Safaris, spies and spas

Ute Junker uncovers the luxury properties rolling out the red carpet for their junior guests.

Grown-ups aren't the only ones who enjoy some serious spoiling. From elephant-driving classes to children's spas, five-star hotels around the world are offering their littlest guests a touch of luxury.


Work the red carpet

The kids will be given a welcome they'll never forget with the Little Legends package at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. As they arrive on the red carpet, suitably kitted out in sunglasses, feather boa (girls) or top hat (boys), they'll experience what it's like to be mobbed by paparazzi. In keeping with celebrity tradition, they'll also score freebies including a Little Legends T-shirt and a VVIP card that entitles them to soft drinks throughout the hotel.

Expect to pay Rates start from $US545 ($420) a night, for up to two adults and two children sharing a room.

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Toys R Us

From pink or blue bedlinen to the home-made cookies and milk at turndown, Brown's Hotel in London keeps the fun stuff coming for its younger guests. Bath time is made easier by playthings (plastic duck, anyone?) and handy tools for parents, including a temperature tester, while at bedtime, the littlies can snuggle up with their own Brown's bear. Each child receives a welcome gift: one popular option is a personalised copy of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, which was written in one of the hotel's suites. Older children will enjoy PlayStation and free internet connection via the TV.


Expect to pay Room rates based on two people sharing start from £295 ($460). A second room for two children is half price.

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Ritzy princesses

Little girls can live out their Cinderella fantasies at The Ritz London, where the Princess for a Day program offers a great opportunity for some mother-and-child bonding. The program includes a manicure, cocktails and mocktails in the Ritz bar, and a three-course meal in the Ritz's restaurant. All children staying at The Ritz receive complimentary membership in the Kids@theritz program. Need something else? The Teen Concierge can arrange just about anything, short of a private meeting with Justin Bieber.

Expect to pay The Princess for a Day program, including two people sharing a room, starts about £400 a night.

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Tonnes of fun

Teddy bears are all well and good, but if your littlies want to cuddle something bigger, the elephant camp at Anantara Resort Golden Triangle should top your list. Thirty-two elephants live in the camp and children eight and over can take a three-day course to qualify as a mahout (elephant driver). As well as driving lessons, participants - adults are welcome - also take part in elephant washing, health checks and a game of elephant polo. Shorter options - one day or one hour - are available.

Expect to pay All-inclusive room rates start about $900 a night for two adults and two children sharing. The three-day mahout program is 14,245 baht ( $355) an elephant.

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The great outdoors

With 1000 hectares of forest to get lost in, Treetops Lodge in Rotorua has plenty of ways to give your children an all-natural high. Jump on a horse or a mountain bike to explore the 70 kilometres of adventure trails that wind through the forest, taking in four lakes and seven streams on the way. Your Maori guides will give you an insight into the area's history and wildlife. Then there are lessons in fly fishing, archery and clay-bird shooting, or even a high-tech treasure hunt using a global positioning system. There's plenty of fun for younger kids as well, with an adventure in the forest ending in the discovery of a genuine teddy bears' picnic - and they even get to take one of the teddies home with them.

Expect to pay Lodge rates start at $NZ464 ($370) an adult, $NZ202 a child (aged three and over). Prices per activity vary: horse riding for two people is $NZ200 an hour; clay target shooting is $NZ150 a person an hour.

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Icy cool

A trip to Antarctica is the ultimate show-and-tell experience, with penguins, seal pups and icebergs galore to be found among the many attractions. Abercrombie & Kent's Antarctic trips on Le Boreal make the journey even more exciting, with a Young Explorers program that helps youngsters understand what they're seeing. On sea days, children can take part in comprehensive workshops that focus on navigation, marine mammals and fish, including art projects and a session on digital photography .

Expect to pay From $US12,745 ($12,350) a person for an 18-day cruise. Children aged seven and over are welcome on the trip and save 50 per cent off the published adult price when sharing a cabin with a full-fare-paying adult.

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Flying high

The children's program at Aman Resorts' Balinese property, Amandari, is designed to give younger guests an insight into local cultures in the most entertaining way. Children can learn how to paint a traditional kite with local master Pak Busiasa, whose colourful designs feature dragons, butterflies and tigers. Complimentary activities include traditional dance and gamelan music classes, and a visit to the local orphanage, which is sponsored by the resort.

Expect to pay Many children's activities are free. Kite making costs $US50 a child, while a car and driver for the orphanage visit is $US80. Room rates start at $US950 for two adults and two children under 12.

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Bond, James Bond

Kids can unleash their inner secret agent at London's art nouveau St Ermin's Hotel MGallery, which celebrates the hotel's clandestine heritage. Not only was the hotel Winston Churchill's headquarters during World War II, but MI6 was also founded here and double agents Burgess and Maclean used to meet in the hotel bar. The hotel even has a secret doorway (alas, now sealed) leading to an underground passage to Parliament House. Upon check-in, young guests receive a free secret-agent pack, which has a book of codes and code-writing tips, plus a quiz to test their observational skills.

Expect to pay Room rates start at $225, for up to two children and two adults.

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Surf and stables

Don't expect to spend much time with your kids while staying at Alila Villas Soori on Bali's west coast - they'll be too busy enjoying the many activities, or "Journeys", on offer. This could include anything from lessons with a local painter, to learning to surf and spending a day in the stables looking after horses.

Expect to pay Free activities include treasure hunts, sand sculpting and a visit to the bat cave. Other activities start from $US16. Villa rates for two adults and two children start from $US565 a night, excluding breakfast.

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Family safari

Kapani Lodge in Zambia caters to families with a seven-night Luangwa Lion Cubs Family Safari, where everything from game drives to meals are timed to fit in with families. There are also plenty of child-focused activities, from learning how to track game on foot, to African drumming lessons and even a visit to the local school.

Expect to pay A seven-night all-inclusive safari package for adults (including private guide and vehicle) starts at $US3340 a person (plus park fees). Children between eight and 12 sharing with their parents pay $2820 a child. No children under eight allowed.

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Making tracks

From the private plunge pool that accompanies each of the nine cottages at Kenya's Sasaab lodge, to game viewing done in a jeep or on a camel, there's plenty to appeal to the littlies. What they'll love most, however, is spending time with their Samburu guides, learning to make a traditional Samburu bow and arrow, and making plaster casts of wild animal prints.

Expect to pay Room rates, including full board and game drives, start from $US545 a night, twin share. Children between three and 15 pay $US370 a night. Park fees not included.

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And then there's ...

Cooking classes From big cities to tropical islands, hotels everywhere will help turn your children into junior master chefs. At the Heritage Le Telfair in Mauritius, a 90-minute cooking lesson culminates in the whole family sitting down to lunch together to enjoy the results. At the Villa San Michele in Florence, kids can learn to make pasta, while at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, they can try their hands at gourmet pizzas or rolling sushi. At The Regent in Berlin, children can learn everything from how to lay a fine dining table to how to fillet a sole, then get to sit down for a meal with their parents (and with a complimentary bottle of Laurent-Perrier champagne).

Spa treatments There's plenty of pampering on offer for the pint-size set, with spas around the world offering child-focused treatment. The Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel in Portugal's Algarve region offers facials, massages and manicures, as does The Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town. The Conrad Maldives Rangali Island has a special Ice Cream Spa catering exclusively for three- to 12-year-olds.

Dancing nannies Not in a resort mood but want to give the kids a thrill? Book into one of Coastline Villas' 14 properties in Mallorca and order up a (qualified) special dancing nanny. They promise to help your offspring find their happy feet with flamenco, disco or Zumba sessions.