Asia trekking or cycling your way through some of the world’s most remarkable landscapes?

Diving and snorkelling Sulawesi

Manado, on the northern tip of Sulawesi, has some of the best diving and snorkelling in South-East Asia, with warm, calm, clear seas. It is part of the Bunaken National Marine Park which sits within what is known as the Coral Triangle, an area covering Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines that encompasses more than half of the world’s reefs. Reef tops in shallow waters reward snorkellers with a rainbow of corals, anemones and colourful nudibranchs dancing on the ocean currents; while turtles and dolphins are also frequently sighted. A little deeper, divers can explore the wreck of the Molas, a Dutch merchant ship sunk during the second world war, or opt for a night dive for encounters with rare nocturnal creatures. Above the surface, the landscape is dominated by Old Manado an 820-metre volcanic peak, rising in the north-west, which is a must-see at sunset. A few dry days should be spent inland, hiking, horseriding and white-water rafting in the Tangkoko Nature Reserve, or visiting the city of Tomohon, where you can explore the public food market – well known by visitors for its fresh fruits and eye-opening array of meats for sale, including smoked rat. Fortify yourself for a visit with a few cups of rich Sulawesi coffee. Alternatively, head out to Lake Tondano, fringed by paddy fields, where restaurants and stalls serve up lake-caught Nike fish.

Bunaken2 Credit  Cary  Yanny From  Ecodivers Courtesy Of  Regaldive

Travel Details

A seven-night round trip from London to Sulawesi, staying at the Kima Bajo Resort and Spa, is available from RegalDive (01353 659999; from £1,306 per person. Dive packages available from £248 for eight dives.

Wildlife spotting Borneo

The orangutan rehabilitation centre at Sepilok in northern Borneo, in the Malaysian province of Sabah, is a pilgrimage for many visitors to the island. The world-famous sanctuary is a place where orangutans that were previously captive are returned to their natural surroundings before being released back into the wild. Currently home to around 80 apes, visitors can watch them feeding and hanging around in the forest, literally. Beyond the sanctuary, wildlife lovers will be in their element in Sabah. Not far away is the Kinabatangan river – Borneo’s longest – and one of the best places to see orangutan in the wild, as well as a host of other creatures besides. Due to jungle deforestation upriver, animal and bird life has been pushed into a small area along the lower Kinabatangan estuary, which can be explored by boat. Alternatively, head out on foot for the interior rainforests and mangroves, but watch out for leeches! More appealing wildlife to spot includes the iconic proboscis monkey, so named for its prominent nose, as well as macaques, gibbons, the rare slow loris, monitor lizards, pygmy elephants, and more than 200 species of bird. Do not leave without taking part in one of the night safaris, when the forest comes alive with staring eyes. Further south, take a walk in the canopy of the pristine Danum Valley, where the primary forest remains as it once was across the entire island.

Orangutans Borneo   High  Credit Www Worldprimatesafaris Com

Travel Details

World Primate Safaris (01273 691642; offers an 11-day Small Group Safari in Malaysian Borneo starting and ending in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, and including an overnight stay in a traditional Rungus longhouse. Prices from £1,550 per person based on two sharing.

White-Water rafting Western thailand

Thailand’s hilly northern and western border regions are a mecca for travellers looking for adventure, be that trekking to visit hill-tribe communities, mountain biking on remote trails or plodding through jungle on the back of an elephant. The Mae Klong river, which flows through the town of Umphang, not far from the Burmese border, is one of a handful of places in South-East Asia where there is some genuinely excellent white water. Here it is possible to spend a few days paddling downstream along wide flowing rivers, past hot springs and waterfalls, all interspersed with adrenalin-fuelled bursts of power paddling over rapids. En route downstream you’ll sleep in peaceful, temporary forest camps, while on-shore treks bring you to locations such as the impressive Thi Lor Su waterfall, where seven tiers of water cascade from a sheer limestone face. Take a welcome dip in nearby Kotha waterfalls after a hard day’s paddling. One night will be spent in the Karen village of Kotha, where you’ll learn more about the tribe’s way of life, with a tour of the village and a traditional supper cooked by and shared with members of the community. Below the village is the final section of rapids, where it’s a given that you’ll get wet: dry off in your riverside camp where it’s just you, your fellow paddlers and the jungle’s wildlife.

Rafting  Otthsp07  Credit  Explore

Travel Details

Explore (0844 499 0901; offers a 14-day
Active Thailand tour starting in and returning to Bangkok, including a homestay, cycling, trekking and elephant riding alongside three
days’ rafting. From around £890.

Sailing Indonesia

Cast off for the paradise islands of the south onboard a two-mast phinisi schooner in Indonesia’s Flores Sea. The elegant 12-berth Katharina sets sail from Bali, journeying east along the Lesser Sunda Islands to Flores, exploring en route a volcanic landscape, mountain ranges thick with jungle and wildlife, and quiet coastal villages where local life goes on in much the same way as it has done for centuries. With the main sails set, it is a serene journey eastwards through crystal-clear waters. Dropping anchor near the tiny island of Pulau Bungin, off the north-west coast of Sumbawa, you can head ashore to explore the stilted homes of sea gypsies; or see how the Katharina was built in a traditional boat-building settlement.

