Not everyone enjoys the all-inclusive, “lie on the beach and swim up to the bar but be sure not to drink the water” getaway that seems to be the go-to vacation destination nowadays. Believe it or not, some of us want to swap our daily schedule of snoozing in a cubicle, slumping over a bar and sitting in front of a television for character-defining experiences, unforgettable culture and exotic sexy ladies in their natural habitat. It’s not like you won’t see hot girls at resorts—in fact, hot girls are probably 80 percent of their revenue—but you can find a list of the top places to lounge around (just like you do at home!) somewhere else, because this list is strictly for those who are ready to shake things up on their time off.
Sea Kayaking: Antarctica
If you’re itching for an icy escapade but still want to keep warm, the ultimate vacation is sea kayaking in Antarctica. With expeditions ranging from eight to 27 days, you’re able to choose from a variety of daytime activities and an array of amenities to enjoy on the ship when you’re feeling too cold to brave the glacial seas. Due to the extreme cold, ever-changing climate and rough, unforgiving waters at the notorious Drake Passage, your trip to the Antarctic can change at any minute, whether you’re in a kayak, snowshoeing on land or having a drink on the cruise ship.
If you’re ready to brave those kinds of conditions in a kayak, knowing full well that the water will send you into an immediate state of hypothermic shock, get ready for an unforgettable experience not many live to see. More info here.
Caving in the Black Abyss: New Zealand
If you have a phobia of claustrophobic spaces, being trapped in a water-filled cave or seemingly bottomless black depths, this caving experience is probably not for you. But if you’re ready to take your love of bouldering to a whole other level, you need to check out the “Original Ultimate Adventure” in Waitomo, New Zealand. The Black Abyss tour is famous in the caving community for its incredible glowworm-studded cave, its jumps and the unbelievable cave tubing ride that ends the five-hour expedition. Basically, it’s a huge underground playground for the daring. Since the Waitomo Glowworm Caves are heavily guarded by a scientific advisory group, the caves are a safe place to visit. But be warned: if you get hurt or lost along the way, your screams will be muffled by the noise of the waters below.
For this adventure, you will be accompanied by an experienced team of caving guides who only expect you to bring your moderate level of fitness, swimwear and a good attitude, so start hitting the boulder room at your local gym! More info here.
Hiking the Grand Canyon: Arizona
What’s great about Grand Canyon National Park is that there are so many activities for adrenaline junkies. Whether it’s day tripping under the unforgiving sun through the backcountry, biking along the south rim or taking part in an exhilarating white water rafting trip that takes you through the Grand Canyon, there is no possible way for you to run out of things to do in the park. If you opt for hiking the backcountry, be ready for an incredibly strenuous journey. The park is not kidding when they say, “First time Grand Canyon hikers tend to react to the experience in one of two ways: either they can't wait to get back, or they swear they'll never do it again.”
While the national park will go above and beyond to help missing hikers, they are adamant that only the fittest should take part in their backcountry trails and will remind you a million times that there is no one to assist you if you become lost, ill or injured while hiking. Mountain lions, scorpions and venomous snakes do inhabit the Grand Canyon, so be cautious of where you set your tent and your feet. More info here.
Sardine Run: South Africa
Described as the aquatic counterpart to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, the Sardine Run has become one of the biggest tourist attractions for thrill seekers and nature lovers alike. During the months of May, June and July, billions of sardines journey up the east coast of South Africa and follow the cold winter currents toward the warm Indian Ocean. Be ready to be face-to-face with hundreds of the world’s deadliest sharks, like hammerheads, Zambezies, coppers and great whites, along with dolphins, birds and whales who have no problem pushing you out of the way to gorge themselves on this unnatural buffet of fish. Nothing can prepare you for the sheer sensory overload you will experience on this vacation.
Because the sardine run entices an array of sharks that may not usually come close to shore, divers must be wary of the look of their gear so they’re not mistaken for common aquatic prey. Scuba divers have been mauled in shark attacks due to striped gear and improper equipment. The city of Durban also strongly urges bystanders not to swim or snorkel during these months as shark nets are removed from most beaches during the annual sardine run, making everyone in the water fair game for the hungry creatures the migrating sardines attract. More info here.
Larapinta Trail: Australia
While almost all hikers make it out of the Larapinta Trail alive, it’s not out of the ordinary to develop sicknesses and infections, sprain your ankles, become dehydrated or hypothermic, suffer from overexertion or even find yourself completely lost. In fact, the Larapinta Trail asks all who are planning their hike to anticipate everything listed above.
With walks ranging from one to 16 days, the Larapinta Trail is a great place for any traveler who is ready to utilize every single muscle in his body and test his wits against the ultimate wilderness experience. All 12 trail sections are heavily rated by quality of terrain, graded by hiking experience needed and list all facilities at the trailhead of each section.
This 223-kilometer trail is one of Australia’s most loved and unique trekking experiences and is also one of the newest trails in the country, which is why you must be prepared for anything that may be thrown at you. The breathtaking backdrop of Australia’s famous outback is reason alone to visit this trail, but we all know thrill seekers will be going for the undisputable adrenaline rush. More info here.