There never needs to be a dull moment for adventurers
There’s seemingly no shortage of adventurous experiences available on our planet, most of them found on terra firma, while others are available above ground and others lead people into a subterranean world.
Travel Courier has found some particularly interesting options for those who have an adventurous streak.
Here they are:
50 Degrees North
50 Degrees North clients may be able to get a whirlybird’s-eye view of a firey display that’s provided by Mother Nature if the timing of their visit to Iceland is just right.
The Scandinavia tour specialist includes Iceland among its destinations and those who visit that island nation with the tour company may be among the very first to see any newly flared volcanic activity.
Authoritative Guide to Iceland reports that the Nordic nation — dubbed the Land of Fire and Ice because of its glaciers and volcanoes — has around 130 volcanoes, many of them active. Indeed, since the turn of the 19th century, Iceland hasn’t gone a decade without experiencing a volcanic eruption.
The volcanoes aren’t generally seen as a threat to public safety threat as seismic stations monitor them and they’re away from towns.
50 Degrees North’s Satu Vanska-Westgarth’s told a recent webinar that those hoping to see a particularly dramatic Icelandic sight on an Iceland vacation can place themselves on a “volcano waiting list” and “if there’s an eruption you’re one of the first to know.”
Those people are then whisked to the site by helicopter, viewing a natural pyrotechnic show from above.
“There are no erupting volcanoes in Iceland at the moment. If clients are near Mývatn, they can see the lava field made by the Holuhraun (Bárðarbunga) eruption in 2014-2015. Closer to Reyjkavik, you can see the lava field made by the Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano in 2010. It isn’t that common for there to be an active live erupting volcano hence the waitlist/alert set up,” 50 Degrees North reports.
“They do get quite close to the volcano, depending of course on safety considerations and weather,” the company adds of those who happen to be there at an optimal volcano-viewing moment.
Most helicopter tours also stop beside remote hot geyser activity. “When we fly over one of the most active volcanic areas in Iceland, the Hellisheiði Plateau, you’ll see moss covered lava fields stretched out to the horizon, interspersed with colourful basalt mountains, steaming hot springs and the very geothermal power plants that supply Reykjavik it’s renewable energy,” the company continues. “On this sightseeing tour, we make sure to land off the beaten track and away from the crowds to witness the region’s raw energy first-hand. In the landing place of Hengill geothermal area — named after the Hengill volcano — you can witness upfront the untouched Icelandic nature. We bring you close to hot springs and boiling mud pots, and you might even see some sheep wandering around the valley in the summer. Note that this is not a regular tourist site, there are no safety ropes etc. — it is just how nature created it. Furthermore, no matter the season or time of year, this area always brings magical, colourful and beautiful views.”
“Interestingly, this year you can now do a Hunting Film Locations tour, visiting behind the scenes and overfly some of the beautiful landscapes captured in recent Iceland film projects. The hunting begins by taking off from Reykjavik and following the Secret Life of Walter Mitty “road” towards Hellisheiði plateau and Hengill. This active geothermal area is also known for some of the famous Game of Thrones scenes. You might for example remember the memorable fighting scene between Brienne of Tarth and the Hound! From there you overfly the continental drift of the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates. If you keep a close eye you might witness the “Bloody Gate” from Game of Thrones from above!”
Meanwhile, 50 Degrees North says those seeking a particularly cool experience can opt for a visit to a man-made ice cave in western Iceland’s Langjokull Glacier, the second largest glacier in a country that has about 10% of its surface covered by ice The nearby Husafell Hotel says those who go on a guided cave tour will “go deep inside the man-made ice tunnels, leading to the blue heart of the glacier.”
The hotel adds the tours provide some 101 glacier schooling, adding although they’re designed to be entertaining, participants “will learn the basics of glacier science.”
Cedar Swan says it can be really cool to briefly be really cold.
Swan oversees Adventure Canada, which is best known for its Arctic and High Arctic cruises, which at one point during a sailing invite passengers to make the short leap off a ship ramp into water that generally hovers around -1C.
Crew members are nearby in a Zodiac, ensuring the hearty sorts emerge safely from the ocean and a doctor is on hand too.
