Get Lost: The World’s Best Natural Escapes

Although it might not seem so when standing in the center of any large city, but there are still some wild places to get lost around the globe. Whether you’re hiking through a sea of sand in Namibia or on an expedition in Antarctica, exploring the Guyanese Amazon by boat or marveling at the baobabs in Madagascar, these are the best places in the world to just get lost in the natural world.

141 Fourth Street Campbelleville, Georgetown Guyana, South America, Guyana
Whether you’re interested in one day or two weeks, Wilderness Explorers makes getting around Guyana easy. Offering a number of hand-crafted itineraries to fit all budgets and adventure/fitness levels, they offer everything from a day trip to Kaieteur Falls to a 16-day Amerindian Guyana journey that introduces you to the rich culture and pristine environment of South America’s only English-speaking country. They also do a few excellent weeklong trips that allow you to experience the best of the country’s rivers and rain forests. Finally, there are specialized trips by interest, from birding to looking for the elusive jaguar. The lack of roads and non-charter flights makes Guyana hard to visit without the aid of a tour company. What I loved most about Wilderness Explorers was the personalized service and incredibly professional and knowledgeable guides. They know the natural surroundings and the culture of Guyana intimately. Don’t expect a posh, air-con and Wi-Fi experience, though. Guyana is still quite primitive from a lodging perspective. Expect simple, thatched-roof huts, fans, and mosquito nets. Travel will be by powered canoe, overland truck, or tiny airplane, and the focus is on adventure, not Instagram. You can be sure that you’ll get your feet and clothes dirty along the way. That said, you’ll depart with once-in-a-lifetime memories, amazing cultural experiences, and the opportunity to see the world’s last remaining pristine track of Amazon rain forest.
RT 8, Morondava 619, Madagascar
Baobab trees, which grow up to 100 feet tall and 30 feet wide, carry a prehistoric grandeur worthy of their title as Madagascar’s national tree. Of the six ancient baobab species native to the African island, only the largest, the Adansonia grandidieri, lines the Avenue of the Baobabs on Madagascar’s west coast. Along this quarter-mile stretch of unpaved road, the trees awaken during the dry season. From June through August, at sunset you can watch as the baobabs’ brown buds open to reveal white flowers bursting with stamen. Within 24 hours, bats—drawn to the flowers’ musky scent—collect sweet nectar, then the blossoms fall to the ground. In September, when prime birding season begins, those with binoculars can catch a glimpse of yellow-plumed Sakalava weavers constructing hivelike nests in the trees’ lofty branches. Or, wander over to one of the baobabs just off the avenue and climb the peg ladders built by locals for your own bird’s-eye view. Geographic Expeditions offers customized tours of Madagascar that include sunrise or sunset visits to the Avenue of the Baobabs. From $700 per person per day. (888) 570-7108. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image: Pascal Maitre
Milford Track, Fiordland National Park 9679, New Zealand
One of the greatest walks in New Zealand, the Milford track is just over 50 kilometers and leads into the famous Milford Sound. Considered one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand, the Milford Track is categorized as one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks,” prompting many people from near and far to come hike the 5 day circuit. Giant waterfalls crash down from vertical cliffs, and mist usually hangs about the tops of the peaks creating a mysterious, almost legendary feel to the place. Whether you are hiking the track or cruising in a boat around the fiords, or even kayaking the Milford Sound, definitely don’t skip this remote part of New Zealand on a visit.
Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea
When I told friends I was going to Papua New Guinea eyebrows were raised; when I mentioned I was staying with a Highlands tribe, jaws dropped. I flew into Tari, a small dusty town with a small dusty airstrip and there I got my first sight of the Huli wigmen. The tribe’s Fortune Teller, traditionally dressed with “arse grass” covering his behind, an ornamental wig made of his own hair, and a cassowary quill through his nose, was in complete contrast to the plane that he’d come to meet. The following day I began my time with the tribe itself and was lucky enough to meet this Wigman preparing for a sing sing – a traditional celebratory dance. I sat down beside him as he prepared his face: an ‘undercoat’ of oily white, then a clay ochre base and finally earthly red highlights. Using hand signals he demonstrated what he was going to do next, before picking up a broken mirror and carefully applying the final strokes. He may not have fully realised how brilliant he looked in the afternoon Sun, but for me, watching him go through this ritual was more inspiring than the dance itself.
You’ll explore the Knoydart Peninsula’s mountain passes and Small Isles on this 42-mile, eight- day guided hike, which includes sampling some of Scotland’s finest cuisine at a boat-in lodge. From $1,796. This appeared in the March/April issue 2014 issue.
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