KAYAK in HALONG BAY
Sail into Vietnam’s rugged hinterland of mountain villages and tribal areas along the country’s Red River, with Pandaw Expeditions (020 8326 5620/pandaw.com).
The river cruise specialist claims to be the only company offering sailings between the village of Hoa Binh, home to the Muong ethnic people, and beautiful Ha Long Bay on the coast, famous for its collection of jagged limestone karsts.
These are best explored by kayaks or fisherman’s basket boats that sail into the sparkling grottoes and tucked-away tiny islets that give this Unesco-protected region a magical aura.
Village stops along the river inject added interest with water puppet shows and traditional unicorn and lion dances performed by locals.
Souvenir hunters can snap up the region’s famous conical hats at Gia Thanh, the village where they are made, while in the French colonial city of Hanoi don’t miss the imposing mausoleum of President Ho Chi Minh or the Temple of Literature, dating from 1070; a well-preserved example of traditional Vietnamese architecture.
Finished in teak and brass, the Angkor Pandaw is big on rustic charm.
The ambience on the 32-passenger riverboat resembles that of a floating house party with its air-conditioned dining room and communal open-air lounge, the setting for cultural performances and informative talks.
The cuisine is varied and complemented by fresh bread baked daily onboard.
● Ten nights from £2,360pp (two sharing), full board. No single supplement on selected dates. Price includes drinks, gratuities and transfers based on 1 March 2020 departure from Halong Bay. Flights from £700pp.
ICELAND’S A HOT CHOICE
Explore Iceland’s tempestuous landscape from all angles with French line Ponant (0808 234 3802/en.ponant.com) on an exciting voyage to this rugged Land of Fire and Ice.
Steaming lava fields, explosive geysers and vast skies make up a glorious display of nature at its most untamed against a backdrop of snow-covered mountains and deep fjords that can be seen at the likes of Isafjordur, and Akureyri, which is known for its brightly-coloured houses.
The route also takes you to Grimsey, the country’s northernmost island – the Arctic Circle runs through it – which is home to guillemots and comical Atlantic puffins.
The capital, Reykjavik, where this sailing ends with an overnight stop, is a quirky hub of cultural high points with museums and art galleries, though only a short drive away is arguably its most famous draw, the bubbling geothermalwaters of the Blue Lagoon. Le Champlain is Ponant’s newest sleek expeditionary ship. It boasts the unique Blue Eye, billed as the “first multi-sensory underwater lounge”, where passengers can watch passing sea life through underwater portholes and even hear ocean sounds through hydrophones.
They can also explore in five-star comfort as this 184-passenger mega-yacht has a pool, theatre and spa.
● Seven nights from £3,423pp (two sharing) full board. Price includes drinks, but not flights. Departs Reykjavik August 5, 2020.
EXPLORE HIDDEN CROATIA
Croatia’s enchanting medieval towns and tiny coves of crystal clear waters tucked into the coastline are waiting to be discovered on this voyage with Intrepid Travel (0808 274 5111/intrepidtravel.com).
Serene swimming stops in deserted coves and lazy beach barbecues on golden sands are hallmarks of this sailing, while kayaking through the Kornati National Park reveals a nautical treasure chest where waters are dotted with nearly 100 islands.
The Plitvice Lakes National Park is another watery wonderland with emerald pools and tumbling waterfalls best viewed on hikes along its network of paths, while historic Zadar (above) combines the best of ancient and modern with centuries-old buildings and its unique sea organ whose distinctive notes are triggered by the waves.
The Croatian coast is noted for hamlets of Romanesque and Renaissance buildings that include beautiful Trogir, best explored on a walking tour, and Sibenik, where guests can enjoy a typical Dalmatian lunch before the sailing finishes with an overnight stop in Split.
The 31-passenger Peregrine Dalmatia was specifically designed to sail the Dalmatian coast and its large windows and spacious deck areas ensure great views.
The motor yacht’s compact size means it can anchor in smaller ports and bays away from the crowds, giving a more authentic taste of this intoxicating region.
● Seven nights from £1,755pp (two sharing). Price includes breakfast daily and most other meals, tours and activities. Flights extra. Departs Split on July 20 and October 5.
AMAZON RAINFOREST ADVENTURE
Discover your inner Bear Grylls and plunge into jungle life with pink river dolphins, chattering monkeys and colourful toucans for company on this Amazon cruise with G Adventures (0344 2722060/gadventures.co.uk).
Jungle walks and rainforest hikes along the Peruvian stretch of this mighty river take intrepid types to spot exotic wildlife that includes flocks of brightly-coloured macaws, caimans and sloths.
After-dark boat rides into the rainforest on small skiffs open up a different world where the guides’ flashlights help to illuminate bats, poison frogs and, in some cases, even the glowing yellow eyes of a jaguar.
Guests can learn about the medicinal qualities of tropical plants found here and walk by the Ucayali River to see the gigantic Victoria regia water lilies that grow up to 10ft in diameter.
You get to meet the locals too, dining with a family in their own home, and taking a fascinating visit to a tribal Shaman healer.
The classic wooden Amazonian riverboat La Amatista is described as one of the few such traditional vessels still cruising this stretch of the river.
Its rustic feel is complemented by mod-cons like air-conditioning in the cabins, though the upper deck with its full-service bar gives an ideal vantage point from which to admire tropical surroundings.
● Six nights, including two overnight stays in Lima pre and post-cruise and the four-night round-trip sailing from Nauta from £1,279pp (two sharing), full board. Price includes return flight from Lima to Iquitos, excursions and activities. International flights extra. Departs Lima June 17, July 15 and 29 and August 26.
SPOT WHALES IN THE PACIFIC
Seattle may be known as a jumping-off point to explore Alaska but on its doorstep is a lesser-known wilderness filled with sleepy outposts called the San Juan Islands.
This voyage through the Pacific Northwest with UnCruise Adventures takes passengers on an exploration through Puget Sound and beyond, off the coast of Washington State to the dreamy rural settlements that give this area the feeling of old-style America.
There are plentiful opportunities to spot whales, seals and eagles on kayak and paddleboarding jaunts and skiff trips through the fjords, while trails through the temperate rainforest take hikers up Mount Constitution, the islands’ highest peak, offering fabulous views of the archipelago, or through the Olympic National Park.
Keep an eye out for the packs of orcas that roam these waters as you cruise through the Salish Sea, and step ashore in the charming community of Eastsound.
The compact size of the 22-passenger boutique yacht Safari Quest is the key to its success as it can delve into the nooks and crannies of the islands.
The on-deck hot tub is the perfect vantage point for soaking up the views, though more active types can make use of the onboard kayaks and paddleboards.
● Seven nights from £3,245pp (two sharing) full board. Price includes drinks, transfers, national park entry fees and all adventure activities but not port taxes and gratuities. Seattle flights extra. Among tour operators offering this trip are America As You Like It (020 8742 8299/americaasyoulikeit.com and Bon Voyage (0800 316 0194/bon-voyage.co.uk).
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