No matter who we are or where we’re from, we all yearn to travel for the big, the bold, and the beautiful. It’s possible to read the world as a fairytale, one thrilling story after the next, if you know the proper page to turn. Most of the world’s residents live within a stone’s throw of a big city, while wide open spaces – the sort that inspire scores of prose and send imaginations soaring – are never as far away as we might think. Come with us on a journey to some of the world’s most remarkable outdoor adventures, from mountain expeditions to coastal escapades, and places and spaces in between.
1. Hanging Loose at Victoria Falls, Zambia
Every great whirlwind tour of Africa should culminate with dinner aboard the Royal Livingstone Express, and a stop at No Man’s Land between Zambia and Zimbabwe on the Victoria Falls Bridge. Then, if you’ve got the nerve for it, take a dip in the Devil’s Pool and have a peek over the very edge of the Falls themselves. Wild, thrilling, and just plain crazy, this is one that you’ll never forget, in a setting that is truly stunning.
2. Horseback Riding, Aruba
The Gold Mine Ranch offers horseback tours on well-groomed trails as well as on beaches on the northeast of the island for guests of all experience, levels and ages. A visit to Wariruri Beach with Rancho la Ponderosa will give you a unique perspective on the untouched northern coast as you ride good-natured horses toward the setting sun. Rancho Daimari’s private beach is popular with surfers, who love the big waves and remote location. On the edge of Arikok National Park, it’s the perfect base for horseback exploration of towering sand dunes, secluded coves, natural pools, Andicuri Beach, and more.
3. Diving, Belize
And here we go, down into the deep blue sea, at the Great Blue Hole – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most remarkable underwater kingdoms the world has to offer. Even beginner divers can get down with their crew and explore a world they never knew existed. Without question, the best way to enjoy all of the world-class diving Belize has to offer is with the hands-on guidance of a top notch PADI operator – such as the team at the Blackbird Caye Resort. For most of us, a journey to these waters is a trip of a lifetime, and the Blackbird team appreciates what that experience means at every level – from the beginner who is just snorkelling for the first time to the master divers and underwater photographers among us.
4. Glacier Paddleboarding, Alaska, USA
The folks at Exit Glacier Guides are ready to take you on a wild ride. First, they’ll strap you into a jetboat for a cruise out of pretty little Seward’s Harbor, and you’ll race over the water while porpoises and whales swim around you. They’ll deliver you to the mouth of the Exit Glacier lagoon, where you’ll tug on a wetsuit, then jump onto a stand-up-paddleboard for the most remarkable cruise in Alaska, all while giant blocks of ice crack off the glacier itself and crash into the sea.
5. Fire Dancing, New Guinea
The iconic masks worn by the Baining people are made from bamboo, leaves, grass, bark and cloth and used only once before they’re burned or discarded. The fire dance itself is traditionally performed by young men as an initiation into adulthood; women and children were long forbidden from watching. Dances are also performed to celebrate childbirth, in remembrance of the dead, and to celebrate the coming of the annual harvest. Today, visitors to Papua New Guinea are invited to watch the Baining Fire Dance during festival season, but you should be aware that this is still an important cultural ceremony and not a tourist spectacle; keep a respectful distance from the fire – the dancers frequently run through the fire and kick pieces of flaming wood into the air. A spectacular sight, but not worth losing an eye over.
6. Back-Country Skiing, British Columbia, Canada
Imagine you’ve pulled yourself out of bed before dawn, poured yourself a fresh cup of coffee to go, and hit the open road from quaint Smithers, British Columbia, mountains hugging you on both sides. You drive towards those mountains, park the car, and strap on your touring skis, and within minutes, it feels as if the whole of the mountain belongs to you. There are no ski lifts, no crowded groomers, no thumping chalet tunes – just you, the blissful quiet of the mountain, and your skis. That’s how it feels on a day of touring the stunning Hankin-Evelyn Backcountry Recreation Area, one of northern British Columbia’s outdoor crown jewels. Tour all over the non-motorised terrain, plow endless runs, conquer alpine bowls, and zip between tree after tree on one of the most thrilling ski adventures in the world.
7. Camel riding, Australia
A tour of the Outback from atop a wild camel seems like something you’d find in a Terry Gilliam film, but once you’ve saddled up and climbed about one of Uluru Camel Tours’ ‘ships of the desert’, you’ll wonder why this activity was not higher on your bucket list. The camels clomp along at a leisurely pace, which should offer you plenty of time to capture a picture-perfect selfie with your GoPro, or an opportunity to soak up sweeping panoramic views of Uluru (Ayers Rock) – most beautiful under the soft light of a setting sun. Tours are championed by knowledgeable, friendly guides who take the safety of their guests seriously (camel surfing is highly discouraged). Regular daily programs are available, although you can also arrange a private tour – in case you’re planning on riding from one side of Australia to the other on a slobbering steed.
8. Swimming with sea lions, Ecuador
Baby sea lions are some of the cutest and most curious animals on earth, though their parents (and the National Park naturalists) certainly won’t appreciate you trying to play with them. And no, you can’t take one home. Trust me. But you can get close to these little guys without disturbing them or stressing them out. Chances are good that they’ll even come to you first. Just remember not to touch them, never feed them, and take nothing home but your photos. And always remember, dad is watching – like this big fella here.
9. Bright Angel Trail, Arizona, USA
Set out to conquer the Bright Angel Trail, hiking out past the fabled Indian Gardens and down to Plateau Point. Zip down the switch-backing trail – descending from the canyon rim to the 38° C heat at the gardens in a few hours. By the time you arrive at Plateau Point, you’ll have the entire Grand Canyon to yourself – gone are the crowds, the bustle, the gift shops and the distractions. You’ll be left with the mighty Colorado, the canyon walls in ochre and purple, and all the beautiful solitude you could hope for. You’ll have 11 kilometres ahead of you on your return trek to the South Rim, but each step up the trail is worth it. Bright Angel, indeed.
10. Mountain biking, New Zealand
World famous for its pristine coastlines, dramatic mountain ranges, lush forests, and stunning fjords, New Zealand is a cyclist’s dream. Excellent mountain biking trails can be found in almost every corner of both the north and south islands, offering a diverse range of riding experiences for all abilities, interests and itineraries. Explore an array of jaw-dropping landscapes and enjoy plenty off-the-bike activities along the way, such as hiking, swimming, wildlife watching, and wine tasting.