Wanted: sun and fun in February

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The Independent Travel
We are looking for somewhere sunny to spend the February half- term en famille, and cannot decide between Djerba, the island in Tunisia, or The Gambia. Our children are aged six and eight - will there be any health or safety problems?

Irene Evans


Jill Crawshaw replies: Although Djerba is theoretically the sunniest winter destination in Tunisia, being the furthest south, I am not sure that I would choose it for a winter holiday. The island gets a lot of wind, February is the month when it is likely to rain, and the sea is certainly not warm enough to swim in.

When I was near there last year, at the end of April, it still wasn't warm enough for swimming - there were four warm days, two grey and blustery and one of rain, and I was told that was fairly typical. Sunshine really cannot be guaranteed much before May anywhere in the Med. "Lotus-eaters' Island" Djerba may be, but there is little to do other than sunbathe.

In Tunisia at that time of year, I would go for Hammamet where there is a lot more going on if the weather turns grisly, and you are near enough to Tunis (with its marvellous museum and medina), to Carthage, and to the trendy little town of Sidi Bou Said. The holy city of Kairouan is an easy enough excursion, and even a six-year-old could manage a one- night desert safari - the kids who did this with me last year loved it.

Panorama (tel: 01273 206531), the Tunisia specialists, offers Les Orangers Hotel at Hammamet, which has a children's playground and pool and a kids' club in winter if there are enough under-12s, very likely at half-term. There are no health or safety worries in Tunisia, the easiest and most family-friendly North African country.

The Gambia? No problems whatsoever about the weather - it is the cheapest near-guaranteed sunshine you can find, with the advantage of only six hours' flying and no jet-lag. Although the hotels used by British operators are pretty westernised - too much so for some people - you must take care over hygiene: watch out for non-bottled water, salads and uncooked foods. Jabs are, of course, advisable - see your doctor about this - and malaria precautions essential.

Hotels are beginning to develop children's clubs and pools, but there aren't (some say thankfully) any water-parks or Disneyworlds ... yet. But low-key excursions are popular - to a crocodile pool, to do some dolphin- spotting or to explore a "desert island". The Gambia Experience (tel: 01703 730888) has a wide range of packages.

To sum up: if sunshine is a must, choose The Gambia; but there is a lot of interest in Tunisia, if you are prepared to go out looking for it.

Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer and broadcaster.