It’s hard to conclusively say that more travelers are actively seeking dangerous vacation experiences, but it is certain that there are a growing number of purveyors willing to put together a little organized danger on your trip, whether it be bungee jumping, or skydiving, or riding an elephant.
Seeking out a vacation with a twist of danger is nothing new. After all, tourists have been flocking to Pamplona, Spain to run with the bulls for hundreds of years.
Recently, XCOR Aerospace and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic have begun selling seats on future sub-orbital space flights while Virgin Oceanic (also of the Branson Virgin Group of companies) has been working on deep sea submarines that will take humans to never-before-explored depths of the ocean.
As part of the “you’re only here once” mantra that makes tourists do things they wouldn’t normally do, there are a number of currently available activities that can cause trouble for travelers.
Tourists now have access to many sports like parasailing and cage-diving, which attract thousands of tourists every year.
Paragliding over the ocean in a safety harness while being pulled by a powerboat is referred to as ‘parasailing,’ and according to the Parasail Safety Council, which tracks injuries and deaths nationwide, more than 70 people have been killed and at least 1,600 injured between 1982 and 2012 out of an estimated 150 million parasail rides.
Unlike other adventure sports like hang gliding, which have a measure of regulatory and safety equipment oversight, commercial parasailing does not. The lack of regulations, however, doesn’t stop people from starting up parasailing companies and it certainly hasn’t stopped people from wanting to take a ride.
A sunny day at the beach isn’t so benign everywhere you go. In fact there are a number of beaches around the world that are known for high fatality rates and serious injuries, including (but not limited to):
- Acapulco, Mexico where the annual number of murders tripled in 2011 making it one of the most violent cities in the world and giving it a reputation for gangland kidnappings.
- Second Beach, Port St. John, South Africa where every single shark incident has proved fatal, giving it one of the worst safety records in the world.
- Western Australian coast beaches, which hold the 2011 record for the highest fatality rate due to shark attacks.
- Haina Beach, Dominican Republic, the site of a former lead-battery recycling smelter and thus the third-most-polluted place in the world with the highest levels of lead poisoning.
- Volusia County Beaches, Florida where more unprovoked shark attacks on humans have occurred per square mile than anywhere else in the world – six in 2011 alone.
- Chowpatty Beach, Mumbai, India, one of the world’s most polluted beaches and where locals still wade into the water every year for the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi.
Many travelers are now combining their vacation time with annual fitness events, and all around the globe there are physical fitness events you can work into your vacation, including (but not limited to):
- The world’s highest trail running event – the Tenzing-Hillary Everest Marathon, which is run on the anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing’s summit of Everest on May 29 each year. At an elevation of 5,000 meters above sea level, this is an event that’s dominated by the locals.
- The world’s toughest cross-country ski race – the Arctic Circle Race, which is held on Greenland’s west coast and covers over 100 miles in three days. Skiers from all over the world compete in this race every year and sleep in tents in the middle of the Arctic wilderness just for fun every night.
- The world’s most spectacular paddle race – the Yukon River Quest, Canada, which winds through the rugged Yukon River wilderness on a 705-kilometer course that takes place over 5 days in summer.
Of course, fearless fitness travelers don’t have to wait for an organized event to get their heart thumping – the most dangerous roads, climbs, and trails are available all year long.
While the ethics of disaster tourism, the act of purposely traveling to view the site of a disaster as a matter of curiosity, are still debated in some circles, there are many tour companies willing to take travelers where they can view the aftermath of natural and man-made disasters and even get a bite to eat. Here are a just a few:
- Chernobyl, to date the world’s most devastating nuclear disaster site, is a strictly regulated tour operation and the number of people who can visit is carefully limited (so plan far in advance).
- Hurricane Katrina Tour, includes an eyewitness account of the events surrounding the most devastating natural disaster in America.
- Icelandic volcano tours, where visitors can see the aftermath of the most recent volcanic eruptions in the ‘land of fire and ice’ by plane, helicopter, or jeep.
Of course, a traveler can always get the first-hand look by volunteering at the site of a disaster too.
What’s the risk?
So, what’s the risk you say? Well, plenty from the point of your travel insurance.
- Nuclear disasters are not covered with any travel insurance plan, so it’s presumed that anything that happens while touring the site of a nuclear disaster would not be covered.
- Participation in organized sports events is usually not covered with a travel insurance plan, although some plans do allow for amateur sporting event participation.
- Parasailing is considered a high-risk activity (and now we know why) and therefore not a covered activity by your travel insurance policy unless you specifically purchase an adventure activities waiver.
- So far, deep sea exploration and space flights are also not covered by any travel insurance plan.
In addition, there are just some things that travel insurance will never, ever cover.
Not for a single minute are we trying to rain on your vacation parade or tell you that your travel insurance won’t cover it, so you can’t do it. What you do need to do is spend a little time thinking about the activities you want to do on your trip and understanding what your travel insurance plan will cover if something happens.
See Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Plan Document? for the quickest and best way to analyze your travel insurance plan document.