9 Over-the-top Adventure Trips in the World's Most Untamed Environments

These days, travelers are seeking renewal in out-there destinations. Here’s a closer look at the newest encounters designed to rekindle your sense of awe.

A man walking in a Costa Rican rainforest
Costa Rica–based Origen Escapes connects guests with tapir researchers. Photo: Courtesy of Origen Escapes

“People are returning to travel with a very strong desire to reconnect with nature,” says John Spence, president of the luxury tour operator Scott Dunn USA. Last year, the agency saw requests for off-the-grid adventures jump 22 percent compared with 2019.

Not that the change in mindset comes as a huge surprise after the past two years or so, according to Tamsyn Fricker, a safari specialist on T+L’s A-List of travel advisors. “The pandemic has prompted a shift toward journeys that favor restoration, recharging, reconnecting,” she says. “Things like hiking, farm stays, bush walks, and marine safaris — being in nature and active.” While Africa is fertile ground for these experiences, other destinations around the world can wow visitors, too.

“Whether you’re meeting majestic whale sharks on Mexico’s Espíritu Santo Island or hiking Antarctica’s massive ice sheets,” Spence says, “nature offers the greatest show on earth.”

A red-eyed tree frog in Costa Rica
A red-eyed tree frog spotted on a rain-forest trek with Origen. Courtesy of Origen Escapes

Soar Over Glaciers

Adventure-travel company Quark Expeditions will launch a series of trips to Greenland this summer aboard a new polar vessel, Ultramarine. The 199-passenger ship is loaded with two twin-engine helicopters and 20 Zodiacs, plus all the gear needed for forays onto the ice sheet. Excursions include hiking, camping, paddling, and biking along the country’s fjord-lined southern coast.

Seek Out Tapirs

Once widespread across Central and South America, this smaller relative of the rhino is now endangered, with only an estimated 4,500 of the endearing creatures left in the wild. Costa Rican outfitter Origen Escapes has teamed up with Nai Conservation for half-day excursions into the jungle that, in addition to helping fund the work (the price includes a substantial donation), offer the chance to help scientists monitor wildlife cameras and collect information about tapir behavior, locations, and population numbers.

A man fly-fishing at andBeyond Vira Vira
Chile’s Lake District, where andBeyond will take visitors later this year to visit conservation projects. Courtesy of andBeyond

Dive Into the Abyss

Madagascar’s northeastern coast is considered one of the world’s top diving destinations, thanks to a combination of dramatic underwater landscapes and impressive marine life that includes blacktip sharks and sailfish. Miavana by Time & Tide, set on a 2,500-acre private island, has a well-equipped dive center that can arrange visits to spots like Hyson’s Wall, which has a vertical drop of more than 650 feet.

Sleep in a Baobab

Each of the 12 artfully designed suites at Botswana’s Xigera Safari Lodge has inspiring views of the Okavango Delta, but it’s the property’s three-story Baobab Treehouse that’s the best perch for wildlife-watching. Standing more than 30 feet above the floodplain, the villa, built to resemble the tree, has 360-degree views of the area — and superb stargazing to boot. xigera.com; from $2,320 per person, all-inclusive.

Paddle Through Fjords

Norwegian travel company 62°Nord aims to teach outdoor-survival skills on a new series of immersive kayak-and-camp trips in the iconic fjords of the Sunnmøre region, north of Bergen. After paddling through the Geirangerfjord, adventurers will hike to a scenic base camp, where experts will offer instruction in skills like fire building, fishing, and ID’ing flora and fauna.

Trace Ancient Footsteps

While many walking safaris in East Africa focus on wildlife, the Footsteps of Man Trek arranged by Lake Natron Camp takes a closer look at human history in northern Tanzania. Against a backdrop of volcanoes, acacia trees, and a flamingo-filled alkaline lake, expert Masai guides will point out hominid footprints, Stone Age tools, and other signs of ancient human activity in the Rift Valley.

Four people climbing a hill on a hike in Tanzania
Lake Natron Camp arranges multiday walking safaris through northern Tanzania. Courtesy of Lake Natron Camp/Summits Group

Ride the Surf

At Nihi Sumba, a resort on the Indonesian island of Sumba, guests can horseback-ride on jungle trails, sandy beaches, or even into the waves with the sandalwood ponies that are native to the country. Nihi’s planned Costa Rica outpost, Nihi Santo Tomás, will also have plenty of equestrian options when it opens in 2023.

Learn Tracking Skills

South Africa–based EcoTraining has long schooled safari drivers and guides, who go on to work across the continent. Now the company is teaching anyone who wants to up their outdoorsmanship game the same skills the pros use to responsibly track wildlife in the bush, with one- and two-week programs in the Makuleke Concession of Kruger National Park.

Prowl for Big Cats

A number of rewilding and conservation projects in Argentina and Chile are helping rebuild populations of jaguars and pumas. In October 2022, outfitter andBeyond will run a special 13-night tour that takes in the progress made — and the work left to be done — in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, Argentina’s Iberá Wetlands, and the Chilean Lake District, led by the company’s longtime group conservation manager, Les Carlisle.

A version of this story first appeared in the February 2022 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline Into the Wild.

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