Top
snorkeling Ningaloo Reef

Do you like to always try new enthralling experiences when you travel?
Are you up for adrenaline-packed activities?

My answer is YES! Though I am not a crazy person who needs adrenaline to enjoy myself, I like to try new experiences that take me out of my comfort zone and help me to explore the world in a different way through air, land and water activities.

Below are my top 5 activities I experienced on my travels by air, land and water:

AIR ACTIVITIES

  • Heli-hike in New Zealand:on my trip with Adventure Tours to New Zealand we stopped at the Franz Joseph Glacier where we had an half day free to choose the best way to explore the area. I found this option that combined the scenic flight by helicopter and a 3 hour hike with ice crampons. It was not cheap (about $300 in 2010 now probably even more) but “when will I have the chance to do it again?” I thought. Never regretted it as it was simply spectacular! Watching the glacier from the top and then be able to hike through its ice formations and tunnels was one of the best experiences not only in New Zealand, but in my whole life. All gears are provided, you are briefed by your guide before departure and the hike is not difficult, about 3 hours. Of course you need to be fit but I would recommend it also if you are not an experienced trekker.
  • Paragliding in Annecy: when I was offered to paraglide I had never flown before and hardly knew what this activity was about. I was staying in Annecy in France, a pretty town on the lake ranked among the top destinations in the world for paragliding. Unfortunately, I have no contact of the company I flew with as my friends organised everything as a surprise. I do remember though the feeling of freedom I experienced flying over that beautiful scenery.

How does it work? Basically, I was in tandem with an instructor and set off running down a gentle slope overlooking the Annecy Lake. You have to keep running until you feel you have no land under your feet and that’s when the parachute is filled up with air and you start flying. I have never had the chance to do paragliding again, but it is definetely on my list.

paragliding annecy
  • Heli scenic flight over the Great Barrier Reef: when I was living in Australia I worked for an inbound travel company so I was lucky enough to get discounts on many activities we worked with. One of these was the heli reef discovery over the world-popular Great Barrier Reef in Queensland. A 30-minute scenic off the coast of Cairns overlooking the stunning colours of the reef and Green Island, that normally costs $400 per person and I was able to pay 50% off 🙂 Definitely worth it!
heli scenic flight Cairns
  • Scenic flight Everest Express: my trip to Nepal was definetely too short and I didn’t have enough time to spend trekking. When I arrived in Kathmandu I was not able to see the Himalayas due to the misty weather. I couldn’t leave without seeing them, so I signed up for a scenic flight the following morning.

Luckily the weather got clearer and the view over Mount Everest (8848m) towering among other mountain peaks between 7-8000 metres was absoultely breathtaking. During the flight you are also allowed into the cockpit to enjoy the “pilot view” and you are served a glass of bubbles, not bad for 200 USD per person 🙂

  • Skydiving in Sydney: OK. I must admit I would have never chosen to do this one, it was a “gift” from my boyfriend at that time, probably he was trying to get rid of me 🙂 First time it was still a surprise when we got in the car at 6am to drive from Sydney, where we were living, towards Wollongong (approx. 80Km South). Unfortunately, it was too windy so we had to come back a couple of weeks later, when I knew what I was going to do.

We were a group of 7 people all paired with an experienced instructor (mine had already jumped 6 times that same day!). You don’t have much choice once you are in the small plane attached to your instructor because everything happens very fast: the door opens, you see your mates disappearing in few seconds and it is already your turn! The free fall from 15,000 feet at 200km/h speed lasted1 minute, longer than the usual 40 seconds many company do, and to me it felt like ages.

Probably because the weather was not nice and we jumped into grey clouds that prevented us from seeing what was underneath until the parachute opened (luckily!) and we started our soft descent overlooking the bay and landing on the beach. A once-in-a-lifetime experience I am happy I did, but wouldn’t do again.

skydiving sydney

LAND ACTIVITIES

  • Apennines Skyline Hike in Tuscany: I come from Lunigiana, an area in Northern Tuscany rimmed by the Apennine National Park. However, being also very close to the beach (only 30 min drive), I have always been more of a seaside girl. Only after I lived for years in “flat” Countries like Australia and Belgium, I realised I actually came from a mountainous area. So when I came back to live here I started to explore the mountains I had been seeing for my whole life.

My first experience in the Apennines was a 12-hour hike along the skyline path. Why 12 hours for my first experience you may ask? Because we were supposed to do a 2-day hike sleeping with our tents at the top but, though the weather was apparently sunny and warm when we left (mid August is usually one of the hottest month in Italy), up there it was all a different story.

