My Top Travel Adventures of 2012

2012 was the most incredible year of my life for travel adventures!

I visited 13 countries, not including Germany where I live.  This included Spain – 5 times!, Czech Republic, Finland, Austria – 3 times, Italy – twice, Luxembourg, England, Switzerland  France – twice, Canada, United States, South Africa – twice, Swaziland, and Australia, plus numerous shorter trips within Germany.

Although I do have a favorite destination of 2012 (coming in a later post), what really stood out in my mind were the adventures I experienced while traveling.

Here are my top 12 Travel Adventures of 2012:

(in no particular order)

1.   Getting  THISCLOSE to a Rhino Mother and Baby at Hlane Royal Park, Swaziland
Rhino mother and baby in Hlane Royal Park, Swaziland South AfricaHlane Royal Park lets visitors out of the safari jeep to get closer to the rhinos on special tours.  When I visited there was a baby rhino whose mother was hiding it behind some bushes. I creeped behind our guide slowly, trying to fade into the bushes.  He walked silently, never taking his eyes off the mother rhino.  Eventually he stopped when we were about 5 meters away from the mother.  She stared at us…and went on eating.  Never in a million years would I have ever thought I would get SO close to a rhino, let alone a mother and a baby.  It was the experience of a lifetime!

2. Snowmobiling in Finland
Snowmobiling in Iso-Syöte, FinlandI live for adventure travel, and was totally up for the adventure of snowmobiling for the first time through a forest.  Little did I know how adrenalin packing it would be…and SO much fun!  See:  Snowmobiling in Iso-Syöte, Finland.

3. Hiking in the Drakensberg, South Africa
The Drakensberg, South AfricaThe Drakensberg are the highest mountains in all of southern Africa and they put me to the test – in the best way possible.  I never would have thought about hiking in South Africa before but now I’m convinced it should be on every nature lover/hikers list of things to do.  It’s a great way to take in the scenery and perhaps even meet a new primate friend along the way as I did in Monkeys and Mountains: My EPIC Day in the Drakensberg.

4.  Summer Adventures in the Nassfeld, Austria
Nassfeld in Kårnten (Cainthia), AustriaThe Nassfeld is a well-known ski area in Carinthia (Kärnten in German), but I loved all the adventures it offered in summer.  In just one day I rode down the mountain on a Summer Rodelbahn, climbed through a rock labyrinth, and swung through the trees on a Flying Fox and High Ropes Course. And that is to say nothing of all the hiking and rock climbing the area offers.  A seriously action-packed fun day!

5. Observing Hippos in iSimangliso Wetland Park, South Africa
Hippo tour in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South AfricaThis was not adventurous per say since I observed the hippos from the safety of a boat while on a Hippo and Croc Boat Safari with Heritage Tours and Safaris, but it was an incredible experience to be SO close to a large herd of hippos and it was my first time observing hippos in the wild.  And it was in one of Africa’s most dangerous estuaries…but that’s a whole other story.

6. Cycling in Costa Brava
Cycling in Costa Brava, SpainI have always wanted to take a cycling holiday and I finally got the chance to do so in Costa Brava.  It was everything I imagined it would be and more.  I loved that I saw things (like a hidden waterfall) and small villages that I would have missed if traveling by other means of transportation.  Plus the cuisine in Costa Brava is mouth-watering good, so it was easier to justify all the food I was eating with cycling.    See:  Cycling in Costa Brava.

7. Kayaking with Crocs in Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory, AustraliaCroc seen while kayaking in Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory, AustraliaConsidering that the crocs can be longer than your kayak, and my paddling skills leave something to be desired, I was a bit intrepid about this adventure.  Not only did we see a croc, but we saw him snap at our guide who inadvertently got to close!  Amazing!  And why I’ll remember Kayaking with crocs in Katherine Gorge for a very long time!

8. Paragliding Over Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm) in Italy
The paragliding landing in Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm), ItalyNot only was it my first time paragliding but the weather was being temperamental and I was communicating with my guide in German.  The first few moments are terrifying as you literally jump off a cliff….then incredibly blissful as you get a bird’s-eye view of the world below you while Paragliding Over Alpe di Siusi.

9. Volunteering with Chimps in Girona, Spain

Chimpanzee at MONA a chimp sanctuary in Girona, Spain

Photo courtesy of MONA, used with permission.

