Rough Guide to Best Beach Holidays

Continuing on Five this week is the travel show that profiles some of the most exciting destinations in the world, offering authoritative, opinionated and inspirational travel advice. In this instalment, Toby journeys between Africa and the Caribbean to visit two very different beaches; and Julia dons her hiking boots for an adventure on the Cretan coast.

This week, Toby embarks on an epic journey to South Africa’s Elephant Coast. After a ten-hour flight to Johannesburg, he has two more hops to make in light aircraft before reaching his final destination – Thonga Bay Lodge. “You can tell you’re a long way from home when there are warthogs grazing by the runway,” he remarks. A travel-worn Toby is relieved to see that lodge owner Kevin is waiting to meet him when the plane touches down.

On arrival at Thonga Bay, Toby is impressed by the enormous scale and tranquil beauty of the coastline. As his second wind kicks in, Toby wants to take part in one of the resort’s activities and decides on a spot of whale watching. After 45 minutes of bobbing around in a small boat, he is treated to the stunning sight of a pod of majestic humpbacks.

After the peace and isolation of Thonga Bay, Toby is itching for some company to go with his dose of sun and sand, and Santa Maria Del Mar on Cuba’s northern coast promises to provide the perfect antidote. “There certainly seem to be all of the perfect beach components,” says Toby as he eyes up the blue waves, clear skies and beautiful people. After admiring the hustle and bustle of the beach from a catamaran, Toby is keen to head back to shore and mingle with the locals. “I do genuinely think this is one of the best beaches I’ve ever visited,” he says.

Meanwhile, Julia embarks on her own seaside adventure. A four-hour flight from the UK sees her touch down on Crete, the largest and southern- most of the Greek Islands. With its craggy cliffs and sandy coast, the island makes an ideal base for hiking. Shunning the popular northern beaches, Julia travels to the southwest of the island to the small village of Agia Roumeli, situated on the edge of the Samarian Gorge. Along with her guide, Julia takes on a section of the European walking route, the E4. Two hours of hiking in the hot sun brings the pair to a secluded bay that is home to the famous Agios Pavlos, a tiny 11th-century chapel built entirely of materials found on the beach. Before paying her respects at the church, Julia takes a moment to cool off in the crystal clear waters. “There is something very rewarding about walking to a beach like this – you’ve earned it,” she says.

To wrap up her Grecian experience, Julia treks 9km to the charming village of Loutro. From here, she drives to the ultimate in beach destinations – Ayiofarango. Also known as the ‘gorge of the saints’, the picturesque bay is nestled in a steep and rugged cliff. As Julia looks down at the virtually deserted stretch of sand below, her guide informs her that there is only one way to enjoy Ayiofarango’s pristine waters. “We’re going to abseil down,” says Julia. “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?”

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