We are well into the Rugby World Cup, hosted for the first time in an Asian nation – Japan. This year’s event is set to be the most openly contested ever – so hard to pick the winner, with at least 6 countries laying plausible claim to the title. Japan’s historic win over one of the favourites, Ireland, has set the tournament alight, and made Scotland nervous.
This is an opportune time to feature some of the destinations that feature prominently in the Rugby World Cup, and outline how you can make a difference when you travel to them.
1. New Zealand
Current Cup holders, no rugby world cup list is complete without featuring New Zealand. When you go, go for as long as you can, as there is so much to see, and there are activities to suit all traveller types. From breathtaking hikes to sublime food and wine, jaw dropping heli-flights and fascinating cultural immersion, you will love it whichever way you approach it.
Make your trip to New Zealand meaningful by helping build predator-proof nest boxes for penguins. Rugby fans can make a donation to a mental health foundation and in return spend an evening with a World Cup winning All Black, who will regale you with tales and give you insights into what it means to be one of the All Black greats.
Runner’s up last time, Australia never fails to disappoint travellers, and the selection of luxury lodges keeps increasing. First timers may focus on Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru, whilst repeat visitors might consider amazing places like the Kimberleys, Kangaroo Island or Ningaloo Reef.
You can leave a legacy in Australia by assisting with wildlife survey counts in the Blue Mountains, or fund a scholarship for a promising Aboriginal arts student in return for having an exclusive encounter with an established Aboriginal artist from whom you can commission a piece.
3. South Africa
Their win in 1995 helped unite this nation ravaged by apartheid, and the mighty Springboks have gone on to win again in 2007. With red wines to rival the finest from Australia’s Barossa Valley, friendly locals and scenery comparing favourably with New Zealand, South Africa wins hands-down when it comes to wildlife safari.
You can give-back in South Africa by helping with sports coaching, renovating day care centers, or preparing meals for those less fortunate.
A very strong rugby nation who may cause a few surprises, and even be a big headache for England in the pool stages, Argentina is another country with striking diversity, thanks especially to its length, from chilly Patagonia to tropical Iguazu Falls…another superb wine producer too…notice a theme here?
Add another dimension to your time in Argentina by funding and helping build a classroom in the remote Salta region, or, head over to Chile, make a donation to the World Wildlife Fund for Puma conservation, and then track them in the wild.
The Azzuri play with flair, but with New Zealand and South Africa in their group, they won’t be getting to the knockout rounds, but don’t let that stop you visiting! Once again, combine great wine with tasty cuisine, diverse landscapes and that ephemeral “Italian way of life”…perhaps throw in a private visit to the Ferrari factory, drive some laps in a Maserati, take a cooking class with a Michelin starred chef, or enjoy an exclusive visit to the Sistine Chapel to enhance your trip even more.
And make your trip to Italy exceptional by spending a few days helping at a refugee center: preparing meals, helping write resumes, teaching English, or assisting with renovations.
Gold medal winners in the 7s, Fiji’s 15-a-side team probably won’t advance out of their pool group, but their remaining matches will be entertaining, and a trip there is one you will cherish: incredible beaches, locals who will dazzle you with their friendliness (and white teeth), amazing eco-luxury resorts and world-class diving…no great vineyards though.
Be enriched on a trip to Fiji by helping build a home for a family in need…you will gain insights into their lives, hear their stories, and make a huge difference by providing them with a decent place to live.
Christopher Hill is Founder and CEO at Hands Up Holidays. Hands Up Holidays is an award-winning travel company specialising in tailor-made luxury family trips that combine sightseeing with hands-on service projects.