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I woke in the early hours, accustomed now to the baboons, the new acoustic was more impressive and significantly closer to home. The distinctive laugh of the hyena shot through the night and it was very close. Thankful for the thin canvas walls, I slowly drifted off back to sleep glad I had taken in it easy on the beer at sunset and I wouldn’t need to brave a visit to the loo.
I’ve always been attracted to wild spaces and heading out on foot into the bush has been high on my bucket list for some time. I like luxury as much as the next person, but more than luxury, I crave wild places. On a safari, in a way, the wilderness and lack of other tourists is the one true luxury above all others. To walk the land, camp in wild places and share the bush only with the wildlife is a visceral experience, completely without pretension, that puts you at the very heart of the experience, rather than merely an observer.
A walking safari requires patience, but when you do finally spot wildlife, it is infinitely more rewarding than on a game drive. In a honeypot such as Ngorongoro Crater or the Masai Mara, your driver need only lend his ear to his 2 way radio, and he’ll whizz you to the latest big cat sighting, jostling you for position with the other drivers beckoned by the call of the radio. Here things happen much slower, but when they do, wow. You’ll cautiously track, carefully staying downwind, analysing spoor – and then finally, peaceful watchful observation, just you and your vastly experienced Samburu guide whispering in your ear, no one else around for miles. You are very much in their environment and the wildlife are very much in yours.
Before we go too Ray Mears, I need to admit that this is an undertaking not without its comforts. Mattresses, bucket showers, superb bush meals in artfully chosen lookout spots, cold beer sundowners and even private toilet tents are the order of the day. This isn’t exactly camping light, but still, this is as close as you need or probably want to get. With 8 year old in tow we weren’t keen on mega miles and the route was in keeping with that. 4-5 hours gentle walking through the bush, stopping frequently to inspect spore and pull out the binoculars to identify mostly fairly skittish wildlife. We were experts by the end of the 4 days, and could easily identify zebra poo from giraffe poo, hell we would even pick out a Grevy’s zebras’ footprint from your more common Plains zebra. Camels are on hand for the children to ride should they tire and they don’t half provide a good vantage point high up there. The 8 year old though was keen to prove her mettle and make it all the way on foot.
After breakfast we’d set out through the bush, taking time to detour whenever we saw anything of interest. We saw giraffe and zebra, a tortoise crossed our path, but for the most part the wildlife is very shy of humans on foot. We followed the tracks of hyena which had passed through only moments before and eventually we saw them dart off through the bushes. We stumbled upon wild hunting dog – a real treat in this part of Kenya, the adults were out hunting, leaving behind the young with a ‘babysitter’ who understandably was very wary of our presence, we swiftly backed away so as not to disturb. Finally we passed downwind of a small herd of elephant, being careful to stay well clear.
After the walk we passed a slow relaxing afternoon at our next camp, before heading out for a sundowner. They say the beer tastes better the better the view and the harder to reach, and I’d find it hard to disagree with them.
We recommend and book Karisia Walking Safaris, who operate on the Laikipia Plateau in Northern Kenya. Run by explorers Kerry & James, this is the ultimate safari adventure, with exceptionally experienced walking guides. Treks are tailored, with easier or more challenging routes depending on whether it is an adult or family group. Karisia’s Samburu guides are exceptional, some of the best we have experienced in Kenya. An advantage of walking safaris over game drives is in the quality of the guides. To confidently take guests out into the bush with all the dangers that represents, you need a guide who has not only studied the wildlife, but who knows how to read the bush.
Families in particular are well looked after. Kerry & Glen the owners live themselves under canvas out in the bush with their own children and tweak the walking safaris to suit families. Having the camels to ride is a major advantage for children who don’t always have the same enthusiasm for covering miles underfoot and the guides are well used to dealing with children. For a family of four the rate works out roughly equivalent to that at a good mid-range safari camp and is surprisingly affordable (as far as safaris go). This is arguably the ultimate family adventure, guaranteeing bragging rights for your kids, an experience that will undoubtedly have all members of the families away from their devices.
