From a safari with lions to surfing the big wave in The Cortes Bank, San Diago... get your adrenaline going with these exhilarating experiences.
STORM CHASING IN TORNADO ALLEY, US
In the US's so-called Tornado Alley, stretching between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains, an average of around 1,000 tornadoes strike each year, with winds up to 500kph destroying crops and homes and killing people. Instead of running from the storms, as reason would dictate, there are some people who sprint to them to witness the undeniable beauty of a twister. Using satellite radar imaging, the tornado-chasers tour the Alley, swirling from twister to twister – the good news is you can join them if you wish, there are now several tour companies offering tornado-chasing holidays. But it's not a holiday for the faint hearted. Always ensure you are with an organised tour.
WALKING SAFARI AMONG LIONS, ZIMBABWE
On the shores of Lake Kariba in northern Zimbabwe, Matusadona National Park protects an area of land where many animals resettled after the Zambezi River was dammed to create Lake Kariba in the 1950s. Wandering its torpedo grass plain is one of Africa's greatest concentrations of lions, a creature usually considered among the least desirable of walking companions. In Matusadona, however, walking safaris to see lions are the prize visitor ticket, and for a bit of extra fun you can even camp out on the plain among your furred friends. Rememebr to stay close to the man with the gun.
BASE JUMP AT VOSS, NORWAY
An acronym for Building, Antenna, Span and Earth, Base jumping involves throwing yourself [with a parachute] off fixed objects such as bridges, mountains and cliffs. In many parts of the world, it's considered so dangerous that it's been banned – there have been an average of around four Base-jump deaths a year since 1981 – but in the southern Norwegian town of Voss it is actively encouraged during Extremesport Week, an event held each June. Base jumpers in Extremesport Week leap from the 350m-high Nebbet cliff, plunging towards the fjord below. Scary, but scenic.
WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS ROAD, BOLIVIA
In 1995 the Yungas Hwy between the Bolivian capital La Paz and the town of Coroico went from being a simple deathtrap to a risk-takers' nirvana when the Inter-American Development Bank officially crowned it with the title of the world's most dangerous road. Bending and twisting, the narrow gravel track supports swarms of trucks, their wheels precariously pendent over 1,000m drops – little wonder that an average of 26 vehicles disappear into the void each year. Into this has stepped an emerging adventure industry, with mountain bikers now commonly jostling among the trucks and the carnage. Bike hire is available in La Paz, a helmet and some hope is all you need.
SURFING CORTES BANK, US
In the endless quest for big-wave surfing, it's appropriate that some of the mightiest waves on the planet are as difficult to reach as they are to ride. The Cortes Bank is a submerged mountain chain, around 170km offshore from San Diego, with many of its peaks just a few metres below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. In 2001 a group of board-riders journeyed there to find waves beyond belief – one surfer rode a wave 20m high (the tallest wave ridden in the world that year), losing his board in the explosion that is a Cortes breaking wave.
Hold your breath and swim as deep underwater as you can go… that, in a crude nutshell, is free diving. Wearing slick wetsuits, extra-long flippers and no air tanks, the art of free diving is to plunge as far below the water surface as is humanly possible. Some free divers can hold their breath for up to nine minutes, and in 2005, using a weighted sled, Belgian Patrick Musimu dived to a record depth of 209.6m. At such limits it's unsurprising that free diving has claimed lives, most famously that of world-record holder Audrey Mestre in the Dominican Republic in 2002.
TRAVEL TO THE DARIÉN GAP, PANAMA
In the pantheon of lawless places, the Darién Gap, sprawling across the junction at which North America becomes South America, holds a special spot. It's a land where the cloud forest and the human activity are so wild that even the Pan-American Hwy from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego has never been able to get through. Here, as Panama morphs into Colombia, the lands are frequented by Colombian paramilitaries, drug traffickers, poachers, guerrillas and bandits, a volatile and violent mix that only seems to be part of the attraction for the few visitors who venture beyond the frontier town of Yaviza and into anarchy.
SWIM WITH ORCAS, NORWAY
As you pile out of the boat in Tysfjord, it might help your state of mind if you think of the creatures below as orcas rather than killer whales. In this chilly notch in the Norwegian coast, 250km north of the Arctic Circle, visitors come to don wetsuits and swim the seas beside the misnamed killer whales (they're actually dolphins), which grow to around four times the size of an average person. The motto isn't quite "if the cold doesn't kill you, the orcas might", but tell that to your brain as you enter the sea.
VISIT CHORNOBYL, UKRAINE
Somehow, visits to the scene of the world's most infamous nuclear accident haven't quite hit the big time, but that hasn't stopped a steady flow of visitors from treading through the Chornobyl ruins. Several travel agencies in the Ukraine capital Kyiv offer day trips to the site, where you can wander through the reactor information centre, among the abandoned vehicles used in the clean-up, and into the deserted streets of Pripyat, where workers and their families used to live. For good measure, there are giant catfish to see in the river, though you'll be assured that their size has nothing to do with radiation.
SAIL AROUND CAPE HORN
South America's southernmost tip parts one of the most notorious stretches of ocean on the planet. Here, as the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans meet in Drake Passage, the waters are a soup of white caps, wild winds and even a few rogue icebergs.
The Cape's usefulness as a trading route is largely gone, but its appeal to the hardy sailor is undiminished. Around-the-world yacht races sail through, as do other yachties seeking (and sometimes regretting) the challenge of this maritime equivalent of scaling Mount Everest.
(Reproduced with permission from Lonely Planet Bluelist). The book can be purchased at Magrudy's and Borders.