Trips that aren’t on your bucket list, but should be

Five activities that’ll really test your mettle this year.

You’ve done cookery courses on holiday, tried a spot of dolphin watching and even gone on safari – and you like to think of yourself as a fairly intrepid traveller. So for your next trip, how about taking things up a notch? Here are five activities that’ll really test your mettle this year.

Ride the world’s longest zipline in UAE

The city of Ras Al Khaimah is home to Jebel Jais, the highest mountain in the UAE, and as of last year, that mountain is equipped with the world’s longest zipline. Beating the former Guinness World Record holder (the ‘Monster’ in Puerto Rico) by over 600m, the Jebel Jais Flight is 2.83km long (the equivalent of 28 football pitches). Daredevils get strapped into a custom-fitted harness and whizz face-first at 1,680m above sea level at up to 150km per hour.

The ride takes around three minutes and offers some jaw-dropping views of the desert peaks (as well as a welcome breeze in the baking sunshine). Want a challenge, but high speeds make you queasy? There’s always the Via Ferrata, a guided, steel cable route stretching for 1km along the mountainside, which you clip yourself onto and traverse, scrambling along ladders, pegs, and smaller ziplines along the way. We’ll see you on the other side…

Go surfing in Sierra Leone

Sunset surfer
Photo credit: Joey Nel

Parts of West Africa have been surf hotspots for a while – take Kokrobite in Ghana, or Senegal‘s Ouakam – but in Sierra Leone, the sport is still largely unknown. In fact, there’s only one official place to surf in the whole country: Bureh Beach Surf Club, which won its ISA certification last year. With a collection of 15 battered shortboards donated by passing travellers, a group of young guys from local Bureh Town (plus the country’s only female surfer, nicknamed KK) have launched this grassroots eco-tourism spot, teaching surf lessons and hosting visitors on the hunt for undiscovered waves.

At 50km south of Freetown, it takes at least a couple of hours to get there by car via the country’s potholed highways. And when you arrive, the facilities aren’t much more comfortable. The most basic of concrete huts await as your accommodation, with a slim mattress and a bucket of water to wash in. But your reward? The most unspoilt stretch of Atlantic Coast you’re ever likely to find – entirely deserted save the surf club’s smattering of huts, hand-built from wood foraged from the surrounding bush – and towering beach breaks all to yourself.

Track wolves in Italy

The spine-chilling howl of a wolf isn’t something you’d expect to hear just a mozzarella’s throw from Rome. But thanks to wildlife protection and rewilding programmes, Italy’s Central Apennines are now home to some 2,000 wolves – a remarkable comeback from just 100 of them in the 1960s. What’s the best way to appreciate their restored role in nature? By strapping on your hiking boots and following in their footsteps.

On a three-day expedition with the European Safari Company, you’ll track wolves by foot with an expert local guide to keep you safe (phew), while sleeping in remote mountain accommodation, star gazing and tucking into some top-tier Italian cuisine to boot. The wild terrain is also home to chamois, deer, Marsican brown bears and golden eagles – so you’ll get up close and personal with nature whether or not the wolves make an appearance. Plus, you’ll learn about the wolf’s important role as a predator in these mountains, its unrivalled mastery of the landscape and its complicated relationship with humans.

Learn samba in Rio

No trip to Rio de Janeiro would be complete without a dose of revelry in Copacabana. The city’s most captivating beach is abuzz with favela boys kicking footballs and bikini-clad caipirinha drinkers by day, and an increasingly vibrant nightlife when the sun goes down. But to really go out on the tiles here, you’ve got to know how to swing your hips and work your feet Brazilian-style. Enter the Rio Samba Dancer experience.

Designed for newbies, the session begins with a samba class before progressing to a local club (entry fee included) so you can test out your new moves to a live band and dance the rest of the night away with the local senhores and senhoras. And, if you’re not there for Carnaval (gutted), the dance school will even dig out some diamante costumes for you to shake your thang in – now that will really test your nerves.

Go on a night time cycle in Mumbai

We wouldn’t recommend any daytime attempts to pedal around India’s largest city, what with its famously congested roads that heave with rattling buses and opportunistic tuk-tuks zipping between them with reckless abandon. Yet the chaos dies down at night, when the traffic subsides and the temperature cools, creating the perfect conditions for a bike ride.

At midnight every Saturday, Reality Tours and Travel (winner of the WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Community Award 2015) takes groups of up to 40 on an overnight tour by bicycle. It rolls between some of Mumbai’s most famous (and busiest) landmarks, which gain an unexpected serenity in the darkness, abandoned by the crowds. The iconic Crawford Market, the Victorian-built Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and the majestic Gateway of India all feature – as do regular stop-offs for cups of chai tea and a break at Marine Drive to bury your toes in the sand beneath the stars.

And if you’re not quite ready to take on these adrenalin-filled activities, search ‘everywhere’ to plan your own trip.

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