Photo via Flickr
Eco travel is all the new rage, but some trips require some real cohonas to take the plunge. From protecting sharks and crocodiles in Belize to biking Bolivia's Road of Death to volcano surfing in Nicaragua, these seven eco adventures are not for the pacemaker set. Sign up at your own risk, kiss your loved ones goodbye, and take out a life insurance policy before you embark. With a little care, you can knock each one off your list and live to talk about it.
1. Volunteer in Belize, and Save the Sharks and Crocodiles
If carnivorous occasionally man-eating endangered species are your thing, look no further than Belize. For about $2,000, you can sign up to help the Oceanic Society conduct research to protect sharks, crocodiles, and other endangered species. According to the Oceanic Society, shark volunteers "will assist the researcher with deploying an underwater camera and bait box to the bottom sand in shallow water." Sounds fun, doesn't it? If you're not feeling the sharks, sign up for the Belize crocodile trip, which sends volunteers to excavate the nests to count the eggs. Wonder what happens if momma crocodile notices that? The good news is after you've survived these two sets of teeth, you can spend your evenings counting your fingers and toes in a beach cabana.
2. BASE Jumping off Meru Peak in the Himalayas
When BASE jumping started to catch on, Carl Boenish, the daredevil who gave the sport the slick acronym (Building, Antenna, Span, Earth, all things that can be jumped) actually lost friends from the sky diving community because of the competition between the two sports. But we think BASE jumping--performed from fixed objects (cliffs, bridges, buildings, wind turbines with a parachute that opens during the decent)--is total thrill without the fuel-sucking airplane.
Photo via adventureblog.org
Of course, it does have a tad high fatality rate: Between 1981 and 2008, 131 people died. This fatality list includes Boenish, who jumped from a new location in July of 1984...without clearing the outcropping in freefall.
If this doesn't phase you, head to India and try to top the world record earned here by an Australian couple for the highest BASE jump in the world--6,604 meters over the east face of Meru Peak in the Garhwal region of the Himalayas.
3. Bike Down Death Road in Bolivia
Photo via Travelblog.org
While conditions have improved, Death Road is still extremely narrow in sections, and boasts frightening drops as it descends 12,000 feet over 40 miles from a mountain pass near La Paz. At least one cycling death is reported a year. The silver lining? Some darn breathtaking views--if you can get beyond the sobering roadside memorials. The route drops you off in the resort town of Coroico, where you can wind down...if you've avoided the cliff-side tumble.
4. Volcano Boarding Down a Live Volcano in Nicaragua
If you've ever been to Pompeii in Italy, then you have a good idea what could happen if things go wrong with this eco adventure: volcano boarding. It's just like sledding, except you strap yourself on a wooden board and hurl 1,600 feet down the ash of an active volcano.
Photo via picasaweb.google.com
Every trip there's a bleeder or two earning scraps and scratches from the lava gravel. Worse case scenario? In a few hundred years, the modern civilization will dig you up and wonder what the heck you were doing. Don't worry, the molten lava usually only goes down one side.
According to The Guardian, "buzzing with wildlife, Nicaragua is tipped to eclipse neighbouring Costa Rica as a honeypot for eco-tourists." So once you're done with taking your life in your own hands, check out a few of the nearly 80 protected areas supporting endangered species like the howler, white-faced, and spider monkeys.
5. Climb Annapurna Mountain
Let's do a little math here: Sure more than 130 people have made it to the top of Annapurna Mountain, but 53 died trying. That means you have a 70 percent survival rate. If you still want to sling some crampons and tackle the 10th highest mountain in the world, keep in mind it's the most statistically dangerous of the 8,000 meter peaks (about 26,200 feet), according to Metadortrips.com. On a side note, that other beast of a mountain, K2, is particularly risky for women: After the first woman made it to the top (Polish climber Wanda Rutkiewicz, who died on a nearby mountain a few years later) the next five all died--either during the descent or on nearby mountains. Spanish mountaineer Edburne Pasaban, who was successful in 2004, appears to have broken the trend.
6. White-Water Rafting Down the Blue Nile River in Africa
Rapids are generally classified 1-6: Unless you are on the Blue Nile River in Africa, where they go up to a suicidal 10. Of course, drowning is the easiest way to kick the bucket. As soyouwanna.com explains,
In addition to being even more dangerous than a U.S. Class 6, this mighty river has the added challenges of African crocodiles, sleeping death (due to tsetse flies), malaria, and roaming machete-wielding bandits.
7. Solo Sail Around the World
There's a big difference between a leisurely sail across the pond and taking the yacht out alone to combat the unpredictable high seas. If anything goes wrong out there--and the dangers include bad weather, sharks, health problems including a major lack of sleep, and equipment malfunction--you're pretty much done for.
Photo via photo.net
Take solo sailing race the Vendee Globe Challenge, which took place in 1992 and saw the tragic demise of two contenders: Nigel Burgess who was found dead off the coast of northwestern Spain and Mike Plant, who disappeared--leaving his boat adrift in full sail. Plant's body was never found. In 2007, John Grant's ship sunk off the coast of Uruguay after a huge storm. He was discovered alive in a life raft. In fact, this sport is so stressful, NASA is using it to conduct psychological tests on how the human mind copes with life-threatening situations. So cross your fingers for 17-year-old Brit Mike Perham, and American Zac Sunderland who are en route as we speak. One of them could become the youngest person to sail solo around the world.
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