Surfing South Africa
It is a great adventure – learning to surf, or brushing up on your surfing skills, while exploring the coast of South Africa from Cape Town all the way around to Durban. Indeed, Ticket to Ride’s ten-week holiday could even change your life, says Jane Dunford in The Guardian. This specialist British company offers participants the chance to qualify as a surfing instructor at the end of the course, and reckons that even novice surfers can do it. You stay in hostels in seven towns along the coast, spending a week or two at each. There are daily classes with the “best local coaches”, and you also take part in community projects – painting classrooms, teaching English, cleaning beaches, and so on. Groups are roughly 16-strong, and participants are typically aged between 18 and 30 (this isn’t just a gap-year jaunt). The course includes fitness classes, video analysis of surfing techniques, and lessons in swimming, life-saving and surf etiquette. And the places you visit are beautiful, from Plettenberg Bay in the Western Cape, with its huge, unspoiled sandy beach, to the lush tropical hills that surround Coffee Bay, on the Wild Coast south of Durban. Ticket to Ride (020-8788 8668, www.tickettoridegroup.com) has ten-week trips from £4,695, excluding flights.
Rafting the Grand Canyon in vintage style
The 280-mile stretch of the Colorado River that runs through the Grand Canyon has some of the most challenging navigable white water in the world. Rafting its entire length is a thrill, especially in the Sandra, the last-surviving rowing boat from the canyon’s original tourist fleet, says Daniel Jones in The New York Times. This 14ft-long vessel was built in the 1930s by the National Park’s first commercial guide, Norm Nevills, whose rates were so high that only “the elite of the elite” made the trip – a fantastically adventurous one at the time. Now his grandson, Greg Reiff, takes passengers, for a more affordable fee, in a fleet that also includes six similar, modern boats. All guides are knowledgeable about the canyon’s geology, flora and fauna (including its plentiful rattlesnakes), and there’s much hiking to enjoy on the 14-day voyage, as well as swimming in hidden pools and visiting old Native American sites. But the chief thrill is “plunging” through the rapids themselves, “stomach-down and face-first on the bow” like a battering ram, for fear of unbalancing and flipping the boat. Canyoneers (+1 928 526 0924, www.canyoneers.com) has trips from $1,159 for three days. Or visit www.riversandoceans.com for all 16 local operators.
Extreme endurance in the Scandinavian snow
If you’re short of time but looking for a “proper adventure” – something to reveal reserves of strength you never knew you had – then sign up for IGO Adventures’ next quadrathlon in the snowy mountains of Norway, says Abigail Butcher in Tatler. Conceived of by polo player Bobby Dundas (the 10th Viscount Melville), the IGO N60º is a “punishing” four-day race that involves 15 miles of ski-touring, 26 miles of cycling on heavy “fat bikes” (with reinforced frames and fat wheels), 26 miles of crosscountry skiing, and a full-distance marathon. Throw in wet-wipe showers, freeze-dried food and traditional lavvu tents that offer “little shelter from the biting cold”, and you’ll be “sleep-deprived, injured and aching” by day four. But the glorious scenery lifts the mood, and participants grow “as close as family”. Sipping bubbly beside the finish line, you might well feel your life has changed for the better – and ready to sign up to Dundas’s other planned adventures. The next N60 º Challenge is on 11-19 March 2017, from £4,750pp (07766-832030, www.igoadventures.com).
See the Northern Lights on a quadrathlon in Norway