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Family Travel Ink
Adventure Vacations—Family Style
At the world-famous Rick’s Café in Negril, Jamaica, we were sitting back to enjoy the sunset and watch the local cliff divers when we spotted our 14-year-old perched on the high rock about to jump. Appalled, I ran over to haul him back to the cocktail scene of fruit punch and peanuts. A local lady taxi driver admonished, “Don’t jump honey. There’s boys that have broken their necks.” Imagine my horror when I saw him set again to hurl himself into the Caribbean Sea from the 30-ft. height. Before I could move, he had disappeared into the swirls below. Climbing back up, he was obviously delighted with himself as were the locals who gave him high fives and congratulations all around. “You have the heart of a lion,” laughed one man. Then, looking at my expression, he tried to explain. “I knew if I didn’t do it, I’d always regret it. I figured if I jumped out far enough, it would be safe.” I still get upset when I recall this un-Kodak moment.
These days, we are inundated with adventure travel. It seems that every time you turn on the television or dip into a magazine, there are people paddling through whitewater, swimming with sharks, bicycling down wooded ski trails and yes, jumping off cliffs. But how safe is safe? Can we offer our kids true adventure with their natural world and still keep them protected? And at what age can parents even begin to consider it? Happily, many companies and organizations offer family adventure that is exciting as well as safe. Here are a few possibilities for this summer’s vacation:
WILDERNESS TOURS; OWL RAFTING, ONTARIO: Both companies about an hour and a half west of Ottawa offer exciting whitewater float trips on the Ottawa River for school-age families. At Wilderness Tours, kids who weigh more than 50 pounds (usually around age seven or eight) are outfitted with helmets, life jackets and paddles to glide through the metre-high rapids; $39 for kids and $55 for adults includes a Riverside BBQ. New five-day Family Adventure Camps cost $330 per family. Meals are $85 extra per person, plus $169 for adult and teen activities and $109 for kids seven to 12. Call 1-800-267-9166 or visit www.wildernesstours.com.
At Owl Rafting, owners Claudia and Dirk Van Wijk invite any guest to walk around a rapid whether it’s “Chicken Run” or “Champion Challenge.” But kids won’t need to bail out on the family Float Trips; they hang on as the guide steers the stern-mounted oar rigs around more dangerous rapids. Costs of $59 for adults and $39 for kids 12 and under include a buffet lunch on the cruise diner. Call Owl Rafting at 613-646-2263 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Both companies provide beach activities and family sleeping accommodation at reasonable costs.
OUTSIDE EXPEDITIONS, P.E.I.: No experience required for these family kayaking trips. Owners Bryon and Shirley Wright have introduced kids as young as 11 months to the joys of sea kayaking in the warm rivers of P.E.I. The popular Discovery Weekends include kid-friendly activities and instruction, fresh seafood cookouts and tent sleepovers under the stars. Book and pay before April 15 for a 10 percent discount. Call 1-800-207-3899 or e-mail email@example.com for details on pricing and dates.
NEW BRUNSWICK DAY ADVENTURES: New Brunswick offers an inventive adventure program for families that ranges from whale-watching to kayaking the world’s highest tides, from paddling a birch bark canoe to riding Icelandic ponies. Families can usually purchase the morning or afternoon excursions on site or book at one of the many Adventure Stations scattered throughout the province. Prices are reasonable—a two-hour trip from St. Andrews aboard a Zodiac Hurricane, for instance, to view whales, seals, porpoises and eagles with a knowledgeable guide costs $28 for kids five to 13 and $45 for adults. Call 1-800-561-0123 to request a free Day Adventure catalogue.
CANADIAN RIVER EXPEDITIONS: For 22 years, this company has organized rafting trips for “ages 8 to 80” through northern and southern B.C. and the Yukon. Best for families, especially first-timers, is the six-day Best of British Columbia Expedition trip that winds past geological hoodoos, pine forests and high peaks of the Chilcotin and Fraser Rivers. The $1425 fee (20 percent less for kids) includes transportation, hearty food, guiding services and equipment. Camping gear (tent, sleeping bag and mattress) can be rented for $85. Call 1-800-898-7238 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
STRATHCONA PARK LODGE, VANCOUVER ISLAND: Climb up a rock bluff, swing like Tarzan on a zip-line, then head out in the canoes with an expert canoeist. This well-known lodge in the heart of the island also serves as base camp for the Canadian Outdoor Leadership Training Course. During Family Adventure Weeks, $730 for adults, $520 for kids age six to 13, parents and kids learn wilderness skills and participate in tons of outdoor activities. Call 250-286-3122.
SIERRA CLUB OUTINGS: You have to become a member of Sierra Club for these hiking, biking, canoeing and other nature activity tours but what an amazing variety of adventure for all ages. New this year is a Toddler Adventure trip for parents who are hesitant to camp out alone with their babies. Base camp is the rustic Clair Tappaan Lodge in California’s Sierra Nevada. The week-long adventure costs $350 U.S. for adults, $100 U.S. for the toddler. For a free brochure, call 415-977-5588 or e-mail email@example.com.
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