In the distance, the smouldering volcanic peak of Sangean island comes into view (the fit and keen can take a closer look with a land hike), followed by the Komodo archipelago. In addition to some spectacular coves here – only accessible by boat – you can join an excursion to see the islands’ eponymous dragons. Further east, deserted beaches abound and the reefs around Sabalon beckon: borrow a snorkel and jump in to explore the big fish tank. Many more days are spent as lazily – or as actively – as you like: the boat has its own sea kayaks, bodyboards and fishing gear; or lend a hand to the expert crew, hoisting sails and manoeuvring the schooner back towards Bali on the homeward leg.

The  Katharina  Credit  Seatrek  Dsc 0176

Travel Details

Sea Trek (00 62 361 283358; offers a 10-night itinerary sailing aboard the Katharina around the Lesser Sunda Islands, departing from and returning to Bali. From around £1,860 per person based on two sharing.

Kayaking Laos

Around 160km north of Vientiane, the town of Vang Vieng is the stopping off point for travellers heading overland from the Laotian capital to the Unesco World Heritage city of Luang Prabang. Vang Vieng is a small town with a big reputation for fun. During the wet season, adrenalin junkies head to the Nam Song river that runs alongside the town to ride the white water or bob downstream on inflatable inner tubes. But by far the most pleasurable way to enjoy this region is under your own steam by kayak, on which you can explore the limestone caves and coves. Get acquainted with your craft in the town then travel north to the Nam Ha National Park in
Luang Namtha, not far from the Chinese border. Paddling on the Nam Ha here is through thick, eerie forests that open out downriver into beautiful views and exciting rapids. Beyond the confluence with the Nam Tha is the Khmu village of Ban Hat Yawng. Here villagers will extend warm Laotian hospitality by putting you up for the night in one of their lodges and cooking you a typical meal, made with ingredients foraged from the forest, washed down with a few shots of the local lao lao rice spirit. The next day, paddle downstream to Ban Hat Nalaeng and the northern Thai border.

Laos 1 Ds7241 From  Buffalo  Tours  No Credit

Travel Details

Buffalo Tours (00 84 4 3828 0702; offers a 14-day Ultimate Laos Eco Adventure itinerary from Vientiane to Houay Xai and including Luang Prabang. It includes five days’ kayaking. From £1,420 per person (minimum two people).

Cycling Vietnam

Most people seem to travel on two wheels in Vietnam: this is a nation of 20 million motorbikes. But beyond the city smog and the put-put of scooter engines, Vietnam is also perfect for those travelling by peddle power. The moderately fit will find cycling from the legendary, bustling city of Saigon, along the coast to Hue, before hopping onboard the Reunification Express to Hanoi, spirit soaring. A preliminary, easy ride from Saigon to the Cù Chi tunnels, former living quarters of the Viet Kong guerrillas, will get you acquainted with your bicycle and set you up for life on two wheels. In the following days you’ll cover on average 70km per day, starting by heading north through rubber and fruit plantations towards the coast. Fishing villages signal the approach of the sea and a chance to relax and unwind with an ocean dip. The subsequent day follows an undulating trail uphill through tea plantations and pine forests to the mountain town of Dalat. Then it’s freewheeling downhill for 90km through paddy fields towards the South China Sea. Towns and temples disappear into the distance as the route turns north towards Hue, the cultural and historic capital of Vietnam. Marvel at the crumbling citadel and wonder at relics from the days when emperors ruled here, before loading your bike onboard the Reunification Express bound for Hanoi. From there, it’s just a few more hours in the saddle to your final destination, the majestic Halong Bay, for some welcome R&R.

Cyclist With Children Near  Hue  Credit  Exodus

Travel Details

Exodus (0845 863 9600; offers a 16-day
Cycling Vietnam tour starting and ending in London. The trip costs £1,669 per person including flights (excluding bicycle hire).

Surfing Bali

Think of Bali and tropical beaches, clear blue seas and relaxing spa treatments in a beachside cabana tend to spring to mind. But Bali is actually one of the best spots in the world to surf – especially for beginners. Anyone can sign up to catch a few waves along the famous, long, sandy strip of Kuta beach or at Seminyak beach, where waves are small and there is little undercurrent. After some land-based instruction, it’s into the water: you’ll start by trying to catch waves while lying down on your board, then progress on to your knees until you have enough confidence to stand up and surf. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being up on your board – until the next wipe out, that is! After lessons, see how the pros do it on Bali’s most famous wave beach, Uluwat. Or succumb and head to the spa: after all that paddling your aching arms will give you the perfect excuse. Refreshed, head inland to Ubud, the cultural heart of the island, to see the ancient Balinese buildings surrounded by paddies and lotus ponds. As the day ends, head to Tanah Lot on the west coast, to watch the sun set behind the rocky islet home of one of Bali’s most important sea temples.

Taal  Volcano Courtesy  Bamboo  Travel

Travel Details

A seven-day Bali Experience, including return flights from London, six nights’ accommodation, two days’ and three days of activities, such as snorkelling, visiting temples and taking a cooking lesson, costs from £2,090 per person based on two sharing,
with Black Tomato (020 7426 9888;

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