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TNT's resident travel expert, Laura Lindsay from Lonely Planet, answers readers' travel questions

Q What’s the best time of year and place to snorkel and/or dive with whale sharks? It’s on my bucket list.

Mel, via email

A Whale sharks inhabit tropical waters across the world, but which areas they are found in will depend on the time of year.

The secret to finding whale sharks is to follow their food (plankton). Your best bet is to visit Ningaloo reef on the west coast of Australia, as the sharks migrate here for the spawning of coral, which creates a feast of plankton. The best time to spot these huge sharks feasting is from March to June.

From May to September in Mexico is also a good bet. In particular, you can find whale sharks in the area around Isla Holbox – your best chance of spotting them here is in July. Separated from the mainland coast of Mexico by a shallow lagoon, this island gives sanctuary to thousands of flamingos, pelicans and other creatures.

The most important thing to consider when planning your trip is that you take the tour with a responsible operator who considers the delicate marine environment. Responsible Travel (responsibletravel.com) offers a number of tours, including a day on Ningaloo reef for £241. This includes the use of a spotter plane to direct your boat to the creatures.

The Whale Shark Project (whalesharkproject.org) also has a number of useful resources, including a code of conduct for diving with these magnificent creatures.

Q My boyfriend and I would love to go to Malta for a week. As it’s only a small country, where do you recommend going and what do you recommend doing to experience the true vibe of the place?
Amira, via email

A Malta is a great week-long destination. I would recommend hiring a car to allow you to explore this small island with ease.

Start out in Valetta. Get your bearings by strolling around its ancient cobbled streets. It won’t take you long, as Valletta is tiny – only a kilometre long and 600 metres wide. Be sure to take a detour into the gorgeous interior of St. John’s Co-Cathedral, awash with gold brocade and colourful marble.

Next, check out the Grand Master’s Palace, which houses Malta’s parliament and is a great insight into the city’s history. In the evening, head to Valletta’s Waterfront where you‘ll find a great selection of restaurants and bars.

It is possible to visit Gozo – the small neighbouring island that is also part of Malta – as the ferry crossings are regular (approximately every hour during the day) and only take 25 minutes (gozochannel.com).

However, make sure you don’t spend so much time travelling that you miss out on a few relaxing days enjoying Malta’s glorious coastline. In just the small stretch of coast between Sliema and St Julian’s you’ll find a range of accommodation options, and a lively nightlife in the Paceville area of St Julian’s too.

Readers' tips

Advanced queue jumping 101

Top tip when travelling Ryanair. If faced with enormous, unruly queues at the bag drop (especially at Stansted, I’m sure we’ve all been there), join the shortest – doesn’t matter if it’s for your flight or not. More than likely the staff will check you in, give you a ticking off, and then order you to drop your bag at the overweight/ fragile baggage section, where there are hardly any queues. Et voila! You’ll get to your gate much more quickly.
Emma, via email

Salt flats survival guide

When you’re about to do the Bolivia salt flats tour, make sure you ask for an English-speaking guide. You’ll be stuck with a guide who speaks no English if you don’t specify, and it’s frustrating (not to mention boring!) seeing as you’re on the road for four days straight. It will cost extra, but is well worth it. And be sure to get to Tupiza a few days before you want to do the tour and book it in advance, because English-speaking guides are scarce.
Mike, via email


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Where to dive with whale sharks: travel advice
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