We were a party of 6 led by our friend Franco, a nature guide I worked with. Departure at 7:30am, after an ascent of 800m uphill, we reached the ridge from where we enjoyed breathtaking views over the valley as far as the Ligurian sea. Unfortunately, the weather started to change and the strong wind blowing from North prevented us to find a safe place to set our tents. We were too far to come back so we kept walking to get as close as possible to the arrival of the following day and where our car was parked.
With an heavy backpack full of food, tents and all sort of things you would bring for a picnic more than for a hike, we walked until 7 pm when I stopped and refused to go any further. We found a place just below the ridge in the woods that appeared to be protected enough to put our tents and spent the night there.
What a night! We were waken up now and again by whistling wind threatening to blow away our tent that we tried to secure firmly. Luckily, the following day we were pretty close to the arrival point because I could hardly walk!
I got sore legs for 3 days but nonetheless I loved the Apennines and since then keep returning regularly for day walks or overnight in tents, making sure to properly check the weather and the wind conditions in advance 🙂

apennines hike
  • Self-drive the Red Centre of Australia: drive a van along the coast or the desert is one of the dreams of many travellers visiting Australia. I had been living in Sydney for 2 years and travelled extensively the Country but never by van, so when my friend Laura came to visit before I returned to Italy, I suggested to rent a van and self-drive the Red Centre.
    Two city girls and a van driving in the desert was a real adventure.
    Luckily, in this part of Australia there is only one straight road so you can’t get lost and there is no traffic at all so easier to drive on the left without risking an accident. I had already been to the Red Centre on a group tour (read about the itinerary in my article The Heart of Australia) but coming back on our own it was a completely different experience.

I loved to drive and be able to stop any time we felt like, even if it was just to enjoy the scenery, and find every day a place to spend the night immersed in the dark and silence of the desert under a blanket of shimmering stars. At first, I wasn’t sure we would have been able to do it, though I tried to convince Laura that we were perfectly fine, so I was very proud of us for having stepped outside our comfort zone and allowed us to live one of the best experiences of my life.

  • Thailand hill tribe hike: after my challenging hiking experience described at point 1, I have become a keen hiker and started to frequent the mountains more often. This doesn’t make me an expert as I usually go for day hikes of 5-6 hours with an average elevation gain of 800m. But I always dreamt to go for a hiking holiday. I know, Thailand is not exactly a popular destination for hiking, but you need to start somewhere. So when we were invited to Chiangrai for our friend David’s wedding, we booked a 3-day hill tribe hike, just to test my endurance (read more in my article Authentic Thailand).

33 Km in 2 days and half with a 12 kg backpack walking in humid weather at 30+ °C was not a piece of cake for me, especially if you consider the night spent on floor bedding. I am stubborn and determined enough to make it through safely (ok Miles had to help me sometimes) feeling empowered to test myself again in a hiking trip in the near future.

hilltribe hike thailand
  • Cycling in the Cinque Terre: premise is, I am not at all a keen cyclist. That’s why among my top activities off-limits, I list a 35 km ride by e-bike which to most people may appear an easy activity. I haven’t understood why I can hike for kilometres, dance training for hours, do swim laps, but not ride a bicycle for more than 5 kilometres without feeling exhausted 🙂 Part of my job is to design responsible and sustainable tours to promote the area where I live – Lunigiana, Northern part of Tuscany at the border with the Cinque Terre.
    Being the latter overcrowded with tourists, few years ago when electric bikes started to arrive in Italy, with the cooperative of guide I was working with, we designed a 35 km tour by e-bike in the Cinque Terre National Park. Of course, when you design something you need to test it first.

Cycling the Cinque Terre far from the crowd with stunning views over the colourful villages, the terraced vineyards and the sea is one of the very few options you still have to enjoy this beautiful Park that is suffering from mass tourism.

Believe me when I say that with the help of the motor assistance anybody can do it, I mean, if I did it! Be warned it is not a motorcycle, so you are still required to pedal, however when you are cycling uphill and feel the push of the motor assistance, you are immensely grateful.

cinque terre by bike
  • Canopy Park in Tuscany: yes we are in Tuscany because I am always after adventures also when I am at Home. I am aware Tuscany is not popular for adventure and outdoor but there are quite a lot of activities worth trying (read more about Tuscany Adventure). October 2018, I was in charge of developing adventure itineraries in Tuscany to showcase to international tour operators at the Adventure Travel World Summit. One of the itinerary was a soft adventure from Lunigiana (where I live) to Lucca passing through the Garfagnana area. That’s where the Selva del Buffardello canopy park is.
    You may think it is a place for families with kids only, but most of the trails are actually for fearless adults! Climbing trees, walking on treetop slack lines and all sort of different tracks including zip lines, is a fun activity that can test also the bravest person.
canopy park tuscany

