By Tiffany Ryes, International Banker
If reading a novel on a tropical Bali beach, lounging on a chaise lounge of some European hotel or getting a tan on a yacht along the Mediterranean have all started to bore you, then perhaps you need to try something different. Up the ante. Get an adrenaline rush. Feel your pulse race. Be feverish with excitement. Do something you’ve never done before.
Consider ditching your beach towels for some skis and head onto treacherous terrain. Or, instead of diving with dolphins, be up close and personal with sharks! Have an extreme vacation that totally puts the ultimate in ultimate vacations.
And if you don’t know where to start, try the following destinations.
Skiing on Mount Yotei
While most would be fine staying at the resorts in Niseko in Hokkaido, Japan, and experiencing the pristine snow, daredevils would make a detour from the ski lodges and scale the iconic Mount Yotei. Towering over tourists peppered across Niseko’s powdery white landscapes, you’ll find that scaling Hokkaido’s Fuji is no easy feat, even for expert skiers.
High and lofty at 1,898 meters tall, the highest mountain (also a stratovolcano) in the region has the longest vertical ski descent, thanks to its perfect cone. Add to this the wind-loaded bowls, huge open faces, breathtaking tree runs and 15 meters of champagne powder, any thrill-seeker will be in for a once-in-a-lifetime treat.
For safety, the trip would take a lot of planning to make for a successful ascent and a spectacular descent, as weather is known to be unobliging in the region. Scaling the summit would take six to eight hours, a journey that will test not just anyone’s fitness but resolve as well. Of the 100 who attempt to climb the summit to reach the crater, only 20 manage to succeed. Biting wind, nipping temperature and cloud covers accompany the steep climb, but seeing the deep crater inside this stratovolcano is worth it all.
At about 400 meters deep, this crater offers long slopes, like a winter paradise all to yourself. What is most striking of all is the 360 degree view of Niseko from the peak that not many are fortunate enough to see. Meanwhile, the descent is just as awesome, if not challengingly nerve-racking, with light, untracked powder that will make you feel you’re zooming and zipping past, floating on the cold air.
Mount Yotei is best visited from January onwards, when there is more sunlight to afford the clearest, brightest views.
Shark diving in Mexico
When it comes to ultimate encounters, nothing is as exhilarating as being up close with the ocean’s notorious predator, the great white shark. Isla Guadalupe, a volcanic island just off the west coast of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, has one of the largest great white shark populations, and it offers a safe, fun and unforgettable shark-diving experience for those seeking the thrill of a lifetime.
What’s great about this experience is that divers and non-divers alike can enjoy the experience of being extremely close to these apex predators. Visitors can enter shark-diving cages that descend 40 feet into the clear, blue ocean and watch sharks pass by and even look in the cages, as equally curious as their human counterparts.
From Tijuana, Mexico, audacious tourists can begin their adventure with an hour’s drive to Ensenada. From here, they ride the Nautilus Explorer, a heavy, steel, stabilized ship, to take them on a run through the open ocean to Guadalupe Island. On the island, you can see elephant seals, fur seals and sea lions on the shoreline to add to your ocean-life sightseeing. The highlight, though, is the shark-cage diving experience, in which six or more sharks at a time can encircle the custom-designed cage. The most unforgettable encounters come from sharks coming in at arm’s length, their razor sharp teeth ominous, for a very close look at the caged tourists.
Away from the dive site, tourists can enjoy Guadalupe Island sunsets over cocktails and scrumptious Mexican food with new-found friends—all of you with much deeper respect and admiration for these great white predators of the sea.
Amidst many extreme mountain-climbing adventures, such as Mont Blanc and Mount Kilimanjaro ascents, nothing is as radical as climbing the highest peak of them all: Mount Everest.
At a magnificent 28,960 feet, the tallest mountain in the world has been witness to both tragedies and triumphs of the unyielding power of nature and the indomitable human spirit. So for anyone wanting to put themselves to the ultimate test and have the greatest adventure of their lives, climbing Everest is a superlative choice. The task alone would take years of planning and preparation, as well as full dedication to training the body and mind for the climb. But for already avid climbers, this will be a pretty familiar feat.
It all starts from Kathmandu to the world’s deadliest airport, the lone runway of Tenzing-Hillary Airport. From here, climbers can make their way to the Base Camp, thus starting a journey that may take them up to 60 days. Many tourists would hike only to the Base Camp, but the enterprising ones go higher through four more camps before reaching the summit. Throughout this hike, climbers experience a range of conditions and terrain, all stretching the limits of their endurance, dedication, willpower and survival instincts. With steep terrains, deep crevasses, avalanche sites, walls of ice, thinning air and blustery winds, many summit hopefuls have either given up along the way or died on the tracks. A few, though, have been able to reach the summit, where the magnificent view at the highest point on Earth makes all the trouble and danger worth it.
Space travel in Russia
For those who are tired of jet-setting, perhaps space travel is something worth a try. The Baikonur Cosmodrome, a historic site since the beginnings of man’s venture into space, is the launching site for a number of spacecrafts.
Whereas once before only space travel personnel and astronauts’ families were allowed access into the facility right before a space launch, today tourists can experience the excitement firsthand. The legendary Cosmodrome, the first and largest operational space-launch facility in the world, opens its doors to anyone wanting a taste of the drama. A slot to witness a space launch has to be prepared and reserved many weeks prior, and many specialist tours can provide accommodations and trips from Russia to the remote desert steppe in Kazakhstan, where the Cosmodrome is located.
If an occasional space launch will not fit your schedule, then Nizhny Novgorod, 400 kilometers from Moscow, provides adrenaline-pumping experiences that emulate the feeling of being up in space. One is the so-called SPACE Programme, which is a high-altitude flight on a MiG-29 fighter guided by one of Russia’s top-certified test pilots. Here passengers can travel at more than twice the speed of sound, and at an altitude of 23 kilometers can observe the Earth and look directly into the spectacular depths of space.
For discerning travelers who are looking for something absolutely new and exciting to try, these ultimate activities provide extreme adventures that truly last for a lifetime.