Top Ten Extreme Vacations
Looking to add a shot of adrenalin to your next vacation? The last few decades have seen an explosion of new ways to explore the outdoors that will have your heart pumping and your eyes open wide. These ten sport adventures will let you come borne with a story to remember, and perhaps a new passion.
What do you try when sky-diving becomes a bit of a yawn? BASE jumping is one of the most notoriously dangerous sports in the world!
BASE jump starts from a much lower elevation than one from an airplane, you have much less time to deploy your parachute (and save your life) -- sometimes only a few seconds. Participants must be expert sky-divers (most have made hundreds of airplane jumps) and use a specialized parachute. The risk of injury is high -- according to one study, about I in every 250 jumps result in injury (often serious), and I in 2,300 jumps is fatal.
Jumpers were originally attached to the bungee cord by their ankles; most operators now also use a body harness for additional safety. Most jumps take place from either bridges or cranes. When a jumper falls, they get several seconds of free fall before the elastic cord begins to stretch, and the jumper slows down until the cord reaches full stretch, at which point they fly back upwards, usually bouncing several times until all the energy of the fall has disappeared.
Fans of hang gliding love the ability to soar thousands of feet above the earth with a simple device that's basically a sail fastened to an aluminum frame. Who do we have to thank for such an elegant design? NASA, of course!
Launching can be as simple as jogging down a slope and gliding away from the mountain, or leaping from a cliff top -- if you're lucky, into a breathtaking backdrop like Rio de Janeiro.
Never wanted to bug a tree? After zipping between them at over 50mph, attached to a thin cable several stories above the ground, you may change your tune.
At the Haleakala Skyline Adventure in Maui, you can ride down the side of the massive Haleakala Volcano ("house of the sun" in Hawaiian). After biking through the gorgeous upcountry for about a halfhour, you cross a long swaying footbridge, and finally sail across five super-fast ziplines with the sea far below you. Along the way you'll see Maui's rocky nooks and crannies, abundant greenery, waterfalls, valleys, and rare vegetation.
While today's inflatable rubber rafts have improved safety dramatically, they've done little to dull the excitement. Rapids are rated on a scale of Class I (calm, with little rough water) to Class V (big waves, rocks and/or drops), with many of the most popular tours blasting through Class IV and V. Boats usually hold between 4 and 12 paddlers, plus an experienced river guide who barks instructions that may keep you from falling in but certainly won't keep you dry.
The Bugaboo Mountains of British Columbia Gust west of the Rockies) is where heli-skiiug started in 1965, and today it is by far the most popular site for the sport. Multiple companies operate here, offering distinct trips oriented to everyone from first-timers to highly experienced heli-skiers, and even womenonly groups. At night, you relax in a five-star lodge where the Duality of the food is as exceptional as the skiing.
Canyoneering really refers to an amalgam of skills -- biking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, rappelling, and swimming -- used to traverse narrow canyons. It's also a thrilling way to explore some of the planet's most rugged and remote wilderness landscapes. The inaccessibility of the terrain and potential for falls brings with it inherent dangers (as seen in the movie 127 Hours), so good navigational skills and proper safety e D uipment are essential.
Downhill Mountain Biking
Racing a mountain bike downhill is a fairly simple sport -- all you need is a bike, gravity and little common sense -- but variations abound around the globe, from hurtling past villas in the Italian Alps to struggling to tear your eyes from the jaw-dropping scenery in the Colorado Rockies. What they have in common is a great way to experience wide swaths of nature and learning first-band what a white-knuckle grip looks like.
In truth, volcano surfing owes more to tobogganing than surfing. Participants spend 45 minutes climbing the steep incline to the crater's edge, don bright orange jump suits and goggles, then jump on a plywood sled. With a push they are hurtling down the 40-degree slope, the board scraping against the harsh volcanic charcoal that creates a deafening noise as they bit speeds of 50mpb. Some riders get scared and try to brake -- a big mistake that usually results in them tumbling in the bot dust and stones, board skittering ahead of them. Savvy riders go with the flow and reach the bottom of the 2,400-ft. mountain in a few minutes.
Founded in New Zealand's adventure sport hotspot ofRotorua in the mid-90s, zorbing puts you in the center of a gigantic plastic bubble made of clear plastic and then sends that bubble -- with you inside it -rolling down a steep bill. (Some operators put you on a level surface, giving the rider more control, but what's the fun in that?) You'll enter the Zorb bead-first through its "mouth" after taking off your shoes and jewelry. A smaller sphere rests inside an outer sphere, and the air space between them helps absorb the shocks you'll feel when you bit bumps at 20mpb (32kmpb). To add to the fun, you can strap yourself in with two friends and see who bas the weakest stomach.