This was a very hard list to assemble. I’ll be honest, if I wrote this list on a different day, I might come up with a different order or maybe different experiences altogether. Identifying just ten experiences from the hundreds of countries I’ve visited is nearly impossible. This was harder than picking my favorite cuisines, beaches, and dive sites shared in my other round ups.
I ended up picking those travel experiences that I remember most vividly—those that had an impact on me at the time, even if they might not impact me the same way now.
There are a fair number of adventure travel activities, as well as some which really on mean something to me. All in all, it was fun to look back on a decade of travel and determine those the best travel experiences in the world, gleaned from my own world travels.
I have to put this on the list because it is something I look at every day. Not only that, if you actually visit my website, you’ll notice my logo is a little guy. That little guy is called a tikitiki tangata, and it is the Cook Island maori symbol for a man. It also happens to be permanently inked on my arm.
The entire tattoo is the story of my travels: The man by himself represents me, the birds represent travel, the mountains with birds represent far away places, and the shark teeth represent a safe journey. Here is the video I took while getting my tattoo.
9. Being a Professional Underwater Photographer for a Day
In 2008, I was in Cairns, Australia when I ran into professional underwater photographer Peter Mooney. He runs an underwater photography store in Cairns and had a housing unit for my camera and lens and agreed to take me out on the Great Barrier Reef so I could experience doing real underwater photography for a day. It was much more difficult than I ever expected. I was glad I had the opportunity to try my hand at it and it is something I would love to do again—in fact, it’s experiences like this one that led me to found my own Travel Photography Academy.
Prior to visiting Puerto Rico I had never been zip lining before and I had also never been rappelling before. I managed to do both in the same day. I also managed to ride the highest and second longest zip line in the world at the Toro Verde Adventure Park. Here is the video I took of the ride (I held my iPhone vertically and didn’t realize what I did until I was done)
7. Watching the Sunset in Hong Kong
This sounds like an innocent enough thing, but sitting in Kowloon, watching the sunset on Hong Kong and all the lights of the skyline turn on is a travel experience that has always stuck with me.
6. Watching the Bat Exodus From Deer Cave
Deer Cave in Mulu National Park in Borneo is one of the largest single caverns in the world. It is also home to over 3,000,000 bats. It was raining most of the time I was there, so the bats couldn’t go into the rainforest to feed. When the rains finally ended, all three million of them decided to leave the batcave and head for the jungle at once. I spent over and hour with other travelers watching this endless river of bats in the sky heading out for the night to gorge on insects.
5. Swimming With Whale Sharks
Unfortunately, I have no photos or video to show for this travel experience. I didn’t have an underwater camera with me to record what happened. Nonetheless, jumping in the water and staring at the world’s largest fish was something I will never forget. There are many places around the world where you can swim with whale sharks, but I did mine in Exmouth, Western Australia. Regardless if you are in the Philippines, Mexico, Belize, or Australia, if you get the chance to swim with whale sharks (they are filter feeders and totally harmless) do it.
4. Bungee Jumping in Queenstown, NZ
The day I went bungee jumping it was only me and two small girls from India who were doing it because of the weather. They had you go in order of weight, so I had to go after the two little girls. There is no way you can chicken out after two little girls did it moments before you.
3. Swimming with great White Sharks
In October 2010, I visited Grootbos, South Africa and got to get in the water with Great White Sharks. It is a very … unique … travel experience. You literally get in a cage while they chum some of the most shark infested water on the planet. The water is extremely cold, so you have to wear a thick wetsuit. In the video below, I am the person in the cage closest to the camera.
2. Photographing Political Protests in Bangkok
Most of the red shirt protests in Bangkok in 2010 took place pretty far away from where I was staying on Sukhumvit Soi 33. However, one day the protesters decided to pay a visit to the Prime Ministers house, which happened to be a block away from me on Soi 31. I picked up my camera headed out to see what I could do.
Being a white guy with a fancy camera, no one really questioned what I was doing. I spent several hours between thousands of angry protesters and several hundred Bangkok police in full riot gear. I have to confess, it was totally exhilarating experience. Not only was I right in the middle of a potential riot, but I was actually covering some real news.
1. Swimming With Jellyfish in Palau
I can’t describe what it is like to swim in the jellyfish lake. There is nothing like it in the world. It is ethereal and it is surreal. I spent so much time in the lake that the group I was with was yelling at me to get out of the water. I didn’t want to leave. If you want to have an idea of what it is like, check out the video I made.
- Watching the blowholes in Samoa
- Night time on Rennell Island
- Finding a moon rock in the Solomon Islands
- Camping in Wadi Rum
- Diving the ruins of the Great Lighthouse of Alexandria
- Watching a tree full of fireflies in Papua New Guinea
- Experiencing the Holi Festival in Singapore
- Songkran in Thailand
- Almost getting trampled at the Taiwan National Day Celebration
- Visiting Preah Vihear Temple