Even with small children in tow, parents don’t have to sacrifice their spirit of adventure. In fact, having young ones come along for the ride makes it all the more special and an increasing number of tour operators are catering for family adventure holidays. Many companies now focus on adventure activities, cultural discovery and wildlife encounters for children as young as two, and they are evolving to meet the demands of modern families. It’s no longer always two parents and two children. Some groups are larger, some are smaller. Many trips are taken by one parent, not only because they may be single, but also because the other parent has to work and can’t take time off.
When planning an adventure for your family, you have to be realistic. What sounds good on paper might be a little too tricky for a pampered city child. The trick is to guarantee an element of physical comfort while introducing them to new experiences. Simple kayaking, for example, is a better start than white-water rafting and game drives on safari only work if children are guaranteed to see the animals at close range. An adventure holiday doesn’t have to be exotic, it could just as well be a camping trip to France. Here are our long-haul suggestions with an alternative closer to home, in case you don’t want to go so far for an adventure.
The Clayoquot Wilderness Resort on Vancouver Island, on the west coast of Canada, is a luxurious eco-resort set in the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve – one of the best examples of temperate rainforest left on earth. A former mining outpost, it’s now a tented retreat – simply the best camping-in-the-wilderness experience you’re likely to have. Children will be in awe from the moment the seaplane shuttles you all from Vancouver to Tofino. From here, a 45-minute boat journey brings you ashore, where a horse-drawn wagon meets you. There’s everything from kayaking to bear-watching and the whole family can learn to fish. Oh, and there’s also a luxury spa tent for parents needing to relax. Bliss. You’ll never want to leave. For details, visit www.wildretreat.com
Closer to home
Imagine husky sledding through the snowy forests and mountains of Swedish Lapland. Then, picture staying in a private log cabin deep in the wilderness or at the spectacular Ice Hotel. Your children will love it and this trip is sure to leave an indelible childhood memory. Bring on the reindeer stew and thermals! Visit www.originaltravel.co.uk
If you thought India was off limits for a family trip, think again. So long as you book with a tour operator as knowledgeable as Abercrombie & Kent you can open your children’s eyes to the spectacular sights, sounds and smells of magical India.
A&K’s Spirit of India tour caters for adults and children alike. Enjoy a crazy cycle rickshaw ride through the narrow streets of bustling Old Delhi, arrive at the Amber Fort, an ancient palace, maharaja-style on an elephant, spot pythons, pelicans and painted storks at Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary, before searching for tigers at Ranthambore National Park. The company can also organise a visit to a traditional Indian puppet show, local dancing and magic shows children will love. For details, visit www.abercrombiekent.co.uk
Closer to home
Nestled in the Alta Badia Valley in the Dolomites, the picture-perfect village of San Cassiano (1,537m) is home to one of Italy’s finest hotels, The Rosa Alpina. This well-loved family hotel is favoured by everyone from Prince Albert of Monaco to Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, and offers nature discovery walks, rock climbing, yoga, picnics, swimming, mountain biking, fossil hunting, alpine activity trails, handicrafts and painting, tennis and Italian cookery classes. For more details, visit www.rosalpina.it
SEALIFE AND WATER WORLDS
The Galapagos Islands is famous for its incredibly diverse and unique wildlife. Whether you are snorkelling with sea lions, inching your way past lounging iguanas or following a giant tortoise through the forest, the experience will exceed all your family’s expectations.
M/V Eclipse allows families with children aged five and over to have some amazing encounters with wildlife in comfort. The 210-foot cruise ship takes just 48 passengers and all rooms have sea views. On board are expert naturalist guides who lecture on the natural history of the archipelago and lead the visits to the islands. Book via www.scottdunn.com or www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk.
Closer to home
Head to Orlando to rub shoulders – quite literally – with dolphins at Discovery Cove, where you can also swim with the rays. There’s plenty of sea life, not surprisingly, at Seaworld, where you can see what tricks resident killer whale, Shumu, has learnt from Michael Phelps. Seven nights in Orlando at the Renaissance Orlando Resort at Seaworld costs from £789 per person, including free car hire, from Virgin Holidays (www.virgin.holidays.com, tel: 0844 5573 875).
