Keen to challenge yourself this summer? Tim the Yowie Man channels his inner Bear Grylls without travelling far from home.
1. Swim with seals
Don the snorkel, slip on the flippers and take the plunge into the briny with Montague Island's resident seal colonies.
Depending on the season, between 400 and 2 000 Australian and New Zealand Fur Seals hang out amongst the rocky outcrops and in the clear water of the small island, near Narooma. Watch them twist, spiral with and frolic with astounding agility. According to Mark Westwood who has snorkelled with both colonies, "the New Zealand seals are a little more relaxed and not quite as active but it's still a swim of a lifetime."
"The Australian fur seals have a habit of luring you into deeper water for a bit of fun," says Mark, who has even seen "one jump right over a swimmers back."
You may also be lucky enough to eyeball a manta ray or a Port Jackson shark.
Suitable for: Any age but you must be experienced with snorkelling unassisted in the open ocean.
Best bits: The sight of a steady stream of silver bubbles rising from a seal, back-dropped by the deep blue of the water. Prepare for a sensory overload.
Bear Grylls factor: High. Although if a seal swims right up to your mask and bears its teeth (as they sometimes do), it could sky-rocket to Extreme.
Tim's Tip: Take a few bars of chocolate. No, not to feed the seals, but to replenish your own energy after the snorkel.
Fast Facts: There are a number of operators which offer a snorkelling or diving experience with the seals at Montague Island. Prices from $75 for a half-day tour. Web: www.visitnsw.com and search for 'Narooma' for a list of operators.
2. Ocean Odyssey
Grab a paddle, strap on a life jacket and explore spectacular stretches of the south coast by kayak.
Ocean Wilderness Kayaking Adventures run kayak tours right up and down the south coast offering a range of experiences from exploring protected waters for young families to more challenging coastal adventures into (and hopefully out of…!) sea caves.
Head guide, Rob White an ex-army commando reveals "our Eden Explorer is a really popular tour for all experience levels as it includes visiting sea caves while our most demanding paddle is the Bermagui Coastal Explorer which is for the outdoor adventure enthusiast with a good level of fitness."
Suitable for: Ages 10 years and up only. No previous paddling experience necessary. You also don't have to be a strong swimmer as all paddlers wear life jackets.
Best bits: Discovering hidden parts of the coast you otherwise would never know about, let alone explore.
Bear Grylls factor: Medium. You will be challenged, but not starved – on longer trips you get to stop for a well-earned break on a secluded beach for morning or afternoon tea. Divine!
Tim's tip: Don't forget a hat, sunscreen and sense of adventure.
Fast Facts: Departs from various ports on the south coast including Bermagui, Merimbula, Pambula and Eden. Tours start from $60pp. Ph: 0405 529214. Web: www.oceanwilderness.com.au
3. Abseil adventure
Abseiling is more than just launching off the edge of a cliff and wondering how long the rope is. According to Acacia Rose of K7 Adventures, abseiling off the giant granite tors of the Snowy Mountains "takes you into another space – a juxtaposition of thrilling action and stunning silence."
Acacia explains that it's a relatively safe sports and guides "always add in a safety rope so that if you lose perspective on the way down and try and take a selfie – you remain securely tied in."
If your nerves can handle it, take a moment to pause and enjoy the views from the top of the main range towards Lake Jindabyne. Finish off with a well-deserved hot chocolate (or perhaps something stronger!) at Eagle's Nest – Australia's highest restaurant.
Suitable for: Children as young as 4 (really!) can give it a go.
Best bits: The sensation of your feet feeling air, then rock then soft grass.
Bear Grylls factor: Medium. If you want to take it up another notch, test your skills one of the energetic abseils at Blue Lake.
Tim's tip: If you are scared of heights take a friend for an extra dose of moral support.
Fast facts: $110pp for 3-hours. Includes fully experienced rock climbing and abseiling guides, harnesses, climbing shoes, ropes and anchors and enough adrenalin to last a lifetime. Ph: 0421 862354. Web: www.k7adventures.com
4. Boulder dash
If climbing with ropes isn't challenging enough for you, do away with the ropes and take the bouldering challenge.
Unlike free solo climbing, which is also performed without ropes, boulder problems (the path that a climber needs to follow in order to complete the climb) requires the climber to reach the top of a boulder, usually less than 6m in height. That might not sound like much, but with no ropes or harness it's not for the feint-hearted, especially when some problems require the climber to climb horizontally from one position to another. It's sort of like playing a solo game of twister, while hanging onto the side of a rock with your fingernails.
"The sport originated as a way of rope climbers to increase their finger strength," explains Lindsay Barkley a bouldering guide with K7 Adventures in Jindabyne, who adds, "there are over 6000 bouldering 'problems' to solve in the Snowy Mountains – enough for a lifetime".
