Adventure trail: 10 best family activity holidays
Take the children tiger-spotting in India or introduce them to dolphins in Australia. Sophie Lam picks some bracing breaks
Sunday 30 May 2004
1 High jinks in the French Alps
1 High jinks in the French Alps
Mountains are often overlooked after the snow has melted. But with the snow goes the crowds, providing a tranquil base for summer pursuits. Activities Abroad (0870-444 5320, www.activitiesabroad.com) is one company offering active family breaks in the French Alps. Its Beyond the Riviera week-long itinerary in Les Alpes-Maritimes is suitable for children from the age of eight, and offers up to five activities in a flexible package that allows you to choose to do as little or as much as you like. The package includes seven nights in a gite, home-cooked dinners, two lunches, all equipment, instruction and transfers. Activities include canyoning, mountain biking, lake kayaking and traversing the Via Ferrata in the Italian Alps. A week costs from £390 for adults and £340 for children aged eight to 14 without activities, or £590 for adults and £540 for children with all activities. There are two Sunday departures in July and four in August. Flights are not included but can be arranged with car hire, which is recommended, through Activities Abroad. A return flight to Nice with easyJet (0871-750 0100; www.easyJet.com) in July costs about £79 from Gatwick, Stansted or Luton.
2 Get on your bike in the Netherlands
The flat relief of the Netherlands makes it an ideal location for cycling with young children. Saddle Skedaddle (0191-265 1110; www.skedaddle.co.uk) offers two itineraries in Holland, one of which is The Green Heart of Holland. The tour starts and ends in Amsterdam, cycling along rivers, through 16th-century towns, past ubiquitous windmills and towards the coast to Rotterdam, with time reserved for museums and cultural attractions, such as the Keukenhof gardens. The group - six to 16 in size - travels about 45km each day, with some of the distance covered by boat. Accommodation is on-board a barge, which follows the route taken by the group. Monthly departures leave on Saturdays from May to August and cost from £525 for adults and £130 for children up to the age of 18. The cost includes full-board accommodation, bicycle hire, a tour guide and ferry fares. There is no minimum age for children, who are welcome to join their parents on child seats or on their own bikes (providing they can cycle competently without stabilisers). Transport to Amsterdam is not included. KLM (08705 074074; www.klm.com) offers return flights from £78 from regional airports to Amsterdam. Stena Line (08704-00 67 98; www.amsterdamexpress.co.uk) offers return fares on its Rail and Sail route from £50 per person from London Liverpool Street or Cambridge.
3 Go wild in Tanzania
Let the little ones go wild on a specially designed family safari. The Adventure Company (0870-794 1009, www.adventurecompany.co.uk) offers several safari itineraries specifically designed for families, one of which is its Safari & Spice tour in Tanzania. The group tour - three to five families - combines visits to the Saadani Game Reserve, Mikumi National Park and to the island of Zanzibar, combining cultural tours with beach relaxation. Children as young as five are welcomed and there are plenty of opportunities to see wildlife such as monkeys, hippos and zebras. The 13-night tour costs from £1,983 for adults and £1,820 for children aged five to 12. The cost includes return flights from Heathrow to Dar es Salaam on Gulf Air, internal flights and transfers, boat and land safaris, a tour of Stone Town and guides. B&B is also included with eight nights in a hotel, one night in a safari lodge and four nights in a fixed camp. The best time to visit is from December to February and June to September, when rainfall is at its lowest. The next departure is 17 July.
4 Get a culture shock in India
Look and learn on a trip to India. Explore Family Holidays (01252 760177; www.explore.co.uk/familyadventures) offers group tours - about 12 to16 in size - around the world for families with children from the age of six. Its Taj, Tigers and Palaces 12-day tour takes in less-travelled routes and towns in northern India as well as more familiar landmarks. The itinerary includes a tour of New and Old Delhi, a visit to Ranthambore National Park to see its protected tigers and other wildlife, a visit to the palaces and markets of Jaipur, to the 13th-century fort of Taragarh Fort, Keoladeo National Park and the Taj Mahal. One optional extra is an elephant ride at Amber Palace near Jaipur. The tour costs from £1,095 per adult and £899 per child aged six to 11. The cost includes b&b in hotels for nine nights and full board in converted Maharajahs' palaces for two nights, as well as return flights on Gulf Air from Heathrow, transfers, guides and entrance to parks and tours. The next departure is 20 October, for which there is limited availability. Tours are available during school holidays.
5 Join the club in Thailand
Take a chill while your kids get active. Families staying at the Sheraton Krabi Beach Resort (00 66 75 628 000, www.starwood.com) in southern Thailand can take advantage of its activity-packed Sai Roong Club aimed at children aged four to 12. Open daily from 9am-5pm with a break for lunch at 12pm, the programme includes batik painting, beach games, mask and necklace making, Thai boxing, swimming with Ra-ra the two-year-old baby elephant in the sea and kayaking. Children can participate in morning, afternoon or all-day sessions, leaving parents to enjoy the hotel's facilities, which include a diving centre and spa. They can also take time out to explore local islands such as Koh Phi Phi. The Sai Roong Club is free, although there is a small charge for certain activities. Kuoni Travel (01306 747008; www.kuoni.co.uk) organises seven-night holidays to the Sheraton Krabi Beach Resort from £888 for adults and £462 for children up to the age of 12, based on three sharing. The price includes return flights from Heathrow to Bangkok and a connecting flight to Krabi with Thai International, land and air transfers and b&b accommodation.
