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World traveler and TPG Contributor David Hoffmann isn’t one to shy away from an adventure. Over the last seven years, he’s traveled to 63 countries across six continents, documenting his travels for the David’s Been Here web series. For all you nature lovers and adrenaline junkies, here are his top 10 picks for exciting travel adventures around the world to experience for yourself. (Except where noted, all photos are by the author.)
1. Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
Home to 480 endangered mountain gorillas, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park holds just over half of the world’s entire mountain gorilla population. The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) organizes ranger-guided treks in order to promote and fund the preservation of the species. It takes half a day to complete this under-the-radar African safari; you’ll be briefed, divided into groups of eight, and then assigned to a gorilla family with whom you’ll spend one incredible hour. The cost is $750 per person. To book a trek, visit the RDB website — and whatever you do, don’t forget your camera!
2. Skydiving in Costa Brava, Spain
There are dozens of places to skydive around the world, but Skydive Empuriabrava in Costa Brava offers stunning coastal views for those brave enough to take the leap. Your invigorating 50-second free fall from 16,500 feet will feature spectacular views of the Gulf of Roses and coastal fishing towns. The price for a tandem jump is €240 ($264) plus an additional €121 ($133) for a photo/ DVD package.
3. Shark Cage Diving in South Africa
If you’ve watched Shark Week, you probably know that South Africa is home to apex predators like the Great White Shark. With rows of razor sharp teeth and the ability to smell a single drop of blood from miles away, why wouldn’t you want to go swimming with them? I’d recommend Marine Dynamics Shark Tours (also known as Shark Watch SA) in Kleinbaai, which is a two-hour drive from Cape Town. The average cost is R1,600 (about $136) per adult. The whole tour lasts about four hours. For best visibility, try to go in the winter months (from March to September).
4. Trekking to Sea Birds in the Faroe Islands
With rolling emerald hills and jagged cliffs, the Faroe Islands — an autonomous country within the Danish kingdom that’s set halfway between Norway and Iceland — are not your average archipelago. Dozens of migratory sea birds (such as the Puffin, Guillemot, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Gannet) breed on the pristine island of Mykines every year. Fly on Atlantic Airways to Vága Floghavn Airport (FAE) via connections in Reykjavik, Edinburgh (seasonally), or Bergen, Norway, then take a short helicopter ride to Mykines. From the main village in Mykines, it’s a six-hour round-trip hike to the lighthouse, where you’ll see plenty of birds along the way. Bring plenty of water, a windbreaker and a packed lunch, as well as your zoom lens for epic shots.
5. Rock Climbing in Kalymnos, Greece
This unassuming rocky island in Greece’s Dodecanese archipelago has enjoyed a spike in tourism in recent years thanks to its barren limestone crags and mountainous terrain. Kalymnos now ranks among the world’s best rock climbing destinations, and hosts the annual Kalymnos Climbing Festival sponsored by North Face. When you’re not lounging on the beach or sampling the fresh-caught seafood, try your luck at this challenging sport. Book a private beginner’s session with a licensed local guide. Be sure to see Jessica Spiegel’s post on Flying Direct to Greek Islands for more info on getting to/near Kalymnos.
6. Kayaking or Sailing on Lake Malawi
As the third largest lake in Africa and home to more species of fish than any other lake on Earth — as well as crocodiles and hippos — Lake Malawi shines as the crown jewel of Malawi’s natural wonders. For avid boaters and water sports enthusiasts, either kayaking or sailing Lake Malawi is a dream adventure. Book a stay at Danforth Lodge and Yacht Charters in Cape Maclear and you’ll have the Mufasa at your disposal; this 38-foot catamaran sleeps six, and is perfect for sunset cruises, under-the-radar sailing safaris, fishing excursions and snorkeling trips.
7. Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey
Imagine gliding over Cappadocia’s craggy, inimitable terrain from 1,000 feet above ground … in a hot air balloon! The 5am wake-up call is worth every minute of lost sleep, especially when you see the light from the rising sun begin to blanket the rock formations in gorgeous shades of pink, purple and orange. I highly recommend Kapadokya Kaya Balloons for their impeccable safety record; a one-hour tour costs about $250 per person, including hotel transfers and a light breakfast before takeoff. Be sure to see How to Use Airline Miles for Award Travel to Istanbul.
8. Jumping Crocodiles on Australia’s Adelaide River
Australia’s Northern Territory is home to some of the world’s largest saltwater crocodiles, or “salties” — and there’s probably no better way to witness their massive jaws and impressive lengths than by taking a boat ride down the croc-infested Adelaide River. Here, crocs don’t just bite, they actually leap out of the water to nab food. Known to be highly territorial, these salties have learned to compete with the other crocs in this highly unusual manner. Once you’ve made your way to The Land Down Under, there are several croc tours to choose from.
9. Snorkeling with Sea Turtles in Akumal Bay, Mexico
Swimming with green sea turtles in Akumal Bay is definitely one of the top things to do in the Riviera Maya. Aside from its powdery white sand and tropical palms trees, Akumal Bay is one big buffet for sea turtles, who come to feed on the nutrient-rich grass that grows along the sea bed. The Akumal Dive Center, which is conveniently located along the beach, rents out snorkeling equipment, snorkel guides, and even a personal photographer to accompany you for one hour.
10. Boat Ride Through the Glowworm Caves of Waitomo, New Zealand
For over 120 years, New Zealand’s Waitomo Glowworm Caves have fascinated visitors from around the world. The caves are home to millions of glowworms, or Arachnocampa luminosa, whose bioluminescence lights up the dark grottos and caverns like a starry night. A guided tour through the caves will teach you about their unique geological features as well as their famous inhabitants. It’s recommended to purchase a combo ticket to see both the Aranui and Glowworm Caves ($70). To get to Waitomo at a discount, be sure to see Low(er)-Cost Carriers in Australia and New Zealand.
What are your favorite travel adventures? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.