Setting off on an adventure holiday can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have as a traveller. There's nothing like reaching the summit of a mountain or the mouth of a river and knowing that you've broken free from your comfort zone and pushed yourself to your limits.
However, before you set off to savour the sweet feeling of success, it's important to do your homework and prepare yourself for the challenges to come. Adventure holidays usually involve some degree of risk or physical endurance that's part of what makes them fun and exciting. Whether you decide to undertake a kayaking trip down the Amazon, a trek to Everest Base Camp or a canyoning expedition in the Rocky Mountains, remember the five Ps: "Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance."
During the planning stages of an adventure holiday, one of the first things you should to do is start looking for operators with a solid reputation in their field. Whether you choose a large tour company or a local team, your provider will be responsible for your overall safety while you're in their care.
Before you pay for your trip of a lifetime, don't be afraid to ask each provider about the maximum size of groups they take, the qualifications of their staff (first aid and otherwise) and what their procedures are in case of medical or other emergencies.
A good rule for larger operators is to pick one who has received accreditation from a governing body or industry group. Of course, this isn't always possible, especially in countries lacking safety legislation or codes of practice. If you're planning on visiting one of these countries, one of the easiest ways to research providers is by reaching out to the global travel community. Online tools such as TripAdvisor and discussion forums such as Lonely Planet and VirtualTourist will help you find safety and pricing information about the vast majority of adventure holiday providers across the globe.
A common error of judgement made by thrill-seeking travellers is trying to get maximum excitement for minimum cost. Unfortunately, when it comes to adventure holidays, choosing the cheapest agency can be a dangerous false economy if safety standards or equipment are compromised due to low prices.
Bippin Thapa co-owns a trekking business in Kathmandu and believes that safety records should be paramount when deciding between providers. "Any good [travel] company will make customer safety and comfort the number one priority. People should never go for a bottom dollar outfit, because at the end of the day you really do get what you pay for." A budget hiking agency might seem like a great idea from the safety of your lounge room, but when you're suffering acute mountain sickness on the way to Everest Base Camp with a guide who doesn't understand anything except "hello" you might regret cutting costs.
Once you've found a reputable company, ask your provider what level of fitness will be required in order to enjoy your holiday. If your trip will be particularly physically demanding, it's worth seeking training advice from people who have completed a similar type of experience. Training programs and discussion groups for every type of adventure holiday imaginable can be found online, and provide invaluable advice and guidance.
If you prefer talking to a real person, pop into a specialist travel and equipment store. Travel store staff are always happy to discuss their experiences and can provide packing checklists and recommendations for any clothing or equipment you might need for a safe and successful holiday. Before you head off, it's worth investing in travel insurance to protect you against any accidents that might occur during your journey. Check the fine print for any exclusions, as some policies don't cover certain activities or may require you to pay additional premiums.
Once you're away be sure to always follow the instructions of your guide or tour leader. Conditions can vary greatly from region to region, so even if you've been on a similar holiday before, listen to the advice of knowledgeable local guides. Never wander off without informing your guide and don't endanger yourself just to get a photo of a hungry-looking crocodile or a surging waterfall. Pay attention to your health, too. If you or someone in your party starts feeling ill or suffers an injury, inform the tour leader straight away.
Following these simple guidelines will ensure you return from your adventure with fond memories rather than serious injuries. And most importantly, don't forget have fun and enjoy the exhilaration that only an adventure holiday can bring!
For more smart travel advice, visit smarttraveller.gov.au.