The Top Ten Extreme Adventures
|DARWIN PLAYGROUND: Diving underneath a scalloped hammerhead shark in the Galapagos (Sami Sarkis/Photographer's Choice/Getty.)|
Bragging rights are all well and good, but for those who get a rush from doing the extreme—not just talking about it—we have ten of the world's craziest, strangest, and most adrenaline-pumping trips on offer. Just be sure your travel and life insurance are in order before you depart.
10. Heli-fly-fishing in New Zealand
New Zealand's South Island harbors many wonders—verdant valleys, yawing peaks, glaciers, moss-covered vistas, Hobbits, wizards—and you can add monster trout to the list. Laced throughout the majestic Southern Alps are some of the richest streams on earth (Middle or otherwise), some of which yield brown trout in excess of ten pounds.
Problem: some of these waterways are remote, lacking even dirt roads. Solution: helicopters. Strike Adventures flies clients into the Karamea River and its tributaries, as well as lakes and surrounding streams. Strike guides have more than 20 years of experience stalking fish in these waters. Aside from travel speed and the undeniable thrill of helicopter travel, the whirlybirds help the guides find favorable conditions regardless of the weather.
By day, stalk fish in rivers, lakes, streams, and estuaries—many so clean you can drink from them—surrounded by dense forests, towering mountains, and lush gorges. Night brings a softer side with luxuriant lodging and fine food and libations in and around the town of Nelson.
New Zealand Vacation Guide
9. Canoeing the Noatak River in Alaska
The adventure here lies in the setting: the immense, remote, undeveloped land of Gates of the Arctic National Park and surrounding wilderness, spanning thousands of square miles. The canoeing isn't overly challenging. In fact, no prior experience is required. But if the headwinds rise, you'll have to dig a little. Clients of Arctic Wild paddle up to 15 miles a day through the rolling tundra and rugged mountains of the Noatak River Valley.
Wildlife sightings routinely feature wolves, fox, moose, and Dall sheep, and could include musk oxen. The route crosses two salmon-spawning streams, ideal for watching bears feed. Three layover days offer the chance to summit small peaks or hike up feeder streams, and the opportunity to cast for grayling, northern pike, arctic char, and lake trout.
The weather could boost the adventure. This trip is in the Arctic Circle, and, while temperatures are typically pleasant, they can dip into the 20s at any time of year.
Alaska Vacation Guide
8. Diving with Hammerheads and Whale Sharks in the Galapagos
Remember the first time you saw something big—and alive—while scuba diving? Take that feeling, multiply it by 1,000, and you might get a sense of what it's like to face off with a 30-foot whale shark or a school of hammerheads in the remote waters of the northern Galapagos.
Darwin and Wolf islands sit alone in the Pacific Ocean, a 15-hour boat ride from the tourist scene of the islands' main hub, and serve as a kind of way-station for regional pelagics. "We've seen up to 30 whale sharks in one dive," says Jonathan Bird, a photographer who has led numerous trips to the region.
The currents are strong, so the M.O. with the Aggressor Fleet is to head for a ledge 60 feet down, grab some rock, and watch the parade. Surface time is spent on the 100-foot luxury Aggressor I or II yacht with warm meals, comfortable berths, and a gaggle of like-minded divers waiting for the next chance to jump overboard.
The Galapagos Vacation Guide
7. Surfing the Outer Atolls of the Maldives
Every surfer has the same fantasy: warm, smooth tubes peeling over a coral reef clearly visible through the glassy water, un-crowded lineups, and endless days spent savoring every ride.
Or, put more trenchantly, the Maldives. This 13-day adventure with Wave Hunters on a live-aboard yacht takes you to the island chain's remote southern atolls, centering on the region of Ghafu Dhaal, which the outfitter calls "one of surf travel's last great frontiers."
The waves aren't huge—topping out around eight feet—but that's more than enough room to stretch out in your own tube, again and again, until someone makes you go home.
The Maldives Vacation Guide
6. Backcountry Skiing in Norway
Norwegians are credited with inventing skiing, but that was chiefly for transport and hunting, so it's unlikely that even the most foresighted of the old timers envisioned this offering: skiers boarding a luxury yacht to whisk around the fjords with Original Travel in search of virgin powder and soul-lifting views.
The Lyngen Alps rise dramatically from the sea, topping out around 4,000 feet—not massive, but certainly enough to crank up your heart rate when you're skinning from sea level to summit.
Most groups do two big runs a day, taking enough time at the top of each to pinch themselves before floating down the other side in knee-high fluff to be met at the beach by the 42-foot custom cruiser, complete with hot drinks, snacks, and a speedy, scenic ride to the next powder field.
Night brings high luxury: a spacious lodge, finished in 2007, with high ceilings, oversized hearths, sauna, hot tub, and gourmet cooking.
Norway Vacation Guide
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication