Friday, January 6, 2012

I like a real holiday don’t you? To actually experience something rather than fantasizing about it while slumped over the desk at work or watching it on TV. You know, like seeing animals in their natural habitat on safari holidays or taking a walk along an actual real-life river. However, for some, it seems virtual holidays are the way forward.

The latest fad if you can’t actually make an event due to you not physically being present (living in another country or being at work for example) is to get the latest ‘app’ for your iPhone or whatever gadget you possess and experience it virtually. It’s like being there, no really I am assured it is.

It all started with the winter solstice at Stonehenge. Live in Scotland? No problem, absolutely no need to miss out. Scientists have created a special app for your iPhone enabling you to ‘virtually’ observe the solstice. It’ll be as good as actually being there, or so I’m promised.

Call me ignorant but when I first heard of an iPad I thought it was some inventive new cosmetic device and I’ve become increasingly confused with all this ‘i’ this and ‘i’ that talk. Like the luddite I am, I’ve decided on a firm stance against virtual holidaying, and am determined that 2012 will be the year I get out into the big wide world and experience as many different types of trip as I can, in person.

So, if you’ve grown bored of gazing longingly at other people’s photos on your iPad’s Facebook App, then maybe it’s time you packed in the virtual world and took a look at some of these amazing destinations in the flesh. If in your world, a penguin is nothing more than a well-known variety of chocolate biscuit, you could seriously benefit from a trip south. Extremely south, like the polar region.

Cruise the volcanic South Shetland Islands and the waterways of the Antarctic Peninsula taking frequent excursions to the ‘shore’ in inflatable boats. Visitors can stop off at Half Moon Island, so called due to its crescent shape. Here’s where you’ll experience real penguins alongside fur seals and blue-eyed shags (birds to you and me). Opportunities abound to see humpbacked whales too and don’t forget to visit Deception Island, a recently active volcano. Icebergs, glaciers, wildlife, this trip has it all. Make sure you visit at the right time of year for near permanent daylight – usually in winter.

If you prefer a slightly warmer climate to carry out your wildlife observations, take a trip to South Africa to enjoy a safari with a distance. Aldo Elephant National Park was set up in 1931 to rescue the country’s 11 remaining elephants from the poachers and today over 500 elephants can be found there, together with hyenas, black rhinos, antelope and zebra. Take a cable car ride up to Table Mountain, visit Iziko Planetarium, see ostriches in Oudsthoorn or taste wine in Stellenbosch. There is quite literally something to suit everyone’s tastes.

Star gazers will enjoy a trip to Sutherland and the Southern Africa Large Telescope (SALT). SALT is the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere and one of the five largest in the world. Famous for its cold winters with clear skies, Sutherland is an ideal place for all Brian Cox (or Sir Patrick Moore) fans, and visitors get the chance to see the night skies through two of its telescopes. Who knows, if you’re lucky there won’t be an iCloud in the sky!

Take the chance to get your life on a solid real footing before it’s too late. It doesn’t have to be a safari either. If you prefer to see the world on a set of wheels consider the array of cycling holidays on offer. Here’s a tip for the gadget addicts among you who like to keep your clothes in pristine condition too, they’ve invented a new device just for you. What do you mean you haven’t heard of it? It’s called an iRon!