Article submitted and written by Anne Foy
The rush of scaling a mountain and witnessing the breathtaking landscape beneath your feet as you reach your victory, of gazing at roaring campfires beneath a sky of stars, of plunging into the refreshing waters of a tranquil river after a long day of hiking and cycling – the joys and challenges of the great outdoors are simply unparalleled. Getting out into the open and escaping the pressures of modern life is something which everyone aspires to do, enjoying the rare chance of reconnecting with nature and experiencing the elements firsthand. For some of us, these moments are just a few steps away, while for others, finding that coveted outdoor time can be difficult, especially for starters. But preparing for your first outdoor excursion is easier than you think.
Find Your Adventure, Or Let It Find You
There are a lot of ways to enjoy what the great outdoors has to offer, especially in a location as diverse as New Zealand for instance, and South Africa. These regions are home to some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, and have become spectacular outdoor playgrounds for sports enthusiasts and nature lovers who come from all walks of the life. New Zealand’s magnificent national parks are both grandiose in stature and substance, providing the perfect destination for activities and pastimes of varying skills and interest like:
- Walking and hiking
- Backpacking, and hiking
- Skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing and other winter sports
- Mountain biking, jogging, and running
- Swimming, surfing, sailing, rafting, and kayaking
- Fishing and nature watching
- Kite surfing, hangliding, horseback riding and many more
The difficulty levels for each of these activities will vary upon the geography and climate of the location, and the sheer variety of landscapes means that beginners will have plenty of opportunities for a chance to progress to the next level. Each one of these activities are accessible, but some of them – like hangliding, skiing, horseback riding and rafting, for instance, will require you to go through a tour operator/travel company. You will need to have a fair level of health and fitness for some of the more extreme sports like hangliding and rafting, but companies which manage these sports operate by extremely high safety standards.
You can choose any or even all of these sports for your excursion, but try to quench your enthusiasm at first and practice moderation. For example, if you are planning a big trail hike, slowly build up your fitness beforehand by taking regular hikes on varied terrain if possible, as well as build strength in your muscles and develop your aerobic conditioning. Become acclimatized to different weather conditions by hiking in rain, shine, and snow as well as hot and cold, always dressing appropriately. By the time you are ready to depart for your destination, your preparation work will more than pay off. Having trouble choosing your playground? You can do your own research beforehand by using handy resources like National Geographic, Lonely Planet, and of course, this very website. Ask yourself what kind of experience you are looking for, what kind of budget and schedule you are working with, and what kind of difficulty level you are considering.
National Park tourist centres provide a wide range of essential information about the destinations you can visit as well as several handy online resources which tell you everything you need to know about the place you plan on visiting as well as save you money on travel. Fathom.com lists some of the top websites you can use to find travel bookings and accommodation, as well as blogs which offer an interesting insight into the region. If you don’t want to go the route of ditching your gadgets and going incognito, you can find an array of travel apps which cover a variety of subjects for your vacation, including weather, translation, places of interest, wifi-hotspots, fare finders, and maps which are useful for carrying all on one device. It is advisable to carry a phone with you even if you don’t plan on using it in the case of an emergency, as well as a form of identification.
It may seem daunting, but researching your outdoor adventure can be tremendously fun and doesn’t take away from the spontaneity and thrilling energy of your trip. It prepares you mentally and physically while building up your anticipation, guaranteeing that your next expedition or casual outdoor jaunt will be a fulfilling and rewarding as possible.