Life's a Wild Trip

Paradise on the rocks: Palau, South Pacific     Photo: PhotoDisc

4. Live a South Seas Fantasy
Micronesia / Chuuk, Palau, and Yap Snorkeling

Micronesia's abundance of sea fans and staghorn corals makes for some of the world's best snorkeling, never mind the manta rays floating between giant Napoleon wrasses and downed WWII Zeros. For 16 days you'll stay at beachfront lodges on Chuuk, Palau, and Yap to explore the 82-degree seas in outrigger canoes and visit Jellyfish Lake, home to hundreds of the stingerless blobs. OUTFITTER: World Wildlife Fund, 888-993-8687, www.worldwildlife.org WHEN TO GO: March, April PRICE: $5,495 (includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles) DIFFICULTY: Easy

Papua New Guinea / Exploratory Sea Kayaking
(New Trip) Volcanic walls and 100-foot waterfalls provide the backdrop for paddling inflatable kayaks 75 miles on this exploratory 13-day mission around the Tufi Peninsula and Trobriand Islands of southeastern New Guinea. Snorkel in 80-degree water teeming with leather sponges, sheets of table corals, and schools of Moorish idols. When the cicadas rattle, retire to a thatch-roofed guest house or pitch a tent right on the sand. OUTFITTER: Mountain Travel Sobek, 888-687-6235, www.mtsobek.com WHEN TO GO: March, April, November PRICE: $3,190 DIFFICULTY: Moderate
Fiji / Adventure Sailing
(New Trip) The Fijian high chiefs keep the Lau Islands closed to tourists to preserve their wild blue waters and secret coves. Lucky for you, your guides have family ties. Spend four days with 40 others aboard a 145-foot schooner, the Tui Tai, sailing north from Savusavu. You'll anchor off islands with newly built singletrack (bike rentals included), 900-foot cliffs to rappel, and a maze of waterways to explore by sea kayak. Before the waves rock you to sleep in a specially prepared bed on deck, look overboard for glowing squid eyes. OUTFITTER: Tui Tai Adventure Cruises, 011-679-66-1-500, www.tuitai.com WHEN TO GO: Year-round PRICE: $300 (three nights); $375 (four nights) DIFFICULTY: Moderate

5. Track Big Game on Safari
Botswana / Okavango Delta by Horseback
Go lens-to-snout with the wildest creatures on the wildest continent. On this eight-day safari you'll spend five days cantering with herds of zebras, milling among feeding elephants, and getting close to the lions, cheetahs, and leopards that roam the marshy plains of Botswana's Okavango Delta. Then it's out of the saddle and into a Land Rover for three more game-packed days in nearby Moremi Reserve or Chobe National Park. Your digs are comfortable tented camps—which feature roomy canvas wall tents with beds and private viewing decks—and, in Chobe, a posh game lodge. OUTFITTER: International Ventures, 800-727-5475, www.internationalventures.com WHEN TO GO: March—November PRICE: $1,975 DIFFICULTY: Moderate

Tanzania / Ngorongoro Nonstop
(New Trip) Consider it a survival-of-the-fittest safari—the fittest traveler, that is. On this 12-day romp through the Tanzanian outback, you'll paddle among the hippos in Lake Manyara, rappel down the Rift Valley's western escarpment, and mountain bike through the rolling foothills—braking for giraffes, zebras, and tree-climbing lions—to watch the sun set over the Ngorongoro Highlands. Next, hike the wildlife-filled Ngorongoro Crater (watch for rare black rhinos) and trek with buffalo, hyenas, and gazelles in the rainforested Empakai Crater. Need a breather? No worries. Nights are spent in cush game lodges and luxurious tented camps. OUTFITTER: Abercrombie & Kent, 800-323-7308, www.abercrombiekent.com WHEN TO GO: January-March, June-August, October, December PRICE: $4,395 DIFFICULTY: Moderate

TRIP ENHANCER
Grundig ETravelerVII Shortwave Receiver

Emerging from a 20-day trek through the rainforest to discover that a military junta has closed all airports and invalidated all visas is enough to make you long for the PDA-size eTravelerVII radio ($130; 800-872-2228). With its ability to pick up BBC Worldwide's shortwave signals almost anywhere, it could've tipped you off before things turned ugly.

Kenya / Big Five Bonanza
Timed to coincide with the great Serengeti migration, when millions of zebras and wildebeests move from Tanzania into southern Kenya, this 15-day hiking-and-driving safari puts you directly in the path of the Big Five (lions, leopards, elephants, cape buffalo, and rhino) in Nairobi and Lake Nakuru National Parks. Finish with five days in the Masai Mara, where the sheer number of species is downright dizzying. OUTFITTER: Journeys International, 800-255-8735, www.journeys-intl.com PRICE: $4,250 WHEN TO GO: August, October DIFFICULTY: Easy

6. Scare Yourself Witless on a Class V River
China / The Great Bend of the Yangtze

What happens when five times the water of the Grand Canyon squeezes through a gorge only half as wide? Twenty-five-foot monster waves, a roaring Class V rapid three-quarters of a mile long, and whirlpools big enough to swallow a van. On this eight-day trip, you'll raft more than 100 miles on the Great Bend section of the Yangtze River in China's Yunnan Province and discover canyon walls stretching upward for a mile, with the 17,000-foot Snow Dragon mountains towering overhead. OUTFITTER: Earth River Expeditions, 800-643-2784, www.earthriver.com WHEN TO GO: November, December PRICE: $4,300 DIFFICULTY: Strenuous

Canada / The Mighty Ram
Wondering why this six-day Ram River run was attempted by commercial rafters for the first time just last year? Consider what navigating the 60-mile menace, which flows through Alberta's Ram River Canyon just north of Banff, entails: You'll rappel down 100-foot waterfalls, maneuver around massive boulders, and shoot through rapids hemmed in by steep vertical ledges (beware Powerslide, a narrow, 35-foot drop). And you'll do it all with an audience: Bighorn sheep—the Ram's namesake—watch from the riverbank, while cougars watch them. OUTFITTER: ROAM Expeditions, 877-271-7626, www.roamtheworld.ca PRICE: $1,795 WHEN TO GO: June DIFFICULTY: Strenuous

Chile / Rafting and Kayaking the Futaleufú
The Futaleufú is revered for its unforgiving hydraulics, which can suck paddlers under like a giant Hoover. But if you're of questionable sanity and want an even wilder experience, try riding sections of the turquoise maelstrom in an inflatable kayak. Guides will make sure you're up on wave patterns, ferrying, and how to swim the rapids in the very likely case you get dumped. Of course, you can always stick to the six-man raft, where you feel the joy (and see pine-covered banks, 300-foot-high white canyon walls, and granite spires) with relatively little terror. OUTFITTER: Orange Torpedo Trips, 800-635-2925, www.orangetorpedo.com PRICE: $3,000 WHEN TO GO: December DIFFICULTY: Strenuous

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