The world of travel is growing as some 1.2bn people travelled the globe in 2016, according to the World Tourism Organization (WTO). And one of the biggest trends of late is adventure travel, especially if it disconnects us from the grid and allows us to be more in tune with nature.
These days the focus has shifted beyond just experiencing comfortable hotel rooms and fine dining, to travellers seriously wanting to explore remote locations combined with thrilling adventures.
It has become the unending search for that once-in-a-lifetime experience, described as transformational travel that helps us become the designers of our lifestyles.
One dynamic individual who seems to be at the forefront designing once-in-a-lifetime adventures is Lee Kelsall, head of Ker and Downey Africa.
He says either companies can cater to exactly this by pushing the boundaries of adventure travel or forget about pleasing the burgeoning millennial travellers.
At the helm of the adventure travel company that has doubled in size year on year, Kelsall says, “The trend toward Adventure Travel is clear to see in the statistics yes, but more than that the need for something deeper from travel became clear to us when speaking to our clients at the outset.
'People travel to find themselves, to push their boundaries and to create memories that last'
“When you take the time to understand why it is that people seek out the corners of the earth, you find that travel isn’t just about comfortable pillows and fine silverware. People travel to find themselves, to push their boundaries and to create memories that last. We believe so strongly in this.
At 33-years-old, he describes himself as the Chief Adventure Officer rather than the CEO of a brand that established itself way back in the 1940s.
Kelsall says adventure travel has become one of the key refrehing factors of Ker and Downey headed into 2017.
Their international visitors are not only looking for the more traditional safari experience, he says when it comes to visiting Africa.
Travellers are also no longer only focused on where to stay he says, “often they’ll come up with something that you didn’t have in plan and we’ll work with that."
According to Kelsall there will always be the iconic experiences travellers want to try, like Table Mountain, the Great Migration – but these days the number one trend is combining adventure with another experience like safari.
"Kayaking around the Cape combined with a Mdikwe safari; or paragliding Vic Falls combined with a Chobe in Botswana for instance,” says Kelsall.
He says he’s even finding repeat travellers who have done the safari experience and are now looking for something new to try and he feels it’s been an important development for Africa to not only be defined by that one experience.
SEE: LuxVentures in Kenya: Top 5 adventure travel experiences to try
“For some we might try Madagascar or perhaps Reunion Island is a better fit. We’ve even put together experiences, opting to connect our client the Otter trail if it is a better fit to a safari in Kruger.”
“Our once in a lifetime adventure focused trips push our clients’ boundaries in incredibly unique, experiential ways.
“We don’t create our trips with a focus on the destination, we build around that moment they’re chasing. That’s made all the difference to those that travel with us.”
And the popular itineraries?
One sought-after experience on the horizon includes a Virunga escape in DRC, which combines Volcanoes and Gorillas. Kelsall says guests have the unique opportunity to overnight on the top of the volcano.
“There are only a few huts and this is quite an incredible part of this trip.”
He also recommends Rubondo Island in Tanzania – where you can trek with Chimpanzee, highlighting the conservation of primates who are in danger of extinction and cannot be supported enough he says.
Ethiopia is another trekking destination that he highly recommends as is Reunion island, describing it as an untouched adventure island“.
“It’s not about experiences that are just nice getaways, but rather trips that can change people’s lives,” says Kelsall.
SEE: Taking risks on Reunion Island
Luckily for locals planning a trip to some of these spots need not only be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
We've outlined 17 adventures to have, including a few far-flung spots for the bucket list. All in all any oen of these are sure to create some epic memories in the year ahead, if you choose to.
SEE: 17 ways to save on travel in 2017
THE SHORT OF LOCAL ADVENTURES
The Otter Hiking Trail found in the Tsitsikamma Coastal National Park, Eastern Cape, is undoubtedly South Africa's most sought-after endurance trail. It is a five-day trail, commencing at the Storms River Mouth Rest Camp and stretching westward as far as the Groot River estuary at Nature's Valley, a distance of about 43km. Accommodation is provided in four beautifully appointed overnight camps. The first hike took place in 1968, making it the oldest official hiking trail in South Africa.
SEE: Kayaking the Supermoon: A larger than life adventure
Hiking adventurers will embrace this route of the six day, five night trail from Port Alfred to the Fish River that winds over vast, empty beaches, windswept dunes and through thick coastal forest and up and down the Kleinemonde West River.
Otherwise you might also like the The Whiskey Creek Canoe Trail - a 7-kilometre paddle up the Keurbooms River takes you to a comfortable hut that sleeps ten people. It is a birder’s paradise. Fish eagles and kingfishers call the lush forest on the river banks home, and owls nest around the hut. The accommodation is basic and the trail is self-catered.
3. Bungee Jump off Vic Falls
At the Victoria Falls Bridge you can tuck into the Big Air Experience. This means you get to do a bridge zip slide, bridge swing and bungee jump all in one go - with each activity increasing in fear-factor as you move along.
Could there be a better way to do this, all as the mighty Zambezi rushes below you?
SEE: Who jumps off a bridge for fun?
