7 Adrenaline Highs You’re Never Too Old For
Published 30 March 2016
Skydiving and shark diving are just for teen backpackers, right? Wrong. We dare you to take on these epic white-knuckle experiences around the world…
Why walk the Great Wall of China when you can fly over it? Possibly the only World Wonder to boast such vertiginous thrills, the Simatai zip-line runs from one of the Wall’s lofty towers, all the way down to terra firma – a white-knuckle ride that you’ll want to do again and again (if only you didn’t have to hike for hours to get back up to the top).
Meanwhile, the brave folks over in Colorado, USA, are hanging out 365 metres above the Arkansas River – literally. Meet the Skycoaster: a thoroughly distressing freefall swing that hurls you over the canyon in (what looks like) a gigantic babygrow. Strap in alone or with up to two friends – but remember, the more people you cram in, the faster you’ll fall…
Select your skydive destination wisely, and you’ll be so distracted by the view that you’ll forget to scream. Maybe. Rookies choose Queenstown, New Zealand – it’s the adventure capital of NZ, but over-run with teen backpackers. Instead, opt for Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, where wind-whipped desert meets endless turquoise sea (keep an eye out for curious great white sharks while you plummet down to earth), or Dubai, UAE, to get a bird’s eye view of those crazy man-made Palm Islands.
13,000ft (or 4,000 metres) not high enough for you? Try a dive with HALO Jumpers from 32,000ft – yes, that’s the altitude that passenger jets fly at. Gulp. Up there, you can see the curvature of the earth and you’ll need an oxygen tank. Could you pluck up the courage to jump?
White water rafting
White water rafting can take you places you just can’t reach on foot – and make you yelp your water-logged lungs out in the process. Costa Rica’s Pacuare River is one of the world’s most picturesque spots to face the rapids – while you’re not busy bouncing over swells, there are plenty of flat-water sections where you’ll spy sloths, howler monkeys and iguanas in the thick rainforest.
In New Zealand, take the thrill up a notch with heli rafting – you’ll be dropped off at a remote destination, and then have to find your way back home on the rapids. There’s a section that weaves through a pitch-back natural tunnel, too… Petrifying, but at least nobody can see your terror-tears.
Theme parks aren’t just for kids, but you’ll end up screaming like a little girl if you take on Kingda Ka at Six Flags in New Jersey, USA. It’s the world’s tallest roller coaster, whisking you up 140 metres (roughly 45 storeys) before hurling you around at 128mph. Formula Rossa at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, UAE, is even faster: you’ll reach an eye-watering 149mph in a mock-up red Ferrari. Want to tick off all the record-breaking coasters? Don’t miss Steel Dragon 2000 at Nagashima Spa Land – it’s the world’s longest, with 1.5 miles of barf-inducing twists.
Only got the guts for one bungee jump in your life? Make it a biggie: venture to Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa – home of the world’s highest commercial bungee. You’ll plunge head-first into the gorge below, attached by your sweaty ankles to a decidedly flimsy-looking rope.
If you’re a James Bond fan, hurl yourself off the ‘GoldenEye Bungee’ at Switzerland’s Vercasca Dam – this is where Pierce Brosnan made his famous leap in the 007 flick. It’ll leave you both shaken and stirred.
Not terrifying enough? Try the Macau Tower bungee in China. Jumping off this city-centre skyscraper is alarming in the daylight, but a night jump – when you’ll drop to earth under the cover of darkness – takes the fear factor to a whole new level.
You haven’t lived until you’ve come face-to-face with a ravenous great white shark. “Ah, but I’ll be in a safety cage!”, you say. Yes, but those sharp shiny teeth are very good at rattling the bars of your rickety little basket… The coast of South Africa – aka ‘shark alley’ – is by far the world’s best place to do this. Choose your operator wisely – not only for your safety, but to ensure they’re conservation-friendly, too.
Need even snappier thrills? Dip your toe into the Cage of Death at Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, Australia. In a little Perspex box, you’ll be lowered into a pool of curious saltwater crocs – face ‘em alone, or convince a friend to cower in there with you.
Forget snow boarding: carve up some sand dunes instead! Head to the red desert of Namibia (home of some of the world’s tallest dunes) and strap on a snow board – you can reach faster speeds than you could on snow, and you’ll get a softer landing too (hurrah). Other sand boarding hotspots include Egypt and South Africa – but be warned, there are no lifts in the desert, so you’ll have to trudge to the top.
Want to take it up a notch? Nothing ramps up the thrill factor quite like an active volcano – especially when you’re whizzing down it at 95mph. Cerro Negro in Nicaragua is the spot to indulge your inner Eddie the Eagle: it’s the only place in the world where you can board down a potentially-explosive volcano – and it’s really rather steep, too.