If you're the adventurous type, you probably aren't satisfied with the "normal" vacations that many travelers take. Another trip to the beach? No thanks. You need something even more intense than a backpacking trip around Europe to satisfy your sense of adventure. How about hanging out with gorillas in an African forest or dropping from a helicopter onto a snow-covered mountain? If you are so inclined, there are plenty of intense travel destinations for you to check out that will surely keep your adrenaline pumping. Read on to learn about ten extreme vacations that will take you from the infinity of space to the depths of the ocean.
Venturing into Uganda's Impenetrable Forest will surely get your heart rate up. Inside the shadowed deep, you'll embark on a gorilla safari that will give you the chance to see Africa's mountain gorillas up close. First, you'll join a group in Uganda's coastal town of Entebbe to catch a plane to Kibale Forest National Park. For the next 11 days, you'll hike, trek and ride around Uganda's forests and plains while watching chimpanzees, gorillas, elephants and lions in their natural environment. You'll have the chance to ride across the lake-dotted savannahs in four-wheel-drive vehicles and track gorillas on foot up to altitudes of 8,500 feet (2.6 kilometers) in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. While on the trip, you'll have a chance to stay in everything from the national parks' lodges to a tent camp in Bwindi. All the while, you'll be as close as possible to the "gentle giants" that you have come so far to see [source: Wilderness Travel].
If waterskiing is too wet for you or snowboarding is too cold, look no farther than the hills of the increasingly popular sand dune parks throughout the world. Sandboarding has a long history, stretching back to the ancient Egyptians skiing down dunes on bits of pottery, but it has only recently come back into vogue as a new generation discovers the thrill of the sport [source: Sandboard Magazine]. Sandboarding can include everything from simply hopping on a board and sliding down a dune to setting up courses with jumps to increase the thrill.
You don't even need a desert to sandboard, as parks have sprung up all around the world in places like Oregon, Brazil and Peru. These are often privately owned parks that will provide you not only with the heaps of sand, but also with the proper equipment needed to traverse the dunes. If you're looking for a more authentic experience, the Middle East has loads of prime spots. Or head on over to South Africa, where you'll find a multitude of natural dunes to hurtle down [source: SA Places].
If you're hoping your vacation will be a chance to get away from it all, perhaps your best bet is in the infinity of space. With the market and interest growing rapidly and large scale investors getting involved, the reality of space tourism is growing ever closer. And why not? It's a chance to free yourself from the grips of Earth's gravity and feel the weightlessness of space as you circle your home planet hundreds of miles above its surface.
Although your options are limited at the moment in respect to actual space travel, several major companies are in the process of building ships that will take tourists on a suborbital flight [source: Space]. And Virgin Galactic has already built its ships and hopes to begin flights by the end of 2012, although 2013 is more likely [source: Kansas City Star]. You'll need a lot of cash, though; tickets run $200,000 [source: Virgin Galactic]. Companies are also looking into public ships that will allow for longer flights deep into space. That being said, your best bet for the weightless feeling will be to take a zero gravity flight (check out the sidebar for details).
The problem with ski lifts is that they can only take you so high up the mountain. In order to ski the best slopes on the most powdery of powder, you may want to give heli-skiing a go. Some of the best spots to try this experience can be found in Alaska, British Columbia and Italy, and most heli-skiing will provide you with transport to some of the highest peaks in the area. Once on the top, you'll disembark from the helicopter with your guide and follow him or her down to the pick-up spot. You will be skiing at an altitude of anywhere between 6,500 feet (1,900 meters) and 10,000 feet (3,000 meters). In addition to air-lifting you to your skiing destination, most companies will allow you to rent equipment and offer the option to pay for a package deal that will include your room and board, or opt for a pay-by-the-run deal where you pay for each lift to the top separately.
Dive to the Wreck of the Titanic
Starting at Newfoundland, if you head roughly 400 miles (600 kilometers) south, you'll find yourself in the middle of nowhere, floating on the Atlantic Ocean. The surface, however, is not what brought you to this point -- you're here to see what lies well beneath the waves and wind above. About 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) below you is the wreck of one of the most famous ships ever to have sailed the seas, the RMS Titanic. From the Russian research ship Akademik Keldyshe, you'll board one of two submersibles capable of withstanding the pressure of diving deep into the ocean. The MIR I and II will ensure you a safe and comfortable ride to the bottom of the ocean, where you'll be one of only a handful of non-scientists to view the wreck of the Titanic [source: Adventures.com]. Just remember to keep your hands and feet inside the vessel!
