Long ago, most people thought the world was flat. And perhaps because we’ve now labeled every country, river, ocean and forest, and we know we can’t actually fall off the face of the Earth, a few of us have become restless. That need for real adventure has produced some extremely intimidating travel activities.
From jumping off a platform more than 70 stories high to swallowing the heart of the most deadly snake in the world, we rounded up the most insane, horrifyingly crazy, ridiculously intimidating activities on the planet. Sure, you can’t sail off the edge of the world – but if you have the money, you can lean out over largest waterfall in the world … while a complete stranger holds your ankles.
Here’s to the most intimidating travel activities on Planet Earth and those crazy enough to invent them:
No. 10 – Nude Cruising
While some people have no fear of heights and others will happily eat bugs, being completely naked with several hundred strangers will intimidate just about anyone. Bare Necessities has been inviting people to climb aboard their cruise ships – in the buff – for more than two decades.
“It has been our experience that people who are able to leave their clothing behind in a social setting are also more able to check their egos at the door and be themselves, as they really are, rather than who they think others would like them to be,” offers owner Nancy Tiemann.
Of course, that initial unveiling is still probably awkward. And since we are all thinking it, here’s the answer. Yes, you can wear clothes to dinner.
Price: From $5,000 to $18,600 depending on cabin
Best Place to Do It: Fiji, new cruise offered for 2014
No. 9 – Canyoning
Using everything you’ve got to tackle Mother Nature, canyoning is part rock climbing and part spelunking, with a dash of cliff jumping and a good measure of body sliding down a watery rock chute face first. Outfitters are located around the globe, from Costa Rica’s tropical rainforests to our pick in Scotland, where you add some serious heights – like a 120-foot abseil off a waterfall – and the bite of icy British water. The two-day extreme canyoning trip from Nae Limits offers a chance to visit the country’s most dangerous canyons, face first.
Best Place to Do It: Perthshire, Scotland
No. 8 – The Devil’s Pool Jump
Victoria Falls is one of the most spectacular natural formations in the world. Over one mile wide and nearly 400 feet high, this series of waterfalls crashes into the Zambezi River with such force that the spray can be seen 30 miles away. The Devil’s Pool is a section at the very top edge of the falls that gets shallow enough in the dry season for people to swim. A guide instructs you to jump into the pool and the current pulls you toward the edge. You are saved from being sucked over the falls by a hidden rock wall just below the surface. You then perch on a small slab of rock and lean out over the edge while that same guide holds your ankles to keep you from going over. We suggest you look at the Youtube videos of this one, because they are incredible.
Best Place to Do It: Livingstone Island, Zambia
No. 7 – Shark Cage Diving
The great white shark. It’s a species so unbelievably scary, they made an entire “week” about them on TV. There are ample companies around the world that will suit you up and send you down in a cage to meet these people eaters. However, should you decide you want to go shark diving, we advise doing a bit of research first.
In recent years, there’s concern in places like South Africa and Australia that the practice of chumming – tossing a bloody bucket of fish guts in the water to attract the great whites – has increased shark attacks on humans. Companies like Adventure Bay Charters use sound vibrations to attract the sharks instead. In fact, Adventure Bay has had such success using underwater sound waves, they’ve narrowed down the sharks’ favorite tunes. It turns out, they love AC/DC.
Best Place to Do It: The Neptune Islands, Australia or Gansbaai, South Africa
No. 6 – The Macau Tower Bungy
From the tiny platform hovering off the side of the Macau Tower building, the other structures on the horizon look like toothpicks. Your perch is at 764 feet, currently the tallest bungy jump on the planet. Special cable technology was developed for this jump, because the jumper’s descent must be perfectly straight, to avoid rebounding into the building.
Added to the effect of flinging yourself off a platform that’s more than 75 stories above the ground, that same cable technology means you are screaming right past every single floor of the enormous tower, experiencing the full effect of how fast you are hurtling toward the pavement. Want an added thrill? You can do this one at night.
Best Place to Do It: Macau, China
No. 5 - Mount Huashan Hike
While you don’t have to be a rock climber to do this hike in China, it would definitely help. In fact, there aren’t many restrictions to the experience at all, which is why there are fatalities every single year. Called The World’s Most Dangerous Hiking Trail, the path to the top of Mt. Huashan includes a heart-stopping ledge crawl, a tough journey up a rickety metal ladder climb and an extreme staircase vertical ascent.
