Are Adventure Holidays Really Safe?
Cheap flights to faraway destinations and the explosion of worldwide adventure specialists have created an upsurge in the number of holidaymakers forgoing relaxing beach breaks to pursue the adrenalin rush instead on an adventure holiday.
But while an adventure holiday is undoubtedly more rewarding for the mind, body and soul, inherent risks are attached, and consequently there are right and wrong ways to go about choosing, booking and preparing for a trip.
Choosing an Adventure HolidayWhat kind of adventure holiday will awaken your senses: white water rafting in the Himalayas, bungee jumping in Queenstown, or a charity trek up Kilimanjaro, perhaps? The world is now an adrenalin-hunter's paradise, so to discover your limitless options, key in 'adventure holidays' on Google, invest in a relevant guidebook or magazine subscription, or visit a reputable adventure travel agent or operator.
Before you settle on a holiday destination - regardless of whether you're travelling independently or with a company - check Visa and inoculation requirements with the Foreign Office (www.fco.gov.uk) and that the country you're travelling to is both safe and politically stable. You may not be insured if you go against Foreign Office advice.
Booking an Adventure HolidayBooking an activity or adventure holiday with an established and reputable company will give you peace of mind that your planned escapade has been thoroughly researched and approved, that the instructors, staff and guides you liaise with have necessary qualifications, and that any equipment you use will be safety-checked. That doesn't mean you shouldn't fire questions, however; if there's any element of the trip you're concerned about, ask.
Many adventure-seekers prefer to holiday independently, without the back up of a travel company or guide. If you're one of them, prepare thoroughly and don't assume that if you're fit nothing will go wrong. On a road trip by bike, for example, the biggest danger will be traffic; on a mountain trek, altitude sickness can be life threatening. Have a contingency plan in place if something does go wrong, keep emergency numbers and insurance documents on you at all times, and use recommended and safety-checked equipment to minimise injury risk. Always carry a first-aid kit, and take medicines with you as an extra caution.
Another popular option for modern-day adventure holiday seekers is to head to one of the Adventure Capitals of the World - Queenstown, Himalayas, Cusco - and book up high-risk activities, such as bungee jumping, canyoning, rafting and skydiving, on arrival. In all these places, extensive research is a must.
Before you go: How to Prepare and PackAn adventure holiday needs a little more thought than a beach break. First off, you'll need to be fit for the trip. Sport-specific training is key: mountain biking and trekking require leg and cardiovascular strength while kayaking and rafting rely on a strong, upper body. Check with your operator, or do your own research, to find out what preparation exercises are best for your chosen style of adventure. Being fit can - and often does - make the difference between loving and loathing a trip.
If you've booked an entirely new experience - rock climbing, scuba diving, surfing or horse riding, for example - it pays to get an introduction to the sport before you go. A taster session will give you an idea of the muscles you need to prepare, the clothes and equipment you need to pack and the skills you may want to hone before travel. Again, ask your operator for the names of local and reputable clubs and courses, or look in the phone directory (but do a risk assessment before you book).
Only take what you need, but pack what is advised. Technical clothing, geared to your adventure, will enhance comfort and enjoyment, so is worth the investment. A rash vest or wetsuit will be necessary for water-based activities, padded cycling shorts are a must for mountain biking, and tried-and-tested hiking boots are essential for trekking, for example. Trip organisers should give you a checklist of compulsory items of clothing and equipment; pack them all to avoid regret.
Getting the Right InsuranceInsurance companies have their own definitions of what sports are dangerous, high-risk and low-risk, so check that you will be covered for every type of activity or sport you intend to do on the adventure holiday. Some companies will simply not insure certain activities: snowboarding off-piste without a guide, for example.
Within most sports there are levels of insurance, too. For example: high-altitude trekking needs higher cover than low-altitude trekking, so watch out for the smallprint. If you already have an annual standard travel insurance policy, you will almost certainly need to upgrade for an adventure holiday.