The astounding nature in South America offers a wide range of adventurous activities that combines the forces of the elements water, wind and earth. To practice these activities you don’t need more than an average fitness and a lot of courage. I always deem it important to avoid a negative impact on the environment. To help you be adventurous and sustainable at the same time I compiled a list of 15 of my favourite activities with a adrenaline kick and a low ecological footprint in South America.
In deserts in South America there are often sand hills where you can easily slide down with a sandboard. Sandboarding can be compared to snowboarding. However, generally you slide down slower in sand than in snow. This is also a great activity for beginning boarders, since you determine your speed and you won´t hurt yourself in the sand when you fall down.
2. VULCANO BOARDING
The sandy hills in the desert can be exchanged for vulcanoes to do some vulcano boarding. The biggest difference is that you should not wear your best clothes and you don’t have to stand up on the board. You also have more speed sliding down a vulcano than sandboarding in the desert.
Surfing waves leaves you with a powerful feeling that you are united with the ocean once you manage to get up on your board. I strongly believe surfing is for everyone, you really only need an hour of private lessons from a local surfer to learn how to stand up and then you can start playing with the waves yourself!
Dangling on a string you walk down the vertical walls of waterfalls when you practice canyoning. Sometimes the waterfall are as high as 50 meters. You’ll have quite the challenge moving your way down the slippery wall while the waterfall is splashing in your face.
Kayaking is a super fun activity that you can practice in the sea, on lakes and along rivers. At sea its generally harder to kayak due to the current of the waves, but that makes it more challenging. I also experienced kayaking as a more sustainable means of transport compared to a boat if, for example, you want to visit an island or a village along a river or on a lake.
Provided that you stay on the paths and do not leave garbage behind, hiking is a green activity. And, depending on the intensity level of your hike, it truly can be an adventure! Challenge yourself with hikes with high and low altitudes and rough roads.
Snorkeling is a great activity where you discover the ocean and all it has to offer. If you travel in an area where you can find a lot of coral and fish, it is useful to purchase a snorkel set yourself so that you do not have to rent it every time. Remember that the sea is home to countless animal and plant species so remember: you are a guest in the sea. Look, but don’t touch!
For adventurers who seek a thrill you might want to go a little deeper than snorkling by choosing to dive instead. You can dive up to 12 meters without a diving license, this is called a ´fundive´. A fundive requires basic training. If you love diving it is also an option to do an Open Water or Advanced diving course so that you don’t have to do a training every time you go diving. A certified diver may also dive 20 to 40 meters deep (depending on your diving license) and you will learn a lot about the fish and the sea during your course.
As a Dutchie I naturally love cycling. For me, cycling abroad is always an adventure because I am used to the flat and well constructed cycling paths in the Netherlands. Riding a mountainbike through the mountains in South America can be rough, but it is a sustainable and fun mode of transport!
A bungeejump does not involve many things that could harm the environment: the only thing you need for bungeejumping is a deep canyon, a platform, a strong rope and a lot of courage. Bungee jumping gives an adrenaline kick that I can’t describe, but I can tell you you will feel free as a bird when you have your free fall!
Best tip for your first bungeejump: go bungeejumping somewhere where the rope is attached to your waist instead of your ankle (it has somewhat reassured me).
If the idea of dangling on a rope is not your cup of tea, zipling might be more a more suitable activity for you. Also in this sport you hang on a rope that goes from one place to another. You don’t have to do much with ziplining, but I personally always like zipling upside down by throwing myself backwards or swing like superwoman. However, make sure you are up straight again before you arrive to the other side.
With kitesurfing you use some kind of parachute and a board similar to a snow (or sand) board. It is not recommended to go kitesurfing without a certificate, but after a 3-day course you can already kite quite a bit. The great thing about kiting is that you use the power of the wind to cruze across the flat water which is a very powerful feeling. South America offers a wide range of locations to learn kitesurfing.
Paragliding is a fun activity for which you only need wind and a deep cliff. You will feel very comfortable when you are enjoying the beautiful view, but for some excitement you can always ask your instructor if they want to do some tricks! I will not tell you what these tricks are, so it’ll be a surprise.
When you go rafting, you will be comfortable with an inflatable boat sailing on a raging river with strong currents and rocks. Undoubtedly the boat is accompanied by an adrenaline-addicted instructor who enthusiastically shouts whether to paddle left or right. Just be prepared to get wet!
Tip: in some places in South America (especially in the North of Ecuador) they offer tube rafting. In tube rafting there are several inflatable tires tied together all you have to do is hold on tight so that you don’t fall out of your tire. Therefore, if you don’t feel like paddling tube rafting is a great alternative.
15. STAND UP PADDLE BOARDING
Stand up paddle boarding is not necessarily a very exciting but surely a fun activity. If you need a little adrenaline, you can go stand up paddle boarding in the sea where there are waves or a river with a current. You can also give stand up paddle board yoga a chance. Trust me when I tell this type of yoga is a lot harder than it seems.
How many of these adventurous activities have done in South America? And do you have the courage to do them all?