Minor adventures: top 10 adventure holidays for children

Having children needn't mean you give up your sense of adventure. Clare Thomson finds destinations and activities with plenty to occupy the whole family.

Jordan offers opportunities for family adventures in the desert. Courtesy Adventure Company
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Adventure holidays don't have to be just for grown-ups. Several tour operators are experienced in providing adventure trips specifically tailored for children and an experience the whole family can enjoy.

Once you've chosen a trip which suits the whole family's interests and abilities, check that the company provides experienced guides, with back ups for any problems, and if you're planning on trying activities like kayaking or surfing, make sure they offer a full safety briefing before you start.

1 Wadi Rum, Jordan
Age 5+

Camp under the stars or Bedouin-style in a desert camp at Wadi Rum, taking tea with Bedouin families and playing football with the locals on this tour of Jordan. Up to four families travel together on this group trip, the highlights of which include exploring the rock-cut temple city of Petra and watching a gladiator show in the ancient Roman city of Jerash. Children can also pretend that they're knights at the formidable Crusader castle at Kerak and float in the buoyant waters of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth.

An eight-day package costs from £639 (Dh3,685) per adult and £575 (Dh3,316) per child with The Adventure Company (0044 845 287 1198; www.adventurecompany.co.uk). The price includes b&b accommodation and activities.

2 Rajasthan, India
Age 5+

Getting around in India is an adventure in itself. On this trip, children can go on a camel safari across the sand dunes, explore villages in bullock carts, take a local train ride, travel by cycle rickshaw in a bird sanctuary and ride elephants up to a hilltop fortress. This small group holiday takes families in search of the elusive Bengal tiger in Ranthambore National Park, where you can also see parakeets, sloth bears and the crested serpent eagle. It also includes a visit to the Taj Mahal at sunrise and a night in a converted fort.

The 10-day trip costs from £606 (Dh3,495) per person including b&b accommodation, four other meals, transport and the services of a tour leader, driver and some local guides with Explore (www.explore.co.uk; 00 44 844 499 0901).

3 Machu Picchu, Peru
Age 5+

Families can experience life in a rainforest at the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica in Peru, where some of the trips aimed at children include twilight river cruises down Amazon creeks, rainforest trails and canoe trips teaching local fishing skills. The Amazonian-style lodges have canopy walkways and balconies for bird watching and star gazing. At the Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, children are given explorer kits including a torch, hat and compass for their sunrise tour of Machu Picchu. They can also go on nature walks through the cloud forest, tour the orchid garden and visit the inspiration for Paddington Bear at the Spectacled Bear Project.

Inkaterra offers a four-night family package with two nights at the Reserva Amazonica and two nights at the Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel from US$1,855 per adult (Dh6,806) and $700 (Dh2,572) per child, including activities and all meals (www.inkaterra.com; 0044 808 101 2224).

4 The Zambezi, Zimbabwe
Age 15+

Take your teenagers on a canoe safari on the Zambezi River, paddling past hippos and elephants and camping each night on the banks of the Zambezi, stopping for nature walks along the way. Mana Pools National Park is a great place to track game on foot in safety with an experienced guide. Then move on to Victoria Falls, the adventure capital of Africa, where the whole family can try white-water rafting down the Zambezi (its grade five rapids boast some of the best rafting in the world), river boarding and jet boating. Or try bungee jumping 111 metres off the Victoria Falls Bridge.

Original Travel offers seven nights in Zimbabwe from £2,315 (Dh13,352) per person for a family of four. The trip includes four nights in the Mana Pools area on full board and three nights' b&b in Victoria Falls. The price includes all transfers and safari activities. Activities at Victoria Falls cost approximately £38 (Dh220) per person (www.originaltravel.co.uk; 0044 20 7978 7333).

5 Kitulgala, Sri Lanka
Age 10+

Families can learn to surf, go on an elephant safari, trek through a rainforest and try abseiling all in one week in Sri Lanka. This trip includes a few days in Kitulgala, the adventure sport capital of the island where you can do white-water rafting and abseiling as well as take a nature trail through the rainforest. Sri Lanka is one of the best surfing destinations in the Indian Ocean so it's an ideal place to learn to surf. You should also go on a safari in the Udawalawe National Park, famous for its elephant population.

