August travel isn’t just about soaking up the northern hemisphere’s summer on a beach somewhere – as proven by our experts, who’ve dealt travellers a handful of wild-card recommendations this month.
From whale watching on Australia’s west coast to encountering jaguars in the Brazilian wetlands, August is a chance to see nature at its best. Alternatively, how about a spot of time travelling in Sweden?
Mokoro journeys in the Okavango Delta, Botswana
The waters of the Okavango River take months to reach their final resting place, the world’s most famous inland delta. Here the fresh waters from the Angolan highlands don’t flow into any sea or ocean, but instead evaporate in the African sun and sink into the sands of the Kalahari. But their demise brings great life to the Okavango Delta – flora erupts and iconic African animals migrate here in their thousands.
Although blue skies and pleasant temperatures dominate August, it is actually a month when waters in the delta are at their highest. This is incredibly beneficial on two fronts: wildlife abounds, and areas of the inner delta are accessible by mokoro (dugout canoe). When not being poled romantically through the myriad reed channels of this surreal environment in traditional watercraft, you can also venture further afield to reach epic wildlife sightings in modern powerboats. Either way, a safari to remember. And the dry winter weather means mosquitos are almost non-existent. Happy days.
Matt Phillips – Destination Editor for sub-Saharan Africa. Follow his tweets @Go2MattPhillips.
Whale watching in Western Australia
Seeing a whale breaching in the ocean is an unforgettable experience. An estimated 30,000 humpback whales migrate along the west coast of Australia each year, passing the Unesco-listed Ningaloo Reef en route. This August, visitors to Ningaloo will have the opportunity to swim with them as part of a new government-backed trial that could become permanent if it proves to be successful.
One of the country’s best-kept secrets, Ningaloo is a haven for all manner of marine life including dolphins, manta rays, turtles and dugongs. And the humpbacks are not the only gentle giants to frequent Australia’s largest fringing reef: it is also one of the best places in the world to swim with whale sharks.
Tasmin Waby – Destination Editor for Australia and Pacific. Follow her tweets @travellingtaz.
Medieval madness in Visby, Sweden
For seven days each year, this Unesco-listed port becomes a time warp during Medeltidsveckan (medeltidsveckan.se/en), the world’s largest festival celebrating the Middle Ages. Visitors flock to the cobbled streets inside Visby’s ancient town walls to marvel at the fiesta of jousting, banqueting and unashamed revelry, medieval style. With markets, crafts, re-enactments, music and storytelling, this is as close to time travel as it’s possible to get without a Tardis.
With over 500 events planned throughout the week, this year’s festival runs from 7-14 August and the organisers expect up to 40,000 visitors, so book early to be sure of securing a place to lay down your lute.
Gemma Graham – Destination Editor for Northern Europe. Follow her tweets @gglpde.
Jaguar spotting in Brazil’s Pantanal
This August, the world will set its sights on Brazil when the Olympics take place in Rio de Janeiro. Though the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City) will bask in the limelight, travellers headed to Brazil for the Games should consider a jaunt westward to the Pantanal, the country’s top destination for watching wildlife.
Located in the heart of South America, the Pantanal is the largest floodplain in the world and its vast, open wetlands are home to an immense variety of flora and fauna. When the waters recede during the dry season, it’s possible to probe deeper into the wilderness and August is the prime time to see animals in their natural habitats – particularly the elusive jaguar, which is easier to spot against the vivid green grasses that spring up from the muddy banks of the marshes at this time of year.
MaSovaida Morgan – Destination Editor for South America. Follow her tweets @MaSovaida.
Spot bison in the August rut, Yellowstone Park, USA
Witnessing the rut (mating season) across America’s national parks is not just a memorable visual experience – it’s auditory too.
In Yellowstone National Park in August, herds of bulls gather to compete for females. They use aggressive sounds and behaviour to assert their dominance and ‘courtship postures’ to secure a mate. The guttural roars of the rut resonate across Hayden Valley and are said to be audible nearly three miles away. If you park close to a herd and switch off your engine, you’ll hear all sorts of ungodly sounds, from snorts and grunts to angry roars and ground-shaking bellows.
Bulls also wallow to lay down their scent or displace aggression. Watching a majestic bison pitch side to side, all four feet in the air, is a sight quite unlike any other. You may also spot bison running for short distances. Despite its bulk, America’s largest land mammal can reach speeds of 35mph!