6 Explore Canada's great outdoors
Footloose (0870-444 8735; www.footloose.com) offers an 11-day family tour, Canadian Discovery, taking families with children as young as eight through British Columbia and Alberta. The tour starts in Seattle and heads to the Paul Lake Provincial Park in the heart of British Columbia with its mountain lakes and glaciers. From there, the group explores the Emerald Lake area in Yoho National Park and goes rafting on the Kicking Horse River. Next it's Alberta and the Banff National Park with a cable car ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain and time to relax in the park's natural hot springs. The tour also explores Lake Louise, Jasper National Park, Wells Gray Provincial Park and Vancouver, finishing back in Seattle. The cost is £859 for adults and £773 for children aged eight to 16, including accommodation in tents, camping fees, vehicle transportation, guides, park entrance fees, a glacier walk, and entry to the hot springs. Flights are not included. Extras include river rafting, horse riding, cycling, canoeing and hiking. The next departure is 19 June for which Footloose is offering a 20 per cent discount, then 17 July and 7 August. British Airways (0870-850 9850, www.ba.com) flies direct to Seattle with a return flight in August costing about £718 for adults and £503 for children aged two to 11.
7 Watch dolphins in Australia
Give the dolphinarium a miss and experience these amazing creatures in their natural environment. Austravel (0870-166 2002; www.austravel.com) offers a Monkey Mia Dolphin Delight three-day tour in Western Australia. The aim is to introduce families of all ages to wild bottle-nosed dolphins, which swim into the shallows of Shark Bay - a World Heritage Site. The tour departs Perth every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and costs from £310 for adults and £225 for children up to the age of 11. The price includes return flights from Perth, two nights' accommodation at the Monkey Mia Resort and transfers, as well as entry to the nature reserve. Austravel can organise packages in Australia to complement the Monkey Mia Dolphin tour and are currently offering a 10-night package to Perth at the three-star Sullivan's Hotel from £1,125 for adults and £915 for children aged two to 11. This includes return flights with Qantas either from London Heathrow or Manchester, room-only accommodation, and free bicycle hire as well as the Monkey Mia Dolphin package. This offer must be booked and taken by 30 June.
8 Get in the saddle in Tenerife
Explore the Canaries beyond the beach. In the Saddle (01299-272 997, www.inthesaddle.com) organises holidays on horseback across the world, but the Finca Verde trail is especially suited for families. Novices can train for four days to build confidence and competence before setting off on a trail around northern Tenerife, using an American Indian style of riding which encourages a close bond between horse and rider, with a light saddle and a bit-less bridle. The itinerary involves four days of riding off the beaten track, with three to seven hours of riding each day. The cost of the training week is from £585 per adult and £500 per child aged nine-14 years, and from £610 per adult and £520 per child for the riding week. The costs include seven nights' accommodation, all breakfasts, lunches from Monday to Friday and all riding. The weekends are free for riders to explore the island. Flights and car hire are not included but can be arranged through In The Saddle. The riding holiday operates throughout the year, starting on Mondays, with group sizes averaging about six. GB Airways (0870- 850 9850; www.gbairways.com) operates flights on behalf of British Airways from Gatwick to Tenerife North. A return flight in August costs about £235 for adults and children.
9 Fun and games in the UK
Let the kids take you on holiday. Manor Adventure (01584-861333; www.manoradventure.com) offers fully inclusive activity holidays for children with or without their parents at its centre in Ludlow, Shropshire. Its You Can Come Too package is for all the family, including children from the age of three, while unaccompanied children aged eight to 16 are also welcome. The activities are divided into age groups and visitors can choose to do as little or as much as they please from an itinerary that includes canoeing, abseiling, face-painting, trampolining, nature walks and caving. Adults and small children stay in en-suite rooms, while over-sevens sleep in dormitories. The cost for adults is £389, £349 for children aged seven to 12 and £379 for children aged 13 to 16 for seven nights. Two and three-night packages are also available. The costs include accommodation, all meals (buffet-style), accompanied outdoor pursuits and equipment. The week-long breaks are available in school holidays and there are weekend breaks throughout the year. There is no supplement for single-parent families.
10 Step out in Peru
Get your walking boots on. Walks Worldwide (01524 242000; www.walksworldwide.com) welcomes children of any age, even babes-in-arms, to join its An Inka Adventure, a 15-day tour of Peru. Time is set aside for acclimatisation and ponies aid the trip by carrying small children. The tour begins in Cusco, where families spend the first two days exploring the ancient Inka capital and getting used to the altitude. The hike begins taking in the Inca sites of Puca Pucara, Quenqo and Sacsayhuaman. After a night's camping, the tour continues through Andean villages to the Plaza de Chincheros. Later on, the group visits the salt mines at Maras, the caves at Pichingoto, Ollantaytambo's forts and temples, the hot springs at Aguas Calientes, the rescue centre for the endangered spectacled bear and a guided tour of Machu Picchu. A train then takes the group to Lake Titicaca, from where a boat takes them onto Amantani and the Taquile Islands. The tour costs from £1,895 for adults, £1,595 for children aged two to 11 and £95 for children up to the age of one (providing no plane seat is required). The costs include flights from any UK airport via Amsterdam to Lima, accommodation in hotels, camps and family homes, transfers, transport and ponies for children, all meals on the treks, guides and entrance fees. The group size is about 20 and the next departure date is 10 August.
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