January blues are best blasted with fantasies of basking in an exotic destination, and new BBC Two three-parter Earth’s Tropical Islands promises scenes to stimulate those dreams.
Separated from continents thousands of years ago, these isolated lands create unique habitats for some of the planet’s most fascinating wildlife. Plan your own encounter with these trips inspired by the series.
Formed nearly 90 million years ago, this land mass off the east coast of South Africa is considered to be the oldest island in the world and some of it’s curious inhabitants are found nowhere else on the planet.
The most charismatic of all creatures is the lemur, a snouty-nosed strepsirrhine primate endemic to Madagascar. There are 101 species and subspecies – all weird and wonderful in their own way. As big as a five-year-old child, indri lemurs spring through the canopy of Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, emitting a ghostly wail; in Berenty Reserve, comedic Verraux’s sifakas dance with a distinctive sideways hop; and in Ranomafana, irresistibly cute grey bamboo lemurs stare timidly from the undergrowth with cartoonish eyes.
Sadly, as little as 20% of the island’s original forest remains, a tragedy documented by the series, and 95% of lemurs are now threatened with extinction. But a ray of hope comes in the form of the greater bamboo lemur, saved from the brink of extinction.
Other animal highlights include a clutch of colourful chameleons, the unfathomably bizarre giraffe-necked weevil, and hawksbill turtles nesting on islands such as Nosy Iranja.
How to do it: Rainbow Tours (rainbowtours.co.uk; 020 8131 0355) offers a tailor-made 12-day Madagascar Reef & Rainforest tour from £3,320pp, including flights.
Displaying uncanny human characteristics, orangutans capture the hearts of many who visit their homeland, an island in Southeast Asia, divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. But there’s another primate here deserving attention: the pot-bellied, long-nosed proboscis monkey. Both species can be seen in the wild, with a bit of effort. Sightings are guaranteed at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Project and Labuk Bay Sanctuary, both in Malaysian-governed Sabah.
Twice the size of the British Isles, the world’s third-largest island has fostered a habitat for more than 60,000 species of plants and animals in the last 10,000 years. But industrial logging is threatening their future, with half of the ancient forests already destroyed.
How to do it: Exodus (exodus.co.uk; 020 8772 3936) offers a 13-day Borneo Wildlife Family Holiday escorted tour from £2,449 per adult (save 25% for each child), including flights. Suitable for ages nine and above. Various departures in April, July, August and September.
Each of Hawaii’s islands began as volcanic eruptions which solidified over millions of years into vast masses of new land. Humans are so often the cause of disruption to nature, but in the world’s most remote island chain, nature-loving communities have been responsible for safeguarding their animal neighbours. Thanks to their efforts, white terns have risen in number from a single pair to more than 2,000 birds in the last 60 years.
A Humpback National Marine Sanctuary has been set up to protect dolphins and whales, and the series features footage of the humpback whale heat run – the biggest courtship battle in the world.
On land, lava fields and jungles dominate many of the eight major islands, where oddball characters include a waterfall-climbing fish and the carnivorous caterpillar.
How to do it: Discover The World (discover-the-world.com; 01737 886 216) offers a seven-night Cruise The Hawaiian Islands small ship cruise from £4,465pp, excluding flights. Departures from Jan–May and Nov–Dec.
Earth’s Tropical Islands airs on BBC Two from January 1-3 at 9pm.