Tourdust Recommends: Combine with some pool time and a game drive at El Karama. If budget allows, combine with the Mara and Coast (Kenya or Zanzibar)
Need to know: Walking safaris operate year round, although expect there to be some rain during the long rains in April / May and short rains in November. Because the experience is so tailored and always private there are few restrictions on ages. The minimum age for children is 4 years old, but this is something we would usually recommend for families with slightly children older than 7 and is ideal for families with teenagers.
Safety: Karissia don’t operate in an area heaving with predators, so walking here is much safer than in a densely populated wildlife area such as the Masai Mara. You are in the hands of exceptionally experienced guides.
With vast horizons, quiet roads which stretch on forever and a plethora of National Parks and Monuments, the USA is a road tripper's dream. The Western states of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada & California have more than their fair share of the iconic drives stakes. Here are some of the routes which absolutely must not be missed on a USA road trip.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful drives of all time, this road snakes away from Bryce Canyon up through mountains to Capitol Reef National Park. Covering a distance of 124 miles, the road takes you through forests, vast canyons and barren desert land, through an environment that was once inhabited by dinosaurs. The 360 degree views give you a sense of the real scale of the country and fills you with enormous respect for the pioneers who first settled there. Once you reach Capitol Reef National Park, there is some fantastic hiking as well as some excellent examples of Native American petrolglyphs (cave paintings.) This route features in our Best of the South West Road Trip.
Surely one of the most iconic drives out there, the Pacific Coast Highway runs for almost the entire length of California. However, the section between San Francisco and Los Angeles, passing through Big Sur, is probably the most famous. The two Californian cities are highlights in their own rights, but it is the wind swept beaches, sheer cliffs, giant surf and marine life which attracts tourists in their droves each year. This route features in our Pacific Coast Highway & Highlights of California Road Trips.
This beautiful section of Yosemite is only accessible during the summer months - it is closed during the winter due to the snow. This, as well as the fact that the majority of visiotrs concentrate their efforts on the valley area, mean that the number of cars on the road is relatively low even in the summer. Reaching up to an elevation of over 3,000m, the views from the road are absolutely stunning. The road passes the lush Tuolumne Meadows and then rewards visitors with outstanding views of the Half Dome. There are several lakes along the way where you can go wild swimming. Once you have left the park, there is a steep descent down to Mono Lake. The Tioga Pass features in the Highlights of California and the Las Vegas & California Road Trips.
One of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon it quite rightly up there on most people's bucket list. Most people enter from the South entrance, but the East entrance is best if you're approaching from Monument Valley and offers a stunning drive. The distance itself is not that great, but there are so many viewpoints, each offering a slightly different angle of the Grand Canyon, so you could quite easily spend all day on the road. The Desert View Drive features in the Best of the South West Road Trip.
You might think we're mad including a city drive amongst the National Parks & scenic byways, but driving down the Las Vegas strip ticks all of the iconic drive boxes, especially if you do it at night. The scenery is a complete assalut on the senses, with bright pink flamingoes, pirate ships, the Eiffel Tower and Camelot castle just some of the sights that you will see. Very few people choose to walk in Las Vegas, so get in the car, turn the air con up and enjoy the show! The Strip features in the Best of the South West and Las Vegas & California Road Trips.
You can't have an article about iconic road trips without mentioning Route 66, the Daddy of all road trips. The total route in ite entirerty stretches from Chicago to Santa Monica and whilst some people like to travel the full route, going through 8 states, other people like to sample a strecth of it. The section from Flagstaff through to Seligman in Arizona passes through desert and it is possible to visit ghost towns along the way, abandoned in the last century. Route 66 features in the Best of the South West Road Trip.
We have developed our USA collection to get the optimum balance between independent and guided activities. There are some places where you don’t need a guide and you will have more fun exploring independently. However, there are also activities and places where having a guide will deeply enhance your experience. We strike a careful balance between these two and, having tried and tested the trips ourselves, believe we have developed itineraries that are unique and exciting.
In a nutshell: Handpicked activities and accommodation and a balance of independent vs guided
You can get direct flights from the UK to the USA. Some of the most competitive fares are from London to Las Vegas, but you can also fly to Denver, Phoenix, San Francisco and Los Angeles direct. Flight times are approximately 10 ½ hours. For this reason, coupled with the time difference, we strongly suggest you try to get direct flights as having to go via another gateway airport adds time and pain to the journey, especially on your outbound flights. Experience shows that it pays to book ahead with trans-Atlantic flights, as prices are prone to increase closer to the departure date.
