There is a perception held by most that certain tropical holiday destinations around the globe such as Bali, Seychelles and the Maldives are essentially destinations reserved for couples and honeymooners.
I wanted to find out if these resorts are only geared to appeal to couples, or have they accepted where their business comes from and focused on the family market? Of course, this is a long-term piece of research that could be very involved. But for now, I head with my family of four adults and five children to the island of Soneva Fushi in the Maldives.
Positioned on the northern side of the Maldives, Soneva Fushi opened in 1995 and is the brain child of hotelier Sonu Shivdasani and Eva Malmstrom Shivdasani. Deriving its name from the founders Son-Eva, the island boasts approximately 60 villas with around 400 staff.
With a ‘no news, no shoes’ policy, the sand-covered island allows guests young and old to indulge in what Soneva adopts as ‘intelligent luxury’ – the ability to enjoy simple things without compromise, such as choosing to be barefoot during your entire duration on the island should you wish.
On the island sits ‘The Den’, one of the biggest, if not the biggest kid’s club in the Maldives. It is a vast space filled with everything from naturally air cooling sleeping rooms, to pools with waterslides, cinema rooms and probably one of the biggest Lego collections I’ve ever seen.
Like many parents, I’ve traditionally avoided the temptation of taking my kids half way across the world to leave them in a kid’s club all day, every day. Yet the appeal was hard to resist for the children, as it felt like they were asking to visit The Den every day.
The island seems to offer a clever mix between Peter Pan and Robinson Crusoe. It has been constructed to allow guests of all ages to reconnect with themselves and each other and enjoy what we all understand as important. Even adults find themselves at times having to reconnect with their inner child as they attempt to walk across a rope bridge to enter ‘Fresh in the Garden’, one of three restaurants on the island.
A resident marine biologist on the island encourages guests of all ages to learn and enjoy some of the wonders of coral and sea life. Sessions are provided to teach children not only how to snorkel but understand and respect the underwater world. It is first-hand experience no textbook will ever be able to teach them.
From the open-all-day chocolate room good enough to make Willy Wonka envious, to roaming rabbits on the island and even an open- air cinema, this is no ordinary place. The tropical island is a calm haven…a place for your mind, body and soul to reconnect with itself, with family, and of course with nature.
I’m sure there are islands in the Maldives which cater specifically to couples where children may not be in their comfort zone, but this is definitely not the case with Soneva. If anything, it seems to wholeheartedly welcome families, encouraging them to enjoy time with each other and even connect on levels they may not have not done before.
The Maldives is most definitely a magical place for children. They will love everything about it. So forget wondering what the will kids do, and focus more on how you can enjoy the time together. You won’t be disappointed.
Photographs by Richard Waite and Kalpesh Patel