My Favorite Adventure Travel Experiences On Every Continent

Continental Divide at Loveland Pass, Colorado

Over the years my own travel style has certainly evolved. From a fearful newbie who didn’t really know what was ever going on, to someone who is now comfortable being almost anywhere in the world. As I’ve gotten older I’ve also evolved from a budget student traveler to a luxury traveler, but one who enjoys immersive experiences. Many times this means adventure travel and while in the past I’ve called myself a luxury adventure traveler, that’s probably not quite accurate. What is accurate is that I love new and heart-pumping experiences and more often than not, these easily fall into the category of adventure travel. Of everything I’ve done around the world, I thought I’d share my favorite adventure travel experiences on every continent. They’re representative not just of one particular place and time, but of the destinations and how you can find transformative experiences no matter where you go. They also prove, I think, that adventure travel is about much more than getting just a quick thrill. It’s about pushing your comfort levels and hopefully learning a lot more about yourself in the process. Simply put, they are transformative experiences that leave us much better people than before we took the plunge, the leap or closed our eyes in advance of that next great adventure.

North America – Swimming with whale sharks in Mexico

I love wildlife experiences and swimming with whale sharks in Mexico was one of my all-time favorites. I call this a luxury adventure travel experience not because of cost or even accessibility, but because just how remarkable it is. There I was in the water as hundreds of whale sharks swam by, feeding upon the flotsam and jetsam of the sea as they did so. Their size was incredible, that of a car and I felt instantly and incredibly small as these graceful giants lumbered past. Even though I knew they were harmless, I couldn’t help but feel anxious as the gaping maws barreled straight for me. It was an extraordinary moment that every adventure traveler should try at least once.

Galapagos sea lions

South America – Exploring the Galapagos

Although I’ve spent precious little time in South America, the experiences I have had there are meaningful and special to me. In particular, a trip to the Galapagos a few years ago had the unintended consequence of forever changing my life. Made famous by Darwin onboard the Beagle, the Galapagos is mecca for those of us with a passion for wildlife and natural exploration. There is nothing quite like walking through a field dotted with giant tortoises, or swimming practically nose-to-nose with playful sea lions. When I returned home a new spirit of wanderlust was reawakened, I realized how much I enjoyed adventure travel and wanted to share my experiences with as many people as I could. A few months later I started this web site; I firmly believe that trip to the Galapagos was the intellectual impetus for LandLopers. Without it, I still might be stuck in a cubicle not living the life I was meant to live.

Antarctica hike

Antarctica

If any continent lures travelers with the promise of special moments, it’s Antarctica. Hard to reach, hard to travel around it’s one of the last few truly adventurous trips still available to us in the modern era. And my own trip to Antarctica did indeed deliver those unique moments in spades. Aside from the impossibly cute (and slightly dirty) penguins though, it’s the seemingly impenetrable landscapes that impressed me the most. After hiking up a snowy switchback path to the top of a hill, I was met with one of the most impressive scenes I’ve ever witnessed. The icy waters extended into the horizon and all I could see were vast quantities of rock, ice and water. It seemed to go on forever and I have never felt smaller in my entire life. Standing there on the bottom of the world, it was an important moment to help quantify the immensity of the planet. It’s a fact that we modern travelers tend to forget. In an age when I can hop on a nonstop flight and be in Hong Kong tomorrow, it seems as if the world has never been smaller. But we forget just how massive this beautiful planet is and how many unique experiences there are to be had. We forget about the small inlets and villages forgotten to time. It was an important moment as it put into context what I do now for a living and how it isn’t just part of my life – it IS my life. This quest to seek new answers and discover new things will never end, just as that horizon in Antarctica seemed to have no boundaries.

