Brand Publishing Travel+ Summer Series

Far-flung travel destinations feature extreme adventures, unforgettable experiences

How far are you willing to go for adventure? What sort of extremes can your heart, mind and body endure in that quest? For some, the answer to the first question is the ends of the Earth, and they are willing to endure almost anything that Mother Nature can throw at them in pursuit of adrenaline-fueled adventure.

New Zealander A.J. Hackett revolutionized extreme sports in 1986 when he leapt off the Auckland Harbour Bridge attached to an elastic tether. Assuming that other adventure seekers would want to duplicate his stunt, Hackett opened the world's first commercial bungee jumping operation at Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge near Queenstown.

Nearly 30 years later, the adventuresome can still bungee jump off both of those bridges and many other nearby locations, including the 630-foot Sky Tower in downtown Auckland.

If that's not high enough, consider jumping out of a plane at 15,000 feet - no experience is necessary for a tandem skydive at NZONE near Queenstown.

New Zealand is also home to black-water rafting at Waitomo Caves, an experience that entails dropping into a hole barely big enough for a rabbit, wading through a narrow crevice with water up to your neck and then tubing down an underground river with a ceiling lit by glow worms.

Australia is equally adept at adventures, especially those that involve water. The Great Barrier Reef is a must-visit to see the world's largest assemblage of coral and the creatures that call it home.

Kakadu National Park is the best place to see Australian animals in their natural habitats, including kangaroos, wallabies, dingoes and some of the world's largest saltwater crocodiles. While the wild creatures make it too dangerous to swim in the park's rivers and billabongs, visitors can explore the sights via boat, helicopter or ATV.

For some, even a trip Down Under isn't far enough. Like early 20th century Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, some intrepid travelers want to visit both the North and South Poles.

Specialized outfitters can organize expeditions to both extremes - participants cross-country ski to the poles while pulling a sled and equipment (weighing around150 pounds) between overnight campsites. The weather on both expeditions is also an enormous challenge, with temperatures dropping to almost negative 60 degrees.

Extreme speed also has its addicts. 250 miles outside Moscow, Russia, fly higher and faster than anyone else on the planet, racing to the "edge of space" in a MiG-29 and take the controls as the fighter jet breaks through the sound barrier with a resounding boom. The 13-mile-high thrill ride is the highest civilians can currently fly anywhere in the world.

-Joe Yogerst, Brand Publishing Writer

For more great summer travel options, go to latimes.com/summertravelseries.

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Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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