“The polar plunge is a long-standing Adventure Canada tradition,” Swan says. “For many people, a trip to the Arctic is a once-in-life-time experience. We encourage our guests to make the most of their adventure by trying new things; new foods, learn new and different perspectives; get out of their comfort zone; do that one thing you always wanted to do! A dip in the Arctic Ocean is often just that. It is absolutely exhilarating. You come away completely reinvigorated; proud; purified. It’s an event that brings together some of the most adventurous onboard. We make a big deal of it, and the rest of guests and crew watch from deck as each guest, one by one (or each party), jumps off the Zodiac landing platform. We do this on almost all of our expeditions. The hardiest are the ones that do this in the Canadian Arctic.”
Swan’s daughter Islay takes the plunge on a 2019 cruise
Swan says the northern sailings generally see 20% to 25% of passengers jump into water more suited for the likes of such blubbery marine creatures as seals and walruses. “Often the first jumpers help those on the fence decide to take the plunge. Last year we had over 100 jumpers on an expedition, which is a company record!”
She says most jumpers are in and out of the ocean in a flash, and understandably so. “It really is a shock!” she says of a company ritual that she acknowledges may send a shiver up the spine of participants yelp after hitting the water. “Jump in and then head right back to the platform to climb the ladder out. Some of the bravest do a little swim around. On some expeditions we’ve done swims in both the Canadian and Greenlandic waters at guests’ requests, who want to lay claim to the glory of swimming on both sides of Baffin Bay. Talk about dedication!”
Swan has herself jumped into the Arctic Ocean numerous times over the years, while conceding that it takes considerable courage to voluntarily leap into water that may be numbingly cold for those who might linger in it too long.
Participants in the Adventure Canada polar plunge get rewarded with an Arcticus Feverous Foreveris Swim Team Badge
Swan acknowledges she’s stood on the platform about to jump, thinking she must be “crazy. Yet every time I do it, it is well worth those moments of turmoil. The feeling afterwards is incredible. Immediately after you feel so alive, with all of your senses heightened! I’ll be honest, there are some expeditions that I don’t do it, usually, if I’m feeling chilly after a landing. I always regret the times that I do not by the end of the trip.”
Swan’s youthful daughter Islay asked to be able to carry on a family tradition of jumping into northern water on a 2019 cruise, holding a parental hand for safety reasons while doing so.
Daring sorts who participate in the Adventure Canada tradition are later rewarded with an Arcticus Feverous Foreveris Swim Team Badge.
Not all who who jump into the water want to reboard the ship immediately, with frequent Adventure Canada guide John Houston — who was born in Nunavut’s coolish climes — raising eyebrows for having basked in the Arctic Ocean for a seemingly hypothermia-inducing 30 minutes.
“Some people just have a zest for life!” Swan says of Houston’s lengthy, lingering performances. “I think the key is to let yourself relax while in the water, let your body get use to it. I always tense up which makes it feel even colder. “John is a man of many talents.”
The letter B appears to take on special significance when it comes to Smiling Albino’s non-mainstream tours of Thailand’s capital that show sights most visitors will never come across.
The Bangkok-based company says its Bikes, Boats & Beer tour shows clients intriguing sides to the city, using boats and bicycles — instead of vans — to do so.
“At Smiling Albino, we like to ‘see Thailand, differently,'” says the company’s Daniel Fraser. “Taking guests out of a van and getting them onto the city’s streets, back alleys, footpaths and into the local communities and neighbourhoods that are the epicentre of daily life show guests a ground-level experience. Instead of spectating from the confines of a vehicle, We get amongst life as it’s happening. It’s on bikes that the day’s experience slows down and that the sights, sounds, and smells of the city come alive.
“The incorporation of boats transports us back to the ancient days of life along the Chao Phraya River. Allowing guests to explore urban Bangkok by boat is a unique travel experience. Floating through narrow canals takes us through Bangkok’s arteries. The fast-paced capital immediately slows down and a unique calm is felt as you cruise on a traditional longtail boat. At Smiling Albino, we show guests Bangkok, differently, providing an unexpected perspective of a city that’s touted for its hustle and bustle.
Fraser acknowledges that Bangkok’s traffic-clogged streets may not seem ideal for cycling to foreigners but adds many parts of the city are in fact great for two-wheeled transportation. “It’s Bangkok’s hidden laneways, green spaces, peripheral communities, and riverside pathways that turn this city into the perfect destination to explore on two wheels. Traveling by bicycle allows us to explore the city’s crevices where local life is on full display.
