Adventurous new flights from Gatwick
From most places in the county a Gatwick flight is going to be a holiday clincher. But while flying from right here in Sussex is handier than Heathrow, if you’re after something a bit more adventurous than a fly-and-flop in the sun, your choice is pretty limited.
So, much excitement at Chez Muddy when we heard that British Airways was introducing direct flights from Gatwick to both Peru and Costa Rica from May.
Peru’s tourist meccas are the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu – the iconic ruined Inca city atop a mountain.
Other scenic highlights include Lake Titicaca with its snow capped mountains, and cruises on the Amazon. The capital Lima boasts gorgeous colonial architecture, pre-Inca ruins and some great seafood.
When it comes to the natural world, the tiny Central American country of Costa Rica has more than its fair share – a Caribbean and a Pacific coast, an active volcano, thousands of acres of mountainous rainforest plus animal life that includes sloths, jaguars, crocodiles, lizards and migrating humpback whales. There are heaps of soft adventure opportunities, so you can explore by bike, raft or even zip line.
If you’ve got kids and think these are the kind of places you’ll only be able to set foot in once they’ve flown the nest, think again. If you can handle the cost, with the right tour, your kids can handle the adventure, particularly in easier Costa Rica.
My friend Meg, who lives in Horsham, is a huge animal fan with a menagerie of her own – I once milked a goat in her back garden (OK I got all of two squirts out) – so Costa Rica (particularly as sloths were on her must-see list) was very much her bag.
She went last year with her husband and three (teen and pre-teen) children and they had a great time. So I asked her for the lowdown on Costa Rica, with or without a family in tow.
Where did you go and what did you do?
We booked a 10 day tour followed by four days on the beach. The tour named ‘Rainforests and Volcanoes’ started in San Jose with a visit to the Poas volcano and a coffee plantation. From there we went by coach and boat to Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast, a true jungle experience. We stayed there for two nights and took a night visit to the beach to see green turtles nesting. From Tortuguero we met up again with our guide, Leo, who took us by mini bus to another area of rainforest called Sarapiqui. Here we were able to further explore the jungle on foot seeing toucans, monkeys, sloths and lots of poison dart frogs!
After a two night stay we left the tropical Rainforests behind and headed west to visit La Fortuna and Arenal volcano, with its lovely relaxing hot springs! Our final stop on the tour was at Rincon de la Vieja national park in the very hot and arid province of Guanacaste. We took an early morning walk to see the steaming sulphur lakes, bubbling mud pools, giant trees and abundant wildlife. We also rode the zip lines, which the kids loved!
The four beach days were spent at Panama beach on the north Pacific Coast….very beautiful and relaxing.
What where the highlights?
Probably the turtles nesting, seeing toucans and Arenal volcano.
How did it work out with the children?
This holiday was very much an opportunity to see and learn about the country, its people, the wildlife, mountains and rainforests. It was a fantastic experience for the kids as it fitted in with so many topics they have and will study at school. It was a great combination of adventure and activity, and I would recommend it for families with school age children (8-years-old +)
Choose a tour that takes you in small groups. You are more likely to spot the wildlife if there are fewer of you and it’s easier for the guide to show you things and answer your questions.
Travel light – t shirts, shorts and walking boots. We took long trousers and long sleeved shirts but it was too hot to wear them (late July). Umbrellas are good for the tropical showers!
Take a camera with a good zoom lens for the wildlife
Meg booked with Families Worldwide and the local touring was handled by Armotours. Other operators featuring Costa Rica include Journey Latin America, Kuoni, Exodus, Explore, Intrepid Travel and its offshoot The Family Adventure Company. A good local travel agent should be able to help you out, including Brighton’s Responsible Travel.
Note that Costa Rica is currently affected by the Zika virus so it’s not a place to visit if you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy.