Time Out takes you on 10 once-in-a-lifetime blowouts
Time Out Dubai staff
Heli-skiing in Kamchatka
You don’t need to be a banker to fly halfway round the world to be dropped on a volcano – but it helps. The Kamchatka peninsula in Russia’s far east is the destination of choice for those in search of unexplored terrain and breathtaking descents of up to 4,000 metres, which take you through remote hot springs and right down to the beach. Stay at the four-star Hotel Antarius in the Hot Spring Valley, then catch a Russian M18 helicopter to the edge of the volcano rim from where you have access to tree skiing, long steep couloirs and wide open bowls. In short, anything your little daredevil skier’s heart might desire. Elemental Adventure (020 7836 3547, www.eaheliskiing.com) can sort you out with a comprehensive all-inclusive package (from €4,150), although visas can be a little tricky.
Slow boat to Antarctica
Nature documentaries steal the thunder from most of our travel experiences – David Attenborough gets three months to hang around looking at cheetahs so of course he gets the best shots – but nothing can take anything away from Antarctica. Remote, inhospitable, wild and white, it is – paradoxically – a natural wonderland, home to 17 types of penguin, albatrosses, pretty fur seals and evil leopard seals, and several species of whale and dolphin. A lot of cruise ships are big and fast – they carry 2,000 to 3,000 people from Ushuaia in Argentine Tierra del Fuego, whiz them down to the peninsula and then back again. But if you’re going to blow a few grand anyway, why not double it and double your time down here?
Costs from £3,100 for a 10-day trip to £6,000 for a 3-week odyssey that takes in the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. Airfare is extra. Contact Imaginative Traveller (www.imaginative-traveller.com /0845 077 8802).
Overland through Africa
Foley Specialist Vehicles hires out sturdy Land Rover Defenders from £6,000 for three months – which is probably how long you’ll need to do anything serious in the planet’s slowest moving, least asphalted, most frontier-hasslesome continent. And allow time to familiarise yourself with the car’s innards before your trip, because you can be certain you’ll break down. The rest of the cost will be mainly on visas, border bribes, local agents ‘facilitating’ entry and exit, fuel, food and insurance. You can choose your route, but whether you opt for one of the two coasts or bang through the heart of darkness, you’ll pass through some of the world’s edgiest nations. Angola, Sierra Leone, Chad, Sudan… you choose. Avoid Somalia, though, where even ships are sometimes kidnapped.
Costs about £8,500 for a group jaunt, not including any flights you need to make to escape. Plan your route with Tracks for Africa (www.tracks4africa.com) or Foley Specialist Vehicles (01279 793500/ www.foleyspecialistvehicles.co.uk).
Follow in the footsteps of director James and blast off into space. Richard Branson is currently extending his empire into the only territory as yet untouched by the Virgin brand, and his company will soon be promising to take you on a suborbital flight to the zero gravity height of about 52,000 feet, after a mere three days of flight preparation at its Mojave Desert Spaceport. Space X is another private space company with a fleet of spacecrafts, and the Dragon capsule is capable of sending up to seven people to any space station they might care to visit.
Wildwings (0117 9658 333/ www.wildwings.co.uk) already offers a range of cosmic kicks, from a suborbital flight for £60,000 to an orbital flight for £13 million. The company is also putting together moon packages – estimated to cost a mere £50 million (return; one-way flights are unlikely to be available). See also Virgin Galactic (www.virgingalactic.com) and Space X (+1310 363 6000/ www.spacex.com).
Take the South Pacific by storm in a chartered yacht
With names like Major Wager and Maverick II, the $200,000-a-week price tag to hire a yacht shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. Feeling generous? Take your guests and crew around the Cook or Solomon Islands, or around the dive sites of the Great Barrier Reef, along with a team of on-board staff who are more than happy to serve your dinner out on deck, in one of the staterooms, or even on the beach under the stars. Diving is the ideal daytime occupation, or just soak up the rays for that perfect $4,000-a-day tan.