The most intimidating portion is the Changong Zhandao, a 13-foot-long, 1-foot-wide plank, suspended on the flat rock face. A chain runs along it for you to hang on to, but if you didn’t bring your own safety equipment, that chain is the only thing keeping you from certain death should you misstep. Your reward upon reaching the top is a visit to a serene and lonely Taoist temple, nestled at an elevation of more than 7,000 feet. Carved from stone at the top of this ancient and perilous hike, the temple and its views are arguably some of the most stunning in the world.
Price: $24 Roundtrip
Best Place to Do It: Huayin in Shaanxi Province, China
No. 4 – Eating Beating Cobra Heart
Le Mat, a tiny snake village just outside of Hanoi, Vietnam, has become famous for feeding adventurous tourists the still-beating hearts of deadly cobras. You arrive to a spartan but sunny restaurant, where your waiter will trot out a live (and furious) King Cobra. The reptile is slit down the front, and its heart is quickly cut out. The still-pumping organ is then dropped in a shot glass (filled with bile if you’re really hardcore), where it will continue to thump for several minutes.
This miracle of science gives you ample time to take photos and videos to prove your, ahem, bravery. Our guess is as good as yours as to when this practice went from a Chinese fertility ritual to a frat-partyesque chow down, and while the process is certainly macabre and extremely bloody, it’s actually a quick death for the snake. Much more so than, say, the things that go on in the chicken industry in America.
Best Place to Do It: Hanoi
Price: $100, which includes the heart and 8 other courses of your snake prepared
No. 3 - Wing Walking
The next time you take a vacation to Washington, skip the tourist-packed Pike Place Market in Seattle and head to the Olympic Peninsula for something a bit more active. Oh, say, strapping yourself into a harness and then crawling out on the wing of a prop plane while it’s traveling at 150 mph. Wing walking is an adventure anyone can do, provided they have time for a half day of training on the ground and the nerve to actually do it once that plane is up and flying.
“You are fully functionally mobile,” explains Marilyn Mason, one half of the husband-and-wife team running West Coast Spin Doctors. “You have a harness like in rock climbing, and there’s a cable that tethers you to the plane. On top, there is an additional rack with a foot harness. When you are out on the wing, you can lay down, or you can make your way up top and strap in for loops rolls and hammerheads.”
In case you are unclear about what a hammerhead involves, Marilyn is here to save the day.
“A hammerhead is when the plane goes straight upwards very fast, and then slows to lose the momentum. Then the pilot does a quick turn and you dive straight down.”
Best Place to Do It: Sequim, Wash.
No. 2 - The Ice Race
The Ice Race comes in at No. 2 for many frozen reasons. One of the hardest challenges set up by the charity-aimed Adventurists.com company, the Ice Run sends its brave (obviously insane) participants through the Siberian wilderness on antique Ural motorbikes with attached sidecars. In winter.
You and your death-wishing friend hop on a glorified scooter for a 1,500 km race that begins in the birthplace of the Ural – Irbit, Siberia. It ends in the northern town of Salekhard, which is the only town in the world actually located on the Arctic Circle. How you get between these two points is up to you, and thanks to below freezing temperatures, most of your navigation is along ice roads created when the River Ob freezes. These roads made of river mean that maps are frequently wrong, heavy snows can render them impassable, and there’s that pesky problem of ice occasionally cracking and you and your sidecar companion falling into a hypothermia death hole.
Did we mention that if you win, your prize money goes to charity? Yeah.
Best Place to Do It: Siberia
Price: $3,190 for a team of two
No. 1 – BASE Jump Wingsuit Flying
BASE jumping with a parachute is extremely scary. Lose the ‘chute and don a getup that basically mimics a flying squirrel, and you conceivably have the most outlandish Saturday afternoon vacation activity ever.
Wingsuit flying was started by a 19-year-old named Rex G. Finney in Los Angeles in 1930. It’s clearly adapted somewhat since then.
“The training is the really serious part,” explains Simon Repton, president of Wicked Wingsuits. “First you must become a skydiver.”
After completing 200 skydives, there’s a series of months (more likely years) where you must learn to BASE jump. Finally, if you are still alive and in possession of all your appendages, you are ready to train for Base Jump Wingsuit Flying with Simon and his team.
Now you are ready. Clear the obstacles off a cliff. Then run and hurl yourself off the edge, freefalling for approximately five seconds. Your suit inflates, and you whizz through the air, losing one foot of altitude for every three feet of forward
momentum. Upon calculating the correct math (super fast in your head while flying), you determine when you are a mere 500 feet from Planet Earth. Then there’s nothing left but to yank that parachute cord and land with the graceful, calm demeanor of a total badass.
Best Place to Do It: Kjerag, Norway