Visit Earth’s last frontier with The Adventure Travel Company. It offers a 15-day Antarctic cruise for families with children aged five and over. Heading south from Ushuaia, Argentina, across the Drake Passage, passing increasingly large icebergs along the way, you can step onto a land of ice-capped mountains, glaciers and icy fjords. Wildlife to spot include penguins, seals, whales and birds. Visit www.adventurecompany.co.uk
Closer to home
How does a superjeep weekend safari in Iceland grab you and the children? This amazing adventure takes you to remote and wild areas of Iceland, where conventional vehicles simply can’t tread. See the Geysir geothermal areas, Gullfoss waterfall and the amazing Blue Lagoon. For more details, visit www.discover-the-world.co.uk
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Heading Down Under is a rite of passage for any intrepid travelling family. One adventurous way of exploring the bush, ocean and the outback is by campervan – you’re free to roam wherever you wish and the children will be in awe! Britz (www.britz.com) is Australia’s largest campervan rental company and has the first campervan, the Britz Escape, designed to sleep five people in two double beds and one single. There’s a shower, toilet, TV/DVD player, fridge, microwave, gas stove, air con and heating. At the end of your adventures, you might like to rest at Voyages Heron Island at the Great Barrier Reef, where children can gather on the beach and watch baby loggerhead and green turtle hatchlings scurry to the sea. Visit www.heronisland.com
Closer to home
Andalucia is a great short-haul option for families looking for a burst of adventure. Stay at the Old Mill
(www.inntravel.co.uk), where children can enjoy horse-riding, donkey treks, nature trails and paddling in streams. Alternatively, live like the Flintstones in a Cave House near the historic city of Granada. For more details, visit www.homelidays.com
A DRIVE UP IN THE MOUNTAINS
New Zealand’s South Island holds a special attraction for youngsters, with both The Lord Of The Rings and The Chronicles Of Narnia filmed there. Bridge & Wickers has designed a 12-night trip for families. Starting in Wellington, you then sail across the Cook Strait to the stunning Marlborough Sounds to enjoy walking, kayaking and boating around the famous mussel beds. In Kaikoura, your children will have their dreams come true, spotting sperm whales and swimming with dolphins, before taking a scenic drive amongst 6,000ft peaks to the stunningly located Terrace Down. Here you can go jet boating, horse riding, mountain biking or, for those hooked on The Lord Of The Rings, check out the themed tour. Finally, it’s on to Queenstown to explore before heading back home. Visit www.bridgeandwickers.co.uk
Closer to home
Children will definitely catch the bug for adventure travel with responsible tourism company, Explore (www.explore.co.uk/family adventures). Though they have a great selection of long-haul adventures, their short-haul selection is inspiring. Why not become a Mont Blanc Explorer in France, where you stay in an Alpine chalet and go rock climbing in the Chamonix Valley? Alternatively, head to Corsica for a week of action in the forested northern mountains. Everything from zip wires to rope courses should keep the most energetic of children happy. Or take your family on a yacht around Croatia – the coast of a thousand islands. Sunsail offers a wide choice of fun sailing holidays for families. For details, visit www.sunsail.co.uk
HISTORIC CITIES AND CULTURE
Taking the family to northern Thailand is an adventure in itself, and if you want to be pampered while the children have a mini adventure of their own, then the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi in Chiang Mai is the perfect choice. Children here are encouraged to explore their environs with a ride on the resort’s colourful, hand-painted horse carts or samlors. Children will love a visit to the rice fields where they can dress up in traditional farmers’ outfits and plant rice. Visit www.mandarinoriental.com
Closer to home
Princess Cruises has a fabulous 14-night trip around the cities of Europe. Setting sail from the port of Southampton to Gibraltar, Alicante, Barcelona, Cannes, Florence and Pisa, Rome and Seville. Excursions include dolphin-watching in Gibraltar and exploring Barcelona by bicycle. Visit www.princess.com
If your children have watched Aladdin, Oman could be the ultimate exotic adventure. This unspoilt corner of the Arabian peninsula is something of a hot spot and is a great destination for combining beach and desert. Begin in Muscat at the Barr al Jissah resort with trips to watch dolphins and whales, then visit the Omani Heritage Village and see the Arabian horses. Head to the desert in a privately guided four-wheel drive safari, taking in the mountains and oasis villages. Driving through the Wahiba Sands, ride camels across the dunes and stay the night at a Bedouin tented camp. Returning to the coast, families can take a boat trip on a dhow or turtle watch. For details, visit www.originaltravel.co.uk/kids/adventures
Closer to home
Head to Bulgaria in the winter months for a snow-filled week of adventure, based in the spectacular limestone gorges and peaks of Rhodope Mountains. As well as skiing and snowboarding, families have time to visit an observatory for a tour of the night sky, and bathe in thermal pools. Visit www.adventurecompany.co.uk
SAFARI WILDLIFE ADVENTURE
Evening campfires, hot bucket showers under the glittering stars, stunning wildlife and bush-craft secrets are all part of a Botswana safari. Western & Oriental offers superb Young Explorers safaris. You have the sole use of a private camp, allowing your schedule to be tailored around the ages and interests of your family (ages seven
and over). From Maun you fly to the family-friendly Footsteps Across the Delta Camp. Days are spent exploring the vast Okavango Delta with walking, canoe and four-wheel drive safaris. Adults can have a siesta while children are tended by their guides, who will help them to record observations and teach bush skills; while at Edo’s Camp, in Kalahari, you can meet the San Bushmen, one of the world’s oldest cultures. For more details, visit www.westernoriental.com
Closer to home
Drive through a wildlife wonderland of Lion Country, Tiger Territory, Wolf Wood and the Big Game Park, with rhino and camels at Longleat Safari Park (www.longleat.co.uk). Make a weekend of it by staying at the stunning Lucknam Park, just outside Bath, and indulge in fine dining, a spanking new spa or take a canter on horse around the 500 acres of beautiful rural surroundings. For details, visit www.lucknampark.co.uk
Kumuka Worldwide’s Magical Forests, Tunnels and Beaches is a 14-day escorted tour of Vietnam from Hanoi in the north to Ho Chi Minh City in the south. Suitable for children as young as five, you can visit Hanoi’s oldest streets and the French colonial district by cyclo (a pedal-powered tricycle taxi) and see the famous Water Puppet Show, dating back to when paddy fields were used as a stage for floating puppet shows.
In the country’s oldest national park, the endangered primate rescue centre has species such as pygmy lorises. Next stop is Halong Bay for two nights aboard a traditional junk boat, exploring limestone caves and islands. Flying on to beautiful Hoi An, there’s a walking tour and last stop is back in Ho Chi Minh City for an exploration of the Cu Chi Tunnels, the Mekong Delta and the Saigon Water Park. Visit www.kumuka.com
Closer to home
Turkey – where east meets west – is perfect for short-haul fun. Kumuka’s Fairy Chimneys, Caves & Villages tour begins with Istanbul before flying to the Cappodocia region, with its weird rock formations. There is a four-day trek among the pretty valleys and old villages, staying in local pensions, and your children will love the mystical cave dwellings.