There’s a whole other side of South East Asia, an arena of extreme sports for adventure travellers and thrill-seekers. Would you dare to explore some of these sports to get your adrenaline running and your heart pumping?
South-East Asia is renowned for its ancient ruins and temples, warm weather and low prices. But there is another side to this region – extreme sports – travel activities that will get your heart pumping and make you feel alive.
We are talking about adventure activities where daredevils jump from cliffs as high as 40 feet, leap from one of the tallest free-standing towers in the world, skydiving to canyoning and abseiling.
Move aside, New Zealand because South-East Asia is now the ultimate travel destination for adrenaline junkies. Here are five extreme sports that will get your wanderlust pumping!
One of the most popular extreme sports is cliff jumping. Many people are cliff jumping because this activity does not require any equipment or special gear, just your body sailing through the air from towering heights and plunging into the deep waters below. Just make sure you know how to swim.
Thrill-seekers can jump from giant cliffs found on islands or coastal areas. Ariel’s Point in Boracay, Philippines has five platforms for cliff jumpers to choose from with the highest being 13 metres.
Canyons and waterfalls are also a great spot to cliff jump. Situated just north of Nha Trang in Vietnam is Ba Ho Waterfalls where cliff jumpers have to climb on to a number of huge boulders from which, prior to jumping, they are treated to a huge valley surrounded by clear waters. The jumping spot is apparently high enough for cliff jumpers to scream all the way down to the waters.
If cliff jumping was extreme, base jumping takes the cake. Base jumping off KL Tower in Malaysia is where daredevils risk their lives jumping off this tower of 300 metres (984.2 feet) high!
KL Tower is renowned as the World’s Base Jump Centre since 1999 and is one of the largest and most adrenaline-pumping competitions in the world. Base jumpers stand at the edge of a platform where they would see breathtaking views of Kuala Lumpur city, and when they jump, only have a few seconds to pull the cord and open their parachutes.
It is a new sport among other extreme sports with only a handful of places in South East Asia that host it. Besides Kuala Lumpur, another city with magnificent highrises that can accomodate base jumps is Shanghai in China.
One of the well-established extreme sports is skydiving and when one mentions skydiving in South East Asia, the one in Pattaya, Thailand rushes to an expert skydiver’s mind. Skydiving at 13,000 feet above the ground offers exceptional scenery of Pattaya’s lush greenery and turquoise blue waters. However, skydiving is not only available for the experts but for first-time skydivers as well who will have to take a short course and the tandem skydiving option.
One of the drop zones which is getting increasing “air traffic” from novice and experienced skydivers than any other country in the region is Lido Lakes in Java, Indonesia. Skydivers get the chance to enjoy 360-degree stunning vistas of lush valleys and volcanoes from the above.
From heart-pumping activities that make jumpers scream when descending, we move on to an activity that requires the person to stay calm though no less exciting, and that is, cave diving.
Cave diving is a whole new world compared to scuba diving. This is because cave diving involves diving deep into the underground world which has narrow caves of stalactites and stalagmites, shafts and tunnels opening into huge chambers, and has elements of complete darkness. As such, different equipment and techniques are used for cave diving.
The most crucial thing required among cave divers is to remain calm when something goes wrong deep in the ocean for it is difficult to navigate among the caves and tunnels, and is not possible for a panicking driver to ascend to the surface immediately.
South East Asia has some of the best places for cave diving, and one of them is the Similan Islands in Thailand, a protected national park comprising of nine islands. The best dive site is the Elephant Head Rock in which there are granite boulders resembling an elephant, and a maze of swim troughs and spin-cycle currents.
Another diving site which is relatively new is the Western Rocky Island in the Mergui Archipelago of Myanmar. On the eastern tip of the island is a large tunnel running through the island where divers will find an abundance of corals crabs, snappers, sharks and stingrays. Please DO NOT attempt cave diving without proper training and certification.
Canyoning typically involves action-filled activities that combine rappelling, abseiling and waterfall jumping. Imagine a full day of hiking through jungles and canyons to find a 25m waterfall waiting for you to rappel in it, fast flowing water and slippery rocks that are perfect for water-sliding and cliffs as high as 11 metres for cliff jumping. Many adventure-seekers vouch for Dalat in Vietnam as the best place in South East Asia to experience canyoning. Another hot spot with river water so blue is Kawasan Falls near Cebu in the Philippines.
Before participating in any extreme sports, always remember to carefully check the credentials and experience of the tour operator, for instance, how long have they been in operation, their safety record, insurance cover, et cetera. Once you are satisfied with their track record, go ahead with your adventure, get your wanderlust pumping and have loads of fun!
Words by Kathleen Poon