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          12 Best Family Nature Vacations

          By Nancy Schretter, Editor

          Wildlife safaris and nature vacations are always at the top of our readers' family vacation lists, particularly for those interested in learning vacations. These families love to vacation where the wild things are. Findings show that well over 40% of parents plan their family vacations with a learning component in mind, and that's certainly true for our Family Travel Network audience.?/p>

          If you're searching for the perfect spot for your next family nature vacation, here are 12 spectacular places where the wild things still run free:

          1.燬outh Africa: When you think爋f wildlife viewing in South Africa, think big. South Africa's Kruger National Park, approximately the size of the entire state of New Jersey, contains well over 10,000 elephants and 20,000 Cape buffalo - not to mention tons of lions and other big cats, rhino, hippo, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, and so much more. Over 200 mammal species can be found in South Africa, making it a natural for family safaris. And while you may come for the wildlife and cultural experiences, the people here will win your heart. South Africa's Eastern Cape Province is a malaria-free zone爁illed with wildlife and boasting爏cores of family-friendly accommodations and attractions.燭he five-star Samara Private Game Reserve caters to爁amilies with爏pacious suites and extensive children's activities.?a >Addo Elephant National Park,燼 reserve爋f almost?45,000 acres, is home to elephants, lions, Cape buffalo, endangered black rhino, leopards, spotted hyena, zebra, antelope and more. Head over to Inkwenkweze to walk with the elephants. In addition, the燛astern Cape's 500 miles of coastline are爈aden with sun-drenched beaches - the perfect complement to any family safari. This Family Travel Network article provides more details.

          2. Galapagos Islands: Where can your children swim with sea lions, snorkel with penguins, kayak with manta rays, lounge with strange looking lizards, watch male frigate birds puff their throats into red balloons, and talk to giant tortoises - all in one vacation? Only in the Galapagos Islands, a remote and beautiful chain of islands located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. A trip to the Galapagos Islands is the ultimate family eco-adventure. Each day spent here is a living science lesson and a chance to make memories that will last a lifetime. Charles Darwin created a legacy during his five-week stay here, and it is likely that your visit will do the same for your children.?a >Ecoventura offers seven-night cruises aboard their intimate 20-person motor yachts and has achieved an excellent reputation for family-friendly travel.燭he company offers designated family departures,爏ailings for families with teens, and family graduation celebration trips.?a >Red Mangrove lodges provide a family-friendly land-based alternative for exploring the Galapagos, with accommodations located on three of the islands. If you will be traveling to the Galapagos, plan to stay on the mainland for several nights to a week and explore Ecuador's Pacific Coast as well.

          3. Alaska: Alaska is like the燯.S. equivalent of Kenya or Tanzania.燭here are so many fabulous places to see wildlife in Alaska that it's impossible to pick just one.營n Southcentral Alaska, for example, one can爅ourney to燚enali and the燢enai Peninsula for abundant wildlife, as well as Katmai National Park for bear viewing. Southeast Alaska is another spectacular region,爓ith abundant sightings of bear, humpback whales, porpoises, sea lions, eagles and more.燜amilies have many?a href="http://www.zhangyex.tw/articles/kids_alaska_summer_vacation.asp">choices when planning an Alaska vacation and the variety of爋ptions can be overwhelming. Small ships, like Fantasy Cruises' Island Spirit,燼re an excellent choice for爒acationers whose top priority is to experience the "real Alaska." Road trips爄ncorporating lots of excursions can also be fun for families. See this article on?a href="http://www.zhangyex.tw/articles/see_alaska_your_way.asp">The Family Travel Network爁or more details and ideas.

          4. Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, Wyoming:?Visits to燯.S. National Parks燼re up as the燽eautiful爏cenery showcased爄n Ken Burns'燩BS爏eries燾ontinues to spark爉ore National燩ark爒acations.燝reat Teton and Yellowstone National Parks are two areas of the country with爏ome of the most spectacular vistas and concentrations of wildlife.燭he Teton Mountain Range is home to the largest, most diverse population of wildlife in North America.燗mid the soaring mountains and mighty forests, you'll爁ind moose, bison, elk, wolves, bears, mule deer, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, river otters, and bald eagles - just to name a few. For an insider's view of these areas, go with a family-friendly tour company like Austin-Lehman Adventures爐o visit爋ff-the-map places most tourists never see.

          5. Costa Rica: The lush jungles of Tortuguero on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast offer爄ncredible opportunities for viewing wildlife. Summer months are active here as爐housands of Atlantic Green Sea Turtles come to lay their eggs along the area's beaches. Daily boat tours along winding rivers and canals offer excellent opportunities to see monkeys, macaws, toucans, iguanas, sloths, and other wildlife. Tortuga Lodge is燼 good choice for families in Tortuguero.燗long Costa Rica's Pacific Coast, over 120 species of mammals, including monkeys, anteaters, sloths, raccoons, otters, peccaries and tapir can be found in Corcovado National Park.燜amilies visiting燤anuel Antonio National Park are likely to see monkeys, sloths, iguanas, toucans and scarlet macaws. In addition, hundreds of thousands Olive Ridley爏ea turtles and endangered Leatherbacks nest in protected areas along the Pacific Coast.

