Escape Magazine

Escape Magazine article - April 1999


Kathy Singleton took one look at her itinerary for a three-week trip in New Zealand, and her eyes popped out of her head. The 46-year-old Colorado resident had unwittingly signed up for a multisport adventure outing and discovered that her trip's menu of activities read more like the scorecard for an adventure race than a vacation: trekking, mountain biking, sea kayaking, whitewater rafting and horseback riding, with a little caving and glissading thrown in for good measure. "I love the outdoors," Singleton recalls thinking, "but I'm no triathlete."

A week after returning home, Singleton now laughs at her pre-trip jitters. "It was an amazing experience. So much variety. I still can't believe how much we did, and we never felt rushed." Not only did Singleton and friends enjoy all the sports their Active Adventures New Zealand tour promised, but they even started creating a few of their own. "We were kayaking in Milford Sound when a pod of dolphins showed up," says Singleton. "We started riding the wake." Dolphin surfing became a bonus activity during this eventful swing through New Zealand.

Multisport trips, which combine several activities into one action-packed tour, are the latest phenomenon in adventure travel. It's the answer for anyone who wants to squeeze every ounce of experience and electrolytes out of their vacation. If numbers are any indication, it's the right answer, too. Multisport journeys have become one of the fastest growing segments of the industry. At Backroads, the adventure giant, multisport departures increased by 60% in 1998 - and the company has since added 12 more of the trips to its new catalog.

What's the appeal? Variety, for starters. With the help of a precision timetable, a slew of high-tech gear and expert leaders (and maybe an extra cup of coffee every morning), a multisport adventure delivers far more diversity in a short amount of time than, say, a typical trekking or biking tour. As in Singleton's case, a three-week trip can become a smorgasbord of once-in-a-life-time activities. "One day I was rafting down the Clarence River; the next day I was pedaling through a flock of sheep in the mountains and galloping on horseback down a secluded beach," she says. "I couldn't have done half the things we did if I'd planned it myself."

The smorgasbord approach multiplies trip highlights for any given destination. On a Backroads Wyoming outing, for instance, travelers are treated to a taste of the best road and mountain biking, river rafting and hiking in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. And the logistics of getting all these pieces together are out of your hands. "It's more complex from a gear and scheduling perspective, but it's well worth it," says Backroads guide Christopher White. "I love leading the Yellowstone trip because it's so exciting for everyone. We get to do the best of everything for a week."

For most travelers, it's the only way to take their favorite sports on the road without the hassle of schlepping gear all over the world. "We do a lot of biking, rafting and hiking at home," says Rob McAlister, who decided to take his family on a trip to Belize, "so we definitely wanted an active trip." They got one. On a nine-day tour with Slickrock Adventures, the McAlisters went biking through a tropical rainforest, hiking to Mayan ruins, rafting a Class IV river, paddling an underground stream and sea kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving along the world's second largest barrier reef. McAlister could have added windsurfing to the list, but he opted for a training session on a hammock instead.

If this all sounds like a trip for Type AAA personalities only, as the McAlisters learned in Belize, smart operators schedule enough hammock time (or an equivalent) so that travelers won't need a vacation when the vacation ends. "We never had to get up at four a.m. or finish late at night," says McAlister. "Everything was set up so it was easy to go from one activity to the next."

The combination of go-go-go and rest-rest-rest can result in a somewhat schizophrenic balance of hard play and hedonism. A long day on difficult single-track might culminate with a stay at a luxurious jungle lodge complete with cocktail hour and five-course dinner. This philosophy of extremes has struck the right chord for travelers who like the rewards of a rigorous day with a soft landing at the end of the trail.

Susie Anderson and Mike Richardson found the combination a perfect balance for their honeymoon trip. They didn't want the typical newlywed beach package ("We'd get bored."), but neither did they want to rough it on a trekking or camping tour. They settled on a multisport trip to the Yucatán. "It was the right amount for a relaxing, active vacation," reports Anderson. "Hiking and biking allowed us to get off the road and see the country the way we wanted to."

