Technically speaking, the Earth has no ends since it is round. Yet people like to talk about travelling to far-flung corners of the world, the further the better. This, perhaps, is our way of seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Rosalynn Tay, 54, photographer
Where: Kamchatka, Russia
Why: Kamchatka is said to be the last frontier, the land of bears and volcanoes. It is one of the few places left on Earth where nature remains almost intact, with pristine fish-spawning rivers and mountain lakes, infinite stretches of forests, unique thermal springs and active geysers, and sublime cones of active volcanoes. More than 300 snow-dusted volcanoes punctuate the rugged terrain, 29 of which are still active.
It was a military zone closed not only to the world but also to non-resident Russians until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990. The entire peninsula occupies about 472,300 sq km (the size of Germany, Austria and Switzerland combined) but has a population of only about 320,000 people, half of whom live in the capital, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatka.
How: I went in August 2015 as part of a photography tour. Kamchatka still remains relatively untouched by civilisation as you can get there only by helicopter.
The experience: August is the peak of the salmon-spawning season, during which the salmon swim upstream in their thousands to spawn in the rivers of their birth and die. This is also when the brown bears hunt and gorge themselves on the fish to gain enough fat to survive the harsh winters. Our primary goal was to see the numerous brown bears feasting during the annual salmon run. It was like National Geographic live.
The most memorable part was knowing that we were one with nature, in the wilderness. We were sleeping in tents and brown bears were roaming freely outside our tents at night.
The gains: Urbanites should venture into the world’s remote zones once in a while so we realise how tiny we are in the grand scheme of things. More importantly, it gives us the chance to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of nature.
Loi Yan Yi, 40, marketing director of Singapore Wine Vault
Where: Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Why: As I turn 40 this year, and as part of my continuing quest to see more new and exotic places.
How to get there: We went in September. I got Lightfoot Travel to plan the journey but gave input on some of the places I wanted to visit in Bolivia. Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat and looks amazing in pictures, and it has always been on my must-visit list. We landed in Lima, Peru, after taking a break in Los Angeles for a few days before making our way to Bolivia. We were up at 2am as our flight from Lima to La Paz was at 5.50 am. Having to deal with the lack of sleep and the high altitude in La Paz on our first day was definitely a challenge for me.
The experience: I did feel like I was at the end of the world, as the place was deserted and there was no Wi-Fi. Waking up early to catch the moment when the moon waned as the sun rose was pretty amazing. It was freezing cold but definitely unforgettable.
The gains: Going to remote destinations helps me to clear my mind, realign my thoughts and decompress. I need such a break at least once a year. It is a must especially for those who lead very intense and stressful lives.
Iroshini Chua, 41, doctor
Why: It was the seventh continent my husband and I wanted to visit and we understood it to be the last frontier.
How: We had never been on an ocean voyage, so we did extensive research on the type of vessel we should take and decided on One Ocean Expeditions Akedemik Ioffe, a Russian science vessel that allows tourist passengers on board during summer. We flew from Singapore via Johannesburg to Sao Paolo, and then on to Buenos Aires and embarked on our expedition ship in Ushuaia, which is also known as the end of the Earth.
The experience: Crossing the dreaded Drake Passage was less arduous than we imagined and we avoided two storms. There were like-minded travellers and world-renowned experts on the expedition ship, such whale researchers, photographers, naturalists and historians. That enriched our experience in an utterly remote and unfamiliar world of ice and rock. Our only form of communication with the outside world was via satellite and we felt like we were at the end of the world.
The gains: It’s very important to travel to the remote corners of the Earth as we don’t often see the impact that humans make on this planet. Seeing how our pristine planet and areas are being threatened with destruction will more likely spur us towards conservation in our daily lives.