Best places to test your survival skills

Can’t sit still while on holiday? Embark on one of these adventures and we reckon you’ll be begging for a beach and a good book afterwards.

Bear Grylls Survival Academy, Zimbabwe
Bear Grylls is on his way to creating an entire army of survivalists who are overly enthusiastic about freezing their butts off and eating disgusting things. There are currently more than a dozen Bear Grylls Survival Academies around the globe, where instructors have been handpicked by Grylls and, in many cases, served as crew or technical advisers on his shows. Our favourite is an intense five-day course near Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Alongside nine others, you will be issued your Bear Grylls survival knife and taught everything from treating rancid water and building a shelter in the bush to lighting a fire – all while being watched by rhinos, lions and elephants.

You’ll need to know how to swim and be able to carry a 9kg pack for about an hour over rough terrain. See

Coast to Coast, New Zealand
We love an adventure race in a picturesque location. But don’t be fooled – the Coast to Coast, which happens every February, is no picnic. The 243km multi-sport adventure race on New Zealand’s rugged South Island takes two full days to complete. From the start at Kumara Beach, you and about a thousand others will run, cycle and kayak across stunning Lord of the Rings landscapes until you end up at Brighton Beach, near Christchurch. But what we love most about the 33-year-old event is that it’s achievable for mere mortals – the spirit among competitors is classic Kiwi enthusiasm writ large and the atmosphere is more fun-run than Iron Man.

You can compete alone, or in a team of two or three. See

Fuego y Agua Survival Run, Nicaragua
With a tagline ‘adapt or die’, this 80km race – sometimes held in the USA, sometimes in Nicaragua – sees competitors climb, swim, dig and run over brutal wilderness terrain. This is no co-worker team-building outing, so don’t sign up unless you have some endurance race experience. Unlike other hardcore adventure races, it places a premium on intelligent problem-solving, and the permitted-gear list looks more like something you’d find on a survival course than an ultramarathon.

Race organisers suggest boning up on climbing trees and making a bowdrill fire, and among ‘required items’ is a pencil. See

Amazon River Annual International Raft Race, Peru
This three-day event deep in the Peruvian jungle is almost as fun to watch as it is to participate in. Covering 180km, more than 40 teams of four build their own raft out of local balsawood logs (locals are on hand to help) and then paddle downstream, stopping only to sleep along the way. But it’s not as simple as it sounds – only one foreign team has won in 17 years. After a pre-race dinner and a little dance party, it’s off to bed to rest up for the journey. Then you spend the next three days learning more than you could ever want about your raft mates, and trying to become the second team ever to beat the locals.

If you haven’t organised a team in advance, you can just show up in Nueva Esperanzo and look for a team that needs paddlers. Contact the tourism department of Loreto, Peru for more information.

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