What better way to experience a cliff than by dangling your body over it?
Adventurous travelers come in all styles—those who spontaneously undertake heart-pumping rushes of adrenaline without a second thought, those who train for physically and mentally challenging endeavors, and those whose sanity can be called into question. Then there are the rest of the self-described adventurers, the ones who appreciate a little titillation but are way more laid back about it, preferring a casual, less life-threatening approach to thrills, and gravitate toward activities that don’t cost much beyond the price of admission.
Over the past decade, an assortment of recreations has been created in the name of fun, most of which are low-risk and require little to no skill to participate. Advancements in technology and the reallocation of disposable income toward experiences instead of traditionally sensible pursuits have helped to drive innovation in the adventure tourism industry. These activities range from variations on classic entertainments to completely new iterations of thrills, some of which can look pretty darn silly to the outside observer.
Forget riding on the backs of dolphins—most importantly for the reason that it is cruel, but also because technology has given us the ability to become the dolphin ourselves. Subwing diving is the chance to soar underwater with the grace and agility of those friendly finned creatures that we respect enough to not treat like a carnival ride.
The subwing apparatus is two “wings” that are connected in the center and can move independently of one another. The wings are attached to a boat by a cable, and the rider holds on to the wings as the boat drives slowly through the water. The wings can be tilted at different angles to send the rider diving down, soaring to the surface, or spinning into a 360° roll. This activity is accessible to most people as it is not so physically exhausting, only requiring the strength to hold on and the ability to hold your breath between trips to the surface.
In shallow, crystal clear waters, like those found in Turks and Caicos, riding a subwing could be an opportunity to spot some wildlife and even keep up with them when swimming alongside.
Since its creation in 2012, flyboarding has received a lot of attention due to the impressive visuals it displays. People are granted the power of flight by strapping their feet onto a board that is outfitted with powerful water jets. The rider is tethered by a hose connected to a jetski that pumps the water to the jets. The jet ski operator is in charge of the throttle, so if he or she thinks you are ready, they can amp up the power to send you soaring.
Skilled riders can reach heights of 70 feet in the air, and can flip, roll, and even dive underwater. Fortunately, the act of getting airborne is not as hard as it looks, and only requires riders to simply stand up on the board.
This is when one or two people climb into the center of an inflatable clear plastic ball that is shortly thereafter pushed down a hill to roll furiously to the bottom. There are two possible configurations of the zorb—one position being that the rider is in a harness so that they roll along with the ball, while the other contains water so that rider slides within the ball, mostly face up (until they happen to flip over onto their face).
The zorb, also called an OGO ball, was created initially as an apparatus for walking on water, however, the fun level of running like a hamster in a wheel on top of the water is questionable, and the likelihood of floating away in an inoperable inflatable ball is a distinct possibility.
These days, most downhill ball rolling is done on courses created specifically for the zorb (OGO ball), where tracks zig and zag down a hill or are designed to achieve high speeds.
Roll back where it all began in New Zealand, where the world’s longest track is found in . If you happen to find yourself on the other side of the earth, there are plenty of places in the U.S. to get your on.
Started as a competition between the local villagers to win grazing rights and a wheel of cheese, the annual cheese rolling competition near Gloucester in England is now recognized worldwide, with 100 competitors and 2,000 spectators gathering to roll the cheese every year.
The rules are simple: A nine-pound double Gloucester cheese is launched from the top of a steep, rocky hill. One second later, a wild bunch of cheese enthusiasts is set loose to run after it. It is impossible to catch cheese as it rolls 200 yards down the hill at 70 miles per hour, so whoever catches up to it first at the bottom wins the cheese and the bragging rights until the next year.
Competing in the cheese roll does not require skill as much as a willingness to sustain mild to serious injuries. The cheese roll was at one time an officially managed competition, but an abundance of injuries led to the race becoming a more casual gathering that nobody is lining up to take responsibility for, and continues in spite of this condemnation from all of the reasonable people.
A valid question worth considering is how good is this cheese and is it worth all the trouble? The Double Gloucester is a full-fat cheese with a rich, nutty flavor and smooth texture, made with milk from the rare and ancient breed of Gloucester cow. So…yes?
For those looking to take their lake leaping to new heights, blobbing is a fun way to level up. A proper blobbing is conducted on a giant inflatable raft that assumes a classic “blob” appearance. To blob, one person sits at the far end while another person jumps onto the blob at the opposite end, launching the other person high into the air and into the water. The effect of how high the person is thrown is directly related to their size as compared to that of the jumper—a large person jumping to launch a much smaller person will send them soaring.
All your blobbing needs can be met in West Virginia, where the inflatable fun doesn’t stop at blobs. There is also an inflatable 25-foot climbing mountain, giant spinning balls, seesaws, and an obstacle course.
Not all underwater exploration requires scuba training or being stuck to a snorkel. Taking a voyage in a submarine to explore underwater worlds is now a viable option thanks to the improvement in the capabilities of battery-powered vehicles. Submarines can safely take tourists to depths of 500 feet with no individual effort whatsoever besides sitting back and ripping into a bag of snacks.
As oceans and wildlife are continuously threatened, riding in a submarine appears to have environmental advantages over snorkeling and diving. The submarines are battery-powered and emission-free, moving quietly through the water without disturbing the fish. By keeping the humans out of reach of the wildlife, there is no chance of sunscreen damaging coral or people touching things they should leave well enough alone.
Submarine reef tours are available in Hawaii, where the tour operators are making efforts to conserve and improve the reef. Deep-sea tours can be experienced in the flourishing but at-risk ecosystems around the Maldives.