4. Shark Cage Dive at Gansbaai or Mossel Bay
There are a number of shark cage diving companies operating mainly in the Great White waters of Gansbaai and Mossel Bay along Southern coast of SA. These places - because of their proximity to islands which host prey - have some of the highest concentrations of sharks in the world! What's awesome about these dives, is the fact that during the experience humans are caged - and not the animals!
Contact: Marine Dynamics, Gansbaai, Kleinbaai, Mossel Bay
5. Ceres Zipsliding
There are many zipsliding offerings in South Africa, but the one in Ceres is thrilling beyond. The slides aren’t the highest in the country, nor are they the longest, but they’re certainly some of the steepest – which makes for ultra fast ziplining action over the rocky Ceres Mountain slopes.
Ceres Zipslide Adventures offers a range of slides from 328 feet to 951 feet in length.
SEE: WATCH: Whheee!!! Piekenierskloof ziplines relaunch after fire
The tour will take you through the Schurweberg Mountains, which you will find about an hour-and-a-half drive away from Cape Town. Since the Town of Ceres is often called the “Eden of The Cape” it is certainly worth the trip.
Contact: Ceres Zipling
6. Augrabies Falls, Orange River
The Augrabies Falls, fed by the Orange River, and located in Augrabies Falls National Park is a national park located about 120 km west of Upington in the Northern Cape Province is a sight to behold when in full flood. Hiking up to the summit of Moon Rock to see one of the park’s best views is a worthy little adventure and pretty inexpensive too.
READ: 25+ Lesser-known rivers of South Africa and why they're awesome
SEE: PICS: Sun City relaunches after R1bn upgrade
If you want to experience the Zipslide that started it all, you will have to make the journey down to Sun City for the Zip 2000. While no longer the holder of the longest or highest zip line title, this 2.4km ride has average speeds of 120km per hour and can even reach speeds of up to 160km per hour. Other zip lines worth checking out are Ballito Zip line Tour, Citrusdal SA Forest Adventure and Lake Eland Zip Line. It's also closely located to the Madikwe Game Reserve.
Sani Pass is the mother of all South African mountain passes. Statistically and in every sense, it out distances, out climbs, and out performs all its competitors with consummate ease to have become the most iconic pass in SA.
SEE: Gateway to Lesotho: 8 must-dos in the Drakensberg
It's a challenging drive in a 4X4 vehicle with all the drama, scenery, bad weather and treacherous conditions expected of a pass with a summit altitude of 2876 meter ASL. (BTW, that equates to 9 400 feet. At 10 000 feet, aircraft need pressurized cabins!) This is high-altitude stuff. Go prepared for bad weather at any time and expect snowfalls as late as October.
The perfect getaway for city slickers from Johannesburg and a haven for tranquillity seekers who find peace in long stretches of emptiness, the eastern Free State is a one of SA's most loved and scenic adventure corners.
The biggest drawcards and source of extreme fun are the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains, the slopes of the Maluti Mountains and the meanders Ash River which flows throughout the year.
The Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve is the world’s third largest canyon and exceptionally beautiful. Home to the aptly named God’s Window, this wonder situated near the Kruger National Park, the Mpumalanga Nature Reserve - adventurers can opt to go hiking, biking, fishing and abseiling, to white-water rafting, boat trips and much more.
Discover the magic of trees in Zambia. Every year the Greenpop Zambia Festival of Action in Livingstone brings people together from around the globe to learn, connect, give back and get active.
This year’s dates are set from 25 June to 16 July.
Travel Blogger Dawn Jorgensen says joining this experience, first on a Harvest of Hope plant day in Khayelitsha, for a weekend at the Platbos Friends Festival in the Overberg and then for ten days on their Zambia Festival of Action campaign transformed that loyalty into a complete love and respect.
SEE: Greenpop: The tangible magic of trees
But there are many ways to get involved include joining the Platbos Family and Friend’s Fest in mid-May where the weekends offer a variety of activities, camping in a beautiful forest and planting trees in effective teams. The family fest has special activities and planting for children.
THE LONG OF WORLDLY WANDERLUST
12. Walk the Oldest Way of the Camino de Santiago
The ancient Camino de Santiago - the most famous group of walking routes in the world – has attracted millions of pilgrims to Spain since the 9th Century. It is said that a hermit discovered the bones of the apostle St James in Santiago de Compostela, which is the endpoint of the famous walks. Whatever the reality, the discovery quickly led to significant spiritual and political regeneration in Spain and the rest of Europe and ever since, pilgrims have made their way on foot (or, more recently, bicycle) to the cathedral of Santiago.
Over time the Camino de Santiago has grown in popularity. Today over 200 000 walkers hike its many routes every year in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment or simply a wholesome physical challenge. The most popular route is the Camino Frances, which starts in France, but for those in search of solitude, there are a few other options. Most notable is the Camino Primitivo, which starts in Oviedo (northwest Spain) and ends two weeks later in Santiago. This is the oldest, most remote and arguably most scenic of all the ways.
13. Vietnam: Land of the Dragon
The Far East has long been a fantastic value option for local travellers and Vietnam holds some exciting adventures - as you prepare to step outside your comfort zone and discover a whole new culture.
There really is so much more than a tantalising streetfood scene, ancient temples and traditional rice paddies on offer.
Here South African time-lapse artist Rory Allen shares a wanderlust-inducing two-minute travel video from his recent holiday there.
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