Multisport trips fall into two general categories. Some, like the New Zealand and Belize jaunts, specialize in variety, stacking half a dozen different activities into a typical itinerary. Other outings, like the Backroads Yucatán trip, take a lighter approach. By toning down the activity load, these trips aim to provide a little more time for each of them.

"We want each ingredient to be at the absolute top end of what's available," says Glenn Rowley, director at KE Adventure Travel, which offers a Nepal tour with three activities. The 20-day package includes an ambitious trek in a little-visited Himalayan region, a white-knuckle whitewater descent of the Marsyangdi River and a mountain bike tour above the Kathmandu Valley. "It's just the right mix," reports Los Angeles-based Patricia Christie, who joined KE for the inaugural trip. "You get into a groove at something and you get to keep doing it, but you also see a lot of varied geography by switching sports."

Naturally, the physical demands are a consideration when planning this sort of trip. You don't need to be a fitness instructor, but it's worth checking out the particulars. Find out how many days are spent on each activity, what sort of equipment is included, and if you have to pay extra for rentals. Find out how many miles are covered per day. Are there qualified instructors for the technical portions of the trip? Are rest days scheduled? What are the options for participants who need a break or want to skip Class IV whitewater? Then ask yourself what your fitness level really is. Be honest.

Most multisport adventures are tailored to the moderately active, and, while it's best to do your own homework, operators usually go to great lengths to match clients with the right activity level. Some may go even further. Latitudes - a San Francisco based tour operator specializing in Asia, New Zealand and Australia - is collaborating with a local gym to create customized training programs for clients who sign up for a multi-adventure trip.

The constant change of pace itself may turn out to be a benefit for freshman multisporters. Kathy Singleton found the daunting variety of activities on her New Zealand tour to be a blessing in disguise: "We were constantly working different muscle groups so I never got very sore," she says. " It was like cross-training."

Of course, this can be an expensive way to cross-train, so remember that what you're paying for are experiences you can't create on your own. Look for outfitters that not only provide a late model mountain bike - in your size - in the deepest jungle, but can also offer offbeat activities that add to the overall diversity. For example, on a Burmese journey, Latitudes includes a unique sailing segment. You can also strap into a climbing harness for a rainforest canopy tour in Costa Rica (Active Journeys), saddle up for camel ride in Morocco (Backroads), or paddle an underground river by headlamp in Belize (Slickrock Adventures).

A whirlwind of activity awaits you, but it's all part of a simple theme. As every traveler knows, it's not just where you go, but how you get there.

What people say about our trips

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- May 2022

Amazing trip with great guides

"I had a great time on the Jaguar trip - our guides were friendly, knowledgeable,… read more

"I had a great time on the Jaguar trip - our guides were friendly, knowledgeable, organized, and always helpful. Our porters and camp staff also were friendly and highly competent. The sites chosen by the guides for us to visit were always interesting, and the guides were able to provide great information about them. The information provided to us by Active Adventures was helpful and comprehensive - my only comments regarding the pre-trip information would be to update the materials to clarify that guests need a small day pack for biking and day hikes AND a 30L plus hiking bag for the Inca trail, and the pre-trip information could have included information about tipping for the porters and guides. While it is sensible that the company would not want to pressure guests into tipping a certain amount, everyone in my group had a wonderful time and genuinely wanted to show appreciation to our porters and guides. It would have been helpful to know how much cash we should have with us when departing on the trail to be able to tip each individual adequately, as well as information about when in the trip we would have an opportunity to tip both porters and guides. read less

5 Stars (2056 reviews)

Amy, United States

- May 2022

Bucket list trip for sure!!

