From bungee jumping in China to para-gliding in Peru, these gravity-defying activities will get your heart pounding
Being swallowed by the earth in Aquism
Most visitors to S
Contemplating life while 765 feet above the earth in Macau, China
Macau is the Las Vegas of China, complete with neon lights, casino gambling and the occasional Elvis impersonator. Even though the former Portuguese colony returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1999, it still feels like an odd oasis of unexpected juxtapositions. Case in point: the Macau Tower, which was built in 2001 and gives thrill seekers a chance to leap from the world’s tallest commercial bungee jump over the city of contrasts. Your stomach will quiver as you shimmy your feet along the short launching plank. You will undoubtedly question every decision you have ever made as the guide counts down from five. However, when he reaches one and yells “launch” and your brain incomprehensibly decides to allow your body to fall, expect to bullet toward the ground for a 5-second free fall and experience an adrenaline rush unlike any other. Map it.
Entertaining monkeys at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe
While almost every vantage point at Victoria Falls offers a majestic view, there’s nothing quite like the one to be found at the loose end of a 363-foot bungee cord. A bridge situated on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe is where you’ll hear the screams of adventurers who sized up the massive rushing water curtain of the Zambezi and realized it would look even better in mid-flight. After a bungeed swan dive into the river gorge, you can expect a sight reserved only for the audacious throngs of curious monkeys swinging beneath the bridge’s rafters, watching travelers soar past at breakneck speeds. Ordering the video is highly recommended, as watching your life pass before your eyes seems to happen in a flash. Map it.
Para-gliding the cliffs of Miraflores in Lima, Peru
It’s not too crazy to believe you can run off the sheer face of a hundred foot cliff and fly away — that is, if you are attached to one of the pros who operate the adrenaline-inducing wings that dive-bomb off Miraflores’ Love Park. Some of the most experienced pilots in Peru operate the tandem parafoils that allow regular Jos
Coming to terms with your fear of heights in Queenstown, New Zealand
First and foremost, it should be noted that the A.J Hackett Bungy Co. has a 100 percent safety record since the company was founded in 1988. Feel better? Then, it’s time to come to terms with your fear of mortality, sign up for the Nevis Bungy Experience, and take a swan dive off a platform 134 meters high in the middle of a gorge. The rush of the wind in your hair, the adrenaline high that is better than any wine you could hope to encounter, and the pride you feel as you gaze across the canyon afterward and say, “Yeah, I conquered that,” is something you will never forget. Map it.
Para-gliding over paradise in Cape Town, South Africa
At any time of day, Parapax will pick you up in an old rusty convertible and take you to the foot of Lion’s Head, a daunting summit near Table Mountain National Park. After a 15-minute hike to the launch point you can see the entire eastern coast of Cape Town spread out below, from the sweeping mountain scape to the blue of the Atlantic. The guide will be quick to tell you that you are overlooking the most expensive property on the continent, the tiny row of bungalows skirting the edge of the bay. Quickly you are set up, connected to your instructor and told to run! You literally throw yourself off the side of the mountain and are swept up into the sky for a bird’s-eye view of the contrasting urban and wild surroundings. After 15 minutes of slowly circling the sky and ocean, you land softly on the beach looking up toward Lion’s Head once again. Map it.
Jumping for joy (off a cliff) in South Point, Big Island of Hawaii
The southernmost spot in the 50 American states, South Point (known to Hawaiians as Ka Lae), is where Polynesians were first said to make landfall in Hawaii. Why not try the opposite — and coin a neologism in the process — a “searise”? It may take for-ev-er to quiet your brain enough to listen to your heart, which itself will play full fortissimo in your chest. With nothing between the Point and Antarctica but a capricious current, conquering this fear is not for the faint of heart. The reward is life in elemental acuity. You decide to jump; the earth disappears beneath your feet, fire courses through your veins, air pulses all about you, and finally, water simultaneously intoxicates and purifies you. You resurface renewed and searise on an octave of rungs saying, “Hana hou!” Again, again! Map it.
Escaping a bottomless plunge pool in Kakadu National Park, Australia
While some are happy relaxing at the base of Maguk — a gorgeous waterfall in what used to be known as Barramundi Gorge — the more adventurous climb to the top where you dare each other to jump into a seemingly bottomless plunge pool. With walls too steep to climb out of, once you’re in the only way out is to swim through a dark tunnel about 6 feet under the cold surface. Squinting in an attempt to follow the “light,” you hold one hand above your head to protect it from the rock above you; the other hand frantically propels you forward. Breaking the surface in the second pool, you gasp — exhilarated. “That was awesome!” … you scream … “Who’s next?!” Map it.
