Seeking something out of the ordinary on your summer vacation? Check out these offbeat adventures.
The South Pacific islands of Fiji are famous for azure waters, colorful coral, and abundant wildlife. On the eight-day, seven-night "Highlands to Islands Multi-Sport" trip, from O.A.R.S.,
visitors can experience these wonders and more. Among other things, guests can take a boat out to Beqa Island, where they strap on goggles and flippers to experience some of the best snorkeling in the world. The warm water is literally teeming with fish of every shape, size, and color, including dolphins and friendly sharks. Home base is Pearl South Pacific Resort. Price: $2,375 per person.
For adventurers who prefer to stay dry, a new three-hour day trip provides a bird's-eye view of corpulent manatees from the comfort of sit-on-top kayaks. The excursion, titled the "Do Not Disturb" trip, is offered from December to February in Crystal River, Fla., and is sponsored by the local Save the Manatee Club.
Tours begin promptly at 9 a.m., when visitors head out into the Crystal River to see the sea cows. The trip ends by noon, leaving plenty of time to explore shops and restaurants in town. Price: $40 per person.
Since most of us can't get to the Moon, there's no better way to experience an otherworldly landscape than to hike a volcano. One of the best places to do this is Nicaragua, where locals have named a ring of volcanoes outside the capital city of Managua the "Ring of Fire." On the three-day, two-night "Active Volcano Tour," from Schuvar Tours,
visitors hike 4,200-foot Momotombo and 2,200-foot Cerro Negro, both of them still smoking from subsurface thermal activity. The hiking in these parts is challenging -- most trails consist of volcanic gravel called "scree." The package includes three-star accommodations and breakfast and lunch daily. Price: $470 per person.
If you'd rather drive to the top of a volcano and bicycle back down, book a "Summit Deluxe"
tour with Haleakala Bike Company in Maui. Visitors meet their guides at 9 a.m. at a shop in Haiku, and a van dumps them 6,500 feet up the dormant 10,023-foot Mount Haleakala in Haleakala National Park. At this staging area, guests strap on helmets, climb aboard bicycles, and let gravity take control. The self-guided, 10-mile descent can go by quickly; break it up with stops at Tedeschi Winery
and Makawao. Price: $89.99 per person.
Traditional adventurers might prefer to see the Asian countryside by bus, car, or bike, but elephants are also a popular alternative. The four-legged mammals take visitors across Nepal's centrally located Royal Chitwan National Park on three-day, two-night wildlife safaris from Explore Himalaya.
On this tour, offered year round, guests climb aboard Asian Elephants for daily walks through the wilderness, where birds and other wildlife abound. Other activities include dugout canoe trips and boat trips to see crocodiles. At night, visitors luxuriate in one of eight different lodges inside the park, where chefs cook up delicious native Nepalese cuisine and cultural performers demonstrate traditional Terai dances. Price: $265 per person.
In wintry climates, such as Finland, another transportation alternative on safari is the snowmobile. On the three-day, three-night Northern Lights snowmobile safari from Wild Lapland Safaris,
visitors use these motorized snow vehicles to traverse the snowy wilderness that flanks Katka Mountain in the Scandinavian country's northwest. Groups don warm winter parkas and cover roughly 60 miles a day, stopping at high-end cottages to sauna and sleep. On the second day, the trip stops at a dog-sled farm, and thrill-seekers get to spend the afternoon dog-sledding. The main attraction, however, is the Aurora Borealis, which glows and crackles on clear nights in the winter sky. Price: $180 per person.
Anyone who saw the 2006 movie Brokeback Mountain
has glimpsed some of the wonder of exploring land on horseback. Adventurers can experience these sights for themselves in the Patagonia region of southern Chile on the six-day, seven-night Futaleufu River Valley Trail excursion from Expediciones Chile.
The trip departs from a working ranch and stops at a number of remote ranch outposts and settlements without roads. The journey also takes visitors past two pristine mountain lakes (bring a fishing rod) and fords a number of rivers. Throughout the adventure, horses carry food, gear, and bags; nights are spent camping and staying indoors at small ranches. Price: $1,895 per person.
For a different spin on riding a quadruped, explore the Wadi Rum area of Jordan on the back of a camel, a genetic cousin to the horse. On a five-day, four-night "T.E. Lawrence Trek," from Wadi Rum Mountain Guides,
visitors follow the route that T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) took on his journey to cut the narrow-gauge Hejaz railway through the Jordanian desert. The one-way trip stretches from Wadi Rum to Mudawarra; after five days of riding through the hot sun, visitors are shuttled back in the comfort of an open-air jeep. Trips include a Bedouin guide, camels, tents for camping, and all meals. Price: $275 per person.
Photo credits: (1) Courtesy of O.A.R.; (2) Photo by bjaglin