Nat Geo announces People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year

People's Choice Adventurer of the YearThis past November, National Geographic announced their selection for the 2012 Adventurers of the Year, bestowing the honor on a group of 12 very worthy men and women from across the globe. That list included the likes of long distance hiker Jennifer Pharr Davis, who set a new speed record on the Appalachian Trail, and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, the first woman to climb the highest mountain on the planet without the use of supplemental oxygen. At the time of the announcement, National Geographic also launched a website that allowed the general public to cast their votes for their favorite adventurer. Now, more than 72,000 votes later we have a winner in the People’s Choice category.

The 2012 People’s Choice Adventurers of the Year are Sano Babu Sunuwar and Lakpa Tsheri Sherpa, who gained worldwide attention last May when they climbed to the top of Mt. Everest and paraglided off of the summit. Their 42-minute flight down the Khumbu Valley was simply the beginning of their adventure, however, as they continued their expedition on sea level. The duo rode bikes to the nearest navigable river, then kayaked across the border into India where they eventually paddled onto the Ganges River, leading them all the way to the Indian Ocean.

Along the way, the two men displayed a true sense of adventure. Not only was this a grassroots expedition that didn’t have a sponsor, but also, the travelers were forced to borrow gear from friends just so they could set out on their journey. As if that wasn’t enough, Lakpa had never even set foot in a kayak before and still doesn’t know how to swim, while Babu had no experience as a climber. Not many people complete their first major ascent on the tallest mountain on the planet, yet he was still able to follow his friend to the summit.

You can read more about their amazing story as well as the other Adventurers of the Year by clicking here.

[Photo courtesy of Sano Babu Sunuwar]

6 surf destinations you’d never think of

Sure, we all know the world of surfing revolves around Hawaii’s fabled North Shore. If you’ve ever owned a board, you can probably rattle off some of the other global hot spots: Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Fiji, California, Costa Rica…the list goes on and on.

Just because the same 20 places have some of the best waves on the planet, however, doesn’t mean that the rest of the globe is forced to go without. Ever since the 1966 release of the timeless surf film Endless Summer, global surf travelers have been pushing the boundaries of scoring waves in increasingly obscure locations.

Lately, it seems as if the act of finding waves in remote locations is potentially more exhilarating than the act of riding the waves themselves. Here on Gadling we’ve reported before about surfers hunting down waves from Lake Erie to Iceland in search of some stoke, and Surfing magazine has hosted contests such as the Google Earth Challenge in a modern effort to scour the globe for unknown pointbreaks and barrels.

So, in the spirit of ever-expanding global surf travel, here is a list of 6 locations you might want to put on your surf radar.

1. Namibia

Ever since Skeleton Bay was popularized by the 2008 Google Earth Challenge, this southwestern African nation has officially been placed on the surf map. Unfortunately for the casual surfer, however, a surf trip to Namibia isn’t exactly your afternoon stroll down to the beach. The water is consistently frigid, coastal access is largely controlled by heavily armed diamond miners, and large colonies of seals attract toothy predators that are unwanted in any surf lineup. For those with the resources to break down the desert barriers however, the rewards can be empty beaches that are home to some of the world’s longest barrels.

2. Bangladesh

More commonly known as one of the world’s most crowded nations, few people know that Bangladesh is also home to the world’s longest beach, Cox’s Bazar, which I’m going to go out on a limb and label the Bangladeshi Riviera. Aside from being the nation’s most popular beach resort, it’s also the home base of the Bangladesh Surf Club, which according to its website currently has over 70 members.

3. Oman

One of the most stable nations in the Middle East, Oman also boasts over 2,000km of coastline directly fronting the Arabian Sea. While the area is prone to blinding sandstorms and inhospitable terrain, it nonetheless is a popular surf getaway for the nearby urban centers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the neighboring United Arab Emirates. The desert nation has recently been featured in a number of mainstream surfing magazines, and online surf forums such as
Surfers of Dubai are beginning to legitimize Oman as a regional surfing outpost.

4. Uruguay

Sandwiched between Buenos Aires and Brazil, people tend to forget about Uruguay, which is a major South American faux pas. One group of individuals who consistently flock to Uruguay in droves, however, are Brazilian and Argentinian surfers who road trip to the coastal nation for a shot at some South Atlantic juice. While trendy locales such as Punta del Este get all of the attention (surf all day, gamble all night), it’s the remote sand dunes and fishing villages of eastern Uruguay that consistently see the best surf.

