Australian Adventure Tourism
Industry and technology are advancing at rates no one could ever have imagined, and as this happens the realms of the unknown and the undiscovered become less and less. To counter this humanity has made their paths of discovery internal rather than external- we try to conceive fresh things within ourselves because there is nothing left to discover in the world. As a result a lot of our actions are about pushing boundaries, defying the perceived restrictions on things we do and say. Our leisure pursuits have become an avenue for this expression, and as a result the whole concept of adventure tourism has taken off in recent years. Adventure tourism involves activities that make us step out of our comfort zone, that involve some degree of risk taking. Think rock climbing, white water rafting, scuba diving, jet boating, snowboarding and 4 wheel driving. And think Australia, a country whose varied landscapes are one of the world's favourite adventure tourism playgrounds!

Thrillseekers are getting their kicks on the lofty, snow dusted peaks of the Victorian and New South Wales Highlands right down to beneath the surface of the ocean on the Great Barrier Reef. Lets start up at the top - the official snow season in Australia starts in the first week of June and ends in the first week of October, although the best falls are normally during July to September. And if theres no snow- well, the ski resorts have invested in snow making equipment to ensure good times can still be had. And in the summer months mountain biking down the rocky slopes, canoeing the fast flowing streams and fishing for trout in the cold lakes picks up where skiing and snow boarding left off.

The two largest New South Wales resorts are Thredbo and Perisher Blue, in the Snowy Mountains on the Great Dividing Range between NSW and Victoria. Both are resort towns with spectacular alpine runs nearby that are serviced by chairlifts. Mt Hotham and Falls creek are the two largest ski resorts in Victoria, both about a five hour drive from Melbourne. The snow season in all the resorts is a festive time that sees skiers and boarders converge on the slopes from all over the world. Its all about the snow- its all about the adventure!

Lets transport ourselves to a completely different environment now, one of colour and underwater delights. Scuba diving is probably the form of adventure tourism where nature is most appreciated, and nowhere is this appreciation stronger than on the Great Barrier Reef. Lying parallel to the Queensland coastline, this giant living organism can be accessed from numerous points on the coast where charter boats will take you on diving, snorkelling and sight seeing expeditions. The North Queensland city of Cairns is probably the most popular diving centre, and all levels of diver are catered to from beginners to advanced. North of Cairns lies Port Douglas, another popular diving town, and down the coast Townsville is also a popular dive centre, as is Airlie Beach.

Airlie Beach is popular amongst visitors to the Whitsunday Islands, which are a stalwart of another form of adventure tourism- sailing. Learning to sail through these magnificent islands is a breathtaking experience that wil take you past pine-coated mountains and white beaches, past surfacing loggerhead turtles and schools of flying fish. Fun group tours are available, ranging from day trips to longer excursions that involve a few nights on the water. Its a great way to get some excitement, and an opportunity to bond with others on the cruise.

Sticking with the water based attractions, white water rafting is a daredevil pursuit that is extremely popular in the areas of Australia where river conditions permit it. Again Cairns shines through as a stronghold of this type of adventure tourism. The rainforests around Cairns are the planets oldest continuously growing rainforests, and to cruise down the wild waterways that criss cross them is a thrill in itself. To take this cruise when the rivers are at their highest levels, crashing over rocks and squeezing through ravines, is akin to grabbing life by the horns and shaking it around like a rag doll. The good thing about Cairns is there are rafting adventures to suit all levels of fitness and experience, so everyone can get involved.

Looking inland again, another gentler adventure pursuit is hot air ballooning. Nothing quite beats watching the sun rise from 2000 feet in the air, silence all round, glass of champagne in hand. The good thing about this pursuit is you dont have to be too adventurous to do it, and all shapes, sizes and ages of people can do it. In Australia the undulating hills and the fertile scenery of places like the Hunter Valley in New South wales and the Barossa Valley in South Australia are popular hot air ballooning spots. They are two of the premier wine producing regions in Australia, so the views over the vineyards are quite unique.

So adventure tourism isnt about near death experiences and pushing yourself to the limits of your capabilities. Its about connecting with your surroundings in a way that helps you connect with yourself- its about pushing the envelope just that little bit to help you feel a lot more alive. So the next time you plan a holiday, think about ways to make that holiday more exciting in ways that will enhance your viewpoint on life. You'll never feel so invigorated!

Gavin Wyatt