While I may not be the most adventurous person at home, when I travel I become a veritable daredevil. I’m lucky, I’ve had some incredible adventure travel experiences around the world; from scaling a volcano in St. Kitts to rolling around in a human hamster ball in New Zealand. When I look back though, there are some experiences that were better than others, but of course the list is always changing. (Due to some persnickety people, I find it necessary to add that these are in no particular order of preference or coolness)
1. Black Water Tubing – Waitomo, on New Zealand’s North Island, is known mostly for its glowworms. This is one of the few places in the world where they exist and millions of visitors descend onto the village every year to walk through the dark caves and see the sparkly insects in person. For those looking for a more adventurous way to see the natural wonder, there’s nothing better than black water tubing through the underground cave system. Although I visited in the winter when the water was freezing, the adrenalin and the wet suit kept me going as I spent two hours tubing along streams and rapids with the only light provided by my headlamp and some bioluminescent larvae. The adventure wasn’t a lazy river by any means, the water was rough at times and more than once I found myself jumping backwards off of small waterfalls. But it was fun – a lot of fun. We actually did get our lazy river at the end when the water calmed and we could all lounge back in the tubes and watch the millions of glowworms sparkle overhead like a biological universe of stars.
2. Flying over Victoria Falls Gorge – I’ve zip lined in several places around the world and I’ve become somewhat blasé about the experience. So when I found myself in the office of an adventure tour company in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, I knew I had to try something different. I didn’t opt for something more dangerous or scary necessarily, just different. The Flying Fox is a straightaway line that leads out over the massive Victoria Falls Gorge. After I strapped into the harness, the instructor told me to run and jump off the edge of the cliff. Easy in theory, hard in practice. That last moment as I was running and about to leap out over the canyon was terrifying, but before I knew it I was flying across at record speed, the closest thing to feeling like a bird I’ve experienced. The flight only lasted a few seconds, but that feeling of freedom as the adrenalin pumped through my body was as exhilarating as anything I’ve ever done.
3. Climbing Sydney Harbor Bridge – I’m not a big fan of heights, which is why I try to battle those fears when I travel. One of the best ways of combating this fear forever was when I walked across Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia. The bridge is an iconic emblem of Sydney and the climb has become one of the most sought after experiences in the city. Locals and tourists alike flock to the climb for a once-in-a-lifetime hike and certainly once-in-a-lifetime views. Turns out the experience really isn’t that scary. Everyone is secured by a lead line to the bridge and dare I say it’s nearly impossible for any harm to befall a climber. It takes a few hours, but the walk isn’t too strenuous and the views are worth any amount of effort. From the top of the bridge I could see everything on the bright and clear late winter morning. The drivers in the cars far below had no idea I was up there and I felt like an urban voyeur on a massive scale. Although it’s an expensive climb, it’s something everyone should do at least once in his or her lives.
4. Ice Hike – Alberta, Canada is an all-seasons destination thanks to an abundance of rugged beauty. In the winter months though skiing seems to take center stage, which is a shame since there are so many other great adventure activities in the region. One of my favorites was an ice hike through the frozen Johnston Canyon. The canyon area in particular is very popular in the summer with cottages lining the riverbanks and nearby waterfalls. In the winter though it transforms into a silent, icy wonderland. Attaching grampons to our shoes, we followed the guide along snowy paths and icy trails, stopping to observe waterfalls frozen in time. We paused in front of the final set of waterfalls, massive and powerful beasts of nature paused in mid-action for months on end. Ice climbers scaled the walls nearby, and someone poured hot chocolate into a cup for me to enjoy. Even though it was cold, this adventure walk is something I’ll never forget.
5. Great White Shark Dive – This has to be one of the greatest adventure travel activities in the world, and something I never thought I’d actually do. The small town of Gansbaai, about an hour and a half from Cape Town, South Africa, is the Great White Shark capital of the world. Every winter scores of these ocean giants descend on the small channel between Dyer Island and Geyser Rock known simply as Shark Alley. Thousands of tourists follow the sharks every year for what has become one of the most popular tourist activities in South Africa, cage diving with the Great Whites. The experience of climbing into the chilly waters with nothing in between you and the apex predators of the sea is daunting but exciting. Watching first hand these majestic animals swim and chase after bait is a privilege and it, hopefully, instills in each guest the need for shark conservation and protection. Definitely not an activity for everyone, it is regardless one of the best adventure travel activities I’ve ever experienced.
These are just a few of my favorite adventure travel activities – what are yours?