We are ATOL bonded and can happily help with your flight booking.
British passport holders are eligible to enter the USA under the Visa Waiver Programme. You need to provide your flight information and passport details and pay an administrative fee. Applying is pretty straight forward and can be done via this official website https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/
Once you arrive in the US, you will need to queue for immigration. You will need to do this even if you are in transit. You will need to provide finger prints and eye scans.
Our USA Road Trip holidays start from £923 per person, based on two adults travelling together. This price covers a hire car, all accommodation and activities as per the itineraries. On top of that, you will need to budget for flights, which can be from £670 in the low season to £1,100 in the peak of the summer. Once there, you will need to budget for tips, entrance fees, petrol and food - expect to spend from $150 per day, although this price will depend wildly on where you eat and visit.
To a certain extent, the answer to that question is how long is a piece of string? It really depends on how long you have and your budget. The costs of flying out to the USA are not insignificant, so we suggest that you plan your time carefully.
Most people need at least a couple of days to adjust to the time difference, so you will need to allow yourselves a couple of rest days at the beginning of your holiday. This time, more than any, you will appreciate splashing out on some nice accommodation with a pool, especially if you are arriving in the middle of the summer.
We have 10 day – 2 week itineraries for you to choose from. If you have three weeks, then you can go at a slightly gentler pace and see most of the highlights of the area.
The South Western States enjoy a four season climate, although experience more extremes than in the UK. Winters can be cold with plenty of snow. Summer temperatures can be high (reaching the high 30’s in places) and the humidity means that there can be thunderstorms, especially in July & August. Coastal California enjoys a more temperate climate, with milder winters and warm summers. Northern Californian coastal areas including San Francisco can become shrouded with fog during the mornings and evenings.
Spring and autumn have milder temperatures, making it an ideal time for keen hikers to visit. We suggest that if you want to spend any time hiking in the Grand Canyon, then you are better saving your visit for these seasons.
The National Parks tend to be busier around the public holidays and school holidays (June / July)
Peru is, by is very nature, a family friendly destination. You will find that local people are particularly welcoming if you have children and you won’t ever feel out of place in a restaurant with your children as they will be welcomed with open arms. If you were planning on taking them anywhere in Latin America, Peru has to be top of the list; with accessible, dense rainforest, stunning scenery and ancient Incan ruins, it offers something of interest for everyone in the family.
For families with older children, Peru has adventurous activities on tap, especially in the Cusco area. Teenagers can tackle the Inca Trail, go white water rafting, mountain biking or horse riding. Up at Lake Titicaca, you can opt for a boat trip, or go paddling and explore by kayak. In the jungle, there is wildlife watching, kayaking, mountain biking and trekking on offer.
For less active and more culturally minded teenagers, the ruins and history of the Sacred Valley can’t fail to be of interest. There is a great museum in Cusco which puts more context to the history and there are some lovely walking tours of Cusco. Cusco has a young, laid back vibe, so teens will definitely enjoy the atmosphere which is fun and unstuffy. Chocolate lovers might want to consider booking on to a chocolate making workshop at the local chocolate museum.
At first glance, a holiday with lots of cultural highlights might not be top of a wish list for those with the under 12’s. However, there is no reason at all why your children wouldn’t love the Incan Ruins at Machu Picchu, or the terraces in the Sacred Valley. For better or worse, visitors are free to roam to their hearts content throughout the archaeological sites, which means that children don’t have to stand behind ropes, but can explore the terraces and ruins by walking in them. Our guides do their best to make the history relevant to all of their guests, but it might also be worth getting hold of a Horrible Histories ;Incredible Incas’ book to help make it fun.
The jungle is an absolute highlight for our younger guests. Not only do they get to visit a rainforest and see monkeys, parrots and a whole host of other wildlife, but they get a family friendly guide who organises activities for the whole family. The programme is loosely tied around a rainforest treasure hunt, which aims to teach about conservation and ecology as well as the flora and fauna of the jungle. At night, you sleep in rooms with one wall open to the jungle, it doesn’t get much more exciting than that!
If your children want to be able to let off some physical steam, we can arrange a gentle river trip, horse riding or some walking in the Cusco & Sacred Valley area.
