Family holidays: back to nature

Family holidays: back to nature

Get back to nature with a family-friendly break, says Aby Dunsby.

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Standing on top of a cliff at sunset, marvelling at a star-filled sky, swimming in the ocean as dolphins arch above your head – there’s nothing like getting closer to nature to make you appreciate the world’s beauty.

Whether families want to come face to face with a lion, gawp at gushing waterfalls or wander through thick, flora-rich rainforest, Mother Nature’s got plenty up her sleeve to wow nature lovers.

Clients with kids can enjoy the fun of a memorable family-friendly nature holiday together, with more escorted tour operators laying on dedicated family departures, and options that range from the tranquil to the adrenaline pumping.

HOseasons

Best of British

Getting close to nature doesn’t have to take clients to remote, far-flung locations (unless they want it to), so for those who are strapped for time or cash, suggest a UK break.

Natural wonders range from glass-like lakes in the Scottish highlands and the plunging cliffs of Dorset, to verdant woodland in Kent and the lavender-strewn fields of Norfolk. There are also heaps of outdoor activities on clients’ doorsteps, from nature trail walks to water sports, cycling and zip-lining.

Families can incorporate fun activities with back-to-nature relaxation on a Hoseasons escape. The holiday company has recently introduced Wanderwood breaks, where clients stay in woodland nature lodges whose locations have been chosen because of their vicinity to trails, walks and open spaces. The pet-friendly lodges include complimentary binoculars for birdwatching, and each comes with an outdoor hot tub perfect for evening star-gazing.

Its Fritton Lake retreats on the border between Norfolk and Suffolk offer a mix of woodland, lakeside and meadow views. Active types can head to its outdoor centre for canoe treks, paddleboarding or open-water swimming, while those who prefer keeping their feet dry can follow lakeside trails, sign up for bushcraft sessions or get their knees grubby with some tree climbing.

For kids who love the beach, nothing says British seaside like a family caravan stay. Clients can choose camping or a caravan at one of Haven’s 36 seaside holiday parks, which lay on a variety of family-focused activities including outdoor education programme Nature Rockz.

Kids can work with park rangers to build a bug hotel while learning some fascinating insect facts, then go on a bug hunt safari, or even help make a bird box.

Haven has added activities to the programme this year including nature bracelet-making and habitat creations, where kids are taken on a guided tour to learn more about where animals make their homes.

Kayaking

Going wild

For clients who are happy to venture farther afield, Prestige Holidays recommends Canada for its wide range of activities and its appeal to children of all ages.

“From the excitement of seeing Niagara Falls up-close on a Hornblower cruise, to a float trip on the Athabasca River in Jasper to whale watching in British Columbia, there’s plenty of variety to keep everyone happy,” says Denise Hunn, Prestige Holidays’ Canada and USA manager.

Hunn recommends adding activities to a self-drive package to allow families more freedom. Options include a couple of nights at a lakeside property for a cabin in the woods-style adventure, plus most lodges also offer on-site activities such as horse riding, hiking and water sports.

Parents who are keen for their teens to unglue their iPhone from their hands or tear themselves away from their Xbox will find that a US ranch holiday keeps them happily occupied. Funway Holidays suggests the Dixie Dude Ranch in Texas as a place for kids to make new friends. There’s a playground and ranch games to encourage interaction and allow parents some time to relax, while in the evenings entertainment comes in the form of rope shows, storytelling and toasting marshmallows on the fire. Aside from signing up to the weekly rodeos, kids who are keen to explore further can fish in the pond or go for walks around the wider ranch lands.

Australia is another obvious long-haul choice for nature lovers, with a rich, showstopping landscape that easily lends itself to outdoor exploration. Wildlife can be found at every turn, but for a really immersive experience, visit the Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria, home to kangaroos, wombats, emus and dingoes, or Cleland National Park, where clients can learn about the koala and even give one a cuddle.

Alternatively, head south to experience another side of Australia amid the lush scenery of quieter island Tasmania, where the calm, pristine waters of the Derwent River make for a fun, family kayaking excursion. Tassie Bound Adventure Tours offers the knowledge of an expert local guide who will take clients out on the water for the day, and tailor kayaking tours to ability.

