Welcome to the world - it's just one big adventure playground

Does your family want a change from two weeks on the beach? Aoife O'Riordain suggests some challenging alternatives
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The Independent Travel

Put down that bucket and spade - it's time for an adventure. How would you and the kids fancy tracking tigers in India, or sleeping under the stars in the Sahara, white-water rafting in Canada, or hiking through the jungle in Borneo? An increasing number of companies are responding to demand and offering a wide choice of holidays for adventurous families. So whether you prefer to join a small escorted group tour or design your very own tailor-made trip, there are plenty of ways to take a break from the norm with departures scheduled for school holiday times throughout the year.

Put down that bucket and spade - it's time for an adventure. How would you and the kids fancy tracking tigers in India, or sleeping under the stars in the Sahara, white-water rafting in Canada, or hiking through the jungle in Borneo? An increasing number of companies are responding to demand and offering a wide choice of holidays for adventurous families. So whether you prefer to join a small escorted group tour or design your very own tailor-made trip, there are plenty of ways to take a break from the norm with departures scheduled for school holiday times throughout the year.

Join the Inca trail in Peru

One of Last Frontiers' (01296 653000; www.lastfrontiers.com) new itineraries for families is a two-week holiday in Peru. Spend your days exploring the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, descending the Sacred Valley of the Incas by mountain bike and white-water rafting down the Rio Urubamba. Other highlights include a visit to the Maras salt pans and the colonial city of Cusco. Children must be over 12. Five trips depart on dates throughout the year with the next on 26 March and 21 May. The price is £1,930 per person, based on two sharing, including flights, transfers, accommodation, most meals and a guide.

Cross the desert in Morocco

Walks Worldwide (01524-242 000; www.walksworldwide.com) has developed an extensive array of family walking holidays in locations throughout Europe and beyond. New for 2005 is an exciting trek through the fringes of the Sahara desert in Morocco, which includes visiting the highest dunes in Morocco at Chegaga. The final night is spent in a Bedouin-style tent at Chez Pacha in Ouled Driss. An eight-day itinerary is offered over February half term (departing 13 February 2005), while a 10-day trip departing on 29 March is offered at Easter. Prices start at £795 per adult and £630 for children (aged five-11).

Follow the bears in Finland

Glimpse a brown bear on a four-day weekend at Martinselkonen Wilderness Centre in northern Finland on one of Naturetrek's (01962-733 051; www.naturetrek.co.uk) family adventures. The centre is in taiga forest close to the Russian border and there will be opportunities for spotting wolf, European lynx and owls. The trip, which departs on 1 August 2005, is suitable for children over nine. The price is £695 per adult and £555 per child under 12, based on two sharing, including flights, full board and all guiding.

Get active in China

China's popularity as a destination is increasing and not just for independent travellers. The Imaginative Traveller (01473-667 337; www.imaginative-traveller.com) has devised a two-week, fully escorted, family friendly itinerary entitled "Chinese Crackers" suitable for children over six. During the action-packed holiday, families visit the capital Beijing, make their way down the Yangtze on sheepskin rafts, visit a panda sanctuary and sand toboggan in the Gobi Desert. There are selected departures throughout the year, over Easter, half term and the summer holidays. Prices start from £760 per person, based on two sharing, plus a local payment of $240 (£170), which includes room-only accommodation and transfers. Flights are extra.

Go on safari in Botswana

Safaris are an expensive prospect, particularly for families, but very few experiences can compare with seeing wild animals in their natural habitat. Family specialist, Aardvark Safaris (01980-849 160; www.aardvarksafaris.com) recommends a mobile tented safari in Botswana as one of the best ways to experience the African bush. It can arrange tailor-made itineraries, such as eight nights in Botswana from Maun the Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park followed by four nights in Cape Town in South Africa. At Easter, this trip would cost £10,685 for a family of two adults and two children over 10. Includes flights, transfers, private safari with all meals and activities plus b&b in Cape Town.

Head for the Spanish hills

Explore Worldwide's (01870- 333 4001; www.explore.co.uk/familyadventures) family programme features 16 new trips for 2005. One is an eight-day group adventure holiday in the Spanish Pyrenees, with departures starting at the end of May. The holiday combines walking in Aigues Tortes National Park with rafting down the canyons and gorges of the River Noguera. The minimum age is eight. The price, which starts at £599 per adult and £589 per child, based on two sharing, includes return flights, b&b, transfers and activities. There is a local payment of €65 (£46) each.

Watch wildlife in Panama

Animal lovers should head for Central America on Reef and Rainforest Tours' (01803- 866 965; www.familytours.co.uk) new itinerary for 2005. Its two-week tailor-made family holiday uncovers the wildlife of Panama. The itinerary starts with a stay in a resort-style hotel in the canal region, before moving on to explore the cloud forest zone. There you might encounter monkeys, sloths and rare birds, such as the elusive Resplendent Quetzal, which was worshipped by the Mayans. The holiday finishes with a trip to the beach on one of the islands of the idyllic Bocas del Toro archipelago on Panama's Caribbean coast. The first available departures are at Easter. Prices start at £2,196 per adult and £1,386 per child aged under 12, based on two sharing, including return flights, transfers, some meals, tours and excursions.

Get in the saddle in Ireland

Equestrian Holidays Ireland ( www.ehi.ie) is an umbrella organisation offering a wide selection of horse-riding holidays in Ireland. Here you will find lists of riding centres, including residential ones, which offer several different types of experience, including trail-riding and trekking along deserted beaches in locations across the country from Co Kerry to Co Donegal. One residential centre featured is The Bel-Air Hotel, Equestrian Club and Holiday Village (00 353 404 40109; www.holidaysbelair.com) in Ashford, Co Wicklow. It offers riding holidays for families with children aged over 14 years who have ridden for at least 40 hours in the past year. Guests can choose from hotel and self-catering accommodation. There are various riding packages on offer. Prices start from €57 (£40) per person per night, based on two sharing, including breakfast. Riding starts from €35 (£25) per person per hour, although special packages are available for booking for those who are staying over a few days.

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