Choose Your Own Adventure
20 Thrilling Travel Experiences for the Adventurous Spirit
Once the exclusive domain of the hardcore, adventure travel has become considerably more accessible with action to suit thrill-seekers of all skill and fitness levels. And while “daring adventure” for some might involve blood, sweat and tears, others are happier with added cheers – by way of a flute of Dom Perignon, that is.
Here, we have pulled together 20 of the world’s best luxury travel adventures to get you on your way. To quote another famous American writer, the inimitable Dr Seuss, “Oh, the places you’ll go”.
Get your running shoes on. You’ll either need them for this epic adventure, or you’ll want to run in the other direction! The 4 Deserts Race Series, comprising four 250-kilometre, self-supported ultramarathons in severe conditions, is the ultimate test of endurance. The series also includes the Gobi March in Mongolia, the Atacama Crossing in Chile and The Last Desert in Antarctica, but the first cab off the rank is the Namib Race, held in Namibia in April.
The six-stage race starts with four 40-kilometre days followed by the notorious ‘Long March’, an 80-kilometre stretch that takes place over 24 to 30 hours. e final stage is the ‘easy’ 20-kilometre home straight.
To take their minds o the burn, runners are privy to striking desert scenery as they complete the seven-day event. Spanning 2000 kilometres, the Namib Desert is considered the oldest in the world and the sight of
Atlantic waves crashing against desert sands is a powerful one. Massive sand dunes, some more than 300 metres high, gravel plains, mountain outcrops, lone trees and an array of flora and fauna pepper the race route, not to mention the eerie shipwrecks of the Skeleton Coast
Cue Daryl Braithwaite. Nomadic Expeditions’ Mongolian adventure, From Horses to Reindeer: Horse Trekking to the Tsaatan People, has all the drama of the iconic equine tune and then some.
The eight-day horse trek ventures through picturesque mountains, taiga forests, and idyllic meadows, but don’t be fooled by the storybook scenery – this journey is designed for experienced riders.
Known for its vast, rugged and untouched landscapes, and a rich ancient culture, Mongolia is an adventure in waiting, and a place where more horses than people roam.
Mongolian horses are legendary for their stamina and ability to negotiate difficult terrain, and these attributes serve Nomadic Expeditions’ riders well, too, with about six to eight hours (or 30 to 40 kilometres) spent in the saddle each day.
Travelling through the Khoridal Saridag mountains, riders will journey through the wilderness region of Darkhadyn Khotgor, complete with numerous river crossings, past Targan Nuur Lake, through Jigleg Pass, and along the Har-Us River.
En route, experience the traditional nomadic lifestyle of the Tsaatan people, who herd domesticated reindeer.
Serve & Protect
To swim with the sharks is one thing. To swim with the sharks, and then fish, catch, measure, tag, and document vital data, all in the name of conservation and protection, is quite another. And Impact Destinations can make it happen.
Specialising in transformational luxury adventures, Impact Destinations helps the discerning traveller make a genuine difference through philanthropic experiences. Hammerhead shark conservation takes place alongside marine biologists in one of the largest marine protected areas in the world, the Golfo Dulce, in Costa Rica. Or there’s rhino relocation in South Africa, wild salmon conservation in Canada, snow leopard preservation in the Indian Himalayas – the list goes on.
Impact Destinations founder, Christopher Hill, says: “At the luxury level, travellers have ‘been there, done that’, and the opportunity to be transformed by a truly unique encounter, make an impact and leave a legacy is hugely compelling.”
Impact Destinations create tailor-made journeys; just select your destination, activities and philanthropic experiences, and a personalised itinerary will be made to fit.
A Night on Ice
There’s no denying Antarctica’s bucket-list credentials, but to truly crank up the adventure factor, we turn to Captain’s Choice.
The luxury travel company’s breathtaking Antarctic Frontiers with Eric Philips itinerary comes complete with a luxurious stay at an exclusive polar camp as well as a night on ice.
Led by Philips, the Australian polar explorer, the 13-day exploration begins at the lavish Cape Grace Hotel in Cape Town before a five-hour private jet flight delivers guests to Queen Maud Land, Antarctica, and the Whichaway Camp.
The first of its kind, and with names such as Buzz Aldrin, Bear Grylls and Prince Harry in its guestbook, Whichaway Camp is an unforgettable experience complete with a grand dining room, lounge room, library and state-of-the-art sleeping domes (heated, of course), as well as gourmet food prepared on site.
