Adrenaline junkies know exactly what to do and where to go to get their fix. But for many of us who’ve yet to figure this out, here are some ideas to start fulfilling those bold dreams. These activities are sure-fire ways to spice up your holidays. And upon your return, you can regale your family and friends with anecdotes as you show off your nicks and bruises.
Words: Efi Hafizah Hamzah
Almost everyone with a bucket list will have mountain climbing as one of their must-dos. It is possibly one of the greatest challenges that we can take on to see what we’re really made of. Not only does mountain climbing push the body to the limit, it tests psychological and emotional strength as well. It requires mettle and muscle, alongside advanced equipment and a professional guide.
EXPECT THESE: Training for stamina and to extend your lung capacity is a must. Begin with an exercise routine that suits you best and stick to it for at least three months before making your booking. Check with operators for the list of items you’ll need; you shouldn’t skimp as safety is the greatest investment you can make in mountain climbing. There’ll be base camps where you can take a rest in most popular climbing destinations. Nonetheless, you’ll have to contend with the air pressure as you climb higher; the air gets thinner and you may find yourself out of breath if you’re not physically fit. There are certain ethics you need to observe to protect nature and be respectful of the local cultures. It’s best to join a mountain climbing club so you meet other mountain climbers who can guide you.
TOP SPOTS: Mount Rinjani in Lombok, Indonesia (www.trekkingrinjani.com); Mount Fuji in Japan (www.fujimountainguides.com); Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia (www.borneodream.com); Annapurna in Nepal (www.mountainmonarch.com); Mount Damavand in Iran (www.adventureiran.com)
This action-packed activity has been popular among thrill-seekers since the mid 1970s. Whitewater rafting refers to navigating rivers where there are varying degrees of turbulent waters known as rapids. In the last 30 years, it has become a popular group activity especially for team-building exercises for corporate companies. It’ll definitely be great fun as you’ll be sharing the challenge with others.
EXPECT THESE: Firstly, be clear of the category you feel you can handle. There are six categories in all – Class 1 is a smooth river with hardly any rapids, and the categories climb from there to Class 6, which should only be attempted by experts. Most whitewater rafting trips involve up to Class 3 and 4 rapids, where the turbulence gives you an exciting ride with minimal risk. Rafts are typically big and sturdy with a capacity to accommodate between six to eight people spread out equally on each side. An expert guide usually tags along for the ride to control the steering from the back, and your job with the rest of your mates is to paddle on each side of the raft. You’ll be given helmets and life jackets; even so, all rafters should be able to swim. The goal is to ‘surf’ the rapids without being thrown out of the raft; but be prepared to be flipped and dragged. It’s the challenge of a lifetime!
TOP SPOTS: Langbian River in Dalat, Vietnam (www.phattireventures.com); Cagayan de Oro River in Philippines; (www.raftingadventurephilippines.com); Sungai Padas in Sabah, Malaysia (www.traversetours.com); Great Bend of the Yangtze River, China (www.greatwalladventure.com); Sun Koshi River, Nepal (basecamptrekking.com); North Johnstone, Australia (www.raft.com.au)
Hot Air Ballooning
There’s nothing quite like taking in the sights from a great height as you float along in a hot air balloon. While it may seem quite tame in comparison to the rest of the activities listed so far, for those who want to overcome their fear of heights, this is it!
EXPECT THESE: Make sure you have a camera with a UV filter to cut out the glare in your daytime snapshots, and unleash the photographer in you! It’s not possible for companies operating these services to allow you to steer the hot air balloon, so you’ll have a ‘driver’ in the basket with you. Make sure you wear sensible clothes because as you ascend, temperatures will be warmer than on the ground due to the heat from the burners. Don’t forget a hat to protect you from the heat – be it a day or night flight.
TOP SPOTS: Bangalore, India (www.india-adventure-travel.com); The Outback, Australia (www.outbackballooning.com.au); Chiang Mai, Thailand (www.balloonadventurethailand.com); Bagan, Myanmar (www.myanmarheritagetravel.com)
Mastering wakeboarding is not an easy feat. The best way for a novice is to start with waterskiing. Wakeboarding requires a combination of skills usually employed in waterskiing, snowboarding and surfing. Originally called ‘skurfing’ in the 1980s, it has since evolved.
EXPECT THESE: This is pretty much like snowboarding, except it’s on water, so you’ll need some swimming skills. With your feet planted firmly on a board, you use both hands to grip handles attached to a cable that’s pulled by either a motorboat or float plane. Motorboats usually stick to a maximum of 15 to 25 kilometres per hour, depending on your weight, height and skill level, as well as the board you use. Float planes are only used by highly skilled wakeboarders. There’ll be practice sessions for beginners in which you’ll learn how to stand on the board as you’re being towed by the motorboat. It may take days for some to master standing alone; but don’t lose heart because once you’ve got the hang of it, the feeling is unbelievably liberating.
