Touring Latin America: Calling All Explorers

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A less rigorous land-based option in the islands is a stay at the Finch Bay Eco Hotel on Santa Cruz. Increasingly, families are booking a 4-night Galapagos Islands cruise, ending with a 3-night stay at one of the small hotels in and around Santa Cruz. Finch Bay is a good choice for families. Located on Punta Estrada, just across the bay and a 5-minute boat ride away from Puerto Ayora town, it has its own pool, beach, excursion yacht for exploring nearby islands and beaches, and active sporting options from mountain biking and sea kayaking, to an introduction to scuba diving. Kids 10 years and older can also take an introductory PADI scuba course. Priced from $1,053 pp dbl, a 3-night package includes accommodations (from suites to premium rooms), all meals, a highlands tour, two days of excursions, a guided visit of the Darwin Research Station, transfers in/out and taxes. Packages are available for 3-, 4- and 7-night stays. Finch Bay is owned by Quito-based Metropolitan Touring, whose Galapagos holdings also include the cruise vessels Santa Cruz, Isabela II and La Pinta. Aboard every cruise, kids (ages 7-12) can become members of the Young Pirates program, featuring special supervised activities, materials, and menus for the youthful explorers on board.

cruise the peruvian amazon National Geographic Adventure magazine called International Expeditions’ Amazon River tour one of the “25 greatest adventures in the world.” In 2011, the specialist in small group tours is offering designated family departures—July 8, 15, 22 and 29—on this same cruise, aboard La Amatista. Following a city tour and overnight in Lima on arrival, the next day passengers begin their 7-day exploration of the Peruvian Amazon, which starts in Iquitos. From there, passengers young and older cruise on the Rio Ucayali, the watery land of the pink dolphins; enter the Pacaya Samira Reserve (the largest wetland in the world) where kids focus on fishing for piranhas and spotting caimans and capybaras; hike and look for otters, and go head-to-head in a soccer match against local village kids. The riverboat enters the home stretch back to Iquitos on the Rio Maranon, and by docking time, youngsters will have learned survival skills, bird calls, 20 ways to cook a piranha, and how to make mosquito repellent from medicinal plants. Including everything but international and local air, the tour price is $3,498 on lower deck, $3,698 on upper deck, pp; for children 7-18, the cost is $150 less. Bookings made at least nine months prior to departure will save an additional $175 per person. Extensions to this 10-day tour are available to the Nasca Lines, Cusco and Machu Picchu.

Thomson Family Adventures concentrates on Peru: Land of the Ancient Inca in its 8-day program. In 2011, this will be a 9-day adventure with an extra day in Machu Picchu. Two departures are scheduled for December, for an adventure that includes a first night in Lima, two days in the Scared Valley, with a visit to Ollantaytambo, whitewater rafting, and a weaving lesson in Chinchero village; two nights at Machu Picchu, a night in Cusco and a final night in Lima. The December departures are priced at $3,490 pp dbl for adults; $3,390 for teens and $3,340 for children—recommended 8 years old minimum.

at home on the range: in argentina
Located outside the air gateway of Cordoba—an hour by air from Buenos Aires—Estancia Los Potreros is a perfect pick for families looking for the quintessential “home on the range” experience that’s so much a part of the Argentina lifestyle brand. Los Potreros is a 6,500-acre working cattle ranch and stud farm that has remained in the same Anglo-Argentine family for four generations. And the Begg family invites their guests to share their home, their lifestyle, and excellent guest facilities, whether one’s passion is outstanding horses, beautiful scenery, walking, mountain biking, birdwatching, golfing at nearby courses, visiting historic Jesuit churches or simply enjoying a dip in the pool and good company. At Los Potreros, the focus is on horses (80 Criollos, Paso Peruanos and polo ponies). An able staff introduces riding to beginners, and leads half-day, all-day and even overnight rides with catered camping to all corners of the property. Additionally, everyone has a chance to learn and watch the gauchos break horses and round up cattle, while guests can try their hand at polo, with lessons and informal games held weekly for riders and watchers. Also on view are lassoing competitions and gaucho games. The youngest visitors can explore rock pools, gather eggs, and run with the dogs who always love company. Cost is $360 pp dbl and includes transfers from Cordoba, all food and drinks (including lovely wines), and all activities; children 16 and under receive a 20 percent discount, and non-riding youngsters a 50 percent discount. Special for families is a charming, English-cottage style Doll’s House, with three bedrooms and two baths.