The adventure deepens with the optional excursion of flying to the largely inaccessible South Pole for an overnight stay in Arctic Oven tents. e awe-inspiring sight of endless white is humbling. It might be the lowest point on Earth (that’s not covered by ocean), but this is anything but a low point.
Think Outside the Jeep
Adventure travel equals African safari, or so goes popular belief. And it’s no wonder. The chance to get up close and personal with some of the most magnificent, the most intimidating, the most graceful animals on the planet is pretty tasty bait. Yet thrill-seekers want more than a front-row seat, even if that seat is leather-cushioned comfort in an open-top Jeep. And that’s where exploration safaris come into play.
The Selinda Adventure Trail, from eco-conscious travel company Great Plains Conservation, is a four-day journey in Botswana’s ancient Selinda Spillway, travelling by canoe and on foot. Linking the Okavango Delta with the Linyanti wetlands, the Spillway ows elegantly through the remote woodlands of the 130,000-hectare Selinda Reserve, home to some very famous residents including bu alo, elephant, wildebeest, zebra, lion and leopard.
The September departure will mark the final Selinda Adventure Trail, at least for now, but Great Plains have launched an exceptional alternative. e Greater Mana Expedition is a seven- day walking and canoeing safari in the private Sapi Reserve, Zimbabwe. Much of the 118,000-hectare reserve, which borders the famous Mana Pools National Park, is accessible only on foot, making for a dream walking safari with canoes, boats, and the traditional vehicles also on hand.
Want to take your fishing game up a notch? Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, located in the spectacularly remote Great Bear Rainforest in British Colombia, Canada, has the answer.
One of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, the adventure resort is surrounded by 130 square kilometres of pristine conifer forest ready for exploration. And although the lodge offers numerous activities – think whale watching, kayaking, glacier trekking, to name a few – fishing has been the star here since doors opened almost four decades ago.
Heli-fishing allows guests access to more than 50 isolated rivers and streams, and the bird’s-eye-view means you will be where the fish are biting. Discover streams filled with wild Pacific salmon and fish for for coho, chinook, pink and steelhead, as well as Dolly Varden char, rainbow, and cutthroat trout. Fly-fishing is also on the program, whether you’re experienced or want to learn.
Back at the family-owned and operated resort, luxury private inter-tidal chalets replete with exceptional cuisine with a focus on local, seasonal ingredients complete the five-star picture.
Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort is the only development in the area and is so remote, you’ll have to y to Vancouver Island and then catch helicopter or float plane to the property’s private dock.
Catch the Perfect Wave
The Maldives is an iconic holiday destination – a wondrous paradise where watching glittering waves peeling from the pillowy comfort of your resort bed is standard behaviour. But why watch the waves when you can ride them?
Home to some of the best beaches in the world, the Maldives’ unique composition (nearly 1200 islands make up this slice of heaven) means surfers are spoilt for choice with breaks to suit all skill levels.
Get yourself from A to Break with Sea Rex, a custom-built 40-metre yacht that will turn your surf trip into a luxurious floating holiday. Enjoy unparalleled amenities – think private whirlpool, steam and aromatherapy room, and media room – while Sea Rex’s experienced guides lead you through the Maldives’ vast and colourful waterways.
Sea Rex has teamed with The Perfect Wave, the Maldives’ largest surf operator, to deliver its on-board surf program and help guests explore world-class waves (with world-class names) such as Chickens, Jailbreaks, Sultans and monkeys.
Plus, there are more than a few surfboards in the toy box. Try your hand at water-skiing, windsurfing, jet-skiing, wakeboarding or even seaplane surfing, if you dare.
Drive an Icon
Home to mouth-watering cuisine, exceptional wine, pristine countryside and the fastest of fast cars, it’s no wonder Italy is a travel heavyweight. And Ultimate Driving Tours’ Supercar Tour d’Italia combines the lot.
The tour puts guests, quite literally, in the driver’s seat across six turbocharged days travelling from Milano to Lake Como. Experience a jaw-dropping fleet of some the world’s best supercars, including the Ferrari 458 Spider, Lamborghini Aventador LP700, Porsche 911 Turbo, and Aston Martin DB11, while cruising Italy’s best roads en route to award- winning dining and five-star accommodation.
Tackle hairpins, switchbacks, and lazy bends, not to mention the world-famous Stelvio Pass, a journey as challenging as it is breathtaking.
The tour, which also takes in Maranello, Verona, Bolzano and Bormio, includes an exclusive VIP tour of Museo Ferrari and the option to get behind the wheel of the Ferrari 488 and Lamborghini Huracan SuperTrofeo during a private track day.
