A round the world trip is the chance of a lifetime for many travellers. And if you’re going to take the plunge for such a holiday, then you may as well push yourself further to take on something you’ve never tried before. And there’s more than one way to get the heart going and the adrenalin pumping – as these potential adventures on popular RTW routes show…
Mountain bike down a volcano…
There’s a world of difference between a leisurely pootle around country roads and hurtling down hills on a dirt track, desperately hoping that your brakes are in full working order. But that’s all part of the thrill.
Top spots for fearsome freewheeling include Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa and Skipper’s Canyon near Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island. However, for cool factor, you’d be hard-pushed to beat cycling down an enormous volcano. And on the Hawai’ian island of Maui, you can do just that, dropping down 900m over the course of a ten mile, twisting ride through the Haleakala National Park.
… Or hike up a live one
Of course, a volcano that hasn’t gone off for a long time is essentially just a mountain covered in funny-looking rock. It only starts to get properly scary once you’re next to scorching-hot lava. And, believe it or not, there are a few places where it’s possible to hike up through the lava fields and get so close to the fiery, gloopy stuff that you can poke it with a stick. Classic examples include Volcan Pacaya near Antigua in Guatemala and the fireworks-prone Yasur volcano on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu.
A common theme with such volcano climbs is lots of eager locals wishing to guide you up, coupled with a nagging doubt that safety precautions aren’t quite what they could be…
Dive with great white sharks…
The reputation given to Great Whites by the Jaws movies wasn’t entirely unwarranted, you know. They have evolved over the years to be ruthless rulers of the sea, and those teeth ain’t for decorative purposes. Getting in the water where hundreds prowl for food (ie seals) isn’t necessarily a good idea, therefore. But with only a cage for protection as the shark butts against it, scenting blood, there are few greater thrills.
Cage dives can be done all over the world (notably off the Californian coast and from Adelaide in South Australia) but the biggest shark dive industry is in Gansbaai, South Africa. There’s a massive shark population off the coast, and it’s easily doable as a day trip from Cape Town.
… Or swim with saltwater crocodiles
Head to Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory and you can experience a novel take on the whole shark diving thing. There it has been decided that the ideal place to house five metre-plus saltwater crocodiles is on the main street. And at Crocosaurus Cove, it is possible to experience ‘The Cage Of Death’. In a nutshell, this sees you stripping down to your swimwear and climbing into a transparent plastic box. Said box is then lowered into the enclosure of possibly the only animal that could have a great white in a fight. Usually the killer reptiles are content to just sit there and watch, but if they get annoyed at their territory being invaded, prepare to be launched at.
Climb a tree
Think that sounds a bit wussy? Well, it all depends on the tree, doesn’t it? In the Pemberton forest area of south-west Western Australia, there are three ‘climbing trees’ that were originally used as fire lookouts. Pegs have been placed in a spiral around the trunks, and the only support is a single wire step, plus more of the same as a hand-rail. And when you’re climbing up to a 60m platform, constantly looking at thin air beneath your feet, you’ll soon change your tune on climbing trees being solely for little kids.
If you’re driving, it’s possible to top all three – the Gloucester Tree, Diamond Tree and Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree – in a day.
Jump out of a plane
Skydiving has almost become the extreme sport that others are measured by, and it’s possible to jump out of a plane pretty much anywhere in the world these days. Good options include mountain backdrops in New Zealand, the desert landscapes in Las Vegas and Arizona or landing on an Australian beach in Wollongong (near Sydney) or Mission Beach (near Cairns).
For the uninitiated, the fear and the pleasure come in distinct stages. Arguably the greatest terror is in the plane on the way up to the right height – the tension just increases. Once there, you and the instructor you’re strapped to lean forward out of the plane, and the freefall commences. This is where the rush comes in (and any photos taken make you look like a flappy-cheeked hamster), but it all changes again once the parachute opens. From this point on, it’s a gentle float towards the ground, and it’s a great chance to take a bird’s eye view of the landscape.
Take the ultimate leap of faith
In many ways, bungy jumping is far more terrifying than skydiving. The most obvious problem is that you’re hurtling to a possible death with only an elastic cord tied around your ankles, but it’s also a case of willpower – you have to make the call to jump.
It all kicked off on Pentecost Island, Vanuatu, where chaps would try to impress the ladies by leaping from cliffs with vines strapped around their ankles. This particular brand of insanity can still be watched today, although it’s done for the benefit of tourists rather than comely young females.
If wanting a go yourself, Queenstown in New Zealand is the sport’s spiritual home, and there are numerous bungy sites around the town. To go for the biggest heights, however, you need to head to the Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa (216m) or take the short ferry ride from Hong Kong to Macau in order to leap 233m from the Macau Tower.
Swing for it
Only marginally less terrifying than a bungy jump is a bungy swing (called ‘The Swoop’ in Rotorua, New Zealand and ‘The Minjin Swing’ in Cairns, Australia). In this take on brown pants height-mastery, you’re shunted into a glorified sleeping bag and told to pull a toggle. Once released, you swing down to earth from 40m or so in the air, experiencing brief freefall and plenty of abject terror on the way.
Tame the white water
Raging torrents, disturbingly high waterfalls and a big plastic dinghy. What’s not to like about white-water rafting (aside from the distinct possibility of blood, drowning and broken limbs)?
Avoiding the bad stuff is generally a case of working together as a team, leaning the right way, following instructions and sticking to the right route. Oh, and bit of luck helps too.
Top spots include the Tully River in Queensland, Australia, the Kaituna River near Rotorua on New Zealand’s North Island and the Cagayan de Oro River in the Philippines. That said, it’s hard to top rafting along the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in the United States…
Take on the canyons
Canyoning is a fairly loosely defined sport that generally involves following a river through a canyon or cave system. Of course, rivers don’t follow nice, neat, flat paths – and taking them on can involve anything from fun little rock slides and jumps into pools to abseiling, underwater swimming and enormous 20-metre plus leaps around overhanging cliffs. Excellent canyoning locations include Cape Town in South Africa (where it’s called kloofing), Patagonia in Argentina, Waitomo in New Zealand and the Wollemi National Park near Australia’s Blue Mountains.