Insane Cliff Diving Footage From Ireland

Two very unique things happened in the Aran Islands last month: people talked on the street conversing only in Gaelic, and world-class divers threw themselves off of an 89-foot-high platform into a rectangular blowhole known as the Serpent’s Lair.

A collection of three inhabited islands off the western coast of Ireland, the Aran Islands are regarded as being one of the last places on the planet where it’s still possible to hear the Gaelic language spoken amongst the majority of locals.

The commitment to maintaining the Irish heritage in the Aran Islands is so strong that the main island of Inis Mor even houses a coláiste, an Irish-only language school where students caught speaking English at any point are open to expulsion without refund of their tuition.

With that thought in mind, I wonder what the Gaelic term is for “psychotic cliff-diving freak athlete,” because I can imagine that was mumbled a number of times by the crowds of local onlookers watching divers jump 28 meters (89 feet) into a roiling cauldron of freezing cold seawater.

Last month’s participants found themselves jumping into the fourth stop on the 2012 Red Bull World Series of Cliff Diving, “The Serpent’s Lair,” a naturally occurring, perfectly-rectangular blowhole, which according to Irish lore was once home to a tempestuous and violent sea serpent.

With the serpent nowhere in sight for this year’s competition, divers instead needed to worry about doing a belly flop at speed’s topping out at 60mph.

Next up on this year’s circuit? The September 8 event being held in the similarly chilly waters of Wales.

15 Crazy And Daring Ideas For Your Next Trip

sharks While you may think you’ve done some crazy things on your travels, you’ll probably change your mind after reading this list. Planning your own kidnapping? Paying someone to torture you? Getting into a tank with giant saltwater crocodiles? These experiences are definitely once-in-a-lifetime, and not for the faint of heart.

Although some of these daring activities can be pretty – OK, very – dangerous, they have all been done time and time again by adventurous travelers. And, if you’re looking to take your adrenaline to the next level, or just want to try something new, you may want to consider adding some of these excursions to your trip itinerary.

For some daring and unique ideas for your next vacation, check out the gallery below.

[Image via Puuikibeach]

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Swimming With Sharks And Sea Lions In The Galapagos Islands

sharks “Don’t freak out, but there are two huge hammerhead sharks right below us.”

My guide Jens’ attempt at having me “not freak out” over the two carnivorous beasts that are 10 feet away from my juicy calves only leads me to begin shrieking and jumping on his back. Soon, though, the sharks are gone, and nobody has been eaten.

“Sharks prefer sea lions and fish to people,” Jens explains. “They’ll only go for you if they’re confused.”

Thankfully, those two hammerheads seemed very understanding.

I am on the Galapagos Island of San Cristobal, taking a snorkeling tour of Isla Lobos, León Dormido/Kicker Rock and Puerto Grande. With its clear waters, white sand beaches, unique flora and fauna and playful sea lions, it’s hard to believe there could be a better paradise than this.

Our first stop is Isla Lobos. The site features a small but pristine island, and a protected channel known for its plethora of sea lions. Here, the visibility is amazing, as you could see every fish, sea turtle and sea iguana very clearly – almost too clearly.

“Do you see how those fish all come together and disperse with a lot of white things?” asks Jens. “That’s sperm. They’re making rock and roll.”sea lion I laugh, turning to tap my friend on the shoulder to tell her, just as she performs a very acrobatic flip out of the water. That’s when I realize it isn’t my friend, but a baby sea lion trying to play a game with me. Two minutes later, three of its friends join in. On land, blue-footed boobies, pelicans and frigatebirds abound. It’s amazing to look at the whole picture at once, as the marine and bird life seem to dance together on one stage.

Our next stop is Kicker Rock, a massive rock formation rising 500 feet out of the water and taking on the appearance of a león dormido, or sleeping lion. It’s also the site of my shark encounter. The guide tells me that sometimes there are almost 100 sharks, so only encountering six for the day isn’t a lot. As I’m used to encountering zero, I beg to differ. However, the Galapagos sharks, blacktip sharks, white tip sharks and hammerheads that reside near Kicker Rock, while large in size, are virtually harmless to humans.

