Great Smoky Mountains, USA
The Smokies are truly on fire in May. This spectacular subrange of the Appalachian chain, on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, is home to huge numbers of Photinus carolinus (synchronous fireflies) and May to June is typically when they put on their magical en-masse mating display: a forest full of males flashing in unison. This natural wonder is the icing on the cake of a springtime road trip through the mountains. The USA’s most popular national park is quieter at this time. Take scenic drives via its misty ridges, hike wildflower-flush trails, look out for the diverse wildlife – from groundhogs and chipmunks to salamanders and black bears – and soak up the strong Southern Appalachian culture: log cabins, mills and churches built by early settlers have been preserved here.
They call the waters off Newfoundland and Labrador “Iceberg Alley.” In spring, great hunks of Arctic ice – mostly cast-offs from the glaciers of western Greenland – float down the Atlantic coast past Canada’s easternmost province. They usually arrive in April and May, peaking from mid-May to June. You can stand onshore and watch these white titans drift by or board a boat for a closer look. Good spots include St Anthony, Twillingate, Bonavista and St John’s/Cape Spear. Seabirds also start to show up in May, while by the end of the month the first whales appear.
Even in a country as sparse as Namibia – the second-least-populated place on earth – Damaraland stands out as especially empty. Sprawling across north-central Namibia, it’s a wilderness of craggy mountains, dry riverbeds and desert-adapted animals, including elephants, rhinos and lions. May, when days are warm and dry and the landscape is still tinged green, is a great time to seek out these species as they gather around waterholes. Better still, the country is a pioneer in community-driven ecotourism, with large areas run as communal conservancies that empower local people.