Almost soiling yourself sky diving over Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand
Nothing has ever felt so real: 9.81 meters per second. In the “adventure capital” of Queenstown, where adrenaline sports like bungee jumping were invented, why not throw yourself at the mercy of the adventure gods? Parachute? Check. Jumpsuit? Check. Goggles? Check. Perfectly good airplane? Check. Guy strapped to your back who knows what he’s doing? Double check! Change of pants when you get to the ground again? Check. Hey, if Newton had experimented on himself instead of that apple, he probably would have crapped himself too. Map it.
Canyoning down, down, down rugged falls in Interlaken, Switzerland
They pick you up at the Funny Farm in an unmarked van and drop you off with instructions to enter the barn. You are tossed a life vest, harness and bright colored helmet. The two wetsuits you pull on do little to pacify your growing apprehension. Swiss giants with billowing muscles and piercing eyes drive you deep into the forest, and again you question the sanity of what you are about to do. The icy water attacks your skin but you dive in; there is no alternative route from where you are to where you have to go. Jumping, rappelling and sliding down waterfalls in the canyons of the Swiss alps with Outdoor Interlaken is rivaled only by walking on coals. Map it.
Zip lining over the ocean in Labadee, Haiti
After a brief drive up the rocky hills of Labadee, Haiti, you arrive at Dragon’s Breath Point (named for the frothing waves below), and right there at the top is the Dragon’s Flight, the longest zip line in the world suspended over water. At the top, a warm breeze and a mesmerizing view of the mountainous Caribbean terrain awaits. The awe is only momentary; an attendant’s voice explaining last-minute instructions is a quick reminder of reality. A couple of carabiner clicks and your safety harness is connected onto a cable spanning 2,600 feet over the shimmering coastline. There is no backing out. Stepping off the ledge is a release; all one can do is take in the tropical sights while gravity pulls you down to the beach at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. If a view this wondrous truly is from a dragon’s perspective, count me in for more. Map it.
Sucking air from 14,000 feet above earth in Byron Bay, Australia
You are so dazzled by the untouched coastline three miles below that you almost forget you’ll be hurling through clouds in a few seconds. The guys at Byron Bay Skydiving Centre weren’t kidding when they claimed to be Australia’s highest sky dive. When your tandem instructor hollers, “One, two, three, sky dive!” in your ear, you instinctively jump with all your might into the whistling wind. You rip through the air in a wild 220-kmh free fall as your cheeks flap furiously in the massive tug of war against gravity. After a minute of straight free falling, your parachute pops open. You catch your breath and gracefully drift along the narrow cape of Australia’s most easterly point, close enough to faintly hear the Pacific Ocean’s breaking waves against the bay’s sandy shore. Map it.
Watching daredevils jump from the bridge in Mostar, Bosnia
You hear the splashes before you see them. The young men — professionals, all — who entertain Mostar’s many tourists by jumping off the historic bridge in this troubled city dive from a height of over 20 meters. They emerge from a turret on the south bank to leap into the green waters of the river Neretva below, all for the piffling sum of 2 euros. It looks dangerous, and the many middle-aged visitors gasp in awe as one after another forcefully jumps off the concrete. Soon, though, they emerge with a wave of triumph before swimming to the shore. The bridge — Stari Most — got ravaged during the war of the early ’90s, and though a little gratuitous, diving seems like a far better use for the grand old thing. Map it.
Abusing gravity at the Shotover Canyon in Queenstown, New Zealand
In Queenstown, the towering snowcapped mountains that surround the town aren’t just “scenery.” They have a presence. Jutting up from the shores of Lake Wakatipu, they seem to watch over your every move no matter where you go. So why not give them something exciting to watch? The Shotover Canyon Swing will take away your breath like a sucker punch to the gut. Strap into a suspiciously minimal harness and experience the terrifying sensation of a three-second free fall (toward sharp rocks no less) followed by an enthralling float across the width of the 200-meter canyon after the rope picks up slack. The faint of heart need not apply. Map it.
Every Sunday, Salon presents a feature from Trazzler spotlighting surprising travel stories from across the globe. Unexpected discoveries and strange, wonderful treasures are condensed into slide shows that entertain as much as they educate.