Whenever we encounter an incredible place, who isn't compelled to take a photo beside it, if only to prove to everyone (and occasionally ourselves) that we were actually there? I asked uber-traveler Rus Margolin of Travel2Unlimited, a former bond trader turned world traveler, to send me his most epic photo ops and be our stand-in at extraordinary places we might not ordinarily go.
1. The Wave, Coyote Buttes, USA
Near the Arizona-Utah border is a remarkable sandstone formation known as the Wave. Located in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, access is extremely limited: you can win one of only 20 daily permits either through an online lottery or just showing up early in the morning. “Then it’s a 12 mile return hike without a trail or a map. 50% of those attempting usually get lost without getting to the Wave,” says Rus. Get your permit, find your way, and prepare for an Epic. Photo. Op.
2. Kamchatka, Russia
Here’s an outdoor paradise located 8 time zones east of Moscow, with over 300 volcanoes, half of them active. “Climb Avachinsky volcano and peer in the active caldera, or walk into Mutnovsky caldera and see nature in action – steam, fumaroles, sulphur, gases and boiling mud,” says Rus. To get there you‘ll have to fly to Moscow and take a long flight to Petropavlovsk, but the photo ops are priceless.
3. Jellyfish Lake, Palau
Located in the Western Pacific, Palau offers some of the world’s best snorkeling, scuba diving, and underwater photo ops. Flying in from Tokyo or Guam, you can rent your own island for the day, hike in the tropical jungles, or float with millions of golden jellyfish in a bottomless lake. The jellies, rotating counter-clockwise as they float to the surface, are harmless. “You feel like you are on a different alien planet," says Rus.
4. Camping in Antarctica
To get this photo among thousands of Emperor penguins, Rus spent several days camping on an ice shelf off the coast of Antarctica. “You can spend hours watching them feed their chicks.” Emperor penguins are the largest of the penguin species. For this photo op, you’ll need to get on a 5-hour charter flight from Chile, and hop on another 4-hour small prop plane to the penguin ground. “It’s a once in a lifetime,” adds Rus.
5. The Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
The world’s largest salt desert makes for epic photo ops, especially when you play around with perspective on the snow-white salt landscape. Create optical illusions (like Rus holding the 4x4 Land Rover), take huge jump photos, and snaps of you dipping in the bright red and green mineral lakes. “You may need to acclimate to the air at 15,000 feet before you go jumping ,” says Rus. To get to the Salar de Uyuni, either take the train from La Paz, or cross over the Atacama to Bolivia with a tour company from Chile’s San Pedro de Atacama.
6. The Door to Hell, Turkmenistan
A place name as epic as “The Door to Hell” demands an epic photo op. Located hundreds of miles from the nearest village in the middle of Turkmenistan’s Karakum Desert, the door is actually a large crater caused by an ill-fated drill for natural gas. When the drilling rig collapsed into an underground cavern, it sparked a huge fire fed by unlimited quantities of gas. “The crater has been burning since 1971, “ says Rus. “It wasn’t easy to get here, but it was worth seeing the night light up by the burning hot inferno.”
7. Hang gliding in Rio
There are few cities as beautiful as Rio, and few experiences as epic as hang gliding. Hunky tandem instructors hang out at the beach in Sao Conrado, taking tourists up the mountain into Pedra Bonita national park for the flight of a lifetime. Launching off a wooden platform into thin air, you’ll be too busy gawking at the view below you to think about taking any photos. Fortunately, the instructors tape a remote-controlled camera to the wing for epic shots like these.
8. Somerset Island, Canada
When the midnight sun burns during summer in the high Arctic, it’s nigh on impossible not to take epic photos. “This is unadulterated, pure raw nature and you are part of it,” says Rus. We met each other at Arctic Watch, the most northerly eco-lodge in the world, where we hiked the tundra with muskox, watched thousands of beluga whales, and swam in crystal waterfalls like this one. Epic all the way.
9. Sossusvlei, Namibia
Sossusvlei sits inside Namib-Naukluft Desert National Park, an alien landscape of bright red and yellow dunes and semi-petrified trees. “Surreal would be a perfect word to describe it,” says Rus. Arriving late in the afternoon, watch the sun cast shadows on the dunes, some of which rise as high as 100 metres. “You can also hear the dunes moving if you stand still,” adds Rus. Another epic location, for an epic photo op.
10. Easter Island
Watching the sun rise or set over the mysterious moai statues in Easter Island has to belong on a list of epic photo ops. Most of the statues, located throughout the island, have fallen over, but some still stand upright. “Ahu Tongariki has the most moai for sunrise, and Ahu Hanga Roa is perfect for sunset,” says Rus. Nobody quite knows what prompted the islanders to erect the statues, and effectively wreck their civilization doing so. In the meantime, we’ll hop in the photo for another snap of a lifetime.