At its heart, adventure travel is about testing limits—of altitude, temperature and, at times, good sense. Here, some thrill-seeking pros explain the urge to take things to extremes.
Illustration Dave Murray
TO DIVE FOR
Bahamas Underground: Brian Kakuk
“My background is military. I got into this after I saw a video by some cave diver and thought, ‘I’m a Navy diver; if this redneck can do this, so can I’—and promptly set out to nearly kill myself. So I got some training and equipment and started over.
People come from all over the world to see these unbelievable places. The Bahamas are all limestone, which is soft and porous, so these are extensive, multilevel caves that can go down hundreds of feet. Some areas are so tight you have to remove your equipment; then there are massive canyons like the one I call Wrigley Field, which is 400 feet long and 200 feet wide.
It can be intimidating. Some of these places are dark and gothic and scary, but in others the water is so clear it looks like air. You’ll be swimming among structures that look like crystal chandeliers or pure white pillars. Then you’ll find caves that are every color imaginable—it’s like swimming through psychedelic tubes.
Also, the Bahamas have the most significant cave biology in the world. There are unique and extremely old critters down there: fishes whose eyes have receded into their skulls, a tiny white centipede that’s one of the oldest known animals of its kind. A lot of the creatures live in sulfur-based communities; they’re like something from a different planet.
Generally, the people who dive with me are more advanced. They know the equipment and understand what it is to be in dark and confined spaces. But then I’ve had grown men come out crying because these caves are so beautiful. It changes you.”
Shark dives at Sydney’s Manly Sea Life Sanctuary require you to resist the natural impulse to swim away from anything with a dorsal fin larger than a Dorito. The results are worth it.
Costa Rica’s Renaissance Adventure Guides offers whitewater trips for skill levels from wobbler to rapid-basher. The frothier rios here require a “reliable river roll”—and not of the inadvertent variety.