“The best way to cycle Bangkok is with an experienced guide who knows the ins and outs of the city. Which lanes to turn onto and which thoroughfares to avoid. Exploring with Smiling Albino hosts welcomes guests with an expert cyclist who doubles as one of our knowledgeable hosts, a support vehicle available at all times, routes that are customized for each guest’s cycling aptitude, food, drinks, a variety of local snacks and more. Comfort, safety and care are our priority while showing you the depths of the destinations we call home, differently.”
Fraser says the Thai capital has many intriguing aspects that most tourists don’t see and may not even be aware of.
“16 million people make Bangkok one of the most dynamic cities on earth,” he says. “New spaces are created, forgotten experiences are renewed, tradition is reinterpreted, and seemingly opposite ideas are fused. From street-side noodles to cruising ancient canals in a longtail, and all possibilities in between, Bangkok can be experienced over and over again. It’s our home town. We explore it better than anyone.
“Initially, most visitors are drawn to the globally-famous highlight reel of stunning temples, pungent markets, colourful canals, and glitzy riverside dining. After all, it is one of the world’s best food and drinks cities, to be sure. But far more than famous landmarks and street food, intrepid explorers seek out vintage neighbourhoods away from the crowds, vernacular architecture, quieter temples, mercantile communities and cottage industries. From textiles to contemporary art, we focus on what makes Bangkok unique, fast-tracking guests into the essence of one of the world’s greatest cities.”
Bangkok is known for generally steamy weather, leading Fraser to assure potential Bikes, Boats & Beer tour participants that suds they quaff on it will be cold.
“The beers portion of our Bikes, Boats & Beer experience will be enjoyed either at a bespoke beer pop-up aboard a boat, (with proper glasses and a customized menu!), our own floating taproom(!), or at a local crafter beer bar serving Thailand-made brews,” he reports, adding that’s (“a not-so-easy feat considering craft beer brewing in Thailand is technically illegal,” he reports.
“But just how much is cold beer enjoyed in Thailand? A fact not widely known outside of Southeast Asia is that much of the local beer is enjoyed ice-cold — meaning on ice! It’s extremely common for your local beer, be it a Singha, Chang or Leo, will come accompanied by a bucket of ice and tongs. With the steamy weather outside, the ice helps to prolong the beverage’s lifespan and keep the glass frosty and the beer chilled.”
Amy Sprotson is repeatedly putting her best foot forward these days.
Along with her other foot as well.
Ultra-marathoner Sprotson, who currently lives in Amman, last week began to run the Jordan Trail, which stretches 675 kilometers, connecting Jordan from Umm Qais to the Red Sea resort destination of Aqaba.
Sprotson will travel through 52 villages and towns on the way — a journey that typically takes 40 days to complete when hiking. Her goal is to break the current record of nine days and 10 hours held by marathon runners Robbie Britton and Dan Lawson.
Sprotson has been running since she was 11 and has been competing in ultra-marathons since 2006. She has competed in more than 60 ultra-marathons over the past decade, winning over 20.
The Jordan Trail connects the length of Jordan from Umm Qais in the north, all the way to Aqaba in the south. It traverses the diverse landscapes and vistas of the country, from the rolling wooded hills of the north, the rugged wadis and cliffs overlook the Jordan Rift Valley, the rose rock of Petra, the dramatic sands and towering mountains in Wadi Rum to the crystal waters of the Red Sea.
Chaa Creek Resort
Adventurous sorts visiting Belize can enjoy the sounds of (near) silence.
Among natural attractions in the Belize interior is Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave, described by one visitor who went on a guided tour of the subterranean system as a “maze of chambers.”
Guided tours — which at times have participants wade through water — have those who sign up wear helmets with attached lights, and the subterranean explorers may at one point may find themselves invited to temporarily turn off their lights, enabling them, as one guide put it, to hear nothing but “thousands of droplets hitting the floor” of the damp environment.
The Maya used to venture into the cave — sometimes dubbed ATM — over a 1,000 years ago, with ancient skulls, bones and pottery that can be seen at different spots reminding today’s visitors that they are far from the first people to enter Actun Tunichil Muknal.
Stalactites are also seen.
Roberto Harrison of western Belize’s Chaa Creek Resort notes the area also offers the likes of ziplines.
“We consider it (western Belize) the adventure capital of Belize,” he says.