          6. Kenya: ABC's Good Morning America named Kenya's Maasai Mara Reserve as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World -燼nd for good reason. The Great Migration of over 1.5 million wildebeest, zebras and爂azelles爁rom Tanzania's Serengeti plains to the Mara is one of the爉ost spectacular爓ildlife shows爋n earth. Kenya has so much more to offer than just the migration, however. In addition to爃aving all of the?Big Five"?lions, leopards, elephants, Cape buffalo and rhinoceros) - families can also see cheetahs, hippos, ostrich, hyenas, warthogs, zebras, giraffes, monkeys, crocodiles, topi, impalas, and爋ther wildlife.燰isit Samburu and Maasai villages for memorable cultural exchange experiences and play in the Indian Ocean at resorts along the coast. Heritage Hotels serves up a wide variety of family friendly options for families爋n燼 Kenya safari. The hotel group provides extensive programs for families at their Intrepid and Voyager properties,爓ith an燗dventurers Club for children ages 4-12 as well as a Young Rangers Club for teens at selected locations. This燼rticle on?a href="http://www.zhangyex.tw/articles/africafamilysafari.asp">The Family Travel Network provides more information on family safaris in Kenya.

          7. Georgia's Coastal Islands: Little St. Simons Island, a 10,000 acre unspoiled private island resort with seven miles of deserted beaches, is home to a rich variety of wildlife - and only 30 guests.?European fallow deer, armadillos, American alligators, wild turkey and over 280 species of birds can be found here, along with nesting Loggerhead sea turtles during the summer months.牋Nearby Cumberland Island爄s America's largest wilderness island, home to nesting sea turtles as well as爉anatees, wild horses, white tail deer, bobcats, armadillos, raccoons, otters and over 300 species of birds. This island was originally home to the Carnegies as well as other prominent families, and爉ansions and ruins are located throughout the island.燙ome over for the day, camp overnight,爋r stay at the historic Greyfield Inn.

          8.?/b> Moose Alley, Maine: Route 3 running from Pittsburg north to the Canadian border, affectionately dubbed "Moose Alley," is a great place爐o take燼 moose safari.燭he best times to see these huge爉ajestic creatures燼re in the early morning and at dusk. A nationally designated?Watchable Wildlife Corridor"爄s also located nearby on Route 26 from Errol to Colebrook, with viewing stations positioned along the way. This is the only "Watchable Wildlife Corridor" highway east of the Mississippi. Stay at The Balsams, NH, a lovely historic resort爋ffering moose safari tours,爓ildlife hikes, and a variety of nature-oriented activities.燡ourney across the state line into northern Maine, where moose are also plentiful, and take a safari燽y water or land in the燤oosehead Lake region to see moose, bobcat, black bear, beaver, otter, and other wildlife.

          9. The Amazon:?/b> The Ecuadorian Amazon, El Oriente, is home to more types of animals and plants than are found in the rest of the world's ecosystems combined. A wide variety of wildlife, including giant river otters, tapirs, capybaras, sloths, jaguars, howler monkeys, and over 400 species of birds, live in this lush rainforest area. Kids and teens are always fascinated by the piranha and caiman found in the region's waters. Jungle lodges, such as the award-winning Napo Wildlife Center, provide comfortable accommodations for families and exceptional access to wildlife and cultural experiences. For a truly memorable adventure, trips to the Ecuadorian Amazon region can also be combined with tours of Ecuador's Galapagos Islands as well.

          10. Glacier Country, Montana:牋Take a trip to the National Bison Range where about 300-500 buffalo roam燼pproximately 18,500燼cres along with elk, bighorn sheep, black bear, white-tailed and mule deer, pronghorn antelope, coyote, and Rocky Mountain goats. Over 200 species of birds can also be found in this area.燭he best time to visit is mid-May through mid-September. More wildlife viewing is available at Glacier National Park.?The park area is home to 272 species of birds and 63 types of native mammals, including grizzly bears, mountain goats, deer, and marmots.

          11. Everglades National Park, Florida.牋Everglades National Park, the country's third largest park consisting of 1.4 million acres, is teeming with wildlife.燭ake a safari through a lush爏ea of grass to see爉anatees, crocodiles, deer, water buffalo, bison, wild hogs, alligators, roseate spoonbills, herons, hawks, eagles, and a wide variety of other birds. The Seminole Tribe of Florida leads daily Billie Swamp Safaris through Big Cypress Reservation, while the National Park provides guided boat tours by boat narrated by Park-trained naturalists. Naturalist-led tram tours are also available.

          12. Tanzania: With 25% of its land set aside for conservation, Tanzania has one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the world. In addition, Tanzania is home to the Great Migration for nine months of the year. Here, your family can see lions, leopards, elephants, Cape buffalo, rhinos, cheetahs, hippos, ostrich, hyenas, warthogs, zebras, giraffes, monkeys, crocodiles, topi, impalas, and hundreds of thousands of migrating wildebeest. To maximize your family's wildlife viewing and enjoyment, book your Tanzania safari with a family-friendly tour operator who knows Africa well. Denver-based Africa Adventure Consultants specializes in safaris and founder Kent Redding has first-hand experience taking his children to Africa. Kent's intimate knowledge of Tanzania and the Great Migration put us in the right places at the perfect time, allowing us to see over 700,000 animals roaming the Northern Serengeti plains and more than 200,000 wildebeest crossing the Mara River near Asilia's Sayari Camp. For the ultimate adrenaline rush, leave the safari vehicles behind and take a walking safari at Oliver's Camp in Tarangire. Kids must be 16 and older to participate.


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