"After having had my retirement bucket list trip snatched from under me in 2020, I… read more

"After having had my retirement bucket list trip snatched from under me in 2020, I was delighted to finally take it this April. Active Adventures deserves huge kudos for honouring its commitment to the trip. I travelled with two friends, and we were in a group of 15 on the trip - from the US and Canada. What a fantastic group of people! Best of all though, were our two tour guides from the Galapagos, Pepo and Paulo. They were the best ambassadors for the islands and Ecuador - very knowledgeable, professional, kind hearted - and just plain fun. They made us feel safe and relaxed throughout the trip. The islands are gorgeous - and the wildlife does not disappoint. I found deep ocean snorkelling a bit out of my comfort zone, and wished I had practiced a bit in a pool before I left. However, it is an essential part of the trip, and cannot be skipped. Learning about tectonic plates, volcanoes and the conservation efforts for the giant tortoises was food for thought. As for helpful tips, bring lots of sun screen, sun protective clothing, and bug spray. These items are not readily available on the islands, but they are absolutely essential. Also bring a reusable water bottle as recommended by AA, because although bottled water is available for purchase everywhere, it makes more sense to fill up from the large reusable containers provided and not create plastic waste. I would definitely recommend this beautiful active adventure - my first with this company, but not my last. read less

5 Stars (1564 reviews)

Serena, Canada

- May 2022

Bucket List Trip

"We loved our trip to Galapagos! Our guides, Pepo and Paulo were so knowledgeable… read more

"We loved our trip to Galapagos! Our guides, Pepo and Paulo were so knowledgeable about the islands and loved sharing it all with us. The warm weather was so welcome after a winter in New England. All of the logistics were handled smoothly so that all we had to do was enjoy the varied land and marine wildlife. An amazing trip that I highly recommend! read less

5 Stars (1564 reviews)

Claudia, United States

- May 2022

Somethings really do live up to the hype. This was AMAZING!!

"To be honest, I was a little leery traveling with a new company, with new… read more

"To be honest, I was a little leery traveling with a new company, with new people and well, Covid. But this was abso-fricking-lutely the BEST ADVENTURE TRIP! From our guide, Pepo (who completely hit it out of the park), to the places we saw, to the organization behind the scenes and those wonderful meals, this was amazing! If you want the best way to SEE the Galapagos Islands, this is it. I can't say enough great things about Galakiwi (Active's partner) and our guides. They made this trip unforgettable. Pepo and Paolo answered our flora/fauna questions (we had lots!) and happily shared us what makes this place so special. And man, Pepo can dance - and surf! We're already talking about our next Active Adventure - we can't wait! :) read less

5 Stars (1564 reviews)

Lori, United States

Ultimate Patagonia & Chile Adventure - April 2022

Wonderful Patagonia

"Although initially disappointed that the border with Argentina remained closed, the Torres del Paine hiking… read more

"Although initially disappointed that the border with Argentina remained closed, the Torres del Paine hiking with Alvaro and Christian was compensation aplenty. read less

4 Stars (1175 reviews)

Nick, United Kingdom

Ultimate Patagonia & Chile Adventure - April 2022

Bucket List Trip!

"I finally made it to Patagonia! And I couldn't have done it with a better… read more

"I finally made it to Patagonia! And I couldn't have done it with a better company! This was my 5th tour with Active!
The landscape was even more breathtaking than I had imagined. And every guide was so much fun to hang out with and incredibly knowledgeable about the culture and the land. If you are planning a trip to Patagonia and you love being in the outdoors, this is the tour company for you! read less

5 Stars (1175 reviews)

Jolene, Canada

- April 2022

West Coast is a must visit

"This is our second Active Adventures trip and we weren't disappointed. The itinerary was excellent… read more

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5 Stars (2 reviews)

Robert, New Zealand

- April 2022

Fabulous trip!

"First “big” trip in 2 years due to the pandemic. Honestly, more anxiety than excitement… read more

"First “big” trip in 2 years due to the pandemic. Honestly, more anxiety than excitement prior to the trip but once I arrived in the Galapagos, the excitement hit and so glad my friend and I decided to go on the adventure together. AA tour made the trip really easy. I really like the balance of being “active” and some downtime of my own. The tour guides were friendly and very knowledgeable. The meals were all very good except for the first night dinner on San Cristobal Island…to me, it wasn’t good. I thought the fish weren’t well prepared and tasted too fishy. Another person ordered the same meal and I noticed she hardly touched hers. Later I found out hers was too salty. Another low light for me was the accommodations on Floreana Island. Apparently, very limited hotel selections on the island. Hotel Wittmer was ran down and we all had cold showers that night. I also found a smashed dead mosquito with blood on the wall! Isabela Island was fun and where we stayed was wonderful. I wish we had more time on Santa Cruz Island. All in all, I had a fantastic trip and would recommend this trip to my friends who enjoy the outdoor and animals! read less

