The 7 Most Dangerous Travel Jobs
Here's a quick countdown of folks who are living dangerously—and taking tourists along for the ride.
Luge/Bobsled Instructor, Whistler, Canada
It's been called the world's fastest track, earning notoriety after an Olympic luger from the country of Georgia died after being flung from the track. By the beginning of next winter, the Whistler Sliding Center expects to offer bobsled, luge, and skeleton trial runs on the lower portion of its 1,374-meter-long track. "It's an unbelievable experience," says Breton Murphy, the center's senior communications manager, who tried the skeleton—head-first luge—and clocked in at over 65 mph. (To put that speed in perspective, ski resort luges top out at 40 to 50 mph, while professional competitors in luge and bobsled can reach 85 mph and beyond.) "It has the same kind of adrenaline rush as bungee jumping or skydiving," Murphy adds. Riders do not need any prior experience or training. Because you start at the 11th turn, rather than at the top (there are 16 turns total), you don't have to use your feet to steer, just the forces of gravity. Bobsled tours are led by licensed instructors or ex-Olympians, but for luge, you go solo. Whistler Sliding Center, 604/402-1401, whistlerslidingcentre.com, currently closed to public but will reopen for tours in June.
Herper, Madras Crocodile Bank
Soham Mukherjee is a herpetologist, a.k.a. a herper, or reptile specialist. At a wildlife rehabilitation center and reptile zoo in southern India, he trains crocs—one of whom he named Psycho—using just a stick. That is, when he's not breaking up fights or trying to "charm" pythons and king cobras. The Madras Crocodile Bank draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to see crocs, snakes, and other dangerous animals up close. Perhaps only fellow herpers appreciate the perils of this line of work. "Crocodiles eat more people each year than any other predator on earth does," notes Neville Burns, a crocodile keeper at Sydney Wildlife World. "Their jaws can crush the skull of a pig with a single bite. And they can swim twice as fast as any human." Madras Crocodile Bank, 011-91/44-2747-2447, madrascrocodilebank.org, admission about 65¢.
*CORRECTION: Pythons are not venomous. We regret the error. We would also like to emphasize that the tour operators mentioned in this story go to great lengths to ensure the safety of their customers.