As an optional extra, the 2019 tour culminates with a weekend at the Italian Grand Prix, one of the longest running and most celebrated races on the F1 calendar. Now you’re torque-ing!
It’s hard to ignore New Zealand when it comes to adventure travel. It is also hard to choose between the country’s myriad adrenalin-fuelled journeys. On the South Island alone you’re presented with snow-capped mountains, wild beaches, lush forests, turquoise lakes, dreamy fjords, sparkling glaciers...and the rest. Where, oh where to begin?
Well, National Geographic’s South Island Adventure is certainly an impressive start. The multi-sport adventure packs a mighty punch, starting in Nelson on the island’s north shore and continuing to Queenstown via some of the country’s most majestic spots.
En route, hike sections of three of New Zealand’s iconic Great Walks, including the glacially carved wilderness of the Routeburn Track; sea kayak on the coast of Abel Tasman National Park and trek along its soaring cliffs; and cruise past waterfalls on the glorious Milford Sound.
The helicopter flight among the ice-carved peaks of Mount Aspiring National Park is a highlight among highlights. After landing in the remote Siberia Valley, you’ll embark on a hike through beech forest to the Wilkin River before setting o on a thrilling jet- boat ride, skimming below snow-dusted peaks and verdant valleys.
The charm of towns such as Nelson and Wanaka, and an introduction to Māori culture, ensures this unforgettable journey is also a holistic one.
Walk This Way
Trekking tends to be part and parcel of most holidays, whether you’re traipsing between sights or heading back and forth at the breakfast bu et. But there’s a big difference between trekking on holiday and a trekking holiday.
Celebrating 50 years in 2019, MT Sobek is a world leader in adventure travel, and hiking and trekking journeys are a specialty. On an impressive catalogue of adventures, it’s hard to go past the company’s Dolomites Hut-to-Hut Trek – a hardcore 11-day hike taking in the spectacular Italian mountain range
Led by legendary MT Sobek guide Sergio Fitch- Watkins, this trek covers some of the highest and most famous Dolomites peaks, including a 13-kilometre mission on the Alpe di Siusi, the tallest high-altitude alpine plateau in Europe. You’ll explore historic remnants of World War I; summit Piz Boe, the Stella group’s highest mountain at 3152 metres; and admire Serrai di Sottoguda, a scenic canyon created by glacier erosion.
Accommodation en route includes five nights in mountain rifugios (huts), accessible only by foot and set in spectacular isolation.
The Sydney to Hobart yacht race is an icon. On Boxing Day each year Australians gather – some in living rooms, others with a front-row seat on the Sydney Harbour foreshore – to watch the start of the famous 1000-kilometre race, and interest follows competitors down the east coast until a winner is crowned in Hobart. Perhaps it’s time to get in on the action.
Flying Fish Sailing offers enthusiasts the chance to test their seamanship and the company’s flagship luxury yacht Calypso is just the vessel for the job. The beautifully appointed Moody 54 Deck Saloon features premium accommodation and communal spaces, but it’s the sailing you’re here for, right?
Recommended for guests with some o shore sailing experience, the Sydney to Hobart Luxury Yacht Campaign starts with five days of skills and drills on Sydney Harbour before the 24-hour off shore qualifying passage, a race requirement.
Then, after some well-earned rest, it’s go time. Soak up the incomparable atmosphere as a participant on the start line, revel in the celebrations as you cross the finish line at Constitution Bay and savour the beauty and the battle of sailing in between. And, as if you needed another excuse to party, the schedule should have you in Hobart in time for New Year’s Eve.
Fish the Reef
The pristine fishing environments of Far North Queensland are unbeatable. Well, almost unbeatable. Venture into that big deep blue via a multi-million-dollar tri- level yacht and then you’ve nailed true fishing perfection. Far North Queensland Sports Fishing (FNSF) combines high- adrenalin fishing and high-end luxury with its small group day trips or live- aboard charters exploring the tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
From fresh- and salt-water y to heavy-tackle reef fishing, FNSF adventures put fishers among species such as Spanish mackerel, giant trevally, mahi mahi, barramundi, and black marlin.
The 20-metre Blue Martini is the company’s ‘mothership’, a fully staffed and newly refitted yacht featuring large living spaces, a spacious sundeck and, importantly, a well-stocked wine cellar and on-board chef. Blue Martini operates with four smaller vessels that whisk guests o to the region’s ultimate fishing hotspots – and there are plenty.
The Northern Exposure charter delivers guests to the renowned and rarely visited reef systems, including Ribbon reef flats and St Crispins, where sights are set on coral trout, wahoo and giant trevally, among others.