That knowledge does nothing, however, to keep my blood from running cold every time one comes within 10 feet of me. Once we leave Kicker Rock, however, I realize how lucky I am to have had such a unique experience. And, along with the sharks, the Chocolate Chip starfish, sea turtles and an array of tropical fish and colorful corals remind me I’m in one of the most beautiful and ecologically diverse places in the world.

sea turtle For lunch we make a stop at the serene beach of Puerto Grande. The food is great, a huge helping of rice with tender chunks of beef. Once we’ve digested a bit, the group descends into the warm, clear water and makes our way to the beach for a short informational hike. The beach is covered in hermit crabs, diverse pieces of shell and perfect white sand. Apparently, the sand gets its color from the chunks of white coral that lay upon the beach.

We make one more stop at Kicker Rock for a bit more snorkeling and diving – and more shark encounters – before heading back home. As I lay on the bow of the boat, bathing in the last of the day’s sunlight, I hear a loud splash in front of me. Looking up, a breaching whale jumps out of the water, and I slowly watch its tail sink back below. This place really is unlike any other on Earth.

If visiting the Galapagos Islands and interested in doing this tour, it was given by Dive Surf Club, although you can book through any agency as the whole island works together. The guides are hysterical, fun and have a lot of knowledge. It’s $50 to snorkel and $120 to dive, including naturalist guides, dive instructors, snacks, drinks and lunch.

[images via Barry Peters, NCBrian, Dive Surf Club]

James Cameron completes solo dive of the Mariana Trench

James Cameron completes dive of the Mariana TrenchA couple of weeks ago we told you about James Cameron’s plans to dive the Mariana Trench, a massive canyon in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that marks the deepest point on our planet. This past weekend Cameron saw those plans come to fruition when he crawled inside his specially built submersible – dubbed the DeepSea Challenger – and piloted the vehicle nearly seven miles beneath the surface. Once there, he not only set a record for the deepest solo dive in history, but he also became the first person to catch a real glimpse of the murkiest depths of the ocean floor.

Cameron’s journey began with a two-and-a-half hour descent into the Challenger Deep, a cold, sunless abyss that has only been visited by man on one previous occasion. His original plan was to spend six hours exploring those depths but several malfunctions to the sub caused him to cut short his visit. First a mechanical arm designed to collect samples from the ocean floor refused to work and later, the starboard thrusters on the vehicle failed as well. With those engines out, Cameron couldn’t maneuver properly, which prompted him to return to the surface about three hours ahead of schedule. His ascent took approximately 70 minutes to complete.

The bottom of the Mariana Trench was previously only visited by ocean explorers Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard back in 1960. When they made that historic dive over 52 years ago they didn’t have the sophisticated equipment that Cameron carried with him on his expedition. In fact, Walsh and Piccard didn’t even have lights that could penetrate those depths and as a result, Cameron is the first person to actually see the bottom of the trench with any clarity. He described that place as desolate and isolated, and even compared it to the surface of the moon. He also says that he found only very small organisms living at those incredible depths.

Even while wearing his explorer’s cap Cameron can’t get away from his filmmaking roots. The entire voyage was filmed in high definition 3D and the footage will be used in an upcoming documentary on sea exploration. The director expects to collect more video for the film on future dives as well, and has already indicated that a second dive could take place in a matter of days or weeks. I, for one, can’t wait to see what they have to show us.

Find out more about expedition at DeepSeaChallenge.com.

[Photo credit: Mark Thiessen, National Geographic]


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Exploring the diverse scenery of East Java, Indonesia

indonesia The area of East Java in Indonesia is home to beautiful and diverse landscapes that include beaches, volcanoes, mountains, plantations, lakes, natural reserves, and a lot more. There are also many natural, cultural, and adventure activities to partake in, like scuba diving, hiking volcanoes, surfing, witnessing traditional ceremonies, hearing folklore stories, learning the cultivation process of tea, and photographing wild animals like zebras and cheetahs.

To get to East Java you can fly into its capital, Surabaya, via their international airport, Juanda Airport (SUB).

If you’d like to explore East Java from the comfort of your computer chair, check out the gallery below.

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