Costs about $30,000 per week for a six-berth boat. Contact International Yacht Charter Group (0800 011 2492/ www.internationalyacht chartergroup.com).
Drive a supercar through Italy
Forget the mid-life crisis accusations, and take a Ferrari Spider, a Lamborghini Gallardo or a snazzy little red Maserati out for a spin. Red Travel tutors drivers and rents out these fuel-guzzling, carbon-cacking beauties for anything from a four-hour drive along the iconic Mille Miglia Gran Turismo route, to an all-out, five-day Rome–Florence– Monte Carlo extravaganza. It’ll even throw in dining (Michelin starred, naturally) and a stay at the impossibly opulent Rome Cavalieri hotel.
Costs from €850 per person for a four-hour session; longer tours are considerably more. Visit www.red-travel.com, or call +39 011 6165 219.
Incredibly expensive India – by luxury train
If you’re after the royal treatment, you can’t do much better than the Palace on Wheels, a luxury train tour across India that takes in Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Agra, among others, with carriages that once played host to rulers of the princely states of Rajputana and the Viceroy of British India. Relaunched in 1982, the train now has 14 deluxe saloons with all mod-cons, and restaurants serving European as well as Indian cuisine. Imperial India is still very much in evidence, however, and not just in the opulent decor; a personal attendant or ‘Khidmatgar’ is always on hand to cater to your travel needs.
Costs $3,000-$4,000 for an eight-day ride. Contact Luxury Trains of India (020 3051 6851/ www.luxurytrainsofindia.com).
Rent an island
Despite the economic downturn, there’s one area of the property market where business is booming: there are literally hundreds of private islands all over the world just waiting to be snapped up by anyone with a few thousand to spare. The modest little Ile de Patiras in the Gironde in France could be yours for just €620 per week, complete with 19th-century renovated vineyard estate and, of course, a private beach. Or choose a week on Musha Cay in the Bahamas, where up to 20 guests can enjoy exclusive access to tropical vegetation, white sandy beaches and the services of a live-on staff of 30 for a slightly awe-inspiring $325,000 per week.
Surprisingly, renting an island doesn’t have to break the bank, with prices starting at $84 per week for an admittedly slightly diminutive 50-acre island. Contact Private Islands Online (+1 647 477 5581/ www.privateislandsonline.com).
The Poseidon Resort in Fiji takes holidaying to the next level, with luxury suites at 40 feet under the sea. Futuristic-looking pods allow you to look out on the marine landscape, with a lagoon and reef teeming with underwater critters, while a button lets you release food to attract fish, James Bond villain-style. Interiors are all marble, leather and fine fabrics, and the largest suite – coming in at 1,000 square feet – is decked out to look like Jules Verne’s fictional submarine. The resort itself is an underwater playground, and you can submerge yourself while watching a movie in the cinema, dining or drinking, or even getting hitched in the underwater chapel.
Costs a cool $15,000 per person for 7 days on Poseidon Mystery Island, including 2 days underwater. See www.poseidonresorts.com.
Polar bear hunt, Spitsbergen
Snowmobile south through mountain passes to the fjord area of Van Mijenfjorden – during the 72-kilometre journey, you may encounter high-arctic reindeer, arctic fox and ptarmigan – to reach the remote east coast, where the land collides with pack ice and the sea. This is polar bear country, and with this fearsome predator in charge, you are now entirely dependent on your equipment, your guide’s knowledge and experience – and your snow-chilled balls. Arrive at base camp in a location sheltered from the wind and the elements but still close to the polar bears. Depending on weather and distances, you’ll trek, ski and/or snowmobile, staking out varied vantage points to observe the bears. During this season, females and cubs are emerging from hibernation, while lone males, thin from the long winter, hunt and track prey. Spitsbergen is the last protected natural polar bear habitat, and with a bear population of 4,500, sightings are highly likely.
Costs about $13,995 per person. Departures in March and April. Contact Abercrombie & Kent (0845 618 2207/ www.akextremeadventures.co.uk).