Strapping on a harness and shoving off to swing out over a tantalizingly tall cliff has become a popular theme park attraction in some parts of China. The most frightening of these swings is found at Wansheng Ordovician Park in Chongqing, a region famous for its mountainous terrain and dramatic karst landscapes. The park’s largest swing is attached to a 60-foot high beam from which riders are pulled back at a 90° face down angle and then let go, heaving them out over a 1000-foot drop, tethered by nothing but a harness.
This park is home to the most high-altitude attractions in the world, and besides six cliff swings, there are more opportunities to test the limits of your cliffside courage, such as the 70-meter long cantilevered glass skywalk that sits 400 feet above the ground and is the longest such attraction according to the Guinness Book of World Records. There is also a gap bridge, where visitors jump from platform to platform while suspended over a dooming drop.
For those not ready to take the plunge into scuba diving but want to get under the water, underwater scootering is the perfect combination of ocean exploration and slow-speed zooming. The scooter is designed with a giant helmet that riders wear while sitting on the device. The helmet, known as a BOB (breathing observation bubble), is filled with air and connected via a tube to the oxygen-rich atmosphere above the water. No mask or oxygen tank is needed since BOB takes care of the air supply, and the headspace is large enough that there is almost 360° of visibility.
The battery-powered (and therefore eco-friendly) scooter can reach speeds up to 9 mph and can be stopped almost instantly when the propeller is disengaged by the rider. The average underwater scootering adventure only travels to depths of 8 feet, and there is a guide close by keeping a watery eye on things.
Paragliding feels analog compared to paramotoring or PPG, powered paragliding, where in addition to dangling 8,000 feet in the air from a parachute, there is also a motor strapped to your back.
Paramotoring is more involved than paragliding and therefore less commonly available to novices. For those who are eager to experience this activity, there are training courses available that will get you in the sky right away flying in tandem with a skilled instructor. A paramotoring school in Santa Barbara, CA offers one-off tandem paramotoring experiences.
Certified paramotorers can embark on multi-day treks across a variety of countries. Learn paramotoring from A to Z at an accredited training center in Spain and acquire the skills to soar over Andalusian beaches and ancient Moorish castles.
Shallow rivers and rocky beaches are generally inaccessible via boat, except for when that boat is hovering over a foot off of the ground. The small size and smooth ride of the hovercraft can take riders over water and earth to see landscapes from a unique point of view.
A hovercraft’s hover is generated by a powerful fan that creates a cushion of air on the underside of the vessel, keeping the craft aloft and capable of reaching speeds up to 60 mph. The design of the craft is deceiving—the cushion of air is obscured by a covering so it is not visibly floating, however, the hovering effect is confirmed when it travels seamlessly from water onto the land.
The only hovercraft tour on the east coast of the U.S. is found in Maine, where the terrain is beautiful and not always hospitable for conventional boating. When in Alaska, don’t miss the hovercraft wildlife tours that traverse rugged coastlines.
Go for a sail without getting soggy. Sand yachting is a fun and speedy way to explore vast, flat stretches of windblown beaches. Hop in a three-wheeled buggy that’s powered by a sail extending above, and steer by redirecting the sail in a way similar to windsurfing. Easy to learn and available to everyone above the age of eight, sand yachting is the best way to enjoy the expansive seaside landscape of Brittany in northwestern France.
Ziplining has become a ubiquitous activity in many parts of the world, but happily, there are still a few surprises in store for those interested in this activity. Instead of the classic experience of traveling in a straight line along a cable, the zipline rollercoaster sends riders up, down, and around, sliding along the twisting rails of a zip line raceway with G-forces supplying the speed. The only zipline rollercoaster in the U.S. is found nestled within a forest of pines in the backwoods of Central Florida, but there are other places around the world where you can ride. For more of a jungle vibe, check out the zip coaster in Costa Rica.
Go for a sky-high stroll at the top of the , Canada’s tallest building and the world’s highest full-circle skywalk, clocking in at 1,168 feet or 116 stories above the ground. Shuffling around the top of the tower along a five-foot-wide walkway is a hands-free experience, so those who regret their decision have nothing to grasp onto but themselves. Visitors are encouraged to lean their bodies out over the edge, relying on the harness to prevent them from toppling down into the depths of Toronto. Incredible views of the city and Lake Ontario will have to suffice to soothe any anxieties.
Those who find white water rafting to be a little snoozy can now experience the rush of hydrospeeding, which is a combination of bodyboarding and white water rafting. This activity puts the rider’s body into the rapids, the advantage being that you can’t fall in—you already are in. Hydrospeeding, also known as river sledging, is when the rider holds onto a foam board with handles suited to accommodate the inevitable death grip that will be cast upon it. The board is designed to work with the contours of the body, albeit one that is sloshing around like a spider trying to avoid whirling down a drain. Those who participate are protected from hazards with a wetsuit, helmet, and even more protective gear if the rapids are shallow or tumultuous enough to warrant such cautionary outfitting. The foam of the board helps to shield any blows from rocks or obstacles encountered in the water.
Before embarking down the rapids, riders receive a short training session in calm waters and then proceed to follow a guide down the rapids who will impart instructions on how to best navigate the river. The board allows for some fancier floating—those who get the hang of it can duck under the water, surf, ride down waterfalls, and do 360° spins, some of which may even be done on purpose. This activity does require riders to be proficient swimmers.
Opportunities for hydrospeeding can be found in mountainous landscapes such as France and Italy, where refreshing glacial water glides (or pummels) riders down the river through pristine Alpine scenery.