Antarctica: Way South on Skis
New this year; physically challenging
Celebrate the 100th anniversary of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen’s arrival in the South Pole on December 14, 1911, by skiing the last 12 miles to the very bottom of the world. A series of charter flights will take you from Punta Arenas, Chile, to 89° 45’ S, where you’ll strap on a pair of skis and head south, camping along the way. PolarExplorers: “Centennial South Pole Expedition,” 8 days; $52,500.
New Zealand: Maori Immersion
New this year
Every February, Maori tribes from all over New Zealand congregate at Waitangi to commemorate the treaty between the Maori chiefs and England in 1840. The event culminates in a mass flotilla of waka (traditional canoes). Guests spend several days in the Maori community to learn the traditions, chants, and waka paddling technique before joining the warriors in the big event. Cultural Crossroads: “Maori Celebration in New Zealand,” 8 days; $6,196. NEW
Papua New Guinea: Back to Eden
New this year
With its distinct flora and fauna and vast cultural diversity—some 860 languages are spoken among the country’s indigenous peoples—Papua New Guinea seems largely unchanged over the centuries. The outfitter has crafted an exploratory itinerary that brings you the best of the country’s natural and cultural worlds: You’ll go birding in the Tari rain forest, home to 13 species of birds of paradise, and visit the traditional Huli people, famous for their intricate wigs and largely unknown to outsiders until 1935. Guests stay at intimate eco-lodges in the highlands, jungle, and volcanic coast. Natural Habitat Adventures: “Wild Papua New Guinea,” 12 days; $9,495.
Australia: Tiger Shark Hangout
Volunteer opportunity; physically challenging
Each summer, thousands of endangered green turtles migrate to Raine Island in the far north of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to lay their eggs. The process attracts tiger sharks on the lookout for easy prey. This so-called Holy Grail of dive sites is off-limits to all but government research vessels. Here’s your chance to see if the area lives up to its reputation working with a team led by renowned shark scientist Richard Fitzpatrick. Participants will assist in tracking, photographing, and collecting data on these lone predators. Marine Encounters: “Tiger Shark & Turtle Tagging Expedition,” 8 days; $5,200.
These guided tours are part of National Geographic Traveler's 50 Tours of a Lifetime for 2011 for the outfitters' commitment to authenticity, immersion, sustainability, and connection.