Strangely enough, our very first animal is not officially a wild thing at all. The alpaca was bred as a domesticated animal and belongs to the camelid family. While it is often confused with the llama, its closest wild relative is actually the vicuna – a smaller animal whose fur could only be worn by royalty under the rule of the Inca. Alpacas have a body height of about 1 metre, weigh between 50 and 80kg and live for up to 25 years. Described by some as gentle and others as nasty, meeting alpacas in their natural environment is a pretty safe experience – and meeting the shepherds who care for them will be half the experience.

Crib Notes:

  • 99 per cent of the world’s alpacas live in Peru, Bolivia and Chile.
  • Alpaca wool comes in 52 classified natural colours.
  • An alpaca’s teeth have no enamel on the side that sits alongside the tongue – this allows the tooth to continually grow as it wears down.

Best time to visit: The weather in Peru is consistent throughout the year – July averages 66° F/December averages 69° F.

Where to stay: Hotel Monasterio in Cuzco, Peru. In the historic centre of Cuzco, this former 16th century monastery was converted into a 5-star hotel in 1995 and has repeatedly been named Best Hotel in South America. Depending on the ages of your children, you could tour the legendary Machu Picchu by Orient Express, or simply explore the historic city of Cuzco.

Price Guide: $700 per night

Ecotourism option: Local Peruvian ecotourism company Inkaterra offers a family package exploring both the Amazon Rainforest and Machu Picchu. Families will be escorted by boat up the Madre de Dios River to spend four nights in Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica’s elegant eco-lodge, then on to Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel where families will have the chance to visit the Machu Picchu ruins at sunset, learn about Cloud forest’s indigenous plants and animals, see the world’s largest collection of native orchid species in their natural habitat and visit Inkaterra’s own Spectacled Bear conservation centre to see the rare and charming animal that inspired the story of Paddington Bear. Children receive an explorer kit which includes a flashlight, hat, compass, granola bar, postcards and coloured pencils to ensure they feel every inch the intrepid explorer. Rates start at US$2,280 per adult / and US$880 per child and are based on a family of two adults and two children under the age of 12. Private transfers and all meals and excursions are included. Book through Inkaterra.