A year of travel thrills

We've been to the ends of the earth in search of the best getaways to suit your needs in 2005. From luxury pampering in barefoot tropical paradises to rugged adventure in snowy mountain landscapes, there's something for everyone. Enjoy!
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The Independent Travel

January - Camel safari in northern Kenya

January - Camel safari in northern Kenya

Rising at sunrise the sight that greeted us as we staggered blearily from our tent was magical: a line of camels with bright cloth saddles lying regally in the long, bleached grass, their Masai keepers beside them swathed in rich red robes. Forget the four-wheel-drive convoy through the Masai Mara; on a camel safari in Kenya's Northern Frontier District you leave the crowds behind, sleeping under the stars in traditional tents, riding and walking during the day while giraffe and zebra, curious, gallop beside you. And by the end of it, what you don't know about camels - from the length of their eyelashes to the fact that they cry real tears when one of the herd dies - isn't worth knowing. Lucy Gillmore

The luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent (0845 070 0611; www.abercrombiekent.co.uk) offers a five-night camel safari from Sabuk Lodge - overlooking the Laikipia Plateau and Ewaso Nyiro river in northern Kenya - from £2,000 per person including international flights, transfers, full-board accommodation and one night's stay in Nairobi

February - Ice skating in Canada

Forget the profusion of outdoor ice rinks that are springing up throughout the UK. The frozen surface of the Rideau Canal skateway provides visitors to Ottawa's Winterlude Festival (001 613 239 5000; www.winterlude.ca) with the world's longest ice-skating rink at a whopping 4.8 miles in length. The festival runs every weekend from 4 to 20 February. Sophie Lam

Travelbag (0870 900 1351; www.travelbag.co.uk) organises packages to Ottawa

March - Mountain climbing in Borneo

The island of Borneo was unaffected by December's disastrous earthquake in South-East Asia, and is likely to see an upsurge of tourists - particularly to the glorious beaches of the Malaysian province of Sabah. After a few days at sea level, you may feel like an invigorating climb - though, by the time you near the summit of Mount Kinabalu, "invigorating" may not be exactly the word you use. This formidable peak is the highest in South-East Asia, at 4,100m. Yet thousands of people of all ages climb it each year, and you need no specialist equipment (though after having made the ascent wearing sandals, I advise stout walking boots). The ascent begins through vegetation that is initially tropical but becomes steadily more Alpine. You stay overnight at the mountain rest-house of Laban Rata. Here, at around 3,200m, you can check in to a basic dormitory and acclimatise to the altitude. Set your alarm for 2am for the final stretch, where you will probably be in plenty of company. Prepare yourself mentally for one vertiginous stretch where you have to cling to a rope while inching along a ledge above a precipice. Soon you will be scrambling up a long, steep slope to the summit, racing to reach the top before sunrise. The sight of dawn sweeping across the land below will bring tears to your eyes. Simon Calder

Malaysia Airlines ( www.malaysiaairlines.com) flies daily from London Heathrow and four times a week from Manchester to Kuala Lumpur, from where there are frequent connections to Kota Kinabalu. Alternatively, fly on Royal Brunei ( www.bruneiair.com) from Heathrow to Bandar Seri Begawan and connect from there

April - Take a seaplane across Greece

"Forever changing the way the people of Greece live, work and play," promises AirSea Lines. This Corfu-based seaplane company plans to revolutionise Greek island-hopping in 2005, offering a network of services connecting the Ionian islands with the mainland, and south-eastern Italy. Fares will start at around £35. SC

For details see www.airsealines.com

May - Rock climbing in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Valley is one mile wide and seven long, hemmed in by cliffs 3,000 feet high. Towering over the valley is the monumental Half Dome, seemingly sliced down the middle. El Capitan, a giant monolith, soars 3,593ft above the valley floor, while Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in the United States. Yosemite National Park's landscape of superlatives - vast granite peaks and domes, thick forest and high meadows - was immortalised in the iconic black and white photography of Ansel Adams. Today, unsurprisingly, it is one of the premier rock-climbing destinations in the United States - and desperately crowded from June to August, which is why May, when the spring flowers are still in bloom, is the ideal month to go. The best climb: the Nose - the one that involves scaling the near vertical El Capitan. LG

Yosemite "Go Climb a Rock" Adventure Vacations (001 559 253 5670; www.yosemitepark.com) offers three-night packages costing US$477 (£251) per person including three nights full-board accommodation and two days instruction

June - Scale America's highest peak

Fly to Anchorage, Alaska, and aim for the one-horse town of Talkeetna. There may only be one horse, but it has more small aircraft per capita than anywhere in the US. The reason is partly the large number of lakeside holiday lodges serviced by private float-planes, but also all the climbers heading for Mount Denali (formerly known as McKinley) in Denali National Park, the highest mountain in North America at 20,320ft. To reach base camp you fly for 100 miles in a cramped Cessna (which has skis as well as wheels), across lakes and bear-infested forests, before skimming through a gap between the jagged teeth of rocky ridges and landing heavily on a glacier at the foot of Mount Denali. At first you approach on skis, dragging your supplies on a sledge. This is a very cold mountain with fearsome weather. But reach the top, and you'll join the select bunch who have conquered America's highest peak. Graham Hoyland

