Let’s talk adventure. Do you know what I mean when I say “adventure?” According to Wikipedia, “Adventure travel is a type of tourism, involving exploration with perceived and possibly actual risk, and potentially requiring specialized skills and physical exertion. Adventure travel includes two of the following three components: a physical activity, a cultural exchange or interaction and engagement with nature.”
So, adventure travel can be anything from bird watching in Papua New Guinea to white water rafting on the Zambezi River. We’re talking a cultural visit to an Amazonian village, a wildlife safari in South Africa, ziplining in the Great Smokies National Park, or a short hike on the Appalachian Trail. But it can also involve some crazy things like alligator cage diving or rappelling. Here is a list of serious adventure activities:
Abseiling (rappelling) was initially a means for hardcore mountain climbers to descend vertical cliffs but has now developed into a globally popular activity for thrill seekers. Abseiling involves using specialized ropes, harnesses and other safety equipment, to make a controlled descent down a jagged cliff face. You can’t be afraid of heights (or much else!) to be abseiling.
Alligator cage diving is the same concept as shark cage diving only with crocodiles or alligators instead. This can be done in a controlled setting, such as inside the Cango Wildlife Ranch in Oudtshourn, South Africa or a few miles offshore in the Florida Keys.
Bakkie Skiing: This is when a participant is pulled behind a pick-up truck (called a bakkie in Africa) while holding onto a rope and “skiing” on a rubber mat. It is similar to the concept of water skiing except you are being pulled by a truck instead of a boat and you are on a mat instead of on skis and you are on a well-worn dirt road rather than the water. One of the few places this is offered is in the Kalahari (Southern Africa).
Bungee jumping is when participants dive off a platform suspended on what can best be described as a giant rubber band. You are jerked and bounced around as the elastic band goes up and down. It only lasts a few minutes but is not advisable for anyone who suffers motion sickness! There is no skill involved and it is most popular with young adults.
Camel Trekking is a journey into the desert. In the Middle East and Africa this is done on a Dromedary Camel (one-hump) while in Asia and North America it is done on a Bactrian Camel (two humps).These treks are most commonly offered in East Africa and Southern Africa, as well as Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.
Canopy tours are offered in rain forests and cloud forests or other heavily wooded areas. Participants are harnessed to a steel cable and soar through the trees. It is the same concept as zip-lining with the only difference being that there are aerial bridges and platforms built in trees. So rather than this being a purely recreational activity like zip-lining, it is a tour of the forest canopy. You are able to make “stops” and see all kinds of wildlife throughout the forest, such as birds, monkeys, sloths, and leopards. The idea is that since much of the wildlife lives, forages, or plays in the trees that is where you need to be for the best view (as opposed to walking through a rain or cloud forest). The most popular places for canopy tours are Costa Rica, Belize, Brazil, Chile, and New Zealand. They generally last 2-3 hours.
Canyoning (known as canyoneering in the U.S.) is a bit hard to explain. Participants travel down a canyon using a variety of techniques, such as climbing, scrambling, hiking, and abseiling or rappelling. Some skill is required because of the ropework and the right equipment is needed. Canyons with narrow gorges and big drops are ideal for canyoning, which has different degrees of difficulty depending on the canyon.
Cave tubing is when you float down a river and through caves on an inflatable float (tube). You will have a headlight on to best see while in the caves, just like in cave spelunking.
Dog-sledding can only be done in a few places in the world, such as the Arctic and Alaska. You lead a team of huskies on a wild ride down snow-packed trails.
Hang gliding is an air sport in which the participant pilots a light weight, non-motorized aircraft called a hang glider.
Kiteboarding or kitesurfing is a combination of surfing, windsurfing, wakeboarding, paragliding, and gymnastics all rolled into one extreme sport. Participants are harnessed to a kite that they use in conjunction with wind power. It takes a lot of skill to accomplish this watersport.
Kloofing is another adventure activity that is a bit hard to describe. It involves the descent into a deep ravine that may be wet or dry. Participants use a combination of walking, jumping, climbing, and scrambling to achieve their objective. You may even need to swim or abseil too. The duration can range from a few hours to multi-day kloofing trips. A level of expertise is required to avoid injury.
