Like risk? We've got some vacation ideas for you. Update your will and pack your bags.
No guts, no bragging rights. From the dicey to the deadly, we've rounded up daring recreational adventures that will satisfy the novice thrill seeker and seasoned adventure traveler alike, rating each on its level of hazardousness. So when planning your next vacation, ask yourself: What would Richard Branson do?
First you slide down a 210-foot zip line. Then they set you on fire. It's a typical day in the life of an action star (or at least his stunt double) and part of a five-day vacation in Las Vegas. You'll learn professional stuntman techniques as you use heavy weapons like M-16s and AK-47s, fall out of a 60-foot tower, practice stunt driving, and perform choreographed punches, kicks, and flips. And all of the training is videotaped, so you can relive the rush.
You'll need a group of four or more for the Stunt Experience, run by Thrillseekers Unlimited. Prices start at $2,600 per person.
Danger quotient !
It's a completely controlled environment, so you may even have a better chance of pulling a muscle at the slot machines.
The only thing heavenly about high-altitude, low-opening (or HALO) jumping is the height at which you leap out of the plane: nearly six miles up. Then you wait until you fall as low as 4,500 feet to open your chute. The technique is used by military special forces to slip into enemy territory. After a day of training, you don an oxygen mask, strap yourself to an instructor, and take the plunge. The free fall may be the most exhilarating--and longest--two minutes you've ever experienced.
Incredible Adventures runs HALO jumping courses near Memphis every week between May and November for $3,500. To participate, you must be physically fit and weigh less than 210 pounds.
Danger quotient !!!
HALO jumping is considered more dangerous than parachuting, but according to the U.S. Parachuting Association about 30 out of three million participants die every year from traditional skydiving.
Take in the vast landscape of the Arctic as you ski from 89 degrees latitude to 90--the geographic North Pole. It's a test of endurance that starts in Longyearbyen, Norway. You'll need to be fit enough to drag a sled packed with up to 80 pounds of equipment, skiing eight to 10 hours a day for more than a week to cover roughly 80 miles. And you'll need to put up with temperatures of 40 below zero.
The Northwest Passage runs its North Pole "Last Degree" Ski Expedition every April and can take you for $17,000.
Danger quotient !!!
Did we mention the polar bears? Your two guides carry guns to ward off hungry foes who think you'd be as tasty as chilled salmon.
Buried in the Andes of southern Peru, the Colca Canyon, among the deepest canyons in the world, offers one of the most intense rafting experiences you can have. You'll need to be in top shape to battle stretches of Class 5 white-water rapids (one level below impassable). In places, the river narrows to the width of a single raft and the canyon walls reach two miles high on either side, leaving only a sliver of blue sky.
For $3,000 a person, Earth River Expeditions leads 12-day trips through the Colca Canyon every June.
Danger quotient !!!!
There's next to no mobile reception, even with a satellite phone. Even if you call for help, there's no room for helicopters to swoop in, so if something goes wrong, the only way out is on a raft.
In terms of pure adrenaline rush, few things compare with flying in a fighter jet at Mach 2. At a private Russian air base outside Moscow, you'll prepare for the G-forces in a subsonic flight training jet. Then, accompanied by a professional pilot, you'll take to the skies in a MiG 25, soaring up to 80,000 feet. You must be in decent shape and provide a letter of approval from a doctor. Flyboys (and flygirls) over 40 must supply the results of an electrocardiogram.
MiGs Over Moscow by Incredible Adventures offers packages that allow you to fly in a number of classic Russian jets. A five-day trip that includes two training flights and a trip to 80,000 feet costs $20,450.
Danger quotient !!
There's minimal risk of the plane going down because you're in someone else's care. A heart attack is the greater risk. G-forces can dramatically raise and lower your blood pressure.
On the surface, this trip to Isla de Guadalupe--an island some 160 miles off Baja California--seems tame: Guests stay on a luxury boat with gourmet meals prepared by a chef. Of course, it's what lies beneath the surface of the crystal-clear, 70-degree water that makes hearts pound. One of the filming locations for the recent Imax feature Sharks 3D, Guadalupe gets you up close with great whites. You swim in an aluminum cage just below the surface while sharks as long as 18 feet circle around.
Great White Adventures runs six- and eight-day cage diving tours ($2,895 and $4,150 per person, respectively) from July to September. You'll need to be physically fit and weigh less than 250 pounds.
Danger quotient !
Though it's difficult to dismiss a shark's mouthful of 3,000 sharp teeth, this is no Open Water. Great White Adventures has a perfect safety record.
An Everest summit remains the benchmark by which all other extreme adventures are measured. But it requires several months--if not years--of physical training and instruction before you can think of setting foot at base camp, 17,600 feet up. Once you're ready, scaling the 29,035-foot peak will take one to two months. Potentially life-threatening challenges include altitude sickness, climbing accidents, avalanches, subzero temperatures, and passing storms that can drop as much as 10 feet of snow on you as you climb. Make it to the summit, though, and you'll be one of about 2,250 people who can boast, "I climbed Mount Everest."
The renowned Alpine Ascents of Seattle has led 102 people to the summit. Its guides recommend that the inexperienced complete a six-day training course ($1,000) and first ascend other mountains like Denali (20,320 feet) in Alaska and Cho Oyu (26,906 feet) in the Himalayas. When you're ready for Everest, Alpine Ascents will guide you up the South Col--the same route taken by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953--for $65,000.
Danger quotient !!!!!
About 10,000 people have tried and 186 have died. If you do perish, there's no funeral procession down the mountain. The dead stay where they fall.