May - June 2010 | Back to Archives

Daring Adventures

Test your travel bravado with these gut-busters

BY SARAH ROSE

Craving an adrenaline rush on the road? Here, we offer up 10 of the best summer adventures we could wrangle up for the enthusiast - or the extremist - in you. Hey, go big or even bigger, depending on your appetite for spine-tingling fun.  

SCUBA DIVING

Go Big
Where:
Island of Guadalupe
The adventure: Want to get up close and personal with man-eaters? On this Pacific island some 180 miles off Mexico's Baja peninsula, a cage keeps swimmers safely away from - but close enough to see - great white sharks as they pass by. The cage hovers just below the surface, so no scuba certification is required; you breathe off a hookah line to the surface instead of using an underwater tank.
Available from: Shark Diver, 888-328-7449, sharkdiver.com; $3,100 for five days on a live aboard, including meals and tank refill

Go Bigger
Where: Cocos Island, Costa Rica
The adventure: Giants lurk in the deep, from sharks the size of mobile homes (whale sharks), to sharks that will eat you (tiger sharks), to creatures that will merely play with you (manta rays and dolphins). For the big ocean animals, or the pelagics as they are known, no waters are more crowded than Cocos Island, some 300 miles offshore in the Pacific. There is also nowhere more deserted; it is the world's largest uninhabited island and sees just 1,500 to 2,000 visitors a year. And it is the rare place where hammerhead sharks will school - and by the hundreds - coming to be cleaned by symbiotic barberfish. Cocos is a hammerhead shark's favorite spa.
Available from: Undersea Hunter Group, 800-203-2120, underseahunter.com; from $4,750 for a 10-day trip

HIKING

Go Big
Where:
Glacier National Park, West Glacier, Mont.
The adventure: Glacier has one of the best short hikes in the U.S. park system. The 15-mile Dawson Pass loop hits forests, waterfalls, and glacier-fed lakes starring grizzlies and moose. Running through the Two Medicine area in the park's southwest corner, it is the best short walk, in near total isolation, for contemplating the craggy peaks the Blackfoot Indians called "the backbone of the world."
For more info: nps.gov/glac

Go Bigger
Where:
The Pacific Northwest
The adventure: While plenty of ridgeline hikes beckon on the planet, only the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail rises above timberline across seven gargantuan mountain chains. This challenging trail is a long-distance hiker's nirvana - climb to 9,000 feet, go down the other side, rinse and repeat - from 40 miles east of the Continental Divide to the Pacific. Creating the trail was one of President Obama's first acts in office, linking a series of logging roads and trails across snowpacked, sawtooth peaks that take you through wildflower meadows and around glacial lakes. There are only about 50 thru-hikers a year, and one delivered the trail's tagline: "We hike high for the views."
For more info: pnt.org
Essential gear: For a jacket that is warm when wet, whisper-light but tough, 1,000-mile hikers rave about the Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket at less than 9 ounces ($145, montbell.com)

FLYING

Go Big
Where:
Oahu, Hawaii
The adventure: Secure yourself in a power hang-glider - little more than a motorized kite - for a flight that brings you directly to the highlights of your island paradise. You'll see whales (in season), lush jungle canyons, rainbows, and a waterfall.
Available from: Paradise Air, 808-497-6033, paradiseairhawaii.com; $220 for a 60-minute introductory lesson

Go Bigger
Where
: Oahu, Hawaii
The adventure: Even if you're a novice, add an aerobatic flying experience with a former dogfighter pilot to your next beach vacation. We're talking barrel rolls, loop-the-loops, stalls, spins, tailslides that have you flying backward, and more. To be Top Gun, go for the hammerhead: Pull back on the stick until you're flying straight up. When the plane runs out of airspeed, you pivot into a vertical dive. As your fall picks up speed, you just start flying again.
Available from: Acroflight Inc., 808-544-3208, acroflightinc.com; $150 for a 40-minute flight

POLAR EXPLORATION

Go Big
Where:
The Arctic
The adventure: The hunt for the fabled Northwest Passage to Asia has driven men to madness - and to their deaths. Follow safely in the wake of Amundsen and Franklin on an icebreaker that stops in Russia's Far East, Alaska, and the Canadian Arctic.
Available from: Quark Expeditions, 866-961-2961, quarkexpeditions.com; coming in 2011, a 24-day cruise from $23,290

Go Bigger
Where:
The Arctic
The adventure: In summer, the Arctic Sea is a floating city full of sun-sculpted ice cathedrals that are home to polar bears, seals, walruses, and whales. Animals congregate, waiting for the ice to break up so they can move to their midyear feasting grounds. With a local Inuit guiding your summer ice safari, hike through a blue world of walrus colonies and polar bears hunting for seals. Snorkel or dive in a dry suit amongst migratory whales. Learn about the Inuit culture in their ancient sod-house settlements. And kayak at 2 a.m. by icebergs - the pillowy ice will seem lit from the inside, tracing long shadows on the water in a day that lasts all summer long.
Available from: Arctic Kingdom Marine Expeditions Inc., 888-737-6818, arctickingdom.com; from $8,000 for a 10-day trip
Essential gear: You'll want sunglasses that can handle the extra light of the midnight sun. With Julbo's Race Nautic, with polarized lenses, see through the dazzle on the ocean's surface to whales and seals below.  ($160, julbousa.com)

WHITEWATER RAFTING

Go Big
Where:
Nepal
The adventure: The Himalayas offer plenty of quick-hit white water in the Class III to IV range. On the four-day Bheri, you'll run rapids on the rooftop of the world, through parks where tigers still run wild.
Available from: Himalayan River Exploration, rafting-nepal.com; from around $2,000 for an eight-day trip, four days of rafting with an additional four-night lodge stay

Go Bigger
Where:
Nepal
The adventure: Confront the mighty Tons river, starting at the base of 20,000-foot-high mountain and ending in some of the subcontinent's best technical paddling. Indian outfitter Aquaterra Adventures has opened the river to expedition rafters, running "exploratory" trips for the full 75-mile runnable length, through Class III to Class V rapids, for groups of six or more experienced rafters. At night, fall asleep listening to the call of monkeys as you pitch camp in Alpine meadows and rhododendron forests.
Available from: Aquaterra Adventures, treknraft.com; from $1,315 for an 11-day trip
Essential gear: Keeping things dry without bulking up your luggage got a lot easier with featherweight Uberlight CTF3 Drysack from Granite Gear. At less than 1 ounce each, they won't even clock on the airport scale. (from $38.95, granitegear.com)




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