Many parents are keen to instill a love and appreciation for nature in their children, but our city-bound lifestyles don’t always give us much opportunity to do so! When you’re thinking about taking your next family vacation, however, is an ideal time to pick a spot where they’ll get a chance to do just this. Experiences that cater specifically for children, with expert guides and a chance to interact safely with animals they would never normally encounter can be an immensely rewarding and educational experience for both you and your youngsters. Here are some of the best spots on the planet to do it.
Help give an Asian elephant a bath in Kalaw, Burma:
Burma is a remarkable place, with rolling rice paddies, fields of glistening wheat, temples and ancient ruins, and plenty of tiny villages to explore. It’s also home to some incredible wildlife, and one of the world’s most unique ways to interact with them. At Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp, kids and their parents alike are in for a real treat – and so are the elephants! The conservation project is home to seven resident pachyderms, and you and your youngsters will get the chance to feed and interact with them, as well as help to give them a nice refreshing wash! If only getting kids to wash their dishes was this easy, right?
Other unique animals to keep an eye open for in Burma include: Asiatic Black Bear, Bengal Tiger, the rare Asian Palm Civet (which lives mostly on mangoes and coffee!) and the bizarre-looking Binturong, also known as the Asian Bearcat. Definitely guys you wouldn’t normally get to see at home!
Experience the African bush in the Eastern Cape of South Africa:
Combining a one of a kind wildlife experience for the kids with a little bit of luxury, romance and pampering for the grownups is a specialty at Samara Private Game Reserve! Kids of all ages are accommodated, and can even take ‘bumble’ game drives and bush walks that are designed specifically for them. Dedicated learning experiences just for the little ones include tracking and spoor identification, rock painting in the ancient San tradition, orienteering and navigating, and even sleep-outs in the bush when the weather permits – and yes, mom and dad are welcome to join in!
And make sure to check out the reserve’s special residents, the Funny Five! This special list includes some of Africa’s slightly weirder residents – the giraffe, warthog, wildebeest, playful vervet monkey and the adorable aardvark.
Discover an underwater wonderland at Soneva Fushi, The Maldives:
Lots of kids like the idea of becoming a marine biologist one day, and this is definitely the place for them to get a proper introduction to the field! Snorkeling, diving and even dolphin-watching are all on the cards, and catering for inquisitive youngsters is a specialty. Back on land there’s plenty to entertain too, with all those stunning beaches to comb while the grownups enjoy some relaxation in a tropical paradise. Other activities include stargazing adventures and even an outdoor cinema!
Racing with huskies in Lapland
You don’t really know the meaning of the word ‘enthusiasm’ before you’ve met a team of huskies anxious to get underway! And getting to accompany them on a safari of a completely different kind has to be the best way to experience the winter wonderland of Lapland. Younger kids can be tucked up snug and safe in the sled, and older ones can even try their hand at becoming a ‘musher’ for the day. If the sledding bug has hit big time, you can even hitch a ride on a reindeer sleigh that will have Jingle Bells stuck in your head for days – and what a story to share with their friends back home!
Meeting orangutans in Borneo
Kids and adults alike are fascinated with our primate cousins, and getting the chance to meet these gentle giants is something none of you will ever forget. At the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre and Rainforest Discovery Centre, the enormous canopy walkway is safe for even very young children, and gives the opportunity to watch the orangutans and tree squirrels in action. To view them in the wild, a river cruise along Sabah’s Kinabatangan River is a great option for those with very little legs, and offers the chance to see proboscis monkeys, macaques and hornbills along the way too!
Meet a creepy number of crabs on Christmas Island
If you have the kind of kids who love their creepy-crawlies, then this is an opportunity not to be missed. During parts of the year, millions (and we do mean millions) of red crabs take part in their migration and swarm the beaches to breed. And one thing’s for sure, it’s a sight you’ll never, ever forget!