The six-day Remote Barra Expedition, which starts in style with a two-hour low-level helicopter flight to Princess Charlotte Bay, targets the likes of fingermark, queenfish, nannygai and, of course, barramundi.
Bespoke tours are also available with add-ons such as snorkelling, diving, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and even whale watching.
A Higher Powder
Hans Gmoser invented modern heli- skiing. He also founded CMH, so it’s no wonder the Canadian heli- skiing and heli-hiking company is the world’s largest and one of the most celebrated. A true pioneer, Gmoser staked out a 1.2-million-hectare region in British Columbia, Canada, making CMH’s private reserve 23 times larger than all the skiable terrain of every North American resort combined.
CMH operates 12 lodges – two in mountain towns and 10 in heli- accessed backcountry. CMH Valemount is one of the sport’s nest and most exclusive heli-skiing experiences, with more than 500 runs and 1489 square kilometres to conquer as well as your own private helicopter on call.
The 10-room Valemount lodge is located in the remote Cariboo mountain range. Access is by private jet and the amenities are five- star – think hot tubs, massages and cosy replaces, all complemented by exceptional cuisine courtesy of a private chef.
Back on the powder, a plethora of long, steep tree runs and wide-open glaciers will keep skiers utterly exhilarated. If you can be pried off your skis or snowboard, snowmobiling, dogsledding and snowshoeing await.
Ahhhh, serene river, gently winding through lush valleys, and washing a sense of calm over all who watch on. Not today! Patagonia’s mighty Futaleufu River, Chile, is considered one of the world’s premier white-water rafting rivers, delivering riotous rapids under the snow-capped Andes.
Bio Bio Expeditions’ nine-day adventure on Futaleufu’s turquoise waters is billed as a multi-sport experience, but white-water rafting is, without doubt, King. Rafting ranges from Class III (moderately difficult to Class V (extremely difficult) and includes Inferno Canyon, a five-kilometre stretch of Class V white-water sure to get the heart pumping. Only the “extraordinarily di cult” Class VI is considered more challenging.
In contrast, there are also opportunities to simply drift while activities off the ‘Fu’ include inflatable kayaking, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, yoga and salsa dancing.
Set on Futaleufu’s turquoise waters, basecamp comprises glamping-style tents as well as riverside hot tubs, a wood- red sauna and sunset bar. Even arrival is special. The scenic flight over Patagonia Fjords and equally beautiful transfer through temperate rainforest, via waterfalls and hanging glaciers surrounded by jagged mountain peaks, will set the mood.
When it comes to new-frontier travel experiences, there’s nothing quite like venturing beyond Earth’s bounds. And such an adventure, once reserved for sci-fi films and creative imaginations, could now be reality – if, that is, you have a spare US$55 million.
Renowned luxury travel firm Roman & Erica, Inc. has teamed up with Axiom Space, the privately owned successor to the International Space Station (ISS), to send the first commercial travellers into orbit more than 400 kilometres above Earth.
Prices for a 10-day stay on the ISS will start at US$55 million (about A$76 million) per person and will include 15 weeks of training alongside career astronauts, round- trip transportation on a SpaceX rocket, as well as the time in orbit. There’s also a 60-day option for the ‘cost- effective’ price of US$80 million.
Luxurious touches aren’t lost in space. ‘Habitation modules’ are designed by Phillipe Starck and come complete with large observation windows, perfect for wide-eyed gazing at Earth from above.
Roman & Erica, Inc. co-founder Roman Chiporukha says: “Space travel in 100 years may become the new normal but for now, this unexplored terrain holds infinite possibilities for the consumer to experience.”
Reservations are now open with the first mission – if you choose to accept it – scheduled for 2020.
Life is a Highway
Want to feel the wind in your hair? A blustery 165-kilometre motorcycle ride across Tajikistan’s Aksu River valley should do it. Spectacular high-altitude landscapes await in the Central Asian nation, a truly off-the-beaten- track destination with plenty to offer thrill-seekers.
Silk Road Adventures’ Tajikistan Pamir Explorer by Motorcycle is one such thrill, a 14-day journey through extraordinary terrain including the Pamir Mountains, or the ‘Roof of the World’. Known locally as Bam-i-Dunya, this spectacular range sits dramatically at the junction of the Himalayas with the Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun, Hindu Kush, Suleman and Hindu Raj ranges.
With China to the right and Afghanistan at the rear, this is one of the most remote tri-borders in the world, and if the geography alone isn’t enough, the resident yaks, eagles, Kyrgyz nomads and fat golden marmots surely sweeten the deal.
