10 Brilliant Outdoor Adventures
There’s a certain pleasure that comes from seeing new places, but the experience of observing pales in comparison to actually doing. Quite apart from getting your daily dose of exercise, true adventuring challenges your comfort boundaries and pushes you to embrace the thrill of the unknown.
An adventure doesn’t have to be an adrenaline-fueled leap with a bungee cord or require skydiving in the nude. It can be the simple thrill of encountering an exotic animal face-to-face or the reward that comes from climbing to great heights and surveying all that lies beneath.
We’ve assembled a few inspiring ideas from around the globe, and among them, we hope you will find something to engage the spirit, raise your pulse, and leave you counting the days to your next great adventure.
Downhill Mountain Biking (Alaska/France)
There’s a very long hill that winds from Skagway, Alaska to the Canadian border. A bus will take you and your bike to the top, and you can coast back to town along a 14-mile downhill stretch of the famed Klondike Highway. You’ll get some spectacular views of the Sawtooth Mountains and Skagway River Gorge, and be back in time for a beer at the historic Red Onion Saloon.
If you think that’s fun, try it with a mountain bike in Europe. The French Alps are riddled with bike trails and many ski resorts use their chairlifts in summer to ferry riders to the top of the mountain. There are trails for every level of experience, from gentle slopes to truly challenging (and downright scary) vertical drops.
Tramping the Milford (New Zealand)
New Zealand’s Fiordland is tucked away at the bottom of the South Island, and within it lies Milford Sound, a seven-and-a-half-mile long inlet of the Tasman Sea. Almost 15,000 visitors a year get there by taking the Milford Track, a 33-mile hike through a spectacularly beautiful glacial landscape. It takes about four days to walk the route and only 90 people are allowed to set off each day. About half go on a guided tour which includes huts with hot showers, while the others are on their own and can stay in three public shelters along the way.
You can also drive to Milford Sound and enjoy some spectacular kayaking and diving once you get there. The waters of the sound are home to stingrays, sharks, dolphins, octopus, seals, eels, and over 150 species of fish.
Microlight Flight Over Victoria Falls (Zambia)
If you’re ever in Zambia, this is something you have to try.
A microlight is a lightweight, fixed-wing one or two seater aircraft. Many look a little like a tricycle suspended beneath an airplane wing, while others resemble a motorized hang glider. They are becoming increasingly popular as a way for visitors to get a bird’s eye view of the countryside, and see natural wonders that can’t be truly appreciated at ground level. They tend to fly three or four hundred feet in the air, with an experienced pilot along for the ride.
The Flight of Angels is a fifteen-minute adrenaline rush that takes you up the Zambezi River and over Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Your heart will be in your throat for most of the trip, but the memory of your view from above will last a lifetime.
Mush with the Huskies (Scandinavia)
Finland, Norway and Sweden all offer dog sled adventures which take you to the very heart of the frozen wilderness. You get a sled, four or five eager dogs, and days of pristine scenery in Scandinavia’s vast backyard. Sweden’s Lapland lies inside the Arctic Circle and provides an unparalleled view of the northern lights. Norway provides dogsledding on the Svalbard archipelago and Finnish outfitters will take you to the Taiga forest on the border with Russia.
Learning to work with the huskies and gaining their trust is incredibly rewarding. It’s a unique opportunity to be humbled by these highly intelligent, loyal and hard-working animals as they run for miles under the arctic winter sun. And as you emerge from your cabin each morning, you’ll find them panting at the door, ready to do it all over again.
Bobsled Down the World’s Fastest Track (Canada)
When the Winter Olympics packed up in 2010, the Canadian town of Whistler in British Columbia was left with a world-class bobsleigh track reputed to be the fastest in the world. The Whistler Sliding Centre now offers members of the public a chance to experience 4G forces at speeds of up to 125 km an hour.
After going through the safety procedures with a trained bobsleigh pilot, teams of four are let loose to fly around 10 curves towards the final Thunderbird Corner near the finish line. It’s not cheap, but “Thunder on Ice” is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that few get to savour.
Experience the World as it Was in the Galapagos Islands (Equador)
The islands that make up the Galapagos archipelago are entirely unspoiled. In fact, this part of Ecuador is one of the most protected environments in the world. Only five of the 18 main islands are populated and the tourist trade is now closely regulated.
Charles Darwin first came to islands aboard the Beagle in 1835, and his subsequent observations were integral to his theory of evolution. Today, you can visit the islands and see them much as they would have appeared to Darwin almost 200 years ago, filled with species of birds and animals that are not to be found anywhere else on earth.
Commune with the Elephants (Thailand)
Riding elephants through the Thai or Chinese jungles seems like a great adventure until you learn what the tour operators have to do to break the animals for the tourist industry. If you really want to get to know these majestic beasts, spend a day at the Elephant Nature Park in Northern Thailand’s Chiang May. That’s where rescued elephants are rehabilitated and allowed to engage in normal elephant behavior (which involves a lot of eating and rolling in the mud). You can help bathe, feed, and commune with the elephants throughout the day, and might want to volunteer to stay on for a few more to assist with their care. After spending some time at the nature park, your desire to ride an elephant will be well and truly dead and you’ll have a much more interesting story to tell when you get home.
Bridge Climbing Down-Under (Australia)
It’s not just an Aussie/Kiwi thing, but climbing bridges seems to be a very popular pastime in the antipodes. Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge takes about 3.5 hours and provides a fantastic view of the harbor, opera house, and even the distant Blue Mountains. You can do it during the day, at night, or at sunset to watch the lights come on over the city.
Climbing the Brisbane Story Bridge takes a little less time, and provides an unbroken panoramic view of Moreton Bay and the Glass House Mountains which signal the beginning of Australia’s fabled Sunshine Coast. Not to be outdone, the New Zealanders are in on the action with a climb of the Auckland Harbour Bridge. It’s the easiest climb of the three, but the view from the top is no less spectacular.
Volcanic Sandboarding (Nicaragua)
The Cerro Negro Volcano is a short drive from Managua on Nicaragua’s west coast. The “black hill” is one of the youngest volcanos in Central America and is covered with a gravel-like volcanic sand. It’s only about a mile from the base to the summit, but the climb is a steep one and requires a moderate level of fitness. The view from the top makes the trip worth the effort, but that’s not the best part. Coming down is a blast.
You’ll be provided with a sandboard, some brief instructions, and a quick push in the back. You can surf your way down by standing up, or sled to the bottom on black sand instead of snow. Either way, the ride is a thrill and barrelling down the side of a volcano isn’t something you get to do every day.
Swim with the Sharks (Hawaii)
Oahu is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands and home to over two-thirds of the State’s population. If lounging on Waikiki beach isn’t your thing, head to the north shore to visit the sharks.
On the way out the shark grounds, you’re bound to spot pods of dolphins and if you’re lucky, you may see a humpback or two. Once you’re out in the Pacific with the Oahu shoreline in the far distance, you’ll stick on a mask, get into a cage, and be lowered into the shark infested waters. If that sounds ho-hum, just try it. Hammerheads, Sandbars and Galapagos sharks are the most common species you’ll see swimming right up to your face, and yes, they really do like to move around with their mouths open. Big teeth. Lots of really really big teeth.
Most of what Aristotle said is either lost to history or incomprehensible, but he did believe that “Adventure is Worthwhile”. Have fun finding yours.