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Bucket List Adventures: Once-in-a-lifetime Vacations

Bucket List Adventures: Once-in-a-lifetime Vacations
Exploring a rare ice arch in Antarctica. (Oceanwide Expeditions)

Beyond the boundaries of our everyday world is a planet filled with the extraordinary. Here are four voyages of discovery that will draw you into the vibrant and wondrous present, forging memories that will always remain a part of you. 

Exploring Antarctica

Towering mountains, vast glaciers, icebergs that rise from the sea like astonishing sculptures. Antarctica is a land owned by no nation, inhabited only by a handful of scientists and an abundant wildlife population. You’ll travel there during the warm months, from November to March, when there is no night and the midnight sun glows on the horizon.
Your expedition ship will be your floating hotel and restaurant. From there, you can set out each day in a Zodiac to explore more remote terrain and walk among colonies of penguins who have no fear of their human visitors. If you’re up for a more challenging excursion, you can kayak, ski, camp out, even trek to the South Pole.

Diving the Great Barrier Reef

Australia’s 1,800-mile-long Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven wonders of the natural world, is the only living structure on earth visible from space. Whether you dive, snorkel or navigate the reefs in a glass-bottom boat, you’ll be dazzled by hundreds of species of brilliantly colored coral and the amazing creatures you’ll encounter: tropical fish and sea squirts; whales, dolphins and porpoises; giant sea turtles; and that delightfully comical-looking 800-pound creature known as the dugong.
Oh yes, and sharks. Want to look them straight in the jaws? No worries, mate. Go with a guide, and you can swim among many species — or observe the Great White himself from the relative safety of a shark cage.

Living with Elephants in Thailand

At Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Northern Thailand, you can’t ride the elephants or watch them perform tricks. What you can do is spend your days with these extraordinary creatures, getting to know them in their natural habitat.
You’ll stay in a traditional teak cottage and awaken at sunrise to the sounds of elephant calls. Breakfast and lunch are served in a bamboo hut facing a pond where the elephants love to gather. Each day, you’re free to share in whatever aspects of elephant life you’re drawn to: walk with them, gather food, get in the water and scrub them. You can even hike with elephants into the jungle and set up camp overnight.

Whitewater Rafting Through the Grand Canyon

It’s more than an adventure, more than breathtaking scenery. When you raft the rushing waters of the Colorado River, you’ll form deep connections with your companions, with the wildlife all around you and with the canyon’s primal beauty.
Whether your raft is propelled by motor or oars, the course is rugged, but there are guided excursions geared to almost every age and fitness level. By day, you’ll shoot rapids and float serenely over smooth stretches of water as a peregrine falcon or a bald eagle soars overhead. At night you’ll camp out on beaches and dine under the stars.

—Maxine Nunes, Custom Publishing Writer