7. Bushwalk With Zambian Guides in Southern Africa
Outfitter: Wildland Adventures
Action: ***** Culture: **** Wildlife: *****
Move over Botswana. On Wildland's Ultimate African Adventure, Zambia takes center stage. Top-notch animal-viewing, a relatively undiscovered outback and small group sizes make this trip one of the best deals going for a complete Africa experience. "Zambia is comparable to Botswana for wildlife, but with far fewer people," says program director Lyndsay Harshman. "It's the ultimate Africa adventure for active teens."
The first stop on the tour is Victoria Falls, where you can raft the Zambezi River's Class V rollers or plunge toward the spray on a group bungee jump. From there, you'll head into South Luangwa National Park for a three-day walking safari with local Zambian guides. You'll spot creatures you'd never see from a vehicle--whether as small as a dung beetle or as heart-stopping as a pride of lions. Bed down at Puku Ridge, a traditional tented safari camp overlooking a valley full of elephants, leopards, giraffes, wildebeests and impalas.
The game-watching is hard to beat, but the private island camp in Lake Malawi National Park comes close: Fully furnished safari-style tents--with fire-warmed bucket showers--welcome you after a day of secluded kayaking and beachcombing. "Malawi and Zambia aren't on most safari travelers' radars," says Harshman. "So now is definitely the time to go." Details: $5,995 per person; wildland.com
8. Play Hide-and-Seek Deep in the Southwest
Action: **** Culture: ** Wildlife: *
Backroads' multisport loop through Bryce, Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks is the ideal family primer to the American Southwest. The all-hike-and-bike itineraries quickly get you into the high-desert landscape beneath hoodoos and rock spires--and except for a few shuttle points, you're on your own power the whole way. On day one, you'll hike out of Bryce Canyon into a maze of arches, walls and pinnacles to Inspiration and Bryce Points. Then you can choose between visiting an 80-acre elk preserve or joining a 32-mile out-and-back biking trip through blue spruce and Douglas fir forests to Rainbow Point, Bryce's highest lookout, at 9,115 feet. "We have terrific van support," says trip planner Holly Woolard. "So older kids can pedal ahead, and younger ones can shuttle out to the Point and ride back one way."
The next day, a Backroads van will leapfrog you on to your next park: the Grand Canyon. There, you'll ride mules along steep, winding paths in the shadow of the red-rock Elkheart Cliffs. Then it's on to Zion, where kids can scramble slots and adults can tackle steep climbs to Angels Landing, a sheer rock wedge looming 1,500 feet above the valley floor. Depending on what your clan is up for, nights are spent either camping out under the stars or traveling from inn to inn--where a massage or a swim in the hotel pool is on the roster. Details: $1,798 per person for deluxe camping, $2,198 per person for casual inns; backroads.com
9. Track Spider Monkeys in the Jungles of Nicaragua
Outfitter: Nicaragua Expeditions
|"Confiscate Game Boys and iPods for the week. Before you know it, kids are actually engaged in the trip. Whatever happened to looking out the window?" |
--Michael Kaye, Nicaragua Expeditions
Action: *** Culture: *** Wildlife: ****
Nicaragua today is like Costa Rica was 30 years ago: a pristine Central American country that's easy to reach--and virtually empty. It doesn't have the vast national parks of its neighbor, but you won't find the crowds either. (Costa Rica had 1.9 million visitors in 2007.) "Nicaragua is supersafe, and you won't see all the American kids you would in Costa Rica," says Michael Kaye, who founded Costa Rica Expeditions three decades ago and Nicaragua Expeditions in 2004.
Highlights of Kaye's Nicaragua Multisport tour are a van-supported 40-mile bike ride to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Old Le?n and a guided paddle through Lake Nicaragua's 365 islets to see caimans, turtles and spider monkeys. And since Nicaragua is still so affordable, you can extend your trip with a private guide for as little as $180 a day. Details: $1,998 per person; nicaraguaexpeditions.com
10. Go for the Real Outdoors in New Hampshire
Outfitter: Appalachian Mountain Club
Action: **** Culture: ** Wildlife: ***
The Appalachian Mountain Club is launching a new family program this July, staged along the Appalachian Trail at the base of 6,288-foot Mount Washington. The Joe Dodge Lodge Family Adventure Camp, geared toward 9- to 12-year-olds, includes a backcountry overnight at the 1914 Carter Notch Hut. You'll hike four miles into hardwood and boreal forest to reach the classic stone structure, set at 3,288 feet between Wildcat Mountain and Carter Dome, then work up an appetite for the four-course dinner climbing an impressive jumble of rocks at the Ramparts. In the morning, after the AMC's famous blanket-folding skit, you'll hike back down the mountain to the lodge, your base for the rest of the week. Choose from animal tracking, night hikes and owl-calling lessons. At this all-inclusive price, AMC Family Camps are a steal. Details: $450 per adult, $320 per child; outdoors.org.