When you think of “adventure travel,” you most likely envision rock climbing, extreme skiing, backpacking or paragliding, but adventure travel is much more than that. There is a rapidly expanding market that involves the softer side of adventure (such as walking, kayaking, wildlife safaris and cultural expeditions) as travelers of all demographics choose to understand the world, and themselves, more deeply. While the active and adventure travel markets involve some level of physical activity, much of what encompasses the “active” niche includes soft adventure and culturally-immersive travel experiences. Extreme adventures, such as skydiving, caving or mountaineering, make up a much smaller, but important opposite end of the spectrum.
Many cruise and tour operators are realizing this is an emerging market and have begun catering to adventure travelers. Cruise lines offer adventure wherever they sail, including the Arctic and the Antarctic, as well as the Galapagos Islands. Tour companies offer “living with the locals” experiences, community aid and education programs, and travel to unique parts of the world.
Some examples of soft adventure include: Costa Rica … full of adventure options, such as experiencing the thrill of a jungle cruise and zip-lining; a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa, either for a true safari or adding a safari to a visit to Cape Town and all that its environment has to offer (nothing screams adventure more than showering under the stars while on safari and crossing paths with the lions, elephants and hippos); or a “living with the locals” experience in Ecuador, staying for several nights in a rustic wooden hut deep in the Amazon rainforest, going on nature walks to see remote waterfalls, learning about medicinal plants and witnessing a shaman healing ceremony. Add to that a full day whitewater rafting down one of the tributaries of the Amazon River and an intoxicating, wild ride past the rainforest. New Zealand offers mountain biking, hiking through glacier caves and the fun of zorbing (basically rolling down a hill in a giant clear ball). So many more examples exist in destinations worldwide, making the opportunities virtually limitless.
As Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
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