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Adventure Travel and Activities

Extreme sports and exciting expeditions

Your gap year is the perfect time to throw caution to the wind and try your hand at doing something crazy. Like jumping out of a plane! Or off a bridge! Just make sure you’re strapped in first.

There are plenty of options to get your adrenaline pumping on an adventure travel gap year: extreme sports range from bungee jumping, abseiling, skydiving, hot air ballooning, jet skiing, kite surfing, climbing, quad biking, ridge walking, surfing, and more. This means you can choose an activity to match your level of daring. The real advantage of doing any of these things while travelling is that you’ll do them in the most beautiful places in the world (and your parents or guardians aren’t around to worry about it).

The most popular destinations for an adventure travel gap year are Australia (fancy skydiving over Uluru?), New Zealand (Queenstown is home of the world’s first commercial bungee jump), Thailand (zip lining through the jungle is totally gnarly), and South Africa (picture it: you, a metal cage, and some great white sharks *shudder*). These are experiences you will never forget.

Below are some frequently asked questions about adventure travel and extreme activities on a gap year, covering everything from safety and where to do it.

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Where should I travel for adventure activities?

You can find adventure and extreme activities pretty much anywhere in the world, particularly in popular backpacker destinations. Choosing where to go really depends on whether having these experiences is the focus of your gap year, or a welcome addition if they happen to be available. If you want to be all extreme, all the time, we recommend checking out Queenstown in New Zealand, the undisputed world capital of adventure travel. It’s famous for bungee jumping, but is also an incredible setting for sky diving, jet boating, mountain biking, and whatever other craziness they’ve invented while we were writing this paragraph. Australia and South Africa are also brilliant extreme activity destinations.

Otherwise, we recommend planning your itinerary around countries and places you most want to see, and seeing what options there along the way. Sometimes it’s doing something unexpected that makes it really exciting.

How do I know that an extreme activity is safe?

Kind of the point of expeditions and extreme activities is that they carry an element of danger, but your safety always comes first. Any activities we’ve mentioned in this section come with the risk of minor injuries (usually nothing more than cuts and bruises). The operators listed here, and any you’re likely to find on the tourist and backpacker trails, will be fully licensed and run by trained professionals who will do everything to keep you safe.

The most important thing is using your common sense: listen carefully to any training or safety advice given, don’t be afraid to ask questions if there’s anything you’re unsure about, wear all safety gear provided, choose activities for which you are physically fit enough to handle, liking skiing, and during activities where you have greater control (for example jet skiing) don’t overreach your abilities and do anything silly that might endanger your – or anybody else’s – health or safety.

Will my travel insurance cover extreme activities?

If you are planning to partake in any adventure or extreme activities on your gap year, check carefully that your travel insurance will cover it in the unlikely event that something goes wrong. Most standard travel insurance will cover a moderate level of activity, such as lower-level trekking or safe sports like… badminton or something. Anything more extreme than this may not be covered as standard. If adventure sports are going to be a big part of your trip, you may need adventure travel insurance or extreme sports travel insurance.

Every policy will be slightly different, so it’s important to understand what will be covered. They can be surprisingly specific, for example specifying exactly how deep you can scuba dive. Getting this right can be a pain, and it will cost a little more than a standard policy, but it’s worth it to have the freedom and confidence to tackle anything you want while travelling. We really must stress the importance of having proper travel insurance. While we hope you’ll never need it, the peace of mind it offers is invaluable for any trip.

What counts as 'extreme' and 'adventure' activities?

We’ve used the terms quite broadly here because we believe that the idea of an extreme activity is relative to whoever is doing it. While one traveller might consider abseiling to be really tame, another traveller with a phobia of heights will have to push themselves to do it. Similarly, a few adrenaline junkies might look down their noses at skydiving, only able to get their kicks from zooming down Bolivia’s Death Road on flaming roller skates. We’re not here to make that decision for you: travel is all about pushing your own boundaries, and we want to give you the full range of options to do that.

Adventure activities is a bit more straightforward, generally meaning things like hiking, trekking, glacier walking, canyoning – activities that scream adventure! Don’t get too hung up on definitions. Just have fun!

Do I need any training for extreme activities?

For most extreme and adventure activities on a gap year you will not need to have completed any previous training. If any training is necessary, it will be given to you on-site by a professional before the activity begins. Always make sure to listen carefully! Some activities may revolve around training, such as learning to surf, meaning you’ll get better at it as you go.

The exception here is scuba diving. For many scuba diving experiences you will need to be trained in using scuba equipment for diving in open water. The most common way for backpackers to get qualified is to take a PADI Open Water course. These are frequently available in destinations where diving experiences are common. It should always be made clear to you where holding a PADI qualification is necessary, and once you do you’re free to dive anywhere in the world.

Do I need to buy any equipment?

This will depend on your chosen activity. Some activities, such as bungee jumping and skydiving, allow you to simply turn up on the day (just make sure to wear sensible clothing). Others, such as hiking and mountain biking, may require you to bring a small amount of travel kit, usually the right kind of clothes and a hiking pole or two. If you are required to bring any equipment, a list should be provided to you as early as possible by the activity provider – usually before you actually book anything. Outside of essential kit, we recommend taking any personal stuff you might need with you in a day bag, be it an inhaler, your EpiPen, or even just lunch if you think you might get peckish along the way. Better safe than sorry!

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