Seven Exceptional Adventure Travel Expeditions for 2015

As an adventurer, you know that the place you go to often isn’t as important as how you travel or what you do after you arrive. For you, there are no bucket-list destinations to tick off; just a steady accumulation of layer upon layer of unique experiences. You strive for a journey that will mentally and/or physically challenge you, take you to almost-undiscovered valleys and hilltops, and provide raw and rare human and wildlife encounters — and you want it before it becomes next year’s conventional recreation or hot spot.

We hear you. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of Seven Exceptional — uncommon and unexpected! — Expeditions for 2015.

1. Amazon River Basin — By Canoe
NOLS Amazon Course
@ Mauricio Clauzet-NOLS

Even today, there’s a place on Earth that remains mostly secret to us; a place where science still hasn’t explained away all the mystery and where biodiversity seems to drip off every leaf in a lush, tropical forest. That place is the Amazon River Basin.

When you think of exploring on the second longest river on the planet (only the Nile is longer), you usually envision a classic, two- to three-story riverboat. But on NOLS’ (National Outdoor Leadership School) Amazon Basin River Expedition, you’ll canoe one of the largest, southern tributaries of the Amazon River. For twenty-three days, you’ll not only get to see the largest river basin in the world, but you’ll learn technical canoeing skills, complete a leadership curriculum, and interact with people who lead a subsistence lifestyle on the banks of the river.

Far from sugarcoating your upcoming experience, NOLS promises that the remoteness from modern infrastructures combined with insects and heat (upward of 100 degrees Fahrenheit) will be sure to challenge you on physical and mental levels — but that you’ll come back having developed the technical and first-aid skills that will enable you to not just survive but thrive in the Amazon environment. Says NOLS Casey Adams, “The Amazon region is typically regarded as the world’s last frontier. Its inhabitants have a fascinating way of life that we are privileged to share. We’re pleased to collaborate with land management agencies in Brazil as a pioneer in outdoor education in this region.”

2. Borneo — Orangutans Up-Close
Orangutans in Borneo
© Nick Rains

Anyone with an interest in “primate tourism” usually plans an encounter with the gorillas of Uganda or the chimpanzees of Tanzania. But two unusual tours will get you up-close to another great ape: orangutans.

Located in central Borneo in Tanjung Puting National Park is Camp Leakey, established in 1971 by Dr. Biruté Galdikas and Rod Brindamour. Galdikas named the camp in honor of her mentor, Dr. Louis Leakey, the famed paleoanthropologist who discovered a great deal of what we now know about humanity’s early ancestors. The camp, which originally consisted of just two huts, is now an assemblage of permanent wooden structures where scientists, students, and park rangers converge.

You can spend two, unforgettable days at Camp Leakey on two of Lindblad Expeditions’ tours — Wild Encounters from Borneo to Bali and Wild Islands of Sri Lanka, Borneo, and the Andaman Sea. During that time, you’ll be able to travel by boat to orangutan feeding stations throughout the national park’s forests and see orangutans at close range. You’ll also have opportunities to engage in intimate, small group talks with Dr. Biruté Galdikas, one of the creators of Orangutan Foundation International. Galdikas and her organization have helped to save orangutans from extinction through rehabilitation and habitat preservation.

3. Everglades National Park, Florida — Bike, Kayak, and Hike
Everglades Kayaking Trip
© Saracino

Florida might have a well-known reputation as the place where your parents or grandparents go to live during their retirement years, but a better descriptor is that the state is home to the Everglades, the only place in the U.S. (and one of only three places on Earth) that’s earned the triple designation of World Heritage site, International Biosphere Reserve, and Wetland of International Importance.

You can find some of the most rare and endangered species in the country within Everglades National Park, such as the American crocodile and the West Indian manatee. The park is a significant wildlife corridor and stopover for migrating species, and it holds the largest mangrove ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere.

Such a unique destination deserves multiple ways to explore it. On Backroads’ Everglades to Key West Multisport Tour, you’ll get a chance to kayak, walk, and bike the Everglades environs. What makes this tour even better is that unlike with most tours that involve biking, you won’t have to push pedals over tough routes that only the most trained of bikers find enjoyable. Here, the bike paths are flat as pancakes.

4. Republic of Georgia — Trekking the Caucasus “Mountains of Poetry”
Trekking in the Caucasus Mountains
© Donald Martinson

“When we talk about Georgia, most people think we’re referring to the state,” says Wendy Redal, editorial director of Natural Habitat Adventures. “Few are familiar with this small, peaceful country on the outer edge of Europe, yet it offers so many of the hallmarks that make European travel attractive, without the crowds.”

