25 adventures for 2005

Our guide to the most exciting things to do this year, from gorilla-watching and leaf-peeping to ice golf and heli-skiing
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The Independent Travel

1 CAMEL RACING, Alice Springs, Australia

1 CAMEL RACING, Alice Springs, Australia

The Alice Springs Cup ( www.camelcup.com.au) at Blatherskite Park is the principal event in the camel-racing calendar. The cup is 25 years old this year, and the temperamental nature of the competitors will undoubtedly make for an entertaining day. Austravel (0870 166 2020; www.austravel.com) can fix flights. Sophie Lam

2 LEAF-PEEPING, throughout Japan

For the most spectacular autumn colours in the world, head to Japan in October, where momiji-gari (leaf-peeping) is a national pastime. Momiji are the leaves of the Japanese maple, which turn glorious shades of pink, red and russet every year. Leaf-viewing in spring (hanami) is often a rowdy affair, but autumn is traditionally seen as a time to honour one's ancestors and is much more serene. Inside Japan (0870 746 1044; www.insidejapantours.com) operates a 14-day autumn package called "A Northern Soul", which visits the Tohoku region north of Tokyo; £1,400 including bed, breakfast and 11 evening meals, but not flights. Ben Ross

3 WILDEBEEST MIGRATION, Serengeti, Tanzania

More than one million animals move north from the Serengeti plains to the Masai Mara in July and August, often accompanied by zebra and antelope. The herds migrate in search of water, and move south again in December and January. Wildlife Worldwide (020-8667 9158; www.wildlifeworldwide.com). SL

4 MUD BATHING IN A VOLCANO, Colombian Caribbean

Volcan del Totumo rises up like a large anthill beside a lime-green lake about an hour by bus from Cartagena on Colombia's Caribbean coast. There are mud volcanoes all along the shore, some of which are just bubbling fissures in the ground, but El Totumo, at 50 feet high, is one of the largest in the world. Rickety steps lead up to a makeshift wooden platform from where you lower yourself into the crater. The warm, sulphurous grey sludge is 3,000-6,000 feet deep. Journey Latin America (020-8747 8315; www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk). Lucy Gillmore


Eat dinner sprawled across rugs and cushions in the rooftop restaurant of Emerson & Green (00 255 747 423 266), a boutique hotel in Zanibar's capital, Stone Town. Diners look out over the minarets and listen to the muezzin's calls to prayer, the seething streets below caked with history and choked with traffic. LG

6 HELI-SKIING, British Columbia

For untouched powder, take a helicopter to high altitude. Heli-skiing is for seasoned skiers who have previous off-piste experience; it is most popular in Canada. Canadian Mountain Holidays (020-7736 8191; www.cmhski.com) SL


Nurse sharks, that is. Belize's barrier reef is the longest in the Northern Hemisphere and has a dazzling array of underwater life. Sail out to Stingray Alley on the reef, plunge into the azure water and swim with docile sharks and rays. South American Experience (020-7976 5511; www.southamericanexperience.co.uk). SL


Overturn lingering stereotypes about Siberian gloom with a five-day trip down the river Lena. Travel by paddle steamer from Ust Kut to Yakutsk in June or July, when the days are at their longest and spectacular sunsets glow over the wide river. En route to the Arctic Ocean, the Lena winds through hundreds of miles of taiga, past deep-red hills, imposing rock formations and remote villages. Yakutsk is the capital of the mineral-rich Sakha region, which has a distinctive ethnic and cultural identity. KREB (007 395 68 3 24 10). Margaret Campbell

9 CABLE CAR RIDE, Taormina, Sicily

The cable car up to Sicily's most glamorous town starts its journey from the picturesque coves at Mazzaro, packed with sunbathers. Taormina's stunning Teatro Greco, overlooking the Gulf of Naxos and Etna, catapulted it to stardom. Fly from Gatwick to Catania on Air Malta (0845 607 3710; www.airmalta.com). LG

10 POLO, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Devotees of the Buenos Aires polo scene include Prince Harry and Sarah Ferguson. The Argentine Polo Open ( www.aapolo.com) in Palermo is the biggest event of the season and takes place each November and December, when the British and American polo elite flock to the "Argentine Ascot". The Polo Connection (07739 509883; www.poloconnection.com). SL


Only a fool would snowmobile after a big night out in Reykjavik - I speak from experience. Your petrol-powered steed may look sturdy, but concentration is required to weave it around the volcanic rocks that peep through the snow. No previous experience is required to play follow-my-leader at 30mph through this awe-inspiring landscape, but you must hold a valid driving licence. Discover The World (01737 214214, www.discover-the-world.co.uk) offers six nights in Reykjavik from £442 per person including flights, transfers and B&B. An hour's snowmobiling costs £111. Kate Simon


The number of mountain gorillas living in the forests of Zaire, Uganda and Rwanda is dwindling through war and poaching, but you can watch these gentle giants in their natural habitat in Uganda. Aardvark Safaris (01980 849160; www.aardvarksafaris.com). SL

