Destinations to go for Relaxation

Soak up the Caribbean sun away from the hurricane belt

It’s the Caribbean, but not as you know it. The ABC islands, as Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao are playfully known, sit just off the north coast of Venezuela. Although they’re geographically part of South America, they’ve been governed by, and been part of, the Netherlands since the early 17th century. June is the sweet spot between the high season (which also happens to be the rainy season) in the northern winter, and the slightly hotter summer months. Since the islands are outside the hurricane belt (unlike most of the other Caribbean islands), they’re a safe bet at this time of year, yet hotel rates are low and beaches less crowded.

And what beaches: from gorgeous Eagle Beach on Aruba, beloved of honeymooners, to the resorts of Curaçao’s southwest. Come to Aruba for nightlife, Bonaire for wonderful diving and snorkelling, and Curaçao for Dutch-influenced culture and cuisine, and to explore its colourful capital, Willemstad.

  • Trip plan: Direct flights from New York and Amsterdam serve Curaçao, Bonaire and Aruba, with flights from Miami to the first two.
  • Need to know: Corals spawn off Bonaire around September or October – a nocturnal spectacle for scuba divers.
  • Other months: Feb-Sep – consistently warm and dry; Oct-Jan – rainy season.

Dive and snorkel clear, warm, turquoise waters in Mozambique

Are these the most beautiful tropical islands on Earth? The Bazaruto Archipelago faces stiff competition from other Indian Ocean destinations (and Mozambique’s own Quirimbas Archipelago) – but wriggle your toes into the silky sand on a glorious June morning (the start of the dry season), or gaze through your mask at impossibly colourful reef fish, and maybe a humpback whale migrating past, and they could stake a fair claim.

Much of this chain of five islands off Mozambique’s southeastern coast is protected as a national park, conserving dolphins, dugongs, sea turtles and around 2000 fish species. Oh, and Nile crocodiles – but perhaps you’re not so keen to see those… This is a paradise for divers, but also for anyone seeking a truly barefoot beach holiday.

  • Trip plan: Several islands have airstrips, and access is usually by plane or helicopter, speedboat or dhow from the mainland port of Vilankulo. Day trips from Vilankulo are possible but most visitors arrive on a package to one of the luxury lodges with an upmarket tour operator, often incorporating South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
  • Need to know: Humpback whales migrate past the archipelago from June or July to September or October.
  • Other months: Jun-Oct – dry; Apr-Jun & Sep-Nov – best diving; Nov-Mar – rains build.

Soak in the sun and Mediterranean before the crowds hit Sardinia, Italy

Italy’s second-largest island is, fair to say, famed mostly for one key asset: beaches. Nowhere else is the Mediterranean such an incredible shade of jade-turquoise-azure, lined with such perfect white-sand beaches. Best known is Costa Smeralda, the archetypal millionaire’s playground, but there are plenty more for mere mortals to enjoy. And June’s the time to enjoy them, with fine, clear weather but before the hordes of high summer descend.

Which beach? South of capital Cagliari is Chia, with not one but five fine beaches; The Sinis Peninsula has good snorkelling and Greek ruins; Alghero has popular resorts; from Cala Gonone on the east coast boats depart for secluded beaches; and the Costa Rei further south is exquisitely beautiful. If you can stir from the sand, you’ll find great hiking in the Gennargentu Mountains, historic old town centres – Cagliari included – and 3000-year-old nuraghi dwellings to discover.

  • Trip plan: International airports at Cagliari, Alghero and Olbia all receive low-cost flights.
  • Need to know: Many facilities close for a siesta in the early afternoon, particularly outside the main tourist resorts.
  • Other months: May-Jun – clear days; Jul-Aug – high season; Apr & Sep-Oct – shoulder, lower prices; Nov-Feb – colder.

Relax in the tropical paradise of Bora Bora in its balmiest season

Blue, turquoise, azure, teal, indigo… there aren’t enough words to describe the hues of the Pacific Ocean around French Polynesia on a clear, calm, sunny day. And there are plenty of those in June, the start of the driest season, when the main island of Bora Bora and its motu (ringing islands) bask around the high 20°Cs.

This is the stuff of movies, with luxurious resorts perched over the crystal waters, shaded by swaying palms – and you need to be a film star to afford the prices at the very top hotels and resorts, though more modest accommodation can be found. As if the scenery wasn’t paradisiacal enough, the snorkelling and diving, over coral gardens and with sharks and rays, is spectacular.

Walk on the wild side with these animal encounters that invite you to get up close and personal with some of the planet’s most incredible wildlife.

Between silverback gorillas, whale sharks and manta rays, these adventures will see you rub shoulders with some of Mother Nature’s giants. Alternatively, downsize the creatures but scale-up the number, watching legions of baby turtles hatch in Borneo; or discover the whole cast of the Lion King with a walking safari on Zambia’s vast plains.