Georgia won’t be free of crowds much longer once word gets out that its massive, glacier-clad Caucasus Mountains are higher than the Alps; its wines are drawing international attention; and its capital, Tbilisi, is on its way to becoming hip and urban. Despite that, life in its rural areas is still defined by centuries-old traditions.

On Natural Habitat Adventures’ Nature and Culture Trails of Georgia’s Caucasus tour, you’ll take multiday treks through scenes as disparate as alpine meadows and deep river valleys, where you’re unlikely to see any other travelers with the exception of villagers on foot or horseback. You’ll stay at a vineyard estate in the Kakheti region, Georgia’s version of Napa. Since some archaeologists believe that the fertile valleys of the South Caucasus are the source of the world’s first cultivated grapevines — wine was being produced here as far back as 6,000 B.C. — there’s sure to be lots of sipping of the local beverage fermented by leaving grape juice in a clay cask buried underground through the winter.

Says Redal, “Georgia is definitely a place to get to now, while it’s still relatively unknown.”

We at Adventure Collection couldn’t agree more.

5. Myanmar — Its First Nature-Based Adventure
Fishing in the Mekong

If you’re searching for the far-less-traveled Southeast Asia, look beyond Cambodia and Vietnam to Myanmar (formerly Burma) — a country inaccessible to travelers until recently.

On Natural Habitat Adventure’s Myanmar and Thailand: Exploring Nature and Spirit trip, you’ll get a taste of the nation’s Buddhist culture, traditional rural villages, and very tropical landscapes. You’ll not only become one of the first outsiders to travel to Myanmar but one of the few to go to remote and very rarely visited parts of the country, as well. The itinerary includes a motor-yacht tour of the Mergui Archipelago, one of the most untouched tropical archipelagos on Earth; forest hikes in Popa Mountain National Park, where leaf monkeys reside; and a balloon ride over the temple spires of Bagan. And in Thailand’s Khao Sok National Park, a boat cruise will float you past hornbills, fish eagles, and love birds; and a forest trek will take you in search of rare Malayan tapirs, Asian elephants, leopards, and Asiatic black bears.

Says NatHab’s Redal, “We’re excited to introduce the first nature-based adventure in Myanmar. It’s a great option for travelers who want a more remote experience of Southeast Asia that’s getting harder to find elsewhere.”

6. Tanzania Wilderness — Backpack in Africa
NOLS CEO John Ganz with guides
© Michael Schmertzler-NOLS

The NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) philosophy is based on the belief that there’s nothing quite like seeing the remote wilderness on your own two feet, “carrying all your own gear on your back while gaining the tools necessary to become a great leader in the backcountry and at home.” 
That credo goes even when you’re in the African bush.

On a fourteen-day expedition called Tanzania Wilderness — Prime, NOLS leaders will have you backpacking in volcanic highlands and learning culture (including Kiswahili language skills) and ecology from local tribespeople. You’ll sleep in tents in thick forests and on the savannah; and venture through hard rain, dense fog, and over steep, rocky terrain. Throughout it all, you’ll be gaining camping, risk management, and backcountry travel skills.

“This course is far from the usual tourist track of luxury lodges and European chefs,” says NOLS’ Casey Adams. “You’ll explore the real Africa on the ground. Backpacking and camping is certainly a different way to experience East Africa; you won’t just see it, you’ll get to know it on a personal level.”

7. Texas Hill Country — A Woodsy Side of the Lone Star State
Texas Hill Country Wildflowers
© DHuss

Cowboy hats; expansive vistas of flat, dusty landscapes dotted with oilrigs; and “big hair” on women — perhaps not a sought-after travel dream! But Backroads will take you to a Texas you didn’t know existed on its five-day, four-night Texas Hill Country Bike Tour.

Rather than an excursion on dry, parched dirt through an atmosphere of Texas dust that you might imagine, on this trip you’ll pedal through a region of lush, woodsy hills and push past meandering rivers. Says Backroads’ Liz Einbinder, “The hill country is a cyclist’s playground, and it’s not yet overly visited by tourists. This trip is just the right amount of time for a long, domestic weekend getaway.”

And never fear: you’ll also have a bit of time to weave in that other, quintessential Lone Star State experience: you’ll go to a traditional dance hall so you can do some honky-tonking, and you’ll even attend a famous Texas barbecue.

Here’s to your 2015 unusual adventures, in whatever corner of the world you find them,