13 SOLAR ECLIPSE, Madrid, Spain

The time: 9.56am; the date: Monday, 3 October. The Spanish capital is perfectly placed for one of the big astronomical events of 2005, an annular eclipse in which around 90 per cent of the sun is obscured by the moon. The skies will darken between the North Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, crossing parts of Portugal, Spain and North and East Africa; only in Madrid can you walk out of a club and into an eclipse. British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) flies to Madrid from Birmingham, Gatwick, Heathrow and Manchester. Simon Calder

14 MAYAN PYRAMIDS, Tikal, Guatemala

Tikal is the most magnificent of the Mayan sites. Five main temples soar out of the rainforest. Thick vegetation still buries many of the structures, but climb the steep limestone pyramids and you can perch high above the forest canopy. Trips Worldwide (0117 311 4403; www.tripsworldwide.co.uk). LG

15 ICE GOLF, Greenland

The 36-hole Ice Golf Championship ( www.greenland-guide.gl/icegolf) is held on one of northern Greenland's fjords from 31 March-5 April. The stunning backdrop of glaciers and the odd polar bear sighting make this a compelling tournament, though not an event for weekend golfers. Exodus (0870 240 5550; www.exodus.co.uk). SL

16 WHALE-WATCHING, Hermanus, South Africa

This Western Cape town is the self-styled whale-watching capital of South Africa. Every year around May, southern right whales return to the shallow waters of Walker Bay to calve. South African Affair (020-7381 5222; www.southafricanaffair.com). LG

17 CRESTA RUN, St Moritz, Switzerland

Career head-first down St Moritz's Cresta Run ( www.cresta-run.com), covering three-quarters of the renowned track at up to 80 mph. Original Travel (020-7978 7333; www.originaltravel.co.uk). SL

18 HOT WATERFALL, Guatemala

The hour-long bus ride from the grim town of Rio Dulce to the Finca el Paraiso is worthwhile. This coffee farm near Lake Izabal in eastern Guatemala has a spectacular secluded thermal waterfall and cool water lagoon a short trek away in the foliage. More information from Sunvil (020-8758 4774; www.sunvil.co.uk). SL

19 POLAR BEARS, Churchill, Canada

Tourists congregate in this Manitoba town each October to see polar bears waiting for Hudson Bay to freeze over so they can continue their migration. The Polar Travel Company (01364 631470; www.polartravel.co.uk). SL

20 HELICOPTER RIDE, Rio, Brazil There can be few more stomach-churning experiences than banking in a helicopter around the monumental figure of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. Helisight (00 55 21 25 11 21 41; www.helisight.com.br) organises helicopter flights around the city. LG

21 WAKEBOARD THE MURRAY, Murray River, Australia

The border between New South Wales and Victoria runs along the Murray, which provides the surface for the most fun you can have on two legs. Your feet are anchored to a board while you hang on for dear life to a tow-rope and skim your way through the otherwise placid scenery of this much-overlooked corner of Australia. Wakeboarding is to waterskiing what snowboarding is to skiing: pure exhilaration. The barefoot champion Brett Sands (00 61 3 5482 1851; www.brettsands.com) may teach you. SC

22 HAMATOURA, Kousba, Lebanon

On a cliff in north Lebanon stands the rock-cut "Our Lady of Hamatoura" monastery, overlooking the Koura plains and Kadisha valley. Its only entrance is a 45-minute walk up a gravel pathway with little more than a railing to prevent a fall. Authentic penitents make the journey barefoot. During the Ottoman period, the Turks murdered all but one of the monks and proceeded to whitewash the walls. More recently, a fire at the monastery fortuitously melted the paint to reveal old icons, many of which have since been restored. Aline Nassif

23 SKYVENTURE, Orlando, Florida

The SkyVenture wind tunnel (001 407 903 1150; www.skyventureorlando.com) looks like an oversized part from a Dyson. It offers visitors the chance to sky-dive without leaving the ground. You pay $38 (£20) to wear a purple jump suit, green goggles and a helmet, while a 120mph wind flares your nostrils and jiggles your jowls. But the flying is sensational. Frances Tuke

24 PUFFINS, Iceland

In May, Atlantic Puffins return to the basalt cliffs of the 15 Westmann Islands, south of Iceland. The islands provide a breeding ground for around 10 million birds. See juvenile puffins in August, before they learn to swim and take to the water in September. Scantours (020-7839 2927; www.scantours.co.uk). SL

25 BUS RIDE, Mallorca, Spain

"The world's greatest bus journey" is a contest with few entries, but for anyone taking a break in our favourite Mediterranean island the ride from the lovely harbour at Puerto de Pollensa to Formentor is one of the most spectacular.

Four times a day, Autocares Mallorca's line 3 - an ordinary suburban bus - wheezes across dramatic mountains with terrifying drops into the sea. It terminates close to the island's most exquisite hotel, the Formentor, where a beer to steady your nerves costs more than the ride. SC