Dive with giants on Australia’s other barrier reef

Now’s the time to think Big. Visit Australia’s largest state (area: around one million sq miles; 2.5 million sq km) in June to swim with the world’s heftiest fish, the whale shark (length: up to 60ft; 18m) and manta rays (wing width: up to 18ft; 5.5m) as well as watching humpback whales (weight: up to 30 tonnes) on – OK – only Australia’s second-largest reef, Ningaloo.

Coral spawning from March prompts a zooplankton explosion, attracting the sharks until mid-August, while manta rays – present year-round at Coral Bay – tend to visit Exmouth May to November, and humpbacks migrate past June to November. The turquoise waters are beautifully clear for snorkelling and diving among dazzling reef fish, too.

  • Trip plan: Coral Bay and Exmouth are both good bases for visiting the reef. Learmonth airport near Exmouth is served by flights from Perth, an 800-mile (1300 km) drive away. For a road-trip, stop off en route at the Pinnacles Desert near Cervantes, craggy Kalbarri National Park and the ancient stromatolites of Shark Bay.
  • Need to know: No more than 10 people are allowed in the water with a whale shark, and must not approach closer than 10ft (3m).
  • Other months: Apr-Jul – moderate heat, whale sharks; Oct-Apr – summer, high 30s°C/90s°F; Aug-Sep – warm.

Explore jungles and see turtles hatching in Borneo’s dry season

For some of us, Borneo seems a long way to travel for a beach. But if that beach is liable to erupt with hatching turtles and is backed by wildlife-rich rainforest, in which former head-hunters live largely traditional lifestyles – well, then the long journey seems entirely worthwhile. That’s Borneo – or, more specifically, the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah, at their best in the (relatively) dry month of June, when turtles hatch and orangutans thrive on plentiful fruit.

Sarawak has the longhouse communities along the Batang (River) Rejang, the bat-thronged caves of Gunung Mulu National Park, the proboscis monkeys and enormous rafflesia flowers. Sabah has mighty Mt Kinabalu, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, fine diving and those turtle-nesting beaches. Both offer incredible wildlife and cultural experiences. And yes, both have beautiful stretches of sand on which to simply lie back and relax.

  • Trip planner: Fly to Kuching or Kota Kinabalu from Kuala Lumpur. There are regular flights between those two state capitals, and buses and boats serve other regional destinations.
  • Need to know: Some governments advise against travel to islands off the far eastern coast of Sabah. Check the latest advice before visiting those areas.
  • Other months: Apr-Sep – driest, but rain possible any time; Oct-Mar – wet, still hot.

See eye to eye with a silverback gorilla in Rwanda

That something so huge (a male gorilla can top 180kg) can be so vulnerable is hard to understand. Yet only 700 or so endangered mountain gorillas survive in two isolated subpopulations. June, the start of Rwanda’s dry season, is the time to venture to Volcanoes National Park to track one of its 10 habituated groups; prepare for muddy, steep trails, heady altitude (around 9850 ft; 3000m) and the heart-melting sight of a precious primate family.

A gorilla encounter is far from the only reason to come to Rwanda. The calm, neat capital, Kigali is a fine place to start, redolent with the aroma of Rwanda’s great coffee; Nyungwe Forest harbours large populations of chimpanzees and Rwenzori colobus monkeys, while to the east Akagera National Park is a pretty mix of savannah, hills and valleys, with giraffe, zebra, elephant and some shy lions.

  • Trip plan: Fly to the capital, Kigali. Independent travel is fairly straightforward, with a good minibus service, though it’s easiest to book a tour (including gorilla tracking) with an international operator.
  • Need to know: Book your gorilla-tracking permit (currently US$750) well in advance for this popular season.
  • Other months: Jun-Aug – driest season, gorilla-trekking easiest; Mar-May & Nov – heaviest rain; Sep-Oct & Dec-Feb – damp, possibly cheaper, better gorilla-permit availability.

Walk with the wild animals in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

The eyes of a lion give nothing away: not anger, not fear, not curiosity. That’s something you notice when you encounter this majestic carnivore without the protection of a vehicle – on foot in the birthplace of the walking safari: Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. June’s the ideal time to explore ‘the valley’ as it’s the start of the dry season, before vegetation has withered.

Amble alongside one of the continent’s finest guides, spotting elephants, giraffes, dazzling birdlife and, if you’re lucky, even wild dog. Seeing wildlife of any kind on foot is both electrifying and enlightening, bringing into focus not just the sights but also the sounds and smells of the bush. Leopards and various nocturnal species are often seen on night drives, too.