I have worked with gorillas before, but my first love has always been chimps.  I was beyond excited when I had the opportunity to volunteer with them for a few days at MONA, a chimp sanctuary that rescues chimps that have been previously kept as pets or were used in circuses.  It was both heart breaking and inspiring.  I’ve yet to write about it (post coming soon), but you can read about one chimp who made quite the impression on me:  My Chimpanzee Love Affair in Girona, Spain.

10. Hiking in the Pyrenees, Spain
Vall de Núria, Pyrenees, SpainAs regular readers know I love mountains.  I’ve also been spoiled growing up in the Canadian Rockies and living close to the Alps.  I didn’t have high expectations for the Pyrenees, but they were beautiful!  So beautiful that I just had to hike and convinced our anxious guide that I, along with two fellow travel bloggers would hike back down instead of taking the train down with everyone else.  I’m sooooo glad that I did and now I want to go back for more Hiking in the Pyrenees now that I know how breathing they are!

11.  Shark Diving Without a Cage in South Africa

Laurel Robbins shark diving with an Oceanic Black Tip in South Africa

Me with an Oceanic Black Tip Shark. Photo courtesy of Joost van Uffelen.

I love diving with sharks.  I’ve done it close to a hundred times, each time without a cage.  Shark diving without a cage is not for the faint of heart.  But still, I felt completely safe surrounded by up to 17 curious Oceanic Black Tips that I encountered while diving at Protea Banks with African Dive Adventures and Aliwal Shoal with  Agulhaus House and Diving.  You can read about what it’s really like to go Shark Diving in South Africa – Without a Cage.  After close to a hundred sharks dives, I still can’t get enough of diving with sharks.  It is seriously addictive!

12.  My final travel adventure?
This one also happens to be my favorite travel adventure and was coincidentally also my favorite destination that I visited in 2012.  Any guesses?  Check back to find out where it was and why it was incredibly special!

Wishing you all the best in 2013.  Happy and safe travels!


  1. says

    I knew you traveled a lot last year but had no idea how much! Your trips were diverse too. About the only thing I don’t think I’d do is the shark diving. Ok and I don’t know how stable I would feel in a kayak with crocs all around me! Loved all your European adventures too.

    • says

      @Debbie – I didn’t realize how much it was either until I started counting all my trips. Not everything I do would be for everyone. I’m expecting more European travel this year, but lets see.

  2. says

    Laurel – You have had quite the year – and one that may be hard to top. Your hiking adventure in Swaziland has huge appeal as does the Austria adventure, as does cyling in Costa Brava – okay everything but swimming with the sharks. I’ll leave you to that.
    I’ll be interested to see what the big plans are for the new year too.

    • says

      @Leigh – I’m predicting that this year will involve more adventures closer to home, but lets see. I think we have similar travel styles. I’d like to do a lot of the stuff that you do as well.

  3. Jeff Titelius says

    What a year full of adventures my friend! Of course I am extremely envious of all the places you visited in Europe! Your tales look amazing and look forward to reading our favorite adventure of all!

  4. says

    You had an incredible travel year, Laurel! I’d love to have all of the adventures on your list, though Tim and I both need to learn how to dive first! I love reading your blog because I always get ideas for off-the-beaten-path places I might not otherwise have known about.

    • says

      @Jennifer – You guys have had some great adventures too and give me lots of ideas. My list of adventures that I want to go is growing by thte minute.

    • says

      @InsideJourneys – I’ve been so fortunate since I’m a huge animal lover so have loved every minute of getting so close to animals that I had only seen on TV.

  5. says

    You definitely had the best travel year and it has been so fun following your adventures all over the world. Jealous :) but so happy for you. Looking forward to seeing what you are up to next year. I’m not sure what can top diving with sharks with no cage but I can’t wait to see your fave travel adventure. Wishing you the very best in 2013 and a whole lot more travel adventures.

    • says

      @Mary – Thanks so much Mary, I’ve been very fortunate. I think my favorite adventure rates right up there with shark diving, but you’ll just have to wait…Wish you all the best in 2013 as well.

  6. says

    Love your travel highlights of 2012, I had a similar kayaking adventure, however over baby sharks in Turks & Caicos. How was paragliding in Switzerland? Love it there, but never tried an adventure type of trip, the views must be unbelievable!

  7. says

    You definitely got closer to crocs in Australia than we did kayaking with them in South Africa. Every time we came close, the dipped under the water. Then again, it’s always stressful to know they are right underneath you laying in wait to pounce 😉 May 2013 be just as exciting as 2012. You’re awesome lady!

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