Maldives, a kiddy paradise

Long regarded as a honeymooners’ paradise, Club Med Kani’s newly launched child-friendly facilities is set to position the Maldives as a playground for the family as well

Yes, it is true — with its perfect, white sandy beaches, intimate desert-island configuration and some of the clearest turquoise waters in the world, the Maldives has long topped the list of dream romantic destinations. Indeed, most of the resorts in the archipelago are pitched specifically at honeymooners and couples looking for a romantic getaway, with probably the biggest number of private-pool villas and over-water villas per resort at any tourist destination worldwide.

However, with the burgeoning trend towards family travel and a fast-growing middle class — particularly in Asia — the Maldives is gradually reinventing its exclusive, couples-only image to embrace families. Spearheading this transition is Club Med Kani. The French hospitality brand is well-known for its family-oriented proposition — all-inclusive stays at resorts that offer a wide variety of sporty activities, from skiing and paddle-boarding to Zumba classes.

Club Med Kani, which is located in the northern atolls and a 35-minute speedboat ride away from Male International Airport, opened its doors in 2000 and was initially pitched as a romantