30 Deadliest Adventure Sports and Tourist Activities

36 Deadliest Tourist Activities and Adventure Sports (2023 Study)

This month has been marred by tourist deaths: five were killed aboard the Titan submersible, one was killed in a hot air balloon in the UK, one was killed on a rollercoaster in Sweden and another man died trying to drink 21 cocktails at a resort in Jamaica.

But here’s the dark truth – dozens of international travellers die each month whilst partaking in tourist activities and adventure sports.

For the first time, I’ve created a list of 36 of the deadliest activities and adventure sports for tourists in 2023 (based on fatality rate data gathered from the USA, UK, Australia and Europe).

Key Findings:

  • Five of the deadliest activities for tourists are fairly commonplace: driving, hiking, motorbiking, eating (food poisoning) and binge drinking (alcohol poisoning).
  • Five of the safest activities for tourists include shark cage diving, nuclear tours, zorbing, theme park rides and volcano boarding.
  • Adventure sports make up almost half the list, including running with the bulls, paragliding, bungee jumping, snorkelling and jet skiing.
  • Submersible tours are now the 17th most dangerous tourist activity following the Titan tragedy. It is estimated that 1 million tourists ride on submersibles each year.

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36 Deadliest Activities for Tourists in 2023

Tourist ActivityFatality Rate (Ratio)
1.Mountaineering and Rock Climbing1 in 3,125
2.Cave Diving1 in 3,333
3.Driving1 in 7,142
4.Horseback Riding1 in 10,000
5.Paragliding1 in 13,513
6.Mountain Biking1 in 28,571
7.Hiking1 in 50,000
8.Motorcycle Riding1 in 58,823
9.Sky Diving1 in 90,909
10.Running of the Bulls1 in 111,111
11.Eating (Food Poisoning)1 in 112,359
12.Jet Skiing1 in 125,000
13.Binge Drinking (Alcohol Poisoning)1 in 142,857
14.Swimming (Open Water)1 in 156,250
15.Surfing1 in 158,730
16.Sightseeing Flights (Plane and Helicopter)1 in 181,818
17.White Water Rafting1 in 181,818
18.Submersible Tours1 in 200,000
19.Snorkelling1 in 200,000
20.Boating (Motor)1 in 263,158
21.Cycling1 in 270,270
22.Swimming (Pool)1 in 400,000
23.Bungee Jumping1 in 500,000
24.Hot Air Ballooning1 in 500,000
25.Recreational Scuba Diving1 in 555,556
26.Caving1 in 666,667
27.Skiing and Snowboarding1 in 1,075,269
28.Volcano Visits1 in 2,325,581
29.E-Scootering1 in 2,500,000
30.Ziplining1 in 50,000,000
31.Theme Park Rides1 in 100,000,000
34.Nuclear Tours
35.Shark Cage Diving
36.Volcano Boarding

Facts and Causes of Death: 36 Most Dangerous Adventure Sports and Activities for Tourists

1. Mountaineering and Rock Climbing

Tourists mountain climbing a snowy peak in Switzerland.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 3,125 | Chance of Death: 0.032%

Mt Everest is infamously dangerous, with 72 deaths over 7,954 climbs (a fatality rate of 1%)(BBC). But K2 and Annapurna (also in Asia) are much deadlier, with fatality rates of 29% and 32% respectively (NASA).

2. Cave Diving

Cave diver using a rope and torch to navigate.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 3,333 | Chance of Death: 0.03%

The leading cause of death among cave divers is getting lost within the cave system and running out of air (Cave Diving Org).

3. Driving

Female tourist driving a four wheel drive through mountains.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 7,142 | Chance of Death: 0.014%

There is a much higher fatality rate amongst drivers in the USA compared to UK or EU (Bandolier Org).

4. Horseback Riding

Woman riding a horse without a helmet.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 10,000 | Chance of Death: 0.01%

It is mostly women who are killed whilst horse riding. The majority of fatalities are caused by head injuries (Injury Prevention Journal).

5. Paragliding

A paraglider flying over the beach.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 13,513 | Chance of Death: 0.0074%

Single flyers are more than 2x more likely to die than tandem paragliders. 95% of deaths occurred mid-air (World Journal Emergency Medicine (2015)).

6. Mountain Biking

Mountain biker doing a trick off of a dirt jump.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 28,571 | Chance of Death: 0.0035%

Most mountain biking deaths involve hard braking that results in the rider being flung over the handlebars, usually while riding downhill at high speeds. Many deaths also occur during jumps and tricks (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health).

7. Hiking

Male solo travellers hiking mountains in Europe.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 50,000 | Chance of Death: 0.002%

The most common causes of death among hikers tend to be cardiac arrest and falls (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health).

8. Motorcycle Riding

Two tourists riding a motorcycle together through Vietnam.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 58,823 | Chance of Death: 0.0017%

Motorcyclists have about a 50% higher chance of being killed in the USA compared to the UK (Bandolier Org).

9. Sky Diving

Tandem skydiving from a propellor plane.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 90,909 | Chance of Death: 0.0011%

Human error is the principal cause in 86% of parachuting fatalities (Journal of Human Performance in Extreme Environments).

10. Running of the Bulls

Tourists running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 111,111 | Chance of Death: 0.0009%

There have been only 15 deaths in the biggest run (Pamplona, Spain) over 113 years. But the smaller runs (Valencia, Madrid, Castilla y Leon and Navarra) are much more dangerous with more than 30 deaths over the last 10 years.

11. Eating (Food Poisoning)

A woman prepares street food in Asia.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 112,359 | Chance of Death: 0.00089%

Every year, about 3,000 people in the USA die from food-borne diseases (CDC).

12. Jet Skiing

Male tourist riding a jet ski on a lake.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 125,000 | Chance of Death: 0.0008%

The leading causes of personal watercraft fatalities are reckless driving, driver inattention, too much speeding, alcohol usage and off-throttle steering (USCG).

13. Binge Drinking (Alcohol Poisoning)

Drunk friends at a messy party.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 142,857 | Chance of Death: 0.0007%

22% of backpackers drink alcohol in excess during their trip (compared to 9.5% of non-travellers)(Sexually Transmitted Infections). But binge drinking can kill you by shutting down critical areas of the brain that control breathing, heart rate and body temperature.

14. Swimming (Open Water)

A woman wearing a bikini and swimming in the ocean.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 156,250 | Chance of Death: 0.00064%

Factors that can lead to drowning in open water include the coldness of the water, strong currents, underwater hazards and water quality (toxic blooms or pollution)(RLSS).

15. Surfing

Male tourist surfing in a barrel.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 158,730 | Chance of Death: 0.00063%

The most common causes of death amongst surfers are blows to the head, drowning (by wave hold downs, rip currents or caught leash) and pre-existing medical conditions (Wavelength). Only about 10 deaths every year are attributed to shark attacks (AIMS).

16. Sightseeing Flights (Plane/Helicopter)

Propellor water plane carrying tourists.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 181,818 | Chance of Death: 0.00055%

This is different to commercial flights – your chance of dying on a commercial flight is about 1 in 3.37 billion (FlyFright).

17. White Water Rafting

Group of tourists white water rafting.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 181,818 | Chance of Death: 0.00055%

Most recreational whitewater fatalities are caused by fixed underwater entrapment or by “flush drowning” (Wilderness Environ Med).

18. Submersible Rides

Yellow tourist submarine in USA.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 200,000 | Chance of Death: 0.0005%

There were no recorded deaths on recreational tourist submersibles before the Titan disaster in 2023. Tourist submersibles operate in places like USA, Egypt and Australia.

19. Snorkelling

Female tourist snorkelling with a turtle in the ocean.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 200,000 | Chance of Death: 0.0005%

The main causes of death among snorkellers are cardiac arrest, drowning and trauma (Medical Journal of Australia).

20. Boating (Motor)

Motor boat carrying people through a lake.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 263,158 | Chance of Death: 0.00038%

Open motorboats have a fatality rate 4x higher than pontoon and cabin boats (USCG).

21. Cycling

Male cyclist riding through Cheddar Gorge, UK.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 270,270 | Chance of Death: 0.00037%

The main cause of death amongst cyclists is colliding with motor vehicles (NSC).

22. Swimming (Pool)

Kids jumping into a swimming pool.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 400,000 | Chance of Death: 0.00025%

The majority of people who drown in swimming pools are drowning among kids (aged 1-14) (CDC).

23. Bungee Jumping (Pool)

A bungee jumper plunging into the river below.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 500,000 | Chance of Death: 0.0002%

The most common injuries in bungee jumping include retinal bleeding, extremity fractures, dislocations, vascular injury and neck injury (Medical Sports Science Journal).

24. Hot Air Ballooning

Hot air balloons flying at sunrise over Cappadocia in Turkey

Fatality Rate: 1 in 500,000 | Chance of Death: 0.0002%

The most common causes of hot air balloon accidents include hard landings, striking objects when landing (particularly power lines), pilot error and weather events (Journal of Aeronautics and Space Technologies).

25. Recreational Scuba Diving

A scuba diver giving the shakas underwater.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 555,556 | Chance of Death: 0.00018%

Most scuba diving deaths are caused by poor gas management, poor buoyancy control, equipment misuse, entrapment, rough water conditions and pre-existing health problems (Journal of International Maritime Health).

26. Caving

Fatality Rate: 1 in 666,667 | Chance of Death: 0.00015%

Caver standing atop a rocky outcrop in world's largest cave, Vietnam.

Main causes of death when caving includes trauma from fall (Wilderness Environ Med).

27. Skiing and Snowboarding

Male tourist downhill skiing in powder.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 1,075,269 | Chance of Death: 0.000093%

The leading cause of death among skiers and snowboarders is a collision with a tree (Injury Prevention Journal).

28. Visiting Volcanoes

A solo traveller hiking an erupting volcano in Iceland

Fatality Rate: 1 in 2,325,581 | Chance of Death: 0.000043%

The most common cause of death amongst people visiting volcanoes in Hawaii appears to be falling into the crater (NPS) (this statistic does not take into account the New Zealand White Island incident that killed 22).

29. E-Scootering

Woman riding an electric scooter.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 2,500,000 | Chance of Death: 0.00004%

The main cause of e-scooter fatalities is a collision with motor vehicles (CPSC).

30. Ziplining

Male tourist riding a zipline in Mexico.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 50,000,000 | Chance of Death: 0.000002%

Ziplining fatalities are mainly caused by falls, material failures, collisions, and entanglements (Robson Forensic).

31. Theme Park Rides

People riding a rollercoaster at a theme park.

Fatality Rate: 1 in 100,000,000 | Chance of Death: 0.000001%

The main causes of death on rollercoasters are being ejected, being struck by a moving coaster, trauma from sudden stops, mechanical failure (derailments and collisions), misconduct and failure of restraint systems (Injury Prevention BMJ).

32. Downhill Zorbing

Tourist downhill zorbing in a giant ball.

Fatality Rate: Unkown | Chance of Death: Unkown

Since being invented in New Zealand in 1994, there have only been 2 recorded deaths from downhill zorbing.

33. Skywalks

Skywalk over the Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA.

Fatality Rate: Unkown | Chance of Death: Unkown

Whilst there are a few reports of people dying during skywalks in the USA and Australia, they are all self-harm related.

34. Nuclear Tours

Gas mask hanging in the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site.

Fatality Rate: Unkown | Chance of Death: Unkown

There have been no recorded deaths among tourists visiting nuclear sites such as Chornobyl or Fukushima.

35. Shark Cage Diving

Great white shark swimming in the ocean.

Fatality Rate: Unkown | Chance of Death: Unkown

There have been no recorded deaths whilst shark cage diving.

36. Volcano Boarding

Ben Dale (solo traveller) volcano boarding in Nicaragua.

Fatality Rate: Unkown | Chance of Death: Unkown

There have been no recorded deaths whilst volcano boarding.

Methodology and Sources

To calculate the average fatality rate for each tourist activity and sport, I consulted government, organisational and research reports. I primarily relied on US data (however, where US data was not available, I relied on data from destinations with similar safety standards including Australia, UK and Europe).

Where a fatality rate was not directly available, I calculated it myself by dividing the average number of reported fatalities by the number of annual participants. If no data could be found in regard to annual fatalities or participants, I left the activity off of the list.

I then ranked each tourist activity and sport by fatality rate, from highest to lowest.

A full data set and source list are available via this spreadsheet.

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