coasteering wales

Europe – Coasteering in Wales

At first the adventure sport of coasteering seems like the bad result of a drunken wager gone wild. But it’s not and even more surprising, it’s insanely popular and a lot of fun. Coasteering is defined as “a physical activity that includes movement along the intertidal zone of a rocky coastline on foot or by swimming, without the aid of boats, surf boards or other craft. It can include swimming, climbing, scrambling, jumping and diving.” It sounds great in the middle of a hot summer, but I was there in March when the water temperatures were anything but encouraging. Located along the Irish Sea, the beauty of Anglesey can’t be denied though and I soon found myself lost in the beauty of the craggy landscapes surrounding me. The extreme experience was just as advertised and not even my two wet suits could fully keep the freezing waters at bay. In spite of the conditions though it was fun, a lot of fun and diving along the coast, swimming across the white-capped waves and pushing myself in ways I didn’t know I could was as personally gratifying as anything I have ever done. Ultimately, that’s the real thrill of adventure travel; pushing one’s comfort zones in ways you didn’t know possible.

bungee swing

Africa – World’s highest bungee swing in South Africa

I have an occasional fear of heights; tall buildings are fine but ladders for example freak me out. That means I’ve always been terrified of even the idea of bungee jumping, but while in South Africa I was determined to face that fear and take the plunge. What better place than in Durban, home to the world’s tallest bungee swing? Different from a jump, the swinger jumps feet first for a terrifying drop before the swing kicks in and arcs you to safety. I was out of my mind scared but am so very happy I faced my fears and just did it. Do I have any desire to try it again? No, not for a while.

Asia – Jungle trek in Taiwan

Most people probably don’t realize that there are a variety of indigenous ethnic groups in Taiwan who have called the island home for centuries. While their lives have of course changed dramatically over the last 100 years or so, members of these tribes are working diligently to ensure that the unique customs and practices of their people aren’t lost to time. One of these groups is the Bunun people represented by the always interesting Mr. Aliman Madiklan. A few years ago he rescued some land that had at one time belonged to his people and established a living museum to celebrate Bunun customs. Today thousands of visitors every year visit this jungle location for an unusual day in the forest. The most adventurous part of the day is an intense jungle trek led by native guides. This isn’t your average walk in the woods; this is an active, strenuous trek over felled logs, up 20-foot trees and under streams of ivy longer than a football field. It isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s a great afternoon in the jungle and a fun way to learn more about the native peoples of Taiwan.

Reefsleep Queensland Australia

Australia & Oceania – Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia

In a country and even entire region where adventure travel reigns supreme, it was exceptionally hard to narrow down all of the experiences to just one. But upon reflection there is just one, I think, that best captures the spirit and energy of Australia – diving along the Great Barrier Reef. One of the primary reasons why I wanted to visit Queensland was to experience the Great Barrier Reef. It’s long been on my own travel bucket list, and even though I’d visited Australia a couple of times before, I never made it to the Reef. Luckily, the years of anticipation were worth it and seeing one of the world’s truly great natural wonders was everything it promised to be and more. I experienced the reef in a few different ways several times throughout my trip, it’s just that big, but my favorite way to enjoy the mighty reef was through a scuba dive. This wasn’t just any scuba dive though, it was my first attempt and I was pretty nervous. I love snorkeling, but the thought of breathing underwater freaked me out to be honest. It was a mental hang-up and I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to shake it. But there I was, at the Great Barrier Reef and I figured if I was going to try it anywhere, that was the place. And I’m so glad I set aside my fears and gave it a chance. I traveled out to the Reef with the company Cruise Whitsundays, and their team of expert divers were all used to first-timers like me and showed more patience than I’ve seen any tour operator show in recent memory. It was thanks to their insistence and instruction that I was able to literally take the plunge, my fears instantly vanishing as soon as I was underwater. I’ve snorkeled all over the world, but the Great Barrier Reef is without a doubt the best I’ve ever seen. The sheer abundance of fish and coral in every color of the rainbow was extraordinary and I could’ve spent hours exploring it to new depths while scuba diving. This is just one of those once in a lifetime experiences that aren’t only nice to do, I think they are important to do.

So there you have it, my personal list of my favorite adventure travel experiences on all seven continents. You probably don’t agree with some or all of them and that’s fine. Travel in general is an intensely personal experience, and how we experience the world even more so. What is important is that you continue to push your travel comfort zone, keep doing things that challenge you because that really is the only way we continue to grow and evolve to become the better people we all want to be.

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