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Adrenaline junky? Best trips for thrill-seekers

Forget bungee jumping-try sharks, fighter jets, black-water rafting..

If you're an adrenaline junkie, a vacation spent relaxing or exploring a new city just won't cut it. If there's not a pretty good chance you may die, you might as well be sitting at your desk in the office.

MSN posted a story on adventure travel, featuring companies that specialize in vacations designed to get your heart-pumping. Some of them include Corvette racing, 2,000 foot ice climbs, flying fighter jets, diving with sharks and high-altitude sky diving. Read on.

Avid traveler Rocky Babson was tired of his regular trips to Asia, Europe and the Middle East. So when he read about Incredible Adventures, a company that offered the chance to fly a real L-39 fighter jet in Burbank, Calif., he immediately booked a trip to the West Coast.

Babson was paired with a Hollywood stunt pilot who flew the plane at 500 miles an hour along the coastline and through the desert. The highlight of the trip was when they hovered 20 feet above the Mojave Desert and then shot up straight like a rocket to 20,000 feet.

"I'm a self-described adrenaline junkie, and I was looking for a different kind of travel experience," says the 39-year-old attorney from Atlanta. "The body rush I got is unlike anything I have ever experienced," he says.
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Thrill-seekers like Babson need vacations that kick it up a notch.

"Adrenaline-based adventure travel used to be a very specialized market," says John Clifford, president of International Travel Management, a luxury travel consultancy in San Diego. "But with reality shows like "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race", which show everyday people, not stunt men, taking part in this [adrenaline adventure], it has become more mainstream."

Incredible Adventures, located in Sarasota, Fla., specializes in high-adrenaline adventures. It started in 1993 with one offering, but now has 30 categories of adventures, which can be customized to a client's interest. Besides flying a fighter jet, options include Corvette racing, high-altitude sky diving and diving with sharks.

Jane Reifert, president of the company, says her primary client base is stockbrokers, investment bankers and lawyers looking to maximize their down time.

"People are working more than ever these days and want to take the most advantage of their vacations," she says. "They want to pack in a lot in a short amount of time, and doing something adrenaline-based lets them do that. The trips can be a week long, but you can also do them in a weekend."

One of the most popular adventures the company offers is diving with sharks in the Bahamas. Guests depart on a boat from a marina on Grand Bahama Island and take a two-hour ride to Tiger Beach, an area known for its heavy shark population. Though you don't need any diving experience, a certified dive instructor is on hand to help you as you climb into a cage and become submerged in water. As you breathe through an air hose connected to the boat, you'll come face to face with tiger, lemon and hammerhead sharks.

For those who prefer to stay on land, Black Tomato, a London company that offers bespoke extreme adventures, has a week-long biking and ice-climbing trip to Bolivia. Travelers start the journey with a day of mountain-bike training at the Bolivian National Championships downhill race course. They bike on a mountain road with 800-foot drops and another road with a 14,000 foot drop—one of the steepest downhill mountain bike roads in the world. The ride starts at the top of the Chacaltaya Mountain and descends into the dense jungle at the foot of the Zongo Valley.

Another day of training precedes a two-day ice climb up Huayna Potosi Mountain, which reaches a peak of 20,000 square feet.

Tom Marchant, founder of Black Tomato, says his company has doubled in growth since it started two years ago and now does 1,000 customized trips a year.

"The people who take our trips are mainly hedge funders or bankers in their 20s and 30s who don't have tons of free time and want to do something that is going to blow their minds with the spare time they do have," he says.

If you're willing to trek to New Zealand to quench your thirst for a thrill, you can go cave tubing in the Ruakuri Caves in the country's Waitomo region. Also known as black-water rafting, cave tubing is unique to New Zealand and uses an inflated rubber inner tube as a flotation device.


Train Like A Cosmonaut In Moscow
Spend a day at the Yuri Gagarin Training Center, where cosmonauts prepare for space missions, then partake in three adventures. First, get strapped into a chair and slide into a long tube where you are weighed down and have to attempt to move. Next, climb into a space suit and try to simulate a space walk while suspended in air. Last, get strapped into a chair which spins you around in different directions, much like in space.

Race-Car Driving In New Zealand
Compete in a Kiwi Road Rally, one of the country's biggest sports events held throughout the year, against professional drivers. After a week of training with a coach, you'll be assigned a souped-up race car, a team manager and safety gear, and you'll race in a one- or two-day event on gravel, mud, hilly and snow-covered roads. Reach speeds of more than 100 miles an hour.

Extreme Biking And Ice-Climbing In Bolivia
After a day of training, bike on a road with 800-foot drops and move on to a road with 14,000 feet of vertical descent--one of the steepest downhill mountain-bike roads in the world. Ride from the top of the Chacaltaya down into the dense jungle at the foot of the Zongo Valley. After another day of training, take a two-day ice climb up Huayna Potosi Mountain and reach a peak of 20,000 feet.

Tectonic Plate Diving And Snowmobile Racing In Iceland
Take a Jeep from Reykjavik into the heart of the geo-thermal and active tectonic plate area of Iceland. Guided by instructors, dive a few hundred feet deep between two tectonic plates an experience few people have tried. The next day, drive to the island's southern glaciers and race snowmobiles on the virgin snowfields of the glacier.

Cave Tubing In New Zealand
Cave tubing, also known as black-water rafting, is unique to New Zealand and uses an inflated rubber inner tube as a flotation device. This adventure takes you into the dark Ruakuri Caves in the Waitomo region. In this underground universe, you'll ride on high-speed rapids, maneuver through tight crevices and go down waterfalls while surrounded by hundreds of glowworms on the limestone walls.

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