Life on the edge
Take one of these daredevil trips to find out whether your relationship will stay the course
Ian Fleming, creator of the world's most famous daredevil, James Bond, wrote: "You only live twice. Once when you are born, and once when you look death in the face."
The adventure trips below may not bring you directly into the face of death, but they are death-defying enough to revive a stale marriage, bond an awkward honeymoon couple or prove once and for all that your girlfriend has what it takes to go the extra mile with you.
Sure, it's easy to talk your best male friend into climbing an erupting volcano or cage diving with great white sharks - but if the woman in your life agrees to it, and does it with a smile on her face, you had better treat her right for the rest of your lives and never let her go. She's truly a keeper.
If you are a couple who feel alive only when adrenalin is pumping through your veins, try one of these adventures of a lifetime for a his-and-hers holiday that will elevate your relationship to an entirely new level:
Ski down a glacier
The setting: Nowadays, numerous spots around the globe - from the Swiss Alps to the Chilean Andes - offer helicopter tours whisking you up to remote mountain slopes for the ultimate ski escapade. But why not start where it all began? Canadian Mountain Holidays (www.canadianmountainholidays.com +403-762-7100) conducted the world's very first heli-skiing trips in 1965 in the Bugaboo Mountains, near the border of British Columbia and Alberta. The dramatic Bugaboos are a collection of rock spires jutting into the sky like granite knives over 3,000 metres high. "Bugaboo" is gold prospector slang for "dead-end", which only makes them more attractive to diehard thrill seekers.
The adrenalin: Using a fleet of 25 twin-engine, 11-passenger Alpine helicopters, specially trained mountain pilots whirl you up to the virgin powder of the Bugaboos' backcountry glaciers. From December until the end of April, patient instructors show you how to ski (or snowboard) in the deep summit snow. Most intermediate skiers get the hang of owning their own mountain face after just one or two runs. Expert skiers can opt for a heli-tour for black diamond slopes.
The retreat: Canadian Mountain Holidays operates 11 guest lodges in the deep wilderness, with access to more than 24,000 square kilometres of terrain, making this the world's largest private area for heli-skiing. Opt for the historic Bugaboo Lodge, housing just 44 lucky guests. This isn't really roughing it, not with massages, saunas, a rooftop whirlpool, bar and dining room, Wi-fi and fibre optics, and gourmet meals. If your aching après-ski muscles can withstand it, there's even an indoor climbing wall to conquer.
Hike on a hot volcano
The setting: The Kilauea crater on the Big Island of Hawaii is home to the longest volcanic eruption in human history (since 1983). Part of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the crater's cascading lava flows into the sea, creating huge billowing steam clouds and one of Mother Nature's most stunning sights. The Big Island is true to its name, with nearly a dozen separate ecosystems and frequent winter snow on its 3,000-metre-plus volcanic summits.
The adrenalin: You will soon realise that attempting to get up- close and personal to Kilauea lava flows is a suicide mission - once the soles of your shoes begin to melt underneath your feet. The fields of black volcanic rock can cut like glass, while unseen lava tubes beneath the ground frequently collapse, revealing what the interiors of hell must look like. The unstable cliffs have been known to slide straight into the fierce ocean, taking sightseers along with them. Hawaii Forest & Trail (www.hawaii-forest.com 808-331-8505) offers daytime and twilight lava-viewing hikes, showing you hidden molten lakes and lesser-known trails, while recounting Hawaiian legends about fire goddess Pele. They will also walk you through a dormant (read: perfectly safe) lava tube.
The retreat: After you have shown her hell, you will want to reward your darling with a snuggle in front of a lava rock fireplace or a warm soak in an outdoor Japanese furo tub under tsugi pines. You can do both by overnighting in one of the historic and luxurious Hale Ohia Cottages (www.haleohia.com +808-967-7986). This fairy-tale property encompasses 60-year-old botanical gardens, set amid a misty fern forest. There's even access to secret hiking trails around the volcano vents - if you dare venture into the fiery realm of Pele.
Dive among sharks
The setting: Just two hours from hip and happening Cape Town is the quiet South African fishing village of Gansbaai, founded in 1881. This is the area of the Western Cape where hundreds of shipwrecks met their early fate, but its real infamy lies in its Shark Alley. Just a few kilometres off the appropriately named Danger Point, Shark Alley is where tens of thousands of fur seals make their home on island colonies. To the great white sharks, it's simply an all-you-can-eat buffet.
The adrenalin: Neither you nor your significant other needs to be a certified diver to submerge yourselves in Shark Alley. You simply don a wetsuit and hop into a three-metre-long steel cage to come face to face with the sharks. Go with White Shark Ecoventures (www.white-shark-diving.com; +27-21-532-0470) on its stable 11-metre catamaran that holds about 25 divers (don't worry, the life raft holds 50). It is the only dive operator with specially fashioned motors that lift out of the water so as to not harm the wild sharks. The peak shark-viewing season is from April until October.
The retreat: White Shark Ecoventures offers overnight accommodation near Shark Alley in a stunning three-storey guesthouse built in the traditional African rondavel style. Each suite comes with its own living room, bedroom, bath and full daily English breakfast with pancakes.
Kayak amid killer whales
The setting: Wild, windy, and blanketed in darkness for months, the primordial landmass of Antarctica is like leaving the planet itself. Once only the domain of scientists and penguins, the mysterious Seventh Continent now hosts thousands of guests from November to March on a variety of both small and large cruises.
The adrenalin: Only a handful of cruise ships to Antarctica offer guided paddle excursions in one-person kayaks around its frozen paradise of bays and glaciers. One of the most experienced is Peregrine Adventures (www.peregrineadventures.com +61-38601-4444). Before you grab your kayak and swimsuit, you will need layers of clothing under a diver's dry suit, lest you wind up with hypothermia. Leopard seals will bob up next to you, huge orca whales glide around your kayak, and multi-storey icebergs tower above your head.
The retreat: For confirmed masochists, Peregrine hosts an overnight on the ice sheet where you and your partner will huddle in sleeping bags. Your reward will be a mind-blowing romantic panorama of more stars than you ever knew existed. Like the bulk of Antarctic cruises, departures are from the port of Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina - the shortest sailing distance from Antarctica. Professional lectures, sumptuous family-style meals, massages and a sauna will keep you busy. You will often find the Russian crew splashing about in the unheated plunge pool, instilling confidence that, with these hearty souls in charge, you will indeed make it back alive.