By Simon Woodhouse
For many people, lying on a beach in the sun is all they want from a holiday. Perhaps throw in a bit of shopping, a few day trips, the chance to sample some local cuisine and they’re happy. There’s nothing wrong with that, each to his own. However, if you think one beach looks very much like the next, shopping is torture and coach trips to ancient ruins are too much like something you did at school, then perhaps you want a bit more adventure. Perhaps you want an adventure holiday.
Adventure doesn’t have to mean danger, but adventure holidays and dangerous sports seem to go hand in hand. They also seem to take place in some of the most scenic locations around the world, which means at least you have something nice to look at whilst your waiting to jump/dive/zoom into whatever form of danger you’ve chosen. Here are four activities that might help to make an adventure holiday more adventurous.
Bungee jumping has been around for a while now, and though in its modern form it started in the late 70’s, its roots go back much further than that. On the Polynesian island of Pentecost (part of the island group known as Vanuatu and formerly called the New Hembrides), young men perform a coming-of-age ritual that involves diving headfirst from an 80-foot tall platform made of bamboo. The only thing that stops these brave young souls from killing themselves is a liana vine tied to their ankles. In 1986, a canny New Zealand man set up the first commercial bungee jumping business, and started charging people for the privilege of throwing themselves off a bridge. South Africa now boasts the highest commercial bungee jump. This takes place from the Bloukrans Bridge, located on the border of the Eastern and Western Cape. Here you can plunge straight down for 700 feet, before the bungee cord twangs you back up again. And kudos to you if you do it.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and this saying is never more accurate than when applied to Bill Hamilton, a boat builder from New Zealand. Faced with the challenge of using a motorboat in very shallow rivers, he invented the jet boat, a craft that’s driven forward without the use of a propeller. Not only can jet boats operate in really shallow water, but they’re also very fast and extremely manoeuvrable. Taking this vehicle and putting it to good use, a company called Shotover Jet offer jet boat rides along the Shotover River in New Zealand. Marketed as ‘thrill therapy’, the ride specialises in blasting the boat through a narrow canyon of sheer rock walls. Skilled pilots take the boats to within touching distance of the rock, whilst at the same time performing 360 degree spins. Life jackets are mandatory, no video cameras are allowed (they tend to end up in the river) and pregnant women are strongly advised against riding.
Whilst you’re in New Zealand, why not have a go at fly by wire? This is a cross between a ski resort chair lift and a propeller driven missile. Victims, I mean riders, are strapped face down into what looks like a small rocket with a large, enclosed propeller on the back. High overhead, a series of 1200-foot long cables span from one side of a steep edged valley to the other. A single cable hangs down from these and is attached to the middle of the missile. Then the horizontal wires are tightened, and the missile is lifted upward with the propeller going. The rider has control of a throttle and a steering bar, both of which are then used to hurtle the missile around the valley as it dangles from the overhead cables. Just how fast it goes is up to the rider, but it can reach speeds of over 100 mph, and pull three G. This whole set-up is the fastest tethered ride in the world, and also an experience unique to New Zealand.
Perhaps speed isn’t your thing, but you still fancy a bit of danger. How about swimming with sharks, but not just any old shark, the heavyweight champion of teeth and fins – the Great White. This type of holiday has been running for a few years now, around Cape Town in South Africa. Though it’s advertised as swimming with Great Whites, there is a cage involved, but you go in the cage, the cage goes in the water, and the shark’s in the water. Depending on which operator you use, there’s also a chance to swim with aquarium sharks, and scuba dive without a cage in the presence of such happy little fellows as the Tiger Shark and the Hammerhead. As far as the Great Whites are concerned, nothing is guaranteed, which means to say they may not show up on the day you’re due to take the plunge. However, the tour operators know what they’re doing, so seeing a shark of one sort or another is more than likely.
These are just a few adventure/dangerous sports that can help to make a vacation just that little bit more special. You could also try white-water rafting, tandem skydiving or eating food purchased from a street vender in New Delhi.