Plan the adventure of a lifetime with our top 5 picks for international extreme sports destinations
Bundle that intrepid spirit into your backpack, round up a gang of like-minded friends and chart out a fun and fearless itinerary that will energise your body, rejuvenate your mind and enthral your soul. We handpick five exciting international destinations with heart-thumping adventures to get you started…
NEW ZEALAND: UNLEASH YOUR INNER POWDER HOUND
The Southern Alps of New Zealand offer some of the most pristine landscapes in the world. They’ll also let you indulge in a sport that’s banned in most European countries: Heli Skiing. Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak, provides a majestic backdrop to knock this heart-pumping activity off your bucket list. Heli Skiing (or heliboarding) is a highly technical sport, and it’s recommended that you have an above-average experience of skiing or snowboarding to attempt it. After weather checks and safety briefings, you’ll be whisked away in a helicopter, only to be deposited within thousands of square kilometres of snowy bowls, rolling slopes, challenging chutes and deep powder basins. The terrain is so vast and the altitude so high, that you’ll make fresh tracks in pristine snow even weeks after a snowfall!
TRY IT HERE: At Alpine Heliski (www.alpineheliski.com), you can get a Heli Day customised to suit your skill levels and make the most of your powder run!
NICARAGUA: RACE DOWN A VOLCANO
The Central American nation, snuggled between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, is famous for its sensational terrain. On this vast playground, you can kayak on roaring rapids, zipline through the cloud forest canopy, dive down a reef and surf the Pacific. But the real deal is ‘Volcano Boarding’ — which is as strenuous as it is fun! You begin by strapping your board to your back and trekking for an hour up to 730 metres high on a charcoal black mountain. Then, you straddle your board — a reinforced plywood toboggan — and zoom down the volcano at speeds of up to 90 kilometres per hour. The board has a rope in front for your hands, as you lean back for maximum speed. You’re given a one-piece suit for crash protection, protective goggles and leather work gloves. While it certainly is a thrilling ride of a lifetime, beware of those nasty volcanic stones; they’re deathly sharp!
TRY IT HERE: The León Big Foot Hostel (www.bigfoothostelleon.com) organises daily volcano runs on the nearby Cerro Negro.
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WALES: DAREDEVILRY IN THE DEEP
If you’re a restless water baby who loves the ocean but hates being stuck in one place, coasteering is made for you. Pioneered in Pembrokeshire (on the west coast of bonny Wales) thirty years ago, you might be misled into thinking of it as a mild activity amidst a cultural county which boasts of pretty parlours and a dreamy new Dylan Thomas trail. But this watery adventure is not meant for the faint hearted. Dressed in a warm wetsuit, helmet, hood, socks and buoyancy aid, you’ll be rock-hopping, shore-scrambling, swell-riding, cave-exploring and cliff-jumping in the ultimate aquatic adventure.
TRY IT HERE: Celtic Quest Coasteering (www.celticquestcoasteering.com) offers itineraries for all ages and skill levels, under the guidance of highly trained professionals who are crucial for you to survive the treacherous, slippery landscape.
HUNGARY: TRAVERSING TUNNELS
One of Europe’s most enchanting cities, the Hungarian capital — beauteous Budapest — offers excitement around every corner. But once you’re done romancing the Danube, there are sturdier challenges in store. Caving is a popular local activity and takes plenty of courage and physical stamina, even if it lasts for just over 3 hours. You’ll have to climb and crawl via narrow passages through a multi-level labyrinth system created over centuries by the capital’s famed thermal springs; a route that often extends over 30 kilometres. The temperature in these caves stays at 10°C all year long, so you’ll be equipped with overalls, a helmet and lights. A great cave to start with would be Pálvölgyi, the longest one on the Buda Hills; a protected natural preservation area curving over 7,200 meters, with plenty of obstacles to tackle.
TRY IT HERE: Budapest-based Absolute Tours (www.absolutetours.com) offers fun caving experiences, along with other biking and Segway tours.
VIETNAM: TAMING THE WAVES
A warm and friendly backpackers’ paradise with landscapes that inspire poets, Vietnam has plenty to offer the intrepid traveller. Along with opportunities for paddle boarding, kayaking and trekking (aim for Mt. Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest peak), there’s a vibrant kitesurfing community at Mûi Né — a beach resort town just 220 kilometres from Ho Chi Minh City. Sexy big brother to plain ol’ surfing, this extreme sport will have you clinging to a kite and riding the waves while performing high-octane acrobatics, jumps and adrenaline-fuelled flights through the air. Mûi Né offers safe learning conditions with an average of 227 days per year of wind over 12 knots (high season is from November to March).
TRY IT HERE: Surfpoint Vietnam is an established kitesurfing school (www.surfpoint-vietnam.com) with professional IKO certified instructors who’ll help you up your game.
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