Adventures of a Lifetime

It’s not hard to put together a list of classic encounters with the natural world: journeying across the Serengeti, swimming in the Great Barrier Reef, trekking up Mount Kilimanjaro. But the adventures on our list go a step further, helping us discover our place on this planet. From the ancient hunting rituals of the Kalahari Bushmen to the migration trails of polar bears, these ten trips are sure to awe and inspire.

By Jeff Hull

Photo by Taylor Kennedy (Getty Images)

Check in on Darwin’s Theory
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Most cultures can point to places where their creation myths were born. In the Galapagos, myths come undone. It was during a visit to these islands in 1835 that Charles Darwin pondered how similar ecological niches were filled by different species on islands separated by just a few miles. Darwin’s ultimate solution, the theory of natural selection, methodically explains how life on Earth came to look as it does today—which, in the Galapagos, is almost exactly the way it looked when Darwin was there.

The Galapagos’ highly regulated visitation program creates a certain sameness in tour options, but it also minimizes visitors’ disturbance of the wildlife. (Some Galapagos tortoises have been plodding around the islands since shortly after Darwin published his theory, almost 150 years ago.) Limiting the number of tourists has also fostered a lack of fear in the animals, practically guaranteeing intimate encounters. Be sure to book a small boat, like the sixteen-passenger catamaran Cormorant II, that lets you jump in the coves and reefs, and snorkel. The pageantry underwater is every bit as dazzling as it is on land. In his diary, Darwin described this chain of small islands as “a little world within itself.” And through him, they came to elegantly explain something about the rest of the world. If you want to connect with the fundamental elements of nature, the Galapagos Islands are a must see.
Book the Cormorant II through, a fair trade travel agency.

Ride a Horse into the Mountains
Rocky Mountains, Montana

Galloping through a remote area on horseback, you connect intimately with both your animal and the landscape. In Montana’s million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness Area (also called the Bob), horse hooves and hiking boots are the only way to get around. And what a wilderness it is: All of the region’s native creatures (with the exception of bison) still move through the Bob, a beautiful rarity. And if you’re riding a horse, the abundant elk and moose are more likely to stop and stare at you than to flee.

The Bob’s magnificent Chinese Wall, a 1,000-foot-high escarpment stretching for miles, and its glacier-scraped, U-shaped valleys are awesome monuments to the pure power of geology. Trout-stuffed, crystal-clear streams; broad meadows; and the pine-clad shoulders of countless mountains stand as testament to how this part of the world once was. Nothing is more quintessential to the American outdoors experience than the crackle of a campfire, the silhouette of a mountain in the moonlight, the howl of a coyote and—if you’re in the middle of the Bob—the gentle snort of horses.
To sign up for a ride, try or

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Issue 25

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