You can visit Peru most of the year round, although the time to avoid is January – March which is the height of the rainy season in the Andes and whilst Machu Picchu will be quiet, it will also be wet and cloudy. For uninterrupted views and sunny days, you would be best off visiting the summer school holidays. This is also the dry season in the rainforest, which makes mosquitoes less of a problem. Be aware that June – September is the high season on the Inca Trail, so book well ahead to secure a permit.
October half term Christmas & Easter are also possibilities. This will be the rainy season in the Rainforest, which can make the experience all the more evocative, but you will also experience high humidity, wet paths and mosquitoes. October & April in the mountains will be pleasant and less busy than the summer.
We have developed two itineraries for families wanting to visit Peru. One is for older families wanting to trek the Inca trail and immerse themselves in Incan history and culture, as well as challenging themselves to a days white water rafting on the Urubamba River. Our other holiday is the Incas & Amazon holiday for those not wanting to attempt the trek. Families will still have a chance to visit Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, but will travel by train. They will then transfer to the rainforest for a fantastic jungle experience.
All of our Peru holidays are bespoke, so if you would like to tailor-make your itinerary, please don't hesitate to get in touch.
Visiting the Jungle was on my wishlist for as long as I can remember, so I absolutely jumped at the chance to go and visit a jungle lodge deep in the Amazon. The approach to the jungle lodge is by boat, so before you can blink, you are whisked from the plane to store your luggage (there are strict weight restrictions in place) and you are then shuttled to the port to catch a boat upstream. The Tambopata River, snaking its way through the jungle is all you could hope from a rainforest waterway; brown, murky and mysterious. With a two and a half hour boat ride up to our jungle lodge, there was plenty of time to sit back, relax and watch the scenery. The week before I went there had been a sighting of an elusive jaguar on the banks of the mighty river. We were not quite so lucky, but were still thrilled with what we did manage to see which included a capivari (which looks much like and over-sized guinea pig), caimans, an impressive King Vulture as well as some illegal loggers; the murkier side to jungle life.
Upon arrival at our accommodation, I got off the boat with a certain amount of trepidation. Those who know me know that I am a wildlife lover, but not if it’s crawling all over me. The lodge that we were staying at has one big wow factor that I was both looking forward to and dreading; there were only 3 walls, the 4th was open to the jungle. The spacious rooms all look out into the dense jungle and whilst the room is completely open, much to my relief there were heavy duty mosquito nets which ensure that there are no unwanted visitors in the night.
That said, you can hear everything in the jungle, especially at night, which certainly reminds you that you are in the middle of the wild.The lodge itself is lovely, the room had a hammock facing out to the trees and the communal area was vast, with a mezzanine level which is a perfect hang out for families. For younger children there is also a playground, where kids can let off some steam.
But what people come to the jungle for are the activities and there are some fantastic options to choose between. We started off with a nature walk through the jungle to a clay lick to watch for parrots coming to the local clay lick. While the parrots are the indisputable wow factor, the plants and trees are absolutely fascinating and like nothing I’ve ever seen. Everything I remembered (hazily) learning at school about rainforests came to life and seeing the trees fighting for their space in the canopy was amazing. This came to life even more the next day when we climbed up the canopy tower at dawn to get a breath-taking view of the rainforest. We saw toucans flying and heard the eerie rumble of howler monkeys wafting across the tree-tops, something I will never forget.
Back on the ground, I was in the mood for something more active, so headed off with a local guide (who was clearly related to Rambo) for some river kayaking. I love exploring by kayak, something about the peace of paddling along with just the sounds of the jungle for company and we managed to get up close to some caiman on the river bed. Rambo swam in the river, but I wimped out (something about the anaconda story I had read somewhere that put me off!)
Other activities on offer were more walking and also a boat trip on an oxbow lake, as well as a chance to visit a local community. Families with children are offered a completely separate programme, based around a rainforest treasure hunt. The children in the lodge loved it, as did the parents. The Amazon lived up to my expectations and then some. I absolutely loved being in such a different environment and it was so refreshing to be somewhere that is dominated by the natural world, rather than people. You'll be pleased to hear that thankfully, the only creepy crawlies I saw were in the great outdoors, not in my bed. I can’t wait to go back.