5 Stars (1564 reviews)

Hui-Chien, United States

- April 2022

Wonderful wildlife adventures

"The Tortuga trip was full of once in a lifetime experiences. Pablo, our guide was… read more

"The Tortuga trip was full of once in a lifetime experiences. Pablo, our guide was so passionate about the islands and knowledgeable about the wildlife and all aspects of our trip. We swam with sea turtles, rays, sea lions, and sharks!. The land tortoises were great to see in their natural habitat and in the breeding centers. I learned so much about the history of the islands, the environment, Darwin's studies and plans for the furture on the island. The snorkeling in Los Tunels was the highlight as well as the hike to the volcano lava fields. The Galapagos is truely a unique and fascinating place. read less

5 Stars (1564 reviews)

Barb, United States

- April 2022

Great experience

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5 Stars (863 reviews)

Adrian, New Zealand

Ultimate Patagonia & Chile Adventure - April 2022

Almost to Antarctica

"The Condor trip and the W Trek were wonderful. I was there in early February… read more

"The Condor trip and the W Trek were wonderful. I was there in early February and the weather was good; clouds mixed with sun, and surprisingly warm…but windy. The guides, as always, were special and took care of everything. The scenery is amazing, and constant for the entire 4+ days. The Argentina border was closed so the trip was modified to include the Chile Lake District, and I opted out of that portion of the trip because it was similar to the Active Adventures Puma trip which I did a couple years ago (also a great trip!). Even doing only the W Trek was great…and I hope to return for the whole trip! read less

5 Stars (1175 reviews)

Mark, United States

- April 2022

Great trip with Great people

"I could write pages about our Tortuga trip in April . Instead I will just… read more

"I could write pages about our Tortuga trip in April . Instead I will just say that we were so surprised how much we enjoyed traveling with Active Adventures. We are typically not "group travel" people but in the Galapagos it seems necessary...so many things to line up and local people and facilities to communicate with. AAdventures did this with amazing competency. Things flowed seamlessly. Our guide Pepo and his assistant Paolo were amazing. They seemed to do all this and yet still ENJOY being with us, answering questions and getting everyone excited for the next adventure. I will advise that this is an active trip, not intense but lots of exercise, sweating and moving every day. It is important to know that and be prepared or know that you might skip some of the longer things. I also want to add that the guides' English was beautiful and Pepo's knowledge about the area, the geography and the animals was impressive. To anyone who is worried about the "group" aspect but needs the logistics AAdventures can provide, be assured. They still respect your privacy, your right to skip something if its not for you and the small size makes it not feel chaotic. Food was also very good, fresh and simple but abundant and well prepared. I had dreamed of this trip since I was a little girl and read about the tortoises in National Geographic. I never thought the experience would live up to the dream, but it truly did and I think Active Adventures had a big part in that. read less

5 Stars (1564 reviews)

Lynn, United States

Ecuador Volcano and Jungle Adventure - April 2022

Tapir with Alberto

"This was an excellent way to see more of mainland Ecuador. The scenery was… read more

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Sandy, United States

- April 2022

Takahe trip 27 Mar-31 Mar 22

"This was a trip down memory lane for me revisiting old haunts & visiting new… read more

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Colleen, New Zealand

- April 2022

Our 4th trip with Active

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"Another great guide. Beautiful diving, biking and hiking adventures. Great local food and accommodations. We have loved every single Active Adventure. As always though, the Active guides are what make the trip special. This time Pepo and Paulo were absolutely awesome with their knowledge and communication. The people in the group always seem to come together as great friends and we have the guides to thank for that! Can't wait for the next one! read less

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Paul, United States

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