Wed, Jun 08, 2005 - Page 13 News List

Kidding around on holiday

There's no need to stop taking adventure breaks just because you've got kids. On the contrary, the experience could be even more rewarding

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Cheong Se-young, 7, with his father Cheong Dae-Yeol and mother Lee Shin-young, in the US' Canyonlands National Park.

PHOTO: NY TIMES

Adventure, like age, is a supple thing. It changes with circumstances. What's adventurous for an adult thrill seeker-cum-orthopedic surgery candidate would be unsuited for a 10-year-old (and bloodcurdling for his parents). But child-friendly adventures don't need to be dull.

Pick the right trip and you can camp, bike, kayak, rock climb, hike and even elephant trek en famille. Explore Madagascar, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka or remotest California. Daily distances on these trips are short, activities varied, crowds scant, and the guides will double (in most cases) as baby sitters.

You'll have time to yourself, which, as a parent, is its own thrill. 91m-tall conifers look even bigger when you're a kid. Western Spirit Cycling Adventures (www.westernspirit.com) sends families mountain biking along the Coastal Trail in Northern California, a dirt byway (closed to cars) sandwiched between redwoods and the Pacific.

In the morning, everyone rides, with kids as young as four often pedaling what's called a tag-along, a sort of half-bike that attaches to the back of Mom or Dad's big bicycle. In the afternoons, parents can head out for longer trail rides.

Offspring take part in guide-led activities in camp or hike, escorted, through the land of the giants. Trips are five days, with tent camping; departures throughout June, July and August.

Nicaragua isn't Costa Rica, and hurrah for that. It still has a pleasing scruffiness and almost no crowds, but the tourism buzz is building.

So you may want to go soon. Where else can your kids hike on an active volcano, kayak Lake Nicaragua, wander through a tropical cloud forest and slip on a harness to whiz on wires from platform to platform high in a treetop canopy, all for a bargain price?

Nicaragua Adventures (www.nica-adventures.com) even accepts infants. Little adventurers as young as three can do the canopy tour, but in a guide's arms, which reduces the risk but not the thrill.

Push through the jungle in Sri Lanka on an elephant's swaying back. Let your child feed a baby at the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, its trunk gently sweeping her palm. Bike, hike, ride a tractor deep into the countryside, eat fresh coconuts, ford low rivers, disengage river leeches from your ankles (or have your son do it; they like the nasty things), and sleep at a rain forest tent camp. Adventure Center (www.adventurecenter.com) has 13-day Sri Lanka trips in July and August.

A helicopter whisks you and your family from Banff, British Columbia, on a cool swoop above the timber to one of several high-country, haute-rustic lodges. Kids as young as six are welcome. At the lodge, you get provisions and directions for hikes either easy or strenuous; each helicopter ferries up to 10 hikers to a starting point.

Counselors hike with the kids; parents can join or not. Everyone reconvenes in the hot tub later. REI Adventures (www.rei.com/adventures/activity/family.html).

The west coast of Ireland is relatively flat, green, dotted with fantastical stone castles right out of the Lord of the Rings, and trafficked more heavily by sheep than automobiles, making it a fine spot for family cycling. Bike Riders (www.bikeriderstours.com) offers a family trip from Connemara to Galway, with an overnight stay in a castle (other nights are in hotels), and optional kayaking and tree climbing along the way. Each day's distance is 20km to 40km, with support vehicles.

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