Experience Earth’s Elements

Nature's Top Attractions

Eisriesenwelt Ice Caves in Austria

EARTH

If exploring an untouched subterranean world and discovering natural beauty in rock formations that are millions of years old is on your radar, then caving is a holiday adventure you should consider.

There are many impressive and unique caves around the world to visit but the Eisriesenwelt in Austria is a must-see. It’s the largest ice cave in the worldand is visited by about 200 000 tourists a year! The cave can be found inside the Hochkogel Mountain in a section of the Alps and its name means “World of the Ice Giants” in German.Nearly 100 million years ago the Eisriesenwelt cave was formed by a river, which eroded passageways into the mountain. Although the cave has a length of 42 kilometres, only the first kilometre is open to tourists and covered in ice, the rest of the cave is limestone. Who discovered it? A scientist from Salzburg: Anton Posselt in 1879, although he only explored the first 200 metres of it. Before his discovery, the cave was known only by locals, who believed it was the entrance to Hell and refused to explore it.

Journey to the far corners of the globe to experience Mother Nature’s grand highlights, but don’t forget that sometimes what you’re looking for can be found closer to home than you think.

Go Local:Cango Caves

Our very own Cango Caves, situated in the foothills of the Swartberg mountains (28 kilometres from the town of Oudtshoorn) were first formed 20 million years ago. Specially illuminated paths mean visitors can see some of the largest stalagmite formations in the world. Tours are led through the caves, and although not all of it is open to the public to help preserve them, you can still see some incredible underground wonders.

FIRE

Witnessing a river of liquid fire pour from the depths of the earth is an incomparable sight. If it’s something you haven’t yet experienced you may want to consider a travel break toIceland.Simply put, Iceland is one giant geological hotspot! The country is one of the most active volcanic regions in the world, with eruptions occurring every four years on average. Tours under the supervision of experienced mountain guides and geologists will take you right to the eruptions to experience the spectacle of raw fire power bursting from the ground.

For the more daring tourist who wants to know what a volcano looks like from the insidethere is a special limited tour into the colossalThrihnukagigurvolcano(good luck trying to pronounce it). This tour will take you into a volcano that last erupted 4000 years ago, and is unlikely to erupt any time soon. Brave tourists undertake a moderate 45-minute hike to get to the crater,pass into the volcano through the four-by-four-metre opening in its summitand descend 120 metres in an open cable liftthrough this ancient chasmto the bottom of the crater.If you’ve got the guts, apparently it’s worth the experience.

www.insidethevolcano.com

Go Local:Hot Springs

A naturalhot spring is water typically heated by subterranean volcanic activity.In South Africa, it turns out, there are more than 80 natural hot springs steaming out of Mother Earth. Closest to Gauteng is the small town ofBela Bela, a Northern Sotho name meaning “Boiling-Boiling”. The town’s world-renowned hot water springs were discovered by the Tswanas in the 1800s. Hot water bubbles out of the earth at approximately 22 000 litres per hour with a temperature of 53°C. Rich in limestone minerals, the springs attract thousands of visitors who come to the town to enjoy the healing qualities of the waters.

AIR

Credited for being the birthplace of modern kite-surfing in the 90s and the stage for the first competition of the sport, any list of the world’s top kite-surfing hotspots would be incomplete without mentioning Maui, Hawaii.Historically, this mecca for windsurfing and, well, wave-surfing is now unsurprisingly one of the world’s best kite-surfing destinations too! The winds are near-perfect, due to consistent trade winds which are accelerated by the venturi effect between Maui’s two volcanoes. The soft white sand beaches and turquoise waters complete the wish list. Mauiattracts kite-surfers of all levels, from the first-timer to the seasoned pro, all there to harness the winds of Kanaha Beach by day, and party at the luaus by night.

Go Local:Muizenberg Beach

Muizenberg is a kite-surfing hotspot with wind statistics the most consistent throughout the day than any other place across the whole of South Africa. Due to a unique thermal effect and its proximity to the Cape of Good Hope, a moderate onshore wind blows into Muizenberg on afternoons even forecasted with no wind. A typical kite-surfing summer’s day in Muizenberg has about 15-18 knots wind in the morning, picking up progressively to 25-30 knots in the afternoon. The water is warm and Muizenberg also offers a large several-kilometre-long stretch of uncrowded beach swept by consistent, onshore wind. A real paradise for kite-surfers!

WATER

Dropping from a height of 979 metres, Angel Falls in Venezuela is the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall and one of the most beautiful places on earthto visit.It is 15 times as high as Niagara Falls and was discovered in 1937 by Jimmy Angel – an Americanaviator, who was the first person to fly over the falls.

Since Angel Falls is situated in an isolated jungle,getting there is an adventure in itself. A flight from Puerto Ordaz or Ciudad Bolívar is required to reach Canaima camp, the starting point for river trips to the base of the falls. Although a trip to the falls is a complicated affair, flight tickets are available at cheap rates andAngel Falls remains one of Venezuela’s top tourist attractions.

Go Local:White Water Rafting

South Africa is home to some awesome torrential rivers that promise exhilarating white water rafting adventures. Probably the most well known is the Orange River, for its still and scenic route but also for its fun rapids. Inflatable rafts allow for a safe ride through fast-flowing rapids and are easy to control. Two qualified river guides take the lead and no previous experience or any level of fitness is required to enjoy hours of fun and challenging adventures on the water. Remember, a rafting trip is not a race, so relax and admire the beautiful sceneryand be ready for the rousing rapids along the way.

www.riverrafters.co.za