Jagged Globe Expeditions, 0114 276 3322; www.jaggedglobe.co.uk can organise trips to climb Mount Denali

July - Follow the Lions in New Zealand

New Zealand is about as far as you can go from Britain before you start coming back the other way - so it's a natural for visiting in the depths of the northern winter. This year, however, tens of thousands of sport-loving Brits will forsake the UK summer for a South Pacific winter, as they roar on the British Lions. Even if the Rugby is rubbish, you can take the Auckland Harbour Bridge climb - and bungy-jump to the bay below. SC

Quest (0870 444 5552; www.questtravel.com) can organise packages to New Zealand

August - Coasteering in West Wales

Imagine standing on top of a 25ft cliff edge, staring at the stunning coastal landscape of West Wales as you prepare for a heart-stopping drop into the shimmering turquoise waters of a lagoon beneath. You are quite literally thrown in the deep end when coasteering - an adrenaline-fuelled mix of extreme rock-pooling, scrambling, abseiling and cliff jumping that leaves you exhilarated as you roll around on the picturesque shores of Abereiddy beach in Pembrokeshire, where the adventure sport was invented. Dressed in wetsuits, lifejackets and crash helmets, you'll be taken through the "washing machine" - a coasteering term for the dramatic swells in watery culs-de-sac created by the strong water pressure around clusters of rocks. Submerged by spume one minute and spun by waves the next, it leaves you screaming like a delighted child. The course guides combine physical challenges with calmer moments of seal-spotting, traversing idyllic white beaches and swimming across deserted coves. Arifa Akbar

Adventure breaks can be organised through Wild West Wales (01792 360370; www.aswildasyouwantit.com). A two-night weekend break including two sessions of coasteering costs £139 with B&B accommodation

September - See Mickey Mouse in Hong Kong

Hong Kong's Kai Tak airport stood in the middle of Kowloon, and offered the most dramatic landing on earth - for both passengers and those on the ground - as Jumbos swerved past skyscrapers and touched down on a tongue of runway sticking out into the sea. The new airport, adjoining Lantau Island, is beautiful but just a little dull. But from 12 September, stopover passengers will be able to hop out of the terminal and into Disneyland Hong Kong for the sort of G-forces that airlines no longer provide. If you can stomach three turns on Space Mountain and still make your connecting flight, you deserve triple frequent-flyer miles. SC


October - Trek in a Himalayan kingdom

The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Sikkim in the remote north-east corner of India is scattered with more than 200 Buddhist monasteries, prayer flags fluttering raggedly in the breeze. With China looming to the north, this is a sensitive border area - you need a restricted entry permit to visit. Himalayan Kingdoms offers a trip to Sikkim, trekking through lush valleys planted with young green rice and exploring the higgledy-piggledy capital, Gangtok, before heading back over the Indian border to the hill town of Darjeeling. From here you embark on the Singalila Ridge Top Walk. For much of the year, flowers add a splash of colour to the snow-topped peaks, including Everest soaring in the distance. LG

Himalayan Kingdoms (01453 844400; www.himalayankingdoms.com) offers the 16-day Singalila Ridge Top Walk, departing 1 October, and costing £1,750 including international flights, all transfers, accommodation, most meals and six days trekking

November - Wildlife-watching in Venezuela

The Llanos is the untamed frontier territory of blistering plains and steamy swamps, eulogised by urban Venezuelans and regarded as the spiritual heartland of the country. Venezuela's cowboys, the llaneros, along with Argentina's gauchos, are the finest horsemen in South America. Covering an area that is 10 times the size of Belgium, and which stretches from the Orinoco Delta to the Andes, the Llanos is the African Rift Valley of South America and is prime wildlife-watching territory. During the dry season, from November to May, it's possible to see howler monkeys, capybara (the largest rodent in the world), anacondas, caiman, river dolphins and even big cats, as well as more species of birds than in the UK and US combined. Old cattle ranches, or hatos, offer Jeep, horseback and canoe wildlife safaris. LG

Journey Latin America (020-8747 8315, www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk), organises tailor-made holidays to Venezuela. An 11-night trip taking in Hato Pinero, the Orinoco Delta and Angel Falls starts at £1,889 per person. The price includes all flights, transfers, most meals and guided excursions

December - Go zip-wiring in Costa Rica

Zip-wiring is the Tarzan-esque technique that allows you to "fly" across the jungle canopy, zooming from one platform to another while strapped into a climber's harness for safety. This elevated experience allows visitors the opportunity to see wildlife that is rarely to be sighted from the forest floor, including howler monkeys and many extraordinary birds - and all while travelling at a velocity that some may find alarming. SL

South American Experience (020-7976 5511; www.southamericanexperience.co.uk) organises packages to Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica