Engaging Nature Experiences – Life-Enriching Yet Still Fun

Botswana elephant

More and more, families are looking for engaging experiences in their summer vacations.

Below are examples of trips that are life-enriching, yet still fun.

Whether igniting a passion for biology, tackling the waves for the first time or offering a once-in-a-lifetime peek into the animal kingdom, these are experiences that don’t just teach, but transform.

Learning Adventure with Elephants
An extraordinary treat at Botswana’s Sanctuary Baines’ Camp is the opportunity to go walking in the bush with three orphaned and semi-habituated elephants, Jabu, Thembi and Morula. Learn from caretakers (or fondly, “elephant whisperers”) Doug and Sandi Groves about how elephants live and interact with their environment with their innate knowledge and bush-sense. The elephants ‘take’ guests on long walks in absolute safety, showing how they look for food, strip leaves from branches with their long trunks and take showers in the lagoons of the delta. This activity includes a leisurely paced walk with the trio and a picnic lunch in their company. All-inclusive Sanctuary Baines’ Camp rates start at $525 per person per night based on double occupancy (excluding elephant activity). A 15% discount on this activity is available for new bookings made for travel in 2010. www.sanctuaryretreats.com

Learn to be a top chef, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, and more…
The new Fantasy Camps at Atlantis, Paradise Island, provide an “edutainment” opportunity for young guests to pursue a dream goal or career, including: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Fantasy Camp to learn the basics of choreography and team spirit; LEGO Fantasy Camp to work alongside LEGO Master Builders for tips on construction skills; Marine Adventure Fantasy Camp to be junior aquarists; Hotel Operator Fantasy Camp to learn the basics of being a hotelier. Other camps include Kids Culinary Adventure Fantasy Camp, Ocean Club Golf Fantasy Camp and Miss Teen USA Fantasy Camp. Pricing for the four-night/five-day camps are $495 per camper (not inclusive of room cost), and includes activities such as dolphin interaction, admission to AKA Kids Club, select meals and more. Fantasy Camps are for ages 7-17, and will take place during various dates beginning June 28 – August 13, 2010. Learning opportunities abound at every corner in Atlantis, including the world’s largest open-air marine habitat featuring over 50,000 marine animals. www.atlantis.com

Tackle River Surfing in Montréal
Montreal is not just a great city; it’s an island city, and a surfer’s paradise! Adventurous families looking for their next big challenge should forgo widely known haunts and catch a break riding Big Joe, the world’s tallest standing wave, just minutes from the city’s downtown. Hidden behind Habitat 67, three permanent waves in the St. Lawrence River give awesome thrills to all surfers, beginners and pros alike. Package includes two nights accommodation at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, 1 day of surfing lessons with a pro from Kayak Sans Frontières, surf equipment rental, daily buffet breakfast and a take-out snack to keep energy levels up. Available from May 31 – September 1, 2010, this two-night experience, part of Fairmont Hotels & Resort’s Apprentice program, starts at $379 CDN per night. www.fairmont.com

Discover Nature’s Wonders
Budding Marine Biologists and curious kids alike will enjoy Nature’s Wonders at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples. The Nature’s Wonders program provides rewarding hands-on, interactive learning and fun in an assortment of nature-themed activities, run by on-staff Master Naturalists. These daily programs include: nature walks, boat rides, guest speakers and field trips. Samples of rotating topics include: observing wildlife, the mangroves, sea turtle nesting, alligators, dolphins and beach combing. Inquisitive minds will also discover eleven aquariums and a small lab filled with microscopes, slides and Petri dishes at the Nature’s Wonders Center. www.ritzcarlton.com/naples

Ride-Em’ Cowboy!
Learn the ropes (literally!) of being a cowboy out at The Resort at Paws Up in Montana this summer with the brand new Cattle Drive Adventure. Guests can take part in the ultimate western experience and join an honest to goodness, rootin’-tootin’, gun-slinging cattle drive (without the gun-slinging part.) The adventure begins in the morning with a cup of cowboy coffee around the campfire and after breaking camp, guests saddle up their horse and set out to round up the cattle roaming the 37,000-acre resort and trail them to the working corrals. From there the guests will learn how to sort the cattle then trail them back to their home pasture. Both skilled and novice riders can join experienced Paws Up ranch hands in driving a herd of cattle and make the dream of becoming a cowboy a reality! www.PawsUp.com