Elephant

Animal attraction

For many clients, getting closer to nature also entails meeting some of its weird and wonderful creatures, and a safari is a great opportunity to tick off some of the world’s most majestic animals in one epic holiday. For an archetypal experience, suggest staying in tent suites to get up‑close to the action and benefit from a spot of luxury.

Wilderness Safaris’ Ruckomechi Camp in Zimbabwe is due to open two more family suites this month, as well as a sister camp, Little Ruckomechi, for a smaller, more intimate experience. Both come with epic, wide-angled views of the Zambezi River, and the area boasts large concentrations of buffalo and elephant, while lion, leopard and cheetah are often sighted and the grunting of the hippo can be heard all day.

Those determined to tick off the big five should consider South Africa, where a safari can also be married with a trip to see the gushing waters of Victoria Falls. Africa Albida Tourism’s six modern luxurious Safari Suites are ideally located just two-and-a-half miles from the falls, and the venue also offers safari cruises along the Zambezi as well as guided safari drives for families.

If the kids’ favourite Disney film is Dumbo, suggest a trip to Elephant Hills in Thailand, a luxury tented camp that’s also home to 11 Asian elephants, which families will have the opportunity to prepare lunch for, feed and scrub with coconut husks after their mud bath.

David Carlow, head of Faraway product at Premier Holidays, says: “Elephant Hills is one of our most popular family experiences and it’s a great extension to any holiday in Thailand.

“Interacting with the Asian elephants is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and children love it. People can also look out for hornbills overhead or reptiles basking on the riverbank.”

In Costa Rica, clients can combine birdwatching and monkey spotting with beach lazing and a trip to Arenal National Park to take snaps of the active volcano and bathe in its geothermal springs. Trafalgar offers an eight-day family itinerary from £1,550.

Adventurous nature lovers will also find the Galapagos Islands hard to beat, and a guided trip will allow kids and their parents to learn about the endemic species of plants and animals that Charles Darwin discovered here. On G Adventures’ Family Land Galapagos trip, clients can snorkel around Isla Lobos to search for marine life including sea turtles and manta rays, visit Charles Darwin’s research centre, and keep active with a spot of hiking or kayaking.

Sealions

Take to the water

With 71% of the world’s surface covered by water, there are myriad opportunities for clients to feel at one with the powerful force of the oceans and the life that teems within them. Experiences range from the tranquil to the adventurous, whether it’s snorkelling in the calm waters of Fiji or white-water rafting in Chile.

Those with little ones who are keen to kick back and enjoy the beauty of their surroundings should consider the Indian Ocean. Though the journey might be a long one, once clients have arrived they’ll have plenty of opportunity to relax on idyllic beaches or swim in turquoise waters.

At Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa in the Maldives, guests can hop aboard the Penguin, a small semi-submarine which allows parents and their kids to explore the resort’s reef system on the water, then climb the steps down to the submerged underbelly of the boat to gawp at dolphins, stingrays and sea turtles as they swim past the window.

At Per Aquum Niyama in the Maldives, families can plunge into the ocean at sunset, when the busy diurnal fish are rushing to find shelter from the night and the nocturnal fish – including lionfish, lobster and octopus – come out to frolic. The hotel also lets families snorkel in the coral nursery to choose a ‘baby’ to adopt and help cultivate it as part of a coral regeneration programme.

For a rare coral experience, clients can also head to Saint Lucia where a handful of guests at luxury property Anse Chastanet will be able to witness coral spawning, an annual natural wonder that takes place right off the resort’s beaches. The event, which is predicted to take place between August 24-26 this year, allows clients to snorkel or dive to view one of nature’s most spectacular performances as coral release millions of packets of egg and sperm cells that appear as massive underwater clouds, turning the sea shades of white, pink and yellow.


Sample product

Funway Holidays offers five nights at the Dixie Dude Ranch in Texas from £1,225 including flights with Virgin Atlantic from Heathrow to Dallas Fort Worth. Price based on two adults and two children departing September 14. funway4agents.co.uk

G Adventures offers an eight‑day Family Land Galapagos holiday from £1,299 per adult and £1,169 per child including internal flights and all transport between destinations. International flights extra. gadventures.co.uk

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