6 mins

10 things to feel before you die

From soppy tomatoes and massaging snakes to gooey mud, Graihagh Jackson takes a look at sensations worth travelling the world for


1. Snorkel with slippery jellyfish

In one of Palau's many mysterious salt-water lakes, clouds of custard-coloured jellyfish quiver, seeking out bright rays of sunlight. The millions of jellyfish that inhabit Jellyfish Lake are well worth travelling across the world to touch, stroke and snorkel with 
– and all sting free.

Thousands of years ago the jellyfish became stuck in the natural basin when ocean levels receded. Over the centuries they have lost the power to sting, due to them having no natural predators.

The gelatinous creatures will lambently brush your skin, while following the rays of the sun and migrating from one side of the lake to the other.

When? Snorkel in Jellyfish Lake year round; arrive in January to miss the worst of the wet season.

While you're there... Plunge into one of Palau's Second World War wrecks to discover an abundance of underwater life. Divers can expect to swim alongside giant manta rays, grey reef sharks, sea turtles and 1,500 species of fish around the Rock Islands.

2. Get sloppy, wet and muddy

Feeling short on luck? Join Japan's finest and dive head-first into a muddy pool full of near-naked men at a mud festival, for the chance of winning 'two sticks' and gaining some good fortune. The men wear nothing but a loincloth and red bandanna and the sticks are in fact sacred.

Mud in Japan is considered very lucky. Thick oozey mud leads to rice and in Japan, rice is an ancient measure of wealth. So slip and slide in sludge with the locals, feeling mud seep between your toes.

Don't wash the remnants of Japan's muckiest festival off immediately; wait for the mud to dry, feel it tighten, then crack and peel off with the suppleness of your skin.

When? The annual event usually takes place across Japan in late February.

While you're there... Tip toe around Japan's robust red temples and savour the sacred gardens. Particularly worthy are Heian-jingu Shinto in Kyoto, Kinpusen-ji Zao-do Temple in Nara and Matsumae Castle in Hokkaido.

3. Feel snakes slither across your skin

What better way to wind down than with a massage? Head to Israel for a different way to relax: let non-venomous corn snakes and milk snakes, Californian and Florida king snakes slip over your face and coil across your body to relieve any pesky muscular aches and pains. Their velvet-smooth scales will knead the tension from your back and leave you feeling sensational. And don't worry, they won't bite!

When? Massages in Talmei Elazar, northern Israel are available year-round.

While you're there... For further therapy travel south and feel the curious sensation of floating around in the briny Red Sea.

4. Volcanic ash fall through your fingers

Ignore the ever-present facts of Nicaragua's Cerro Negro volcano's eruptive history (it has erupted 20 times in the last 160 years) but instead focus on the sensation of the powdery dust, smoothing the contours of your hands and cooly running through your fingers like a sand timer.

The ash is finer than sand; soft and powdery it creates a different sensation than simply sitting on a beach.

When? April is the best time to visit, lodged between the busy tourist season and the wet season.

While you're there... Grab an orange jump suit and board down the volcano's slopes, feeling the swish of the ash at your feet.

5. Get stuck in a bird blizzard

Abseil into the Cave of Swallows at dawn or dusk and wait for the swifts to gush from the cave in their thousands. Feel the pulsating mass free falling around you as you dangle over a  hole as deep as the Eiffel tower is tall. As the flap of wings thunders, the mouth of the tunnel will darken with the silhouettes of birds. Curiously, the 400m deep shaft is called the Cave of Swallows, but no swallows actually nest there, only white-collard swifts and green conures.

When? The Cave of Swallows is open year round, although it might be worth baring in mind that the dry season is between November and April. The temperatures are also cooler then.

While you're there... Dance like a wild animal and drink aguardiente (sugar cane alcohol) in the dry season's festivals of San Miguel Arcángel (late September) and Virgen de Guadalupe (12 December).

6. Play bare-foot hopscotch

As the dry season approaches in Namibia, waterholes begins to dry up and the earth crumbles beneath your feet. Hopscotch with locals over the cracked, arid river beds in the late afternoon and feel the warmth from the earth radiate through your body.

When? May to September is Namibia’s dry season.

While you're there... Take a trip to Kohlmanshop and discover the eery silence of an abandoned mining town. Here, the desert has broken into houses, the hospital and town hall partially filling them with biscuit-coloured sand.

7. The wind in your hair

Up the ante with the mother-of-all bungee jumps. While you may have thrown yourself off a bridge, a cable car or even a dam, you haven't experienced anything until you bungee from a parasail, above the surface of an icy cold fjord. Here in Norway's Hardangerfjord, you can 'parabungee' from a purpose built sail, dragged behind a boat. Feel the wind  coursing over your adrenaline-soaked skin as you plummet 180m.

When? Best try Voss' bungee during summer, when it's not quite as nippy.

While you're there... After a parabungee jumping session, you could see how your jelly legs hold up when snorkelling with killer whales or hiking in the surrounding mountains.

8. Join the tomato debauchery

Join one of the world's messiest fiestas all by pelting squished tomatoes at complete strangers in the Spanish streets of Buňol. Paint the town, and all its inhabitants, red by collecting a bounty of tomatoes and then bombarding passersby with the crimson fruit.

Dive head first and feel the burn of a direct hit, and accept that the sensation of tomato pips running down your spine is inevitable. There's nothing quite like it.

When? The event takes place every year on the last Wednesday of August.

While you're there... Don't stop at tomato revelry, join the hordes of people at the parades, dances and fireworks that celebrate the madcap fiesta.

9. Rub noses with Australia's tallest tree

For those with vertigo, this may just be one height you can conquer. Climb 75m up into the tree top of Western Australia's endemic tree, the karri, rubbing noses with its haphazard branches all the while. Feel the sense of achievement as you gaze over the thick forests at the apex and give the trunk a congratulatory hug for good measure.

When? It's least windy in April, which you'll really appreciate when you're climbing up the thin metal rungs.

While you're there... Don't miss a sighting of Quokkas found on Rottnest Island, near Perth. The pint-sized marsupials are adorable, miniature wallabies and are very friendly, hopping in circles around your feet.

10. Stroke a Sri Lankan elephant

These elephants are unlike the kind seen in Africa; they're smaller for one thing but what puts them on this list is their thick, ginger hair. Elephants are not generally pictured as being hairy but the younger Asian pachyderms have orang utan-red hair sprouting all over their creased grey skin. Run your hands over their backs for an unsuspecting bristly texture.

When? Year-round.

While you're there... Drink tea in Nurweya Eliya at the heart of the Sri Lanka's tea industry and a feel the refreshing warmth wind it's way down to your stomach.

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