Suitable for: There are 'problems' to solve for a wide range of age groups and levels of experience.
Best bits: Sense of achievement and comradery amongst fellow boulderers.
Bear Grylls factor: High. It's just you and the rock – can you tame it with your bare hands (literally)? Oh, and you are likely to lose a bit of skin on your fingers.
Tim's tip: If you fall, make sure you drop onto the high density foam pad in the crash zone.
Fast facts: Price depends on length of experience. From $90. Ph: 0421 862354. Web www.k7adventures.com
5. Cave crusade
Prepare yourself for an adrenalin-charged adventure beneath the Snowy Mountains. Our region's favourite subterranean playground, Yarrangobilly Caves have just launched a number of thrill-seeker tours just in time for summer including the 'Two Cave River Adventure Odyssey' where you crawl into (and out of!) the watery catacombs of two usually 'off-limit' caves.
If half-waddling, half-breaststroking your way through a stream laced with the last of the season's snow melt doesn't tickle your fancy, maybe a 15 metre abseil into the hidden world of Mill Creek Swallet followed by a series of climbs, squeezes and bone crunching crawls will.
Suitable for: Adventure tours for over 12s only (and without phobias of confined spaces). There are also regular tours into the nearby show caves which are suitable for the whole family.
Best bits: Bragging rights. How many of your friend will be able to boast they swam James-Bond style through a series of caves during their summer holiday?
Bear Grylls factor: Medium. Sure, it's dark and wet but at least you won't have to wrestle some piranha-like troglodyte to see the light again.
Tim's tip: It's a long day trip to Yarrangobilly, so splash out and bunk down at the recently restored Caves House, located smack-bang in the middle of the caves precinct. Self-contained heritage accommodation from $145 (standard double). You'll love that hot shower after your cave adventure almost as much as your partner will.
Fast facts: Yarrangobilly Caves are located within the northern section of Kosciuszko National Park. Adventure tours from $100pp. Guided tours of the show caves from $22 per adult and $55 for families. More: nationalparks.nsw.gov.au or Ph: 02 6454 9597.
6. Snowy River pilgrimage
Tame the legendary Snowy River on the Byadbo Wilderness Challenge – a journey along the Snowy from Delegate to Jacobs River.
Your trip of a lifetime will take you 70km along one of our country's most famous rivers through steep, rocky gorge country which occasionally opens into hidden valleys. Enjoy a variety of paddling from flat water to safe grade-2 rapids.
At the end of each day, catch your breath and sit by your riverside campsite to watch the wallabies, emus, wild brumbies and sea eagles search for their dinner. Pick up a handful of river stones and you might even find the remnants of tools used by people in this inland Garden of Eden thousands of years ago. By night if you've still got enough energy, grab your torch – you might spot a quoll.
Suitable for: Ages 12+ with average level of fitness, an adventurous spirit and an appreciation for remote wilderness travel. Paddling experience not essential.
Best bits: Platypus swimming right up next to your kayak.
Bear Grylls factor: High. This paddle will challenge your inner bear as you conquer the mighty Snowy Falls and then paddle your way through 70km of the iconic Snowy River wilderness country.
Tim's tip: This is an exclusive trip, with only limited places available each year.
Fast facts: Cost: $250pp per day, fully catered (4 day minimum, best done as a 5 day trip). The tour starts from Delegate, a 90-minute drive south of Cooma and is led by Richard Swain who has 20 years of river guiding experience and training. Ph: 0428 826938 Web: www.raftingaustralia.com
7. Bush tucker
Discover the secrets of the bush through sight, touch, smell and … taste
Shane Herrington and Talea Bulger, Aboriginal discovery rangers who work for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service offer an eye-opening walk through their traditional country on the outskirts of Tumut.
Feast (ok, at least taste) on native plants including custard apple berry, wattle seed and kurrajong seed and tuber (its tastes like coconut!)
Although it is the festive season, on this tour you won't get to kiss under the mistletoe – instead you can eat it. Also affectionately known as "snotty gobbles" these sweet little fruits look like bean-sized lychees and grow as a parasite on trees. Yummo.
The tour is capped off by peeling off strands of Stringybark, and twisting them into a length of rope. I wouldn't use it to go abseiling with but at least you'll have a memento to remember to take home.
Suitable for: All ages but keep in mind that the bush tucker loop (less than 1km of walking) has uneven surfaces and a small incline.
Best bits: You actually get to eat the food.
Bear Grylls factor: High. Sure you might be on the outskirts of town, but you are living off the land (albeit for only a couple of hours.) and heck, you get to make your own rope. Even Bear would be impressed.