WATER ACTIVITIES

  • Swimming with Manta Ray in Western Australia: when you think about snorkelling in Australia,the Great Barrier Reef on the East Coast is surely the first site that comes to your mind. I have been there and loved it of course, but there is another coral reef on the West Coast, overlooked by most visitors. The Ningaloo Reef is in front of Coral Bay, a stunning area of white-sand desert beaches where you can see colourful reefs, all sort of fish, sharks, turtles and, depending on the season, swim with whale sharks or manta rays. I was travelling by car from Perth to Exmouth mid December without any specific plan. When we got at Coral Bay we found the opportunity to do a full day snorkelling trip that included swimming with a manta ray.

I was already in love with Western Australia, which still is one my favourite destinations downunder (read more Go West: Australia best-kept secret), but this experience definetely stole my heart. We were dropped at open sea close to where the manta was and swam strenuously for approximately 10-15 minutes trying to keep up with the manta that, with a “wing” width of 4 meters, appeared to be moving graciously slow, but was indeed proceeding steadily fast. It was an emotional experience to be able to get close to this majestic animal, especially when in the meantime you turn around and see a cute turtle head popping up next to you 🙂

Swimming with manta rays western australia
  • Canyoning in Queenstown: no trip to the Southern island of New Zealand can skip Queenstown, the world city for adventure and adrenaline-packed activities. On our 10-day Adventure Travel tour, we had a free day in Queenstown to choose our favourite adventure. I had signed up for hand-gliding but unfortunately it was too windy, so when the tour got cancelled I opted for a canyoning tour. It was my first experience ever and I loved it!
    What is canyoning about? Walking, swimming, jumping, sliding down rock toboggan and zip lining. I still have to try hand-gliding, but I am glad of my change of plan so that I could discover this fun activity with the right amount of adrenaline.
  • Surfing in Australia: the cliché image of Australia we are all used to is that of a surf Country, so livingthere for two years I couldn’t avoid trying this popular sport. In Sydney there are many popular beaches for surfers, Bondi on the southern coast is the preferred one by international travellers. I actually never surfed in Sydney because the beaches were too crowded, so I had my baptism in the Newcastle area, a couple hours drive North of Sydney. We found deserted beaches that, only once we got back home and spoke with Australian friends, found out to be infested with sharks (maybe that’s why there is hardly anybody surfing there 🙂 Anyway, I probably didn’t try hard enough, but surfing it is not easy at all!
    I spent hours paddling and trying to catch the right wave, but I ended up with the only scare I have on my body caused by the fin scratching over my right hand, to always remind me I am not a good surfer 🙂 Busy with my daily Australian life, I gave up too soon on surfing and now wish I had taken it more seriously. I will definetely give it a chance again.
surfing Australia
  • Rafting in Australia: during my trip to Queensland I took part to an half day rafting experience on the Barron River. Rafting difficulty is worldwide graded on a scale of 6 and this was ranked 3/5, which means medium-easy. It was indeed comfortably fun with small rapids where we could learn the manoeuvres and team-work necessary to avoid big rocks and keep you on track. A fun activity, though I personally tend to prefer to be in the water snorkelling or canyoning.
Raftting Cairns
  • Wakeboard Australia: this one is surely not a popular activity to do in a Country like Australia that offers world-popular snorkelling and surfing sites. Still, when you happen to live in Sydney for a while, you start to explore also non-touristy areas like the Hawksbury River, located 1,5hr drive North-East of Sydney. I ignored the existence of wakeboarding as it is not a popular activity where I come from, but that’s the best part of travelling, to always find out and try new experiences. I never tried anything similar such as snowboarding or skateboarding, so it took me a while to feel myself comfortable with my feet attached to a board and to understand how to stand in a upright position sliding at speed on the water, but once you manage to, it is a very cool feeling.

Which is your element?

Hard to say which is my favourite element as I’ve enjoyed all the above activities and I’m always up to try new ones both when I’m travelling or also close to home. If I had to choose I would say water is my element, as I really love snorkelling, canyoning and all sort of water activities, as a matter of fact I’m also a lifeguard and swimming teacher. I grew up close to the beach and I’m fond of rivers, waterfalls and pristine lagoons, so I’m always ready to jump into the water when I get the chance to.

post a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.