Mountaineering is the sport of mountain climbing. What makes it different from trekking is the degree of difficulty. You are tackling big mountains, such as The Alps and Mount Everest. You may have to traverse rock, snow, and ice (glaciers). A level of expertise is required that is not needed for trekking. This is referred to as Alpinism in Europe and a mountaineer is called an Alpinist.
Paragliding is an extreme adventure sport. The participant sits in a harness suspended below a fabric wing. There is no engine but you “fly off” a dune or cliff and can fly for up to two hours depending on conditions. There is definitely some skill involved in this activity.
Parasailing is when a participant is towed behind a boat while attached to a specially designed canopy wing that is called a parasail. A harness attaches the pilot to the parasail, which is connected to the boat by the tow rope. The boat takes off and the participant is airborne. There is little skill involved in this activity, unlike paragliding.
Quad biking (also called quad motoring) is basically a motorized buggy or all-terrain vehicle (ATV). They are designed for off road exploration and so they are often used in adventure travel.
Rafting (also known as whitewater rafting) is when participants tackle Class I – Class V rapids in a large raft. There is some skill involved as you must stay afloat amidst some challenging conditions. There are certain rivers and times of year when conditions are best for this watersport.
Recreational Tree Climbing is an exciting way to explore the tree canopy. Using arborist ropes and comfortable harnesses you ascend into the tree. Once in the canopy you can climb as high as you wish, walk on limbs, sit in a sky chair, or just relax and enjoy the view. It is suitable (and safe) for all ages as you can climb as slow as you like and only as far as you like.
Sandboarding is the same concept as snowboarding only on sand instead of snow and on sand dunes rather than a ski slope. It is accomplished in desert areas or coastal areas with significant-sized dunes. The con is there is no ski lift but the pro is that you can do it year-round.
Shark cage diving involves getting into a wet suit and climbing into a cage. It is as if you are going scuba diving as far as gear but you are in a protected cage. Sharks are baited to approach the boat and cage so that you can get an up close look at sharks in their natural element.
Skydiving involves jumping out of a plane with a parachute on your back. Some skill is involved unless you do a tandem skydive. This is when you attach yourself to someone who is skilled at skydiving. You get the thrill of freefalling without having to take skydiving classes. Skydiving is readily available at many adventure destinations worldwide.
Sledging is similar to white water rafting only without the raft—just a small object that resembles a sled that floats. Yep! Just you wearing a helmet and flippers hanging onto to this “sled” for dear life as you tackle one rapid after another in rapid succession. It is an extremely exhilarating experience to navigate even the mildest of rapids without the aid of a canoe, kayak, or raft.
Scuba diving is when you wear a special body suit and attach breathing apparatus to it in order to be able to stay underwater for a long period of time. You need to be certified to do real diving but there are resort dive options in many places for amateurs.
Snorkeling is when you don a mask and a breathing apparatus that looks like a tube. You have one end in your mouth and the other end is out of the water. It is similar to scuba diving except you have to stay near the surface so that the end of the breathing apparatus is above water. This means you are in shallow water so that you can best observe marine life. This is a very popular adventure activity and is widely available worldwide.
Surfing is literally “riding a wave.” Participants are on a surf board and have to stay in the standing position while riding a wave. This is a sport that requires some skill but can be achieved in many parts of the world.
Windsurfing is a combination of sailing and surfing. Participants stand on a surf board that has a sail attached to it and they attempt to stay afloat. There are certain places in the world and certain times of year when conditions are best for this activity.
Zip-lining is when you are harnessed to a zip-line and you soar through the trees at a break neck speed. It is strictly a thrill ride with no skill involved. It is popular with teens and young adults.
Zorbing is when participants are harnessed into a large transparent sphere and thrown, kicked, or pushed down a hill. From that point on you bounce and roll until you reach the catch barrier. There is also harness zorbing (when two people are strapped in facing each other inside the sphere) and Hydro zorbing (water is added to the sphere).
Please feel free to comment if you’d like to share your experience, if you’ve done one or more of these activities, or if you can name something you’ve done that I didn’t include here. I love to hear from folks! I love to talk adventure travel!