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Snow Animals

Natarsha Brown braves the chilly weather in search of her favourite animals – those that love the snow as much as she does!

There is nothing quite like the first time you experience snow. With the cold biting at your fingertips, the wind kissing your cheeks, you look on in awe; this strange, icy powder has transformed the world as you once knew it into a winter wonderland. Now add some quirky, cute or downright majestic animals to the mix and what do you have? Pure magic.

Icelandic Horse

Where: Ingolfshvoll, Iceland

The Icelandic horse is a unique breed that arrived in Iceland when the first Viking settlers came from Norway around 1100 years ago. Archaeological digs in Europe have found that it is a descendent of an ancient breed of horses that is now extinct outside of the nation, where it has been preserved in isolation. Their small stature and fuzzy coats make the horses seem like stuffed animals come to life and, having lived without predators for so long, the horses are easy to approach, naturally docile... and undeniably cute!

The Icelandic Horse Park Fákasel is both an entertaining and educational experience for the entire family where you can mingle with the locals, dine on fresh Icelandic food and get to know the horses.

Stable tours are available throughout the day with the experienced trainers teaching you how the horses are fed, cared for, their history and their connection to the people today. If you want to take a ride, there are a range of guided tours on offer, such as the six-hour Below The Mountains Riding Tour. The experience uncovers the beautiful landscapes of Iceland as you trot through meadows perfect for the special gait of an Icelandic horse – the tölt – and enjoy panoramic views of volcanoes Hekla and Eyjafjallajökull, before returning to the hotel for steaming bowls of traditional soup.

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Emperor Penguin

Where: Weddell Sea, Antartic Peninsula

With its tuxedo-esque camouflage, endearing waddle and “happy feet”, the emperor penguin continues to capture the hearts of generation after generation, and spotting them in real-life is one unforgettable adventure!

Oceanwide Expeditions offers families the opportunity to be part of a true expedition voyage, with cruises to the Weddell Sea in the Antarctic Peninsula leaving from Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world. The penguin rookery is located south of Snow Hill Island, the ship situating itself between the Antarctic Sound and James Ross Island, close enough to observe the birds making their way to open water – waddling at their typical gentle speed of 2.5 kilometres per hour.

Helicopters are used to go ashore in search of more up-close encounters and the scenic flights over the glaciers and icebergs are just as mesmerising as the penguins. Also keep an eye out for cute-as-a-button Adélie and gentoo penguins. The cruise accepts kids over the age of three, however, some voyages are decided on a case-by-case consideration.

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Snow Monkey

Where: Nagano, Japan

Maybe you don’t know the name, but by now you have probably heard of a mystical place where monkeys bathe in hot springs among falling snowflakes. No? Then prepare to be amazed. Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park is covered in snow for at least one-third of the year, yet this doesn’t stop the 200 or so Japanese macaque monkeys from inhabiting the area.

The story began in the 1960s, when a baby monkey indulged in an open-air bath at a local hostel. With others eventually following suit, local citizens built a private onsen for the macaques’ personal enjoyment. Since then, this troop of monkeys has inherited a penchant for bathing, and boy do they love it!

Internationally famous for their bright red faces and kooky hot spring antics, the furry little fiends sure do enjoy monkeyin’ around. Visitors can witness the adorableness in person by catching the bullet train from Tokyo or as the cherry on top of a ski trip to Nagano (the surrounding resorts all offer tours and transport to the park). It’s a scenic one-hour walk up to the onsens, and although there are no fences, visitors aren’t allowed to touch the monkeys and are asked to keep a respectable distance... which is still close enough to witness the look of absolute bliss on the macaques’ faces as they delightfully soak in the steaming waters.

🔥Hot Tip: Make sure you come with an empty memory card as the photo opportunities will be endless.

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Credit: Ben Ware

Reindeer

Where: Swedish Lapland

If you thought that transportation via reindeer sleigh was a creative invention of Santa Claus then you must not have heard the myths, legends and true facts surrounding the Sami people in Swedish Lapland. In a land of snow-capped mountains, wild rivers and untouched forests, the indigenous Sami have lived here since time immemorial, their forefathers living off the land and making their livelihoods through coastal fishing, fur trapping and sheep herding, their food supply mostly dependent on the nomadic reindeer herds.

The famous Ice Hotel offers an interactive Sami experience, led by local Nils Nutti, giving families the chance to meet the reindeer, hand-feed little calves, share an insider’s insight into Sami lifestyle, culture and how it has changed over the years – all over a hot coffee and delicious ‘souvas’ around a roaring fire. Afterwards, you can have a go driving your own reindeer sled (minimum age of six years) through the surrounding wintry forests; the traditional mode of transport. The experience will teach little ones there is so much more to the culture of reindeer than Rudolph’s red nose.

After channelling your inner Kristoff and making your own Sven friends, the Ice Hotel is a wonder in itself, reminiscent of Queen Elsa’s very own ice palace. The awardwinning hotel opens its doors from December to March.

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Credit: Visit Sweden

Alaskan Huskey

Yellowstone National Park, USA

Quieter than snowmobiles but faster than skis or snowshoes, dog sledding is an exhilarating and nostalgic way to travel through the wild country of the Yellowstone National Park. One moment the dogs are barking, jumping and yapping, and the next, there is no sound except the rhythm of their paws on the snow.

With a snow season of nearly five months, dog sledding is available throughout much of the year. Trails start from Rainbow Ranch Lodge at Big Sky Montana with Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventure’s resident Alaskan huskies. Founder and owner Jason Matthews has been a professional wilderness guide for over 20 years and emphasises the interaction between guests, their dogs and their surroundings through intimate small group adventures.

The company offers a one-hour experience suitable for all ages called the ‘Sled Dog Sampler’ in which all sleds are driven by the guides with little guests nestled in the back basket. For those aged five and older, there is the ‘Learn to Mush’ experience, a lengthier half-day ride where guests can navigate their own team of dogs. Playing with the dogs after the sled rides is amost as much fun as the sled rides themselves.

🔥Hot Tip: When dog sledding, it is important to thank each dog in the team with loving pats...and a treat or two.



This article appeared in volume 51 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.



This article appeared in volume 10 of Ski & Snowboard with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.

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