Where does the ultra-wealthy tour when tired of snow-clad mountains or picturesque locales?

SpaceX's next-generation Starship spacecraft atop rocket lifts off from the company's Boca Chica launchpad in Texas, U.S. Photo: Joe Skipper/File Photo/Reuters

No Indian has ever gone as a tourist to space yet, but Malayalis know that Santhosh George Kulangara, the 'Sancharam' TV show media personality who showed Kerala the world through his camera since the 90s, is part of Richard Branson's upcoming space tourism programme.

Did you know that the ultra-wealthy in the rest of the world have already been enjoying tourism experiences that can be termed 'out of the world?' Most of them have already seen what our planet to offer and can also afford to spend that extra money for extreme experiences.

That said, no money can buy safety unless your 'tour coordinator' takes all the necessary steps and you too ensure educating yourself on the risks involved, proves the recent death of five passengers who died in an under-water explosion in the Titan submersible, while on the way to Titanic's wreckage site. 

Regardless, man's thirst to explore the unknown and experience the unexperienced is not easily quenched. Here are some of the extreme tourism options often explored by those who can afford them. 

Space tourism
A three-way competition between billionaire entrepreneurs Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson has spurred the development of a nascent astro-tourism industry.

Branson's Virgin Galactic Holdings said last week its first commercial spaceflight, called 'Galactic 01', would launch between June 27 and June 30. The company has a reported backlog of 800 customers for the roughly 90-minute up-and-back flights, most of whom have paid between $250,000 and $400,000 for their tickets.

Since June 2021, when the first seat was sold for $28 million, Bezos' space tourism venture Blue Origin has offered 10-minute flights to an altitude of about 350,000 feet (106 km), where passengers experience a few moments of weightlessness before descending back to Earth.

A Japanese billionaire has already bought every seat on the maiden voyage of Musk's SpaceX Starship rocket, which is intended to spend three days circling the moon and come within 200 km of the lunar surface. Initially scheduled for 2023, the flight has been delayed by failed tests of the vehicle.

Meanwhile, on Earth, rich tourists disinclined to make grueling treks through some of the planet's toughest terrain can fly overhead or book private helicopters instead.

Before he set his sight on space, Branson was one of an elite group of extreme hot-air balloon travelers, becoming the first to traverse the Pacific Ocean in a balloon in 1991. Other wealthy individuals have set more distance, height, and duration records in the past few decades.

Heli-skiing services have launched in the snowy Himalayan mountains of Kashmir, during lulls in insurgency.

Mount Roraima, a mystic, flat-topped mountain on the Venezuela-Brazil border that inspired Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 'The Lost World' novel was once only accessible to the Pemon indigenous people, now attracts thousands of hikers each year - and a few visitors who arrive at the top via helicopter.

(Inputs from Reuters)

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