It was at Nepal Yoga Academy in the Kathmandu Valley a few months ago that I met Sarah, a special education needs teacher from Canada who happened to be settling down for a night of local food, meditation and a spot of yoga before she got on with her real reason for being in Nepal: trekking to Everest Base Camp. At 29 years old, Sarah isn’t a professional climber, nor had she trekked more than a few days at a time in the past, but, last year, she’d decided her next vacation would see her conquer base camp. She had spent the previous six months preparing for the challenge. Impressed as I was at Sarah’s commitment, it turns out that she is just one of a growing number of female adventure travellers the world over.
Last month, a group of women from across Australia converged on the Great Lakes in New South Wales for the nation’s first-ever Travel Play Live Women’s Adventure Summit, all in the vein of challenge and discovery. The Vienna-based global tour-booking website tourradar.com, which brings together trips from more than 500 travel companies, from Intrepid and G Adventures to smaller operators, revealed this year that 65 per cent of people booking adventure trips on their site are women. And in the United States, REI, a recreational and outdoor retail cooperative and adventure tour company, says that, contrary to stereotypes, half its adventure customers are female.
From dog-sledding across Norwegian snow to summiting Africa’s highest mountain, these adventure trips are no holds barred and no men allowed.
(See picture above) Much of the Galapagos Islands isn't the tropical island fantasy you might imagine. This archipelago, 997 kilometres (620 miles) off the coast of Ecuador, is in fact more reminiscent of how you might picture Mars: stark lava formations, cacti forests, jagged rocks and an ecosystem all of its own. For adventurers seeking uncharted territory, Wild Women Expeditions has teamed up with Ecuadorian naturalist-trained, female guides to create a 10-day, multi-sport, adventure trip, discovering the place that served as inspiration for Darwin's natural selection theory. Participants navigate the islands on motorised vessels, hike up lava trails, kayak to beaches packed with lolling sea lions, and snorkel in an ocean thriving with brilliant marine-life. Book on the trip and you'll hike to the spot where Darwin's HMS Beagle landed in 1835, conquer a 9.65km climb to the active volcano Sierra Negra and stand-up paddle board to small islets where you'll hang out with giant tortoises, pink iguanas and rare lava gulls. All adventure gear is included in the price, as are meals, including a final night dinner with a local fishing family.
Prices start at US$5,495 (Dh20,184) per person, based on two people travelling and including all domestic flights. The next trip is scheduled for November 11.
If the idea of ringing in 2018 on the summit of Africa’s highest peak appeals, then check out WHOA (Women High On Adventure) Travel’s seven-day trek to Mount Kilimanjaro. Flying into Tanzania, the fun starts with a day-long trek through thick rainforests where you’ll see colobus monkeys, bush bucks and wild buffalo, before setting up camp. The next four days involve scrambling through Kilimanjaro’s heath, hiking to Lava Tower, dropping through a forest of zany-looking Dendrosenecio kilimanjari trees and scaling the steep sides of Barranco Wall. Next day, expect a gruelling trek through the barren Alpine Desert and then, as the world gets ready to say goodbye to 2017, you’ll be donning a headlamp to set off on a five-hour trek to Stella Point. Navigating by starlight, you’ll arrive at Furtwängler Glacier just as the first sunrise of the year begins to shine. Continue to Uhuru Peak at a height of almost 6,000 metres and enjoy the view from Africa’s highest point. Descending, you have the chance to stop by a village school or visit women-run enterprises and there’s the option to add on a two-day safari exploring Tarangire National Park and Ngorongoro Crater.
Rates start from $3,400 per person or $4,390 per person with the two-day safari add-on. Prices includes transfers, national park permits, guides, accommodation and most meals but not trekking equipment. The next trip sets off on December 26
Mushing through Norway
Cool adventures await in Scandinavia's northernmost country. Trøndelag in the centre of Norway is a winter playground cut by wind and snow and the site of Nature Travels' three-day dog sledding tours, where the only males involved are the huskies pulling your sleigh. The trip starts with instructions on mushing, including how to harness the dogs, steer your sled and apply brakes, as well as plenty of bonding time with the huskies. The next morning, experience the thrill of hurtling across snow-covered fields as you put all your trust in your dogs. Stop for lunch over an open fire-pit before returning to your chalet for a traditional Norwegian dinner. Day three brings more of the same – this time touring another part of the region. If you're feeling extra adventurous, opt for the five-day experience for a more physically challenging adventure. Navigate mountainous terrain and sleep overnight in a simple mountain cabin, with only the Norwegian wilderness and your dogs for company.
Three-day tours start from £805 (Dh3,915) per person based on two travelling and include transfers, accommodation, meals, guides and all adventure equipment. Tours can be organised from January to April (www.naturetravels.co.uk).
Catching Moroccan waves
In June this year, the Agadir Open – Morocco's most renowned surfing competition – included a women's division for the first time in its seven-year history. With it's internationally-reputed break points and 500 kilometre stretch of Atlantic coastline, the kingdom has been attracting wave-hungry visitors for years, and now women are officially getting in on the act. Join fellow female boarders for a week of wave-catching with a Girls' Surf and Yoga Week by Azrac Surf Morocco. Just 14km from Agadir, in the village of Tamraght, the trip offers easy access to more than 20 surf spots. Mornings are spent in the water where you'll learn how to ride, duck dive, turn and roll, while afternoons are all about the free surf. Bedding down in a pink sandstone homestay dubbed the Surf Riad, you'll enjoy traditional food cooked up by Chef Fatima and yoga sessions on the roof-top terrace as the sun sets over Tagazhout Bay. The trip also includes a visit to the waterfalls of Paradise Valley and a Moroccan hammam experience.
Prices start from €590 (Dh2,548) per person including tuition, gear, transport, meals and transfers (www.azracsurf.com); next departure February 6.
Powder chasing in Japan
Listed as Lonely Planet's best destination to visit in Asia last year, Hokkaido is Japan's northern frontier. From November, snow falls here almost every day, earning it its reputation as an international ski destination. If you're keen to crank up the adventure, Backcountry Babes organise a seven-day, off-piste expedition that takes women away from the crowded runs to navigate thigh-deep drifts. Geared towards experienced backcountry skiers or splitboarders, you need to have a decent level of fitness and some avalanche safety awareness to book. Starting in Furano, enjoy lift-accessed and hike-to-backcountry skiing led by professionals trained by the Canadian Mountain Guides and the Japanese Avalanche Network who will take you to their favourite powder trails. As night falls, bed-down at a boutique Japanese lodge and enjoy a dip in a natural onsen, the ideal antidote for ski-weary muscles. On day four, it's off to Asahidake, Hokkaido's highest peak and part of the Daisetsuzan National Park where birch tree skiing and fluffy runs await. There's a 100-person cable car to whisk you high up on the volcano from where you can dive deep into the backcountry and excellent ski lines.
Prices start from $3,890 per person including accommodation, meals, guides and lift tickets, but not ski/board gear. The next trip is on February 11.