DO SOMETHING EXTRAORDINARY
The ultimate luxury is all about unique adventures that only a few ever get to experience. These options just might get your courage up and your adrenalin pumping.
By Jennifer Henricus
1. Go hiking in the South Pole and Antartica
Described as the Serengeti of the Southern Ocean, Antarctica is the remotest part of the planet and the “showroom” of the world’s greatest concentration of wildlife. Now, with the introduction of specialist aircraft and luxury cruise vessels, the extreme “journey to the end of the world” is a lot easier and more comfortable.
Swoop Travel in London offers an eight-day Antarctica and South Pole adventure aboard special aircraft that land on ice runways. The flight commences from Chile to Union Glacier in Antarctica and then on to the South Pole. Want it a bit more extreme? Polar specialist, John Newby recommends skiing or hiking the last degree to the South Pole. The cruise option is best on the luxury vessel Hebridean Sky and is perfect for adventurers with young children.
For greater wow factor, remoteness, and sheer scale of wildlife South Georgia is a must: “More than 100,000 king penguins and chicks, elephant and fur seals all crammed onto the black shore beneath spiky snowy mountains and massive ice bergs off shore — truly incredible,” says HK-based adventurer, Peter Sutton.
2. Conquer your fear of heights with a helicopter safari in Ethiopia
Ethiopia’s breathtaking landscapes, from the plateaus of the Simien Mountains, to the bubbling and spitting active Etra Ale volcano all the way down to the lowest point on earth at the Danakil Depression, are best enjoyed from above.
London-based Scott Dunn, which has an office in Singapore, offers a unique eight-day (seven nights) helicopter safari with Tropic Air that starts in Addis Ababa and could include a quick visit to the oldest hominid ‘Lucy’ at the National Museum.
The Euro Copter flies high over the clouds to land on a plateau on the Simien mountains to catch a wondrous moment — sunrise over the eastern ranges. The mountains are home to a number of endangered species, including the rare Ethiopian wolf, the Gelada Baboon and the Walia Ibex; spotting these species while exploring undiscovered areas of the range is an unexpected thrill. The helicopter then swoops into the Danakil Depression, one of the hottest and lowest places on earth. The trip is ideal for four persons and the starting price is from £35,000 per person.
3. Learn an extreme sport
Heli-skiing is a high adventure experience that appeals to skiers seeking a more remote and exclusive experience of untouched slopes. Among pioneers of the experience is Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH), which operates 12 lodges located across 1.2 million hectares of amazing ski slopes in British Columbia.
CMH’s most luxurious and exclusive offering is the Valemount experience in the Cariboos mountain range: A private Bell 212 helicopter drops off passengers on the slope or terrain of their choice. The experience could be through untouched alpine slopes or through the forest trees and is planned to suit the pace and ability of the group, says CMH’s Tanya Otis.
For tree skiing CMH Monashees tops the list, she says. Skiers can blast through powder in old growth forests by day and rest and recoup amongst the local fir trees that frame the newest lodge built on the banks of the mighty Columbia River with breathtaking views to match the powder moments on the slopes.
4. Trek through the Tibetan Plateau
Easily one of the most remote places on the planet, Hoh Xil on the Tibetan Plateau in China, was recently declared a World Heritage site. and the plateau was named the highest and largest on earth, often described as the 3rd Pole. Sitting 4,400 meters above sea level, the plateau was named the highest and largest on earth and is often described as the Third Pole. The plateau’s landscapes blend alpine mountains and rolling steppe systems with a unique biodiversity.
Black Tomato in London offers a seven-day trek through this extraordinary remote terrain: Rolling green hills, sprawling yellow wildflowers, yaks and the endangered Tibetan antelope grazing in herds. History abounds here too: In the Dulan area, cycle to the ancient Reshui Tombs, a cluster of several hundred royal Tibetan burial chambers dating back 1,500 years and then visit the 700-year old Dongguan Mosque built by travellers along the ancient Silk Route.
Part of the trek takes travellers towards the snow-capped mountains and China’s largest lake, Qinghai, with a surface area of 4,000 square kilometres: hiking or cycling along the water’s edge through fields of yellow rapeseed is an unexpected thrill.
5. Go to space — or as close to it as possible (for now)
And now it’s back to the future: while deep-pocket adventurers wait for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic (reported to have sold more than 500 seats for its space adventure at a hefty US$250,000 per seat), Elon Musk’s SpaceEx and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin space tourism packages to lift off, they could try US-based Zero Gravity Corporation’s (ZERO-G) authentic weightlessness experiences.
Established in 1993, ZERO-G’s founders worked for over a decade to secure FAA approval for G-FORCE ONE®, a specially modified Boeing 727-200 that performs parabolic arcs to create zero gravity and weightlessness: Passengers float, flip and soar for 15 maneuvers, each lasting 30 seconds. Operations Manager, Mara Abeira, says since the start of commercial flights in October 2004, more than 15,000 people from around the world have experienced weightlessness for US$5,000 plus, per person.
Thrill seekers, it’s time to update those bucket lists.