Tim's tip: Definitely take the kids – but don't forget to remind them that they are only allowed to eat the bush tucker on the tour as they are with experienced rangers. There are many disaster stories of poisonous plants mistaken for bush food.
Fast facts: The Bush Tucker Discovery Tours operate on a request basis with minimum numbers. Bookings can be made at the Tumut Visitor Centre. Phone 02 69477025 or firstname.lastname@example.org Cost depends on number of participants. Tumut is about 2½ hours' drive from Canberra via Yass. If you've got a 4WD you might want to take the scenic route through the Brindabella Ranges.
8. Wild Walk
If you're looking for the ultimate summer challenge, you'll be hard pressed to beat the 50km (one-way!) 'carry your own gear' wilderness walk through one of our most dramatic and isolated coastlines.
Discover remote beaches, tranquil lagoons and ever shifting sand dunes on this four-day trek through the little-known Nadgee Nature Reserve which extends from just south of Eden to the Victorian border.
At night, enjoy the moon rise above the Pacific Ocean – it'll just be you, your fellow walkers, oh and maybe a powerful owl or two.
Suitable for: Experienced bushwalkers only. You need to be comfortable undertaking self-reliant hiking in a remote location.
Best bits: With no mobile phone reception and no sign of civilisation (apart from a passing boat, if you're lucky) this is the ideal antidote to the rigours and stress of modern life.
Bear Grylls factor: Extreme. You need to be self-sufficient. Oh, and one of the suggested campsites is nick-named Bunyip Hole. I wouldn't camp there alone, would you?
Tim's tip: The weather in this area can be extreme and unpredictable, so ensure you're well-prepared for your visit.
Fast facts: Maximum group size on the walk is 8. Walkers staying overnight require a permit. Applications for permits are available by calling the Merimbula National Parks and Wildlife Service on (02) 6495 5000.
9. Terrific tents
Our region is blessed with many bush campsites, none more spectacularly-situated than the Cascades Camping Ground in Wadbilliga National Park near Tuross Falls, to the east of Cooma.
The wildlife at this secluded site is a highlight for Canberra camper Woo O'Reilly who regularly pitches her tent here with her young family. "On our last visit we sat around the fire at night and watched as nature delivered its best," says Woo, who adds, "while watching greater gliders climbing and leaping from the beautiful stands of Silvertop ash, we saw a Boobook owl hover over them and try to nab one."
There are two walks from the campsite which are both kid friendly. One is 10 minutes to a refreshing swimming hole and the other is an easy half-day walk to a gorgeous view overlooking a gorge and waterfall.
Suitable for: All the family. The kids will love toasting marshmallows (bring your own wood).
Best bits: It's free, and usually not crowded, though you need to book a site (details below).
Bear Grylls factor: Low. You're hardly skinning and disembowelling a dead camel for water like Bear once famously did, but city-slickers may find the long-drop loos a challenge.
Tim's tip: Take some air mattresses/noodles for the swimming hole. It's very deep and the rock all round is worn smooth from many others who have cooled off there. Sliding down the gently sloped 'waterfall' is also lots of fun.
Fast facts: Cascades Camping Ground is one of two campgrounds in Wadbilliga National Park but the only one accessible from the western side of the divide. It's about a 3-hour drive from Canberra via Cooma. Bookings essential. Ph: 02 6458 4080 between 9am and 12:30pm Monday to Friday.
10. Making music
If you don't want to rough it in a tent, but still want to bunk down in a remote location then head to the ghost town of Kiandra. Open the door of this 1960s stone and timber lodge and you'll immediately fall in love with its retro guesthouse-style lounge. Although there's not much to do in Kiandra itself – apart from stepping out along historic trail around the old village which, following the discovery of gold along the nearby Eucumbene River in 1859 was a hive of activity – it is a great summer base for hikers and fishers.
Whatever you do, don't miss the pile of rocks at the intersection of the hut's driveway and the Snowy Mountains Highway – they have musical properties. Play them until the cows come home and yodel in accompaniment. Go on I dare you. Don't worry, with no other accommodation within cooee there'll be no one to laugh at you.
Suitable for: Families and small groups (3 bedrooms, sleeps up to 8).
Best bits: There's a classic babbling brook just beyond your back door step.
Bear Grylls factor: Low-Medium. Up the ante by only eating trout that you can catch in the nearby alpine streams.
Tim's tip: From the open deck, spy on wedge-tailed eagles and you might catch a glimpse of the vibrant flame robin.
Fast facts: Wolgal Hut is in the Kiandra precinct of Kosciuszko National Park. From Cooma, take Snowy Mountains Highway via Adaminaby towards Kiandra for about 90km. The hut costs $250 per night (minimum two-night stay). Ph: (02) 6947 7025.