With summer’s sun-kissed touch descending upon us, the nomadic urge to move sets in, especially when children are lounging around the house looking for something to do between camp sessions. With kids in tow, destinations like San Diego, the Cape or Jersey Shore may come to mind, but for those parents who have hit the “not-another-trip-to-Legoland-or-visit-to-the-food-trough-on-the-SpongeBob-cruise wall,” perhaps it’s time to get creative this summer. In this present day, when most people are reluctant to spend frivolously, perhaps a meaningful trip is in order—one that will permanently reside in the memory bank, and serve as fodder for happy childhood memories. We found three epic adventures to take your family on this summer. And as an added bonus, your kids might actually learn something in the process, but they’ll be so busy having fun that they won’t even realize that you snuck a little summer education into the mix.
SEA KAYAKING WITH THE ORCAS
The San Juan Islands, a rugged breathtaking archipelago, sit off the coast of Washington and Canada. An easy ferry ride from Seattle delivers you to sunny 70-degree halcyon days, as the Olympic Mountains block the rain in summer, so the San Juan’s microclimate is dry and temperate. This aquatic playground hosts the famous J, K, and L pods of orcas that frolic about—breaching, spouting and spy hopping their way through the isles. Forget Shamu and elbowing your way through the crowds at SeaWorld to get sprayed by a trained leviathan in the amphitheater. A trip-of-a lifetime nature experience can be found sea kayaking the deep pristine waters in the company of these magnificent creatures. Sea Quest Kayak Tours visits the western edge of the San Juans and Haro Strait, the feeding and play areas of the killer whales, for intimate encounters with the pods that have up to 50 members per group. These “adventures in learning” are headed by environmentalists and biologists who expertly take families on these safe kayaking and camping adventures. And fear not—an orca in the wild has never harmed a human. In addition to viewing the acrobatic orca whales, sightings of minke, gray, and humpback whales, Dall’s porpoise, harbor porpoises, seals, and bald eagles may occur as the area is brimming with wildlife in this pristine setting. Trips range from half-day paddles to five-night camping tours. To book: 1-888-589-4253 or email email@example.com.
MARINE EXPLORATION IN MAUI
The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua in Maui is a marvel at integrating meaningful cultural experiences into a five-star luxury vacation. Other resorts should take note as their programs and events are organic to the setting and passionately dedicated to sharing local Hawaiian history and preserving their islands. So it makes perfect sense that they partnered with eco-champion Jean-Michel Cousteau to create the Ambassadors of the Environment program, which offers exquisite educational, cultural, and green programs at their tricked-out center onsite at the hotel. Programs aim to teach respect for eco-system stability through hands-on activities, along with instilling a sense of responsibility toward preservation of the environment. A great family activity is their Cities Under the Sea—Underwater Photography program. A naturalist guide takes your group on an interpretive snorkel over the stunning reef where you learn about the communities of fish, coral and algae and the synergy between them for survival. With digital cameras in hand, you can document the underwater city and express visually the interdependency and natural beauty of the environment. In addition, programs like Star Voyager teaches children about the night skies and ancient ways of Hawaiian navigation that allowed the early Polynesian voyagers to travel across the sea in double-hulled canoes. Guided hikes through the forested uplands at the arboretum with a naturalist nicely educates kids about the flora and fauna—in between swinging like Tarzan or Jane on the giant swooping vines. Aspiring directors, actors and environmentalists can make green PSAs (public service announcements) to take home to spread the word about saving the dolphins or the harmful effects of pollution in the sea. Out back, the center has a giant map of the Hawaiian Islands, a clever way to gain perspective of the area and learn more about the geography of your vacation. To book: 1-808-669-6200
ANIMAL ADVENTURES IN BORNEO
For good reason Charles Darwin called Borneo: “one great, wild, untidy, luxuriant hothouse made by nature for herself.” This exotic landscape, teeming with diverse life, serves as home to pygmy Asian elephants, the elusive clouded leopard, Malaysian tigers, Sumatran rhino, proboscis monkeys and the mysterious orangutan. Look no further than Asia Transpacific Journeys to customize an unforgettable trip into the dense jungle where spine-tingling adventure awaits. Clearly held in high regard, this unique travel company organizes a Borneo adventure each year for the World Wildlife Fund. Your kids will dig visiting a turtle hatchery and releasing babies into the sea; spotting hairy-nosed river otters somersaulting in the water while on a jungle river jaunt; exploring the world’s largest cave system at Gunung Mulu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site; and snorkeling the azure warm waters with its underwater carnival of fish. A highlight will undoubtedly be a visit to the orangutan sanctuaries where aerial pathways high in the treetops put you eye-to-eye with these intelligent creatures who are often orphaned due to humans and logging destroying their habitat. Wildlife tourism provides an important alternative to deforestation, so your being there aids these amazing endangered animals. Guests stay at stylish eco-lodges and a beautiful beach resort. Savvy, erudite guides entertain with tales of the jungle as they lead you on this extraordinary excursion. To book: 1-800-642-2742