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There are holidays, and there are holidays. There are the lie-on-the-beach-with-a-cocktail-permanently-clamped-to-your-hand holidays, there are the getting-off-the-beaten-track-to-impress-your-friends holidays, and then there's a whole different kind: the scare-the-crap-out-of-you-and-never-tell-your-parents holidays.
Some people live for the latter. They get addicted to the adrenaline rush. They want to be challenged when they travel, to feel that they're teetering on the very edge of what could be considered a "good idea".
For those people, I dedicate this list. It's a guide to the tourist attractions around the world that are guaranteed to leave your knees weak, your knuckles white, and your friends either impressed by your bravery, or concerned about your stupidity. It's a fine line.
Bungy jumping, New Zealand
The Kawarau Bridge jump in Queenstown, NZ, is nowhere near the world's highest, or the world's scariest (that'll be the 233-metre-high Macau Tower jump). This is, however, the original, the jumping site that spawned a local adrenaline-junkie culture, and a worldwide fascination with leaping off high things with an elastic cord tied to your feet. Don't think 43 metres sounds high? Wait till you're standing at the top, waiting to jump off.
Do it: bungy.co.nz
You can blame the Kiwis for starting the whole bungy jumping craze. Photo: iStock
Devils Pool, Zambia
This is one of those activities that looks a lot scarier than it really is. And it makes for some amazing photos. At certain times of the year it's possible to swim in this small pool that forms a ledge above the roaring Victoria Falls. It looks like an incredibly bad idea – just a quick glance at the photos will have you backing away from any ledge you happen to be standing near at the time. But your chances of being washed over the lip by a freak torrent of water are actually pretty slim. Apparently.
Do it: devilspool.net
See also: The world's scariest hotel room
Climb Mount Hua Shan, China
It starts gentle enough, this climb up a mountain in rural Shaanxi, China. But then all of a sudden you find yourself clinging to a few wooden planks held together by what look like large staples, bolted to a cliff face a few hundred metres above the ground and you're thinking, "Who regulates this?" The answer is no one in particular, which makes this ascent to a teahouse atop this holy mountain an exercise in extreme faith.
Do it: travelchinaguide.com
Mount Hua Shan, China - is that cuppa really worth it? Photo: iStock
Nile River rafting, Uganda
With the right safety gear, this is not inherently dangerous. If you're wearing a life jacket and a helmet, you should be OK. But still, there's something fairly terrifying about jumping in a little rubber raft and setting off into the raging Nile River at Jinja, Uganda. There's some serious water that pours through these grade 5 rapids (that's the gnarliest grade that can be commercially rafted), and each time you're popped out of that raft and into the raging torrent there's always the thought: "What if I can't get back to the surface?"
Do it: raftafrica.com
Not inherinently dangerous: Rafting in Uganda. Photo: iStock
Kokoda Track, PNG
Maybe hiking 96 kilometres through dense jungle and muddy ground in hot, humid conditions is your idea of a good time. But it isn't mine. And there are dangers involved in doing this walk that has become something of a rite of passage for Australians: several people have died from natural causes while attempting to complete the journey, and 13 were killed in a light plane crash in 2009. This is a truly wild experience, which also makes it just a little scary.
Do it: papuanewguinea.travel
See also: Australia's scariest islands
Walking safari, Zimbabwe
Again, there's nothing demonstrably dangerous about this activity, about ditching the 4WD and going for a walk with your wildlife guide through a Zimbabwean national park like Hwange, which is chock full of lions and elephants and rhinos and cheetahs. In fact, it's a serious thrill. But tell me you're not at least slightly concerned. The guide is carrying a large gun in case of emergency. You're out there in the wilderness, with no one else around, staring at lions and making sure they can see you. It's an adventure, and it's incredible. But it's scary, too.
Do it: classicsafaricompany.com.au
Scuba-diving during the Sardine Run, South Africa
Every June and July, something amazing happens off the coast of Durban in South Africa. Massive schools of sardines migrate from the cold waters of the Cape to the relatively warm climes of Kwa-Zulu Natal to breed. Those delicious sardines are followed by hungry hordes of dolphins, marlin, and – most importantly – sharks. Lots and lots of sharks. So what do people do? They don their diving gear and they join the feeding frenzy. It's a phenomenal sight, but it's also getting in the water with sharks during a feeding frenzy.
Do it: afridive.com
Trift Bridge, Swiss Alps
Righto tough guy: think you've got a head for heights? Try crossing the Trift Bridge in Switzerland, a swaying, shaking, 170-metre-long suspension bridge that takes you 100 metres above the Trift Glacier. That's precarious, by anyone's definition. Beautiful scenery though, if you remember to look at it.
Do it: myswitzerland.com
BASE jumping, Norway
You'd have to be crazy. Not just thrill-seeker crazy. Crazy-crazy. BASE jumpers have a frighteningly high attrition rate, and it's no wonder when you see the things they get up to, particularly in places like Kjerag Mountain and Innfjorden in Norway. The idea – at least for those with wingsuits – is to fly as close to the ground as possible without actually slamming yourself into it at extremely high speed. Crazy.
Do it: stavangerbase.com
Base jumping in Norway? Nopety nope nope nope. Photo: iStock
Crossing the Drake Passage, Southern Ocean
Anyone who's been to Antarctica will be familiar with the nerve-shredding experience of crossing the Drake Passage to get there. It's the fear of what might be ahead: if a storm hits in this notoriously violent stretch of water between Argentina and Antarctica, the swell could get up to 16 or 17 metres high. That's wave after wave the size of a four-storey building crashing into your boat. If that doesn't scare you, nothing will.
Crossing the Drake Passage: Pass me the bucket, please. Photo: iStock
What are the scariest tourist attractions you've experienced?
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