TOP SPOTS: Lake Eildon, Victoria, Australia (www.wakeboardtraveller.com); Putrajaya, Malaysia (www.waterski.com.my); Shambala, Thailand (www.wakeboardingthailand.com); Camarines Sur, the Philippines (www.camsurwatersportscomplex.com) For more info, visit www.cablewake.com
Shark Cage Diving
If you watched the movie Jaws as a kid and let your imagination run wild every time your parents took you on a beach holiday, chances are you used to pray that you’d never encounter a great white shark while taking a dip. But we all grow up and usually out of our childhood fears, and this activity tops the list of all-time adrenaline-pumping action.
EXPECT THESE: After a briefing on the dos and don’ts, you’ll have a practice dive minus the sharks. In places where you don’t need scuba certification, you can dive using the ‘hookah’, which enables access to oxygen supply from the surface via a hose, so there’s no cumbersome tank for you to wear. However, some places do require a basic scuba diving certification, and you can get it on site before going for the shark cage dive. When the action day arrives, you’ll be put in a cage of galvanised steel mesh with a viewing gap for a real heart-pounding glimpse of those razor sharp teeth. Bait will be thrown into the water so the sharks can follow the scent and make their way to you. Apart from the steel cage, there’s really nothing else that separates you from these predators!
TOP SPOTS: Popularly done in the oceans off the coast of South Africa, namely Gansbaai (www.sharkcagediving.net) or South Australia (adventurebaycharters.com.au) where a boat will take you from Port Lincoln to the Neptune Islands.
The first bungee jumpers in the world were the young boys of the Pentecost Island in Vanuatu, who jumped off a wooden platform held by nothing but a vine around their ankles to mark their passage into manhood. Fast forward to 1979, when the first modern bungee jump was executed by members of Oxford University’s Dangerous Sports Club, who jumped off the 76-metre tall Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, UK, with an elastic cord wrapped around their ankles. They were arrested, but continued their mission, jumping off cranes, hot air balloons and other bridges in America. In less than two decades, bungee jumping has garnered a serious competition category in the ESPN Extreme Games. The thrill is in the freefall, but the real challenge comes from actually stepping off the platform!
EXPECT THESE: Be sure to commit to jumping once you’ve paid the fee because most places won’t give a refund if you chicken out. You’ll need to sign a waiver acknowledging the risks you’re undertaking, and then your weight will be measured so the jump masters can adjust the length of your bungee cord. Most bungee operators attach a backup safety harness just before you jump. Tell the jump masters how you plan to jump and they’ll fasten the relevant heavy cord around your ankles. Waddle your way to the edge of the platform – the most nerve-wracking part of the experience. You’ll get a countdown and when the guy says jump, you jump! The few seconds of freefall will be followed by a bouncy rebound as the bungee cord kicks in and recoils. You’ll continue to oscillate up and down until the energy in the cord dissipates.
Sandboarding is perfect for those who’re not partial to snowboarding. Although it’s much like snowboarding, this latest craze spans all seasons, and may be enjoyed wherever there’s a lot of sand. It’s fast becoming a favourite among thrillseekers and even snowboarders when it’s off season for snowboarding.
EXPECT THESE: The only drawback is that you have to hike up to the peak of the sand dune because the characteristics of the sand slopes make it difficult to build a mechanised ski lift. The world’s tallest sand dune is in Cerro Blanco, near the Andes mountain range in Peru at 2,048 metres. If you’re experienced, this is where you should be! But with any sand dune, it’s best to keep ambition in check; a slope may not look challenging, but navigating it could be daunting. Start easy and move up to more challenging tasks. And fear not; part of the fun is in falling down and getting up again.
LESS RADICAL BUT
Not everyone has the endurance for the peak in adrenaline rushes, yet some may still want to try something different for a small bubble of excitement.
- Learn to salsa, tango, foxtrot or belly dance!
- Take a bath with an elephant at the elephant sanctuary in Surin, Thailand.
- Sing to your heart’s content in one of Bangkok’s many clear glass karaoke capsules. Yes, everyone can see you!
- Dare yourself to participate in the World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) Day. This requires no other skill apart from cycling, and is a unique experience that’ll help tackle selfconsciousness. This clothing-optional event with the motto ‘Bare as you Dare’, promotes a vision of a cleaner, safer and body-positive world.