August travel isn’t just about soaking up the northern hemisphere’s summer on a beach somewhere, although we admit that the lure of the Med is pretty strong.
For those of you thinking of something a little different, here are some suggestions. From whale watching on Australia’s west coast to encountering jaguars in the Brazilian wetlands, August offers a great chance to see nature at its best and an opportunity to do something completely different.
1. Explore the Botswanan Okavango Delta in a traditional mokoro
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, this promises to be a safari to remember. And the dry winter weather means mosquitos are almost non-existent.
2. 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.
3. 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 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.
4. Spot bison in the August rut in 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.
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