If a tank won't do, why not hire a skidoo?

There's no limit to the on- and off-road holidays on offer to the adventurous driver, reports Jill Crawshaw
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The Independent Culture
TANKS FOR THE MEMORY

You can steer anything from a go-kart to a 34-ton former Soviet tank on a multi-driving course with Anglia Activity Breaks. Packages costing between pounds 53 and pounds 120 each allow you to drive several types of vehicle. For pounds 53, for example, you can tackle a former British army gun carrier, a Honda Pilot race, a 4x4 off-road Jeep, go-karts and reverse steer vehicles. If you prefer a tank instead of the latter, the cost is pounds 69. A tank-driving session on its own costs pounds 60 for two people, who can buy an old car to crush in action for a further pounds 50. The company also arranges hostel-style and log cabin accommodation on a rural estate, from pounds 17 b&b. A current driving licence is required.

Anglia Activity Breaks 01508 495008

TO THE ICE-CAP BY SKIDOO

A variety of Jeep adventures is offered by Arctic Experience in Iceland, a country they describe as a giant playground for off-the-beaten-track driving. Itineraries include the Laki craters and Snaefell volcano, Iceland's largest ice mass, Vatnajokull, in the north, the ice caves of Kverkfjoll and excursions on the ice-cap by skidoo. Some of the expeditions involve long days of driving to out-of-the way places, where facilities may be absent.

Arctic Experience arranges both independent and escorted holidays: a six-day trip with flights and hire of vehicles, for those who prefer to plan their own itinerary, costs pounds 471 each for a minimum of two (to which accommodation or camping equipment can be added at extra cost). Fully inclusive escorted itineraries with a guide or driver, and accommodation in guesthouses, huts and tents cost from pounds 895 for a week.

Arctic Experience 01737 218800

RARE TREATS FOR EASY RIDERS

With Peregor Travel, true Easy Rider bikers can live out their fantasies on a Honda Nighthawk 750cc, the American Classical Edition (ACE) Honda Shadow 650cc, or even the mega-powerful Goldwing Interstate 1500cc - but they'll need to bring their own crash helmets, boots, gloves and jackets, be over 25 and hold a motorcycling licence.

Motorbikes can be collected from various destinations, from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Miami to San Francisco, as well as from several Canadian cities. If you pick one up in Chicago, and travel the famous Route 66 from east to west, you can drop it off for no extra charge at Los Angeles, Las Vegas or Phoenix, Arizona.

The cost of a week's motorcycle hire only, during July and August, is between pounds 330 and pounds 409, which includes 700 free miles (21 cents or 14p a mile after that), with basic insurance and transfers to and from airports included. One-week packages including flights and bike hire cost from pounds 597 to Florida (for two sharing the motorbike) and from pounds 762 for sole use of the vehicle.

Peregor Travel 01895 630871

DESERT DRIVING COURSE

A one-day course learning to tackle roller-coaster desert terrain is on offer from Premier Holidays on its six-night stays in Dubai, a country whose attractions are often under-rated. The driving courses, using air- conditioned four-wheel-drive Landcruisers, cost pounds 134 per person, with three persons sharing the vehicle. Six nights in Dubai, including flights and hotel accommodation (room only) are available from pounds 578.

Premier Holidays 01223 516677

AFRICAN EXPLORERS

Some unusual destinations are offered by Sunvil Holidays in its programme of vacations aimed at more independent travellers - among them Namibia, Costa Rica, Sicily and a tour of the Portuguese pousadas and manor houses.

Though distances in Namibia may appear daunting, it is one of the easier African countries to explore by car. Roads are well maintained, straight, and often completely empty. They pass through game parks, lunar landscapes, deserts, dunes and spectacular areas of petrified forest.

Itineraries are tailor-made, with accommodation in lodges and luxury guesthouses, private ranches and working farms, often with game drives laid on in the evenings. English is widely spoken, and driving is on the left (though sign posts may still be in German). A 12-night itinerary which includes accommodation, some meals, car hire with unlimited mileage, return flights and special insurance costs pounds 1,576.

Sunvil Holidays 0181-568 4499

THAILAND ADVENTURE

Four-wheel drive safaris off the beaten track in northern Thailand are available from Magic of Orient. They travel on rarely used dirt roads, visiting remote hill-tribe villages, Buddhist temples and an elephant working site. Driver/guides accompany the tour. The price per person is pounds 492 (inclusive of Bangkok-Chiang Mai outward flights, returning from Mae Hong Son to Bangkok), for a four-night safari and full board. Return flights from the UK are not included, but these can be arranged as part of a tailor-made holiday to Thailand. An eight-night, four-wheel drive safari, plus a three-night stay in Bangkok and return flights from the UK, costs a total of pounds 1,036.

Magic of Orient 01293 537700

FREEDOM OF AUSTRALIA

"Swagman" Campers and Motorhomes offer flexible touring in the great outdoors Down Under, through Austravel. The vehicles sleep between two and six people, and come complete with cooking facilities, cutlery, crockery and bedding. Though they are real gas-guzzlers, even the longer ones are surprisingly light to handle.

Prices start at pounds 69 per day for a two-berth vehicle, rising to pounds 115 for a six-berther; the minimum hire period is one week. Campers and Motor-homes can be picked up from many cities, including Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane, with the east coast Sydney to Brisbane route being the most popular. You can pick up the vehicle in one city and drop it off in another without extra charge.

In New Zealand, Mount Cook Motorhomes cost from pounds 24 to pounds 56 a day until September, and from pounds 63 to pounds 99 after October, with a compulsory New Zealand insurance cover of $13.50 (around pounds 6) per vehicle payable locally. Pick-up bases are Auckland and Christchurch.

Fares to Sydney, Australia by scheduled airline are pounds 739 return, charter pounds 499; to New Zealand pounds 1,019 by scheduled flights, pounds 599 charter. (Charter flights start late October.)

Austravel 0171-734 7755 !

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