Get close to creatures of the sea for a wild family adventure. Here are four ideas to consider:
1. Swim With Whale Sharks.
Swimming with the largest fish in the sea is a thrill worth seeking. Whale sharks are massive, reaching lengths of 40 feet and 15 tons. Despite their imposing presence, the gentle creatures peacefully share the warm seas with visitors who arrive via boat from the shores of nearby Cancun. Two at a time, along with a guide, you’ll don a life jacket or wet suit and fins, before jumping in for a swim with these plankton slurping vegetarians. No touching is allowed (the mega-fish are considered a “vulnerable species”) but you can swim alongside as they thrust forward their super-sized square jaw and begin filtering everything in their path like a water-born vacuum cleaner.
Contact: www.Cancun.travel; www. solobuceo.com.
2. Swim with Stingrays.
Wade into the warm Caribbean Sea at the Stingray City Sandbar for your family’s chance to pet the dozens of sea creatures who visit the area for a little love and a few tasty treats. Today tour operators will assist in your introduction to the Southern stingray, taking over for the fishermen who originally attracted the rays to the area by cleaning fish and tossing the remnants into the water. Soon the stingrays associated the sound of boat motors with breakfast. For a more pleasurable experience, avoid visiting when cruise ships are in port.
3. Alaska up close.
Kayak among whales, sea lions and past puffins when you explore Alaska with Inner Sea Discoveries and American Safari Cruises. With only 22 to 86 guests on board on their well-planned vessels, you’ll wind your way into narrow passages and into wilderness areas that the bigger ships cannot access. The adventuresome in your clan can don a dry suit and use a Stand Up Paddleboard to get even closer to Alaska’s extraordinary wild riches.
Contact: 888-862-8881; www.InnerSeaDiscoveries.com
4. Adventures with alligators.
No one wants to get too close to an alligator. But at this park, home to more than 800 gators ranging in size from eight inch babies to 15 foot, one thousand pound adults, you’ll learn about the ways of these fierce creatures, from a safe distance. As you wander through natural swamps and marshes you’ll also encounter turtles, lizards, giant frogs and exotic birds. Lectures and live shows add to the experience.
Contact: 843-361-0789; www.alligatoradventure.com/
Sometimes we must find respite from our hectic, tech-saturated lives.
Here are five places with a powerful sense of place where you and your family will also find peace:
Northern Lights. Alaska.
In the deep reaches of Alaska, somewhere above 60 degrees north latitude, you and your family will have the opportunity to see a red, green, blue and purple light display known as an aurora or the Northern Lights. The best time to catch the show is around the spring and fall equinoxes (mid-March and mid-September) The lights are most intense from December through March when the nights are darker. Consider a tour that includes a dip in a hot spring, a climb to a hilltop where viewers can marvel at the magnificent light display and a Mongolian yurt in which you can retreat to stay warm.
Float The Grand Canyon.
Whether you travel by raft or dory, for a few days or a few weeks, the majesty of the Grand Canyon may well provide a transformative experience, as it does for many visitors. This national treasure stretches 277 miles across northern Arizona, and plays host to more than five million visitors each year. From your craft on the Colorado River, geologically diverse canyon walls rise as high as 9,000 feet toward the western sky. Hike the side canyons, plow through storied rapids, relax on sandy beaches and revel in the grandeur of one of nature’s finest accomplishments.
Visit this seaside enclave on the East end of Long Island. Just 100 miles but a world away from the bustling Big Apple, you’ll find secluded beaches, whaling tales and pounding surf. Deep sea fishing, hiking, seal watching and surfing are all available in this community, first settled by Europeans in the mid-1600s. Scramble to the top of the Montauk Point Lighthouse for magnificent views of the craggy coastline.
Contact: www.OnMontauk.com; www.GurneysInn.com.
Hike the Canyons. Springdale, UT.
Find your way into the canyon country of southern Utah. From curvaceous slot canyons to table-top plateaus, this peaceful yet grand countryside offers a visual bonanza of color, shape and form. Consider the Narrows, a spectacular 16 mile corridor that requires one rigorous day for fit family members. Most recommend an overnight. Better yet, choose the Bottoms Up hike enabling hikers to see the most stunning aspects of the canyon in four to six hours. Numerous day hikes and mountain biking options abound.
Boundary Waters Canoe Trips. Ely, MN.
Your family will enjoy the peace and tranquility that can be found within this pristine wilderness area. Listen to the waves lapping against the shore as you drift to sleep in one of 2,000 secluded campsites that dot the lake region. Wake to the sounds of birds chirping in the birch trees, enjoy breakfast over a campfire and then set out to explore the more than 1,500 miles of canoe routes that criss-cross the waterways.