Get a taste of what it's like to be a stunt person in Hollywood by signing on for a stunt experience vacation, like the ones offered by Thrillseekers Unlimited. During this adrenaline-pumping week, you'll try a variety of common stunts, like shooting heavy weapons. After several hours of target practice with Glocks, shotguns, submachine guns and more, you'll have a special session on military-style air munitions, then team up for a real battle. If it's your day to learn falls, you'll first simulate flying through the air from an explosion or gun blast using mini and competition trampolines, then jump out of a tower into cushy air bags. And what's a movie without a few brawls? Besides perfecting a choreographed fight scene, you'll learn to perform a "ratchet" using a special harness; ratchets pull a performer backwards to simulate the after-effects of a hard kick, punch or shotgun blast. Round out your vacation by performing partial body burns and stunt driving that includes 180s and evasive driving techniques [source: Thrillseekers Unlimited].
Trek to an Igloo Village
Think Inuit life is easy? Then think again. An experience offered by Abercrombie & Kent Extreme Adventures starts at Scoresbysund, Greenland, the world's largest fjord, where you immediately hop onto a dogsled for a four-hour ride across the desolate, frozen landscape, in between mountains and enormous icebergs. You may see Arctic fox, Arctic hare, musk ox, wolves, walruses and more. Your lodging for the night (all nights, actually) will be an igloo, the traditional home of Greenland's indigenous people, the Inuit. Day two is devoted to finding a few polar bears. While people often think they're fuzzy and cute, polar bears are actually dangerous predators, and you'll be instructed on exactly what to do if a bear approaches (and it's not toss marshmallows at him). During your final days, you'll explore both a deserted Inuit village and a populated one; at the latter, you'll hang with the locals and learn how they've survived so long in such harsh surroundings [source: AK Extreme Adventures]. Other companies offer Greenland adventures with different itineraries as well.
Shark Cage Diving
People have long been fascinated by sharks. Who hasn't seen (or at least heard of) the classic 1970s movie Jaws? Test your mettle on a shark cage diving trip. There are two basic types of shark cage diving. Traditional dives are done in heavy metal cages released into areas where massive Great White sharks reside. There are often a few divers per cage, and you'll typically start out with a one-hour dive, then increase your cage time over the course of the trip. Although you're safe in a metal cage, be prepared for the sharks to pass very close to you -- as close as 12 inches (30 centimeters) [source: Shark Diver].
Soft-cage diving is done in warm water, where smaller sharks swim (e.g., Tiger and Blacktip sharks). Because these sharks are only interested in feeding on small fish, you can go down in a much lighter "soft" cage. While in your floating soft cage, you may see up to 30 sharks silently swimming by. You might even be able to get out of the cage and paddle around with the sharks, depending on the species and what your guides decide [source: Shark Cage Diving KZN].
Antarctic Circle Expedition
Itching to go where no man has gone before? Or at least where very, very few have? Then look into an Antarctic Circle expedition. Many Antarctic trips keep you on the Antarctic Peninsula, which has the mildest temperatures on the continent, but only a few allow you to travel south of the Antarctic Circle, the final place on Earth to be explored, and what many consider the least-known realm on the planet. During this trip, the sun will never set and you may spot icebergs as long as a city block drifting by. You'll see the requisite penguins and seals, and may also catch a glimpse of Humpback, Minke and Orca whales. You'll also be able to visit research stations on Adelaide Island. But the best part is that those who are brave enough can get off the ship and mountain-climb, cross-country ski, sea-kayak among the whales and even camp overnight [source: Quark Expeditions].
Racing Exotic Supercars
Driving a race car is so yesterday's news. Yes, it's exciting, but given the wealth of race car driving experiences out there -- schools run by luminaries such as Richard Petty and Mario Andretti, sessions put on by NASCAR -- it's not that special. So if you're looking for something a little different, something a little more thrilling, try racing exotic supercars. Specifically, try to break the 200 mph (322 kph) barrier. During this experience offered by World Class Driving, you'll be able to climb into one of several uber-luxurious wheels capable of hitting such speeds, including Audis, Bentleys, Ferraris, Jaguars, Lamborghinis and Mercedes-Benzes. As you make your attempt, you'll have a professional driver with you to ensure safety. And you can only attempt this 200 mph-challenge at two select airport locations with the perfect conditions, including plenty of open space, in case you make an error. But if you're able to smash through that barrier, you'll join a very select group of less than 200 amateurs [source: World Class Driving].
HowStuffWorks hikes El Caminito del Rey, a very dangerous hiking path in Spain that was closed to the public for 15 years after several deaths.
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- AK Extreme Adventures. "Tailor Made Greenland: Trek to the Igloo Village." (Jan. 3, 2012) http://www.akextremeadventures.com/adventure-travel/expedition/greenland/dog-sledding/polar-bear/arctic/packageID/5210
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- Thrillseekers Unlimited. "THRILLSEEKERS UNLIMITED 5 DAY STUNT EXPERIENCE." (Jan. 3, 2012) http://www.thrillseekersunlimited.com/v5stuntexperience.html
- Virgin Galactic. "Book your place in space." (Jan. 9, 2012) http://www.virgingalactic.com/
- World Class Driving. "SHATTER THE 200MPH BARRIER." (Jan. 3, 2012) http://www.worldclassdriving.com/events/200mph