5. Ghana

Though waves have crashed into the West African coastline since well before colonialism, it was the boys from Endless Summer who first put Ghana on the surfing map. One of the most economically stable nations in West Africa, various surf shops and groups such as the Ghana Surfing Association have begun to spring up along the coastline to accommodate the growing legions of local and visiting surfers, their boards gliding through the tropical waves to the beat of a West African drum.

6. Thailand

Better known for it’s beaches, diving, and morally questionable tourism, Thailand is also the premier surf destination on the Southeast Asian peninsula (with perhaps the exception of southern Vietnam). Monsoon winds provide ample surf for certain parts of the year, and although the Thailand surf scene is centered around the beaches of Phuket, other islands such as Koh Lanta and Koh Pha Ngan can pull in some pretty hefty Asian slabs for anyone hanging out during the monsoon.

Bengal Tigers to get special protection

Bengal tiger
The Royal Bengal Tiger and other animals are to get special protection from the government of Bangladesh.

The government is setting up a 300-member force to patrol the areas where the endangered tigers live. This is in reaction to recent poaching incidents targeting the tigers and well as other animals such as turtles and crocodiles. The poaching and smuggling of animals is a major international problem. There’s a huge demand for rare animals as pets, decoration, food, and as ingredients in traditional medicine. Many of the animals most in demand, like tigers and rhinos, are endangered.

Most of the Bengal tigers in Bangladesh live in the Sundarbans, a huge mangrove forest straddling the India-Bangladesh border. It’s designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its incredible variety of wildlife and is an important tourist draw for both countries.

[Photo courtesy Paul Mannix]

Driving from Bangladesh to England in a classic Rolls Royce

Driving a classic Rolls Royce from Bangladesh to the U.K.Rupert Grey and his wife Jan are preparing to make an epic road trip this September. The kind of road trip that we all dream about during which we leave our normal, mundane, lives behind in favor of the open road and untold adventures. In this case, our two intrepid travelers will begin their journey in Bangladesh and eventually end up back in their native England, covering thousands of miles in between. But Rupert and Jan aren’t content with just making that journey in just any old vehicle, which is why they’ll be driving their classic 1936 Rolls Royce along the way.

While the start of their adventure is still a few months off, the couple are making preparations for what will likely be a fantastic journey. They will be shipping their car to Chittagong, Bangladesh, where they will set out to drive through Bhutan, Nepal, and India before arriving at the Arabian Sea. From there, they’ll board a ship bound for Iran, where they’ll once again hit the open road, crossing into Turkey and eventually Europe, before returning back to the U.K.

Intrigued by this unique road trip, an independent film company hopes to make a documentary of Rupert and Jan’s journey. Rover Films is currently seeking funding for the project, and have already tentatively named their film A Sense of Adventure. You can check out the teaser trailer for it below.

Reading about this story left me to wondering. If you could take any road trip in any vehicle, where would you go and what would you drive? For me personally, I’d love to go from Cairo, Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa, in a classic Land Rover Defender. Say circa 1985 or so.

How about you?

[Photo credit: Rover Films]

A Sense Of Adventure OFFICIAL TEASER from Rover Films on Vimeo.

Piracy reached record levels in 2010

pirate, pirates, piracy, Somalia, Somali, Red sea, red sea
Pirate hijackings in the Red Sea and nearby waters reached their highest levels ever, the Associated Press reports.

Pirate hijackings worldwide claimed 1,181 hostages and 53 vessels, a rise of ten percent since 2009. Of these, 49 ships were taken by Somali gunmen in the Red Sea or nearby waters in the Indian Ocean. Somali piracy has been the biggest problem area despite an international fleet of warships trying to stop it. Somalis have taken four more ships so far in 2011 and currently hold 31 ships and 713 people captive.

Somali pirates generally use speedboats to come up alongside freighters, tankers, or smaller ships and then threaten to open fire if the captain doesn’t stop. The pirates then board the vessel and radio in a ransom demand that can amount to millions of dollars. Prisoners are generally not hurt, although eight were killed last year. Usually the ransom is paid.

Because naval vessels have been able to stop some attacks near the Somali coast, pirates have moved operations further into the Indian Ocean where they’re harder to catch. Other problem areas include Nigerian, Bangladeshi, and Indonesian waters.

Somali pirates claim they have been forced into piracy because their fishermen have been pushed out of work by illegal fishing by foreign vessels and illegal dumping of toxic waste by big corporations.

If you’re worried about piracy, stay away from the Red Sea area, and check out our handy tips on what to do if pirates board your ship.

[Photo courtesy Mass communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky , U.S. Navy.]