It’s that time of year again when students are receiving their A Level results and deciding what direction to go in next.

The resounding dilemma for many is whether to take a year off to work and travel, or to head straight into further education. This year, the number of students choosing gap years over attending university are expected to rise significantly. This is thanks to the sharp increase in university fees, adding extra pressure onto young people’s choices about where their future lies.

Gap years are a fantastic way to expand world knowledge and gain life experience. Based on the advice of five top travel companies, The Telegraph compiled this as the top ten list of 2012 gap year destinations. We thought we’d give you a quick visual tour of their selections!

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1. South Africa

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Top on the list this year is South Africa, which is particularly favoured among nature lovers. If you have an appetite for adventure, dive with sharks or go on safari to meet the wildlife that inhabit this beautiful country. If you are interested in giving up a few months to help the needs of others, consider lending your time to one of the development projects or orphanages in South Africa.

2. Australia

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A popular O.E. destination for English travellers is Australia, where you will find no shortage of surf beaches, hot red desert and bouncing kangaroos. Visit the likes of Ayers Rock or the Whitsundays for the truly stunning landscapes of Australia. Experience some of the best diving known to man in the Great Barrier Reef, home to scores of exotic fish and fascinating coral.

3. Thailand

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Thailand is on every backpacker’s hit list, for its bustling cities and heavenly islands. Ride elephants in the jungle, trek through the rainforest and visit a Buddhist Temple. For those looking for nightlife, Thailand won’t disappoint. Party into the early hours of the morning on the beach at the renowned full moon parties.

4. India

 Top 10 Gap Year Destinations for 2012

Be culturally flipped on your head in this fascinating country, which will offer an experience like nowhere else. Eat delicious street food, visit the iconic Taj Mahal or explore any of the mountainous regions if you’re looking for adventure. The colours and aromas of India will set your senses on fire!

5. Borneo

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Head off the beaten track to Borneo, for some of the best diving in the world and to experience the true meaning of a jungle trek! Wildlife tours, cycling and caving are also popular activities. If you are especially fond of animals, be sure to visit the rehabilitation centre for endangered orangutans.

6. New Zealand

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Nestled down under in the faraway corner of the earth is little New Zealand, the country made for adrenaline junkies. If you are into sky diving, bungee jumping, white water rafting, rock climbing or coasteering, then you will love New Zealand. In the winter months, the small town of Queenstown is packed with snow lovers working the season on the mountains.

7. Tanzania

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Tanzania is home to the highest mountain in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro, which is naturally its main attraction. But not to be forgotten or overlooked are other magnificent spots like Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Zanzibar.

8. Kenya

 Top 10 Gap Year Destinations for 2012

One of the most magical places to go on safari and see The Big Five – lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos – roaming the wild. Otherwise there is a bounty of national parks, coral reefs and mountains to explore. The outdoor opportunities are endless, and Kenya also has a great need for volunteers in its development organisations.

9. Cambodia

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Cambodia has a turbulent but inspiring history, but is making a comeback and tourism is higher than ever. Phnom Penh, the country’s capital, is a vibrant hub of activity where the locals will welcome you warmly. Be sure to visit the Angkor Wat, the temple that is a centrepiece in Cambodia’s cultural identity.

10. USA

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San Francisco, pictured above, is a favourite among travellers for its relaxed lifestyle and modern culture. New York City, Boston and Chicago are other big cities to lose yourself in. The Grand Canyon or the many US national parks are the country’s natural wonders. Working at a kids’ summer camp is a popular pastime for school leavers looking for an overseas adventure.

There you have it – a list of destinations that dreams are made of!

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