A week costs from $3,640 (Dh13,370), full board, for a family of four with Sri Lankan Expeditions including activities and transfers (www.srilankanexpeditions.com; 0094 773 595411). Surfing lessons cost $35 (Dh128) per hour, per person.

6 Borneo, Malaysia
Age 5+

Children can snorkel over the coral reefs with a marine biologist and take guided nature walks through the rainforest to spot bearded pigs, mouse deer, proboscis and macaque monkeys at this newly opened five-star resort in Borneo. The Gaya Island Resort is set amid the ancient rainforest and protected mangroves of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, off the coast of Borneo, and its rooms have views over the rainforest or the South China Sea. Activities include storytelling, cooking, dance and handicraft classes so that they can learn the culture of the indigenous tribes. Kids can also take part in tribal games and attempt to master blowpipe marksmanship.

Double rooms at the Gaya Island Resort cost from 598 ringgit (Dh710) per night, including breakfast and some activities (www.gayaislandresort.com; 0060 88 271100).

7 Okavango Delta, Botswana
Age 7+

Learn how to survive in the bush at Footsteps, a safari camp on the edge of a hippo-filled lagoon in the Okavango Delta. A specialist guide teaches children how to make bows and arrows, start and cook on a fire, fish for dinner from canoes and identify plants for medicines or food. The camp runs guided walking tours showing you how to track wildlife from fresh spoors. The Okavango is renowned for some of Africa's greatest concentration of wildlife including lions, leopards, elephants and giraffes. The rustic camp takes a maximum of six visitors in three safari tents and all the walks are carried out with an armed guard.

Expert Africa offers a four-night stay at Footsteps on their Young Explorers Programme from £1,905 (Dh10,987) per person for a family of four. This includes transfers, meals and drinks, all activities and a family guide (www.expertafrica.com; 0044 20 8232 9777).

8 Madagascar
Age 8+

The Indian Ocean island of Madagascar is a haven of biodiversity, with many of its wildlife species not found elsewhere. Families can visit its national parks, such as Ankarana, known for its primates, and Amber Mountain, a tropical forest with waterfalls and volcanic lakes, where the ring-tailed mongoose and the rare fossa can be found. Accompanied by local guides, families can paddle rafts and take night walks to see curious creatures such as the mouse lemur. Accommodation includes several nights in a tree bungalow. The trip ends with wind and kite surfing at Sakalava Bay.

A 14-day trip costs from £1,995 (Dh11,506) per person, full board, including all excursions with Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.com; 0044 1273 600030).

9 Vietnam
Age 8+

Imagine spending an afternoon learning martial arts with an experienced master, making and flying a kite in the imperial city of Hue or being shown how to cast traditional nets with a local fisherman in Hoi An and eating your catch for lunch. Families can do all this in Vietnam. They will also spend a day trekking in the Tonkinese Alps and two nights on board a traditional junk in the majestic Halong Bay. On this trip, children can learn how to cook and do magic tricks in Hanoi, cruise through the Mekong Delta and cycle around the Vietnamese countryside, visiting traditional villages. The trip ends in Ho Chi Minh City where you can visit the Cu Chi tunnels used by the Vietcong during the Vietnam War.

A 20-day trip with Audley Travel (www.audleytravel.com; 0044 1993 838128) costs from £1,880 (Dh10,843) per person including activities, guides and b&b accommodation.

10 Mountains and Marrakech, Morocco
Age 7+

The family-friendly Kasbah du Toubkal is a remote mountain retreat high in the Atlas Mountains. Families can do relatively gentle hikes, horse rides and camel treks from here. Children will adore putting on the Moroccan slippers and djellabas provided for their stay and eating Berber-style around the candlelit table in the evenings. It's a good idea to combine the High Atlas with a stay in Marrakech. Jnane Tamsna in Marrakech's Palm Grove is a stylish but friendly guest house with big gardens and a swimming pool. The hotel runs children's craft, cooking and gardening workshops free of charge and teaches them juggling and magic tricks.

Double rooms cost from £104 (Dh600) for b&b at Kasbah du Toubkal and from £128 (Dh738) for b&b at Jnane Tamsna. Book with www.i-escape.com.

Click here for a photo gallery of the 10 trips.

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