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A Different Perspective

Some of us are not so lucky to be able to experience another culture on a day-to-day basis so school holidays are the ideal time to encourage enquiring minds to look at the world around them with fresh eyes.

Hands-on holidays are becoming an increasingly popular option for those keen to escape and get the opportunity to meet new people, enjoy the local food and customs, get close to wildlife and understand a destination’s history.


Family holiday specialists, The Adventure Company, recently launched ‘Hands On Adventures’ which encourage holidaymakers to really get under the skin of the country they’re visiting. Designed for those eager to combine adventure and sightseeing with a chance to spend a few days getting involved in a wildlife conservation or community-based project as part of their holiday, these trips offer a first taste of what it is like to be involved in a practical project. In turn, this experience may have a lasting impact, encouraging interaction with locals and, ultimately, a sense of responsibility.

From monitoring monkey behaviour in ancient Sri Lankan ruins to spending time in remote villages in a tsunami-affected region of southern Thailand, these eye-opening experiences enable travellers of all ages to make an immediate contribution to the country they’re exploring.

One new 14-day ‘Hands On Adventure’ in Vietnam and Laos, has been devised for families aged 8 upwards to help fight poverty, preserve traditional culture and conserve nature whilst discovering some of the best highlights in the two countries. The trip includes a stay with a local family in Laos, where you are taught about local customs and traditions, cooking lessons, helping out with a lesson at a local school, learning how to build bamboo rafts and taking part in a tree planting project to combat logging in the area. The trip also includes a visit to an Elephant Park Project, set in a beautiful mountainous setting in a hidden valley near Luang Prabang – a happy retirement home for elephants formally involved in the logging industry.

Don’t forget half term opportunities: during February, for example, India’s rainfall is low and temperatures in their mid 20s, making it an ideal time to forego a traditional ski holiday in favour of something a little more original. The Adventure Company’s new 8-day India Insights holiday provides a perfectly condensed introduction to northern India as you take in some of this colourful country’s most famous attractions in a short space of time. Highlights include visits to the Taj Mahal – one of the new ‘Seven Wonders of the World’ – and Ranthambore National Park, one of the county’s most famous wildlife havens where visitors may even be lucky enough to spot Bengal tigers.

For all ages

 These hands-on holidays can all have an enormous educational impact on children – whatever their age.

Adrian Ferraro, founder of The Specialist Travel Consultancy (STC), an independent niche travel agency who specialise in organising adventurous family holidays, school expeditions and out of the ordinary holidays across the globe, has put together some more fantastic ideas for Eds Up that are tailored for children from as young as 8 through to teenagers:

Pacuare Reserve/Tortuguero Turtle Conservation, Costa Rica, 15 days, age 8+

The original indigenous inhabitants of this area used turtles as a sustainable resource, but the arrival of Europeans led to major exploitation and reduction in their numbers. Tortuguero National Park, was established in 1970 to protect both the turtles and the natural habitat and is now home to 13 of Costa Rica’s 16 endangered mammals. Among them are manatee, ocelot and jaguar, as well as over 300 bird species. First and foremost, however, it is the nesting ground of the green turtle, which comes ashore between August and October to lay its eggs on the sandy beaches. Highlights of this trip include: patrolling the beaches with biologists and research assistants looking for endangered turtles, protecting their nests, collecting research data and getting up close to leatherback and green turtles, white-water rafting and the beaches.

Zambezi Volunteer Experience, Zambia, 10 days, age 11+

Zambia is an African gem filled with fantastic wildlife and beautiful scenery. On this trip you travel down the Zambezi river on a canoe safari while camping out on deserted islands under the stars, the perfect way to experience Africa. You spend 3 nights at a game reserve, with the opportunity for game viewing, while having the chance to do some volunteer work: participating on animal protection walks, or visiting the children and assisting with the vegetable garden at a local school. This trip is perfect for any active family that wants to experience the wilds and wildlife of Africa, and also leave knowing they gave something back to the people and the area.

Sanjwani Public Health Mission Upgrade Project, 15 days, age 14+

For families wanting to combine trekking, scenery and volunteering, this is a wonderful introduction to the Annapurna region of Nepal. The trek route follows scenic trails through oak and rhododendron forest with overnight camps in serene locations and dramatic views of the mighty Himalaya. The Sanjwani Public Health Mission, located near the Hindu village of Ghandruk in the Annapurna region offers free medical services to approximately 5,000 villagers, but the building is in dire need of repair and renovation. The mission employs a doctor, nurse and a lab assistant and handles blood testing and pathology. Due to the extent of the work that is required, this project is being completed on two separate trips with groups working to extend the existing building, repair the roofing, plaster the walls, repair the windows, doors, paint each of the rooms and upgrade the furniture and fixtures.