As well as travel the Pamir Highway, the world’s second highest road at 4655 metres, riders will head into untouched valleys and ranges, making this a challenge suitable only for experienced off - road riders.
There are shades of blue you probably thought impossible to be found in the flawless waters of the Solomon Islands. Add vibrant coral reefs, magnificent drop-offs and abundant marine life, and you have yourself a bona fide underwater wonderland. Moreover, this nearly 1000-island archipelago is also an underwater graveyard.
Dozens of destroyers, military ships and aircraft rest in these crystal-clear waters, all casualties of the Battle of Guadalcanal, a series of land and sea clashes between Allied and Japanese forces during World War II.
These incredible remnants of history make the Solomon Islands one of the world’s most revered dive sites. Wrecks are scattered and suit various skills levels, from easily accessible shore dives to deeper challenges such as the USS Aaron Ward, the imposing destroyer resting upright at Iron Bottom Sound, at an average depth of about 60 metres.
While Solomon Islands tourism isn’t in the advanced stages of some of its Pacific neighbours such as Fiji and Vanuatu, the natural beauty and absence of crowds combine for blissful stripped-back luxury.
Dive Adventures can help travellers create a bespoke itinerary including the best dive sites and accommodations.
Hold Your Horses
Cowboy by day, R&R by night – this is the quintessential Dude Ranch experience of America’s West and The Resort at Paws Up, located in Greenough, Montana, adds a serious dose of luxury to the adventure.
Set on 15,000 hectares of a working homestead, Paws Up combines the undeniable wonders of nature and a smorgasbord of activities with the nest facilities, cuisine, and service.
With 160 kilometres of trails, 16 kilometres of the Blackfoot River and more than 4000 square kilometres of the nearby Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, activities are available in abundance. Options include fly- fishing, all-terrain vehicle tours, abseiling, kayaking, and so much more, but the key to a Dude Ranch experience is its horseback adventures.
Saddle up and set off with a wrangler to explore the pristine surroundings or, for more experienced riders, head off the hoof-beaten track – up rocky trails, across beautifully clear creeks and deep into Montana’s Big Sky Country – with the all-day Frontiersman Ride.
To awaken your inner wrangler, join a Paws Up cattle drive and help find, collect and push 360-kilogram Corriente cows into picturesque pastures.
Paws Up is also a great choice for families with accommodation, activities and packages all aimed to suit those travelling with kids. Giddy up!
Off the Grid
Don Sheldon, a renowned aviator and mountaineer, pioneered the technique of glacier landings in the 1950s and 60s. The Don Sheldon Amphitheatre, carved over millennia by the ice of Ruth Glacier, bears his famous name.
Sitting within this striking ring of mountaintops, on a rocky pinnacle known as a nunatak, is Sheldon Chalet, another grand legacy of this Alaskan explorer.
Set 1830 metres in elevation, and just 16 kilometres from the 6190-metre summit of Denali, Sheldon Chalet is a ve-room luxury lodge designed to capture the breathtaking majesty of its environment.
At Sheldon Chalet, this imposing beauty is referred to as “adventuring in place”, but the surrounding wilderness is an adventurer’s playground, too, with glacier exploration, abseiling, sledding and mountaineering all part of the experience.
Stark isolation is also part of the lodge’s appeal. The Alaskan property is accessible only by helicopter from the town of Talkeetna. Plus, the elevation combined with clear mountain air makes Sheldon an ideal vantage point to catch the magic of the Northern Lights.
Test le Tour
Broadcast in 130 countries, the Tour de France is followed by a massive 3.5 billion viewers. And they’re tuning in not only to cycling’s premium event, but to rolling coverage of some of the most beautiful landscapes imaginable.
Taste-test both by joining Sojourn’s six-day bike and hike tour, starting in picture-perfect Annecy, finishing in the glamorous ski-resort town of Chamonix, and exploring the dramatic vistas of the Rhone Alps in between.
Significantly, the itinerary includes a section of the 2018 Tour de France, putting riders on the famous switchbacks between the town of Blu y and the storybook village of La Clusaz. You’ll also pedal past pristine Lake Annecy and La Tournette mountain, through the charming villages of Flumet and Megève, and around Chamonix, delightfully set at the base of Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s tallest mountain.
In Chamonix, and out of the saddle, hike up the Grand Balcon Sud of Mont Blanc, along wooded canyons, lush meadows and wide rocky expanses, and explore the Mer De Glace, France’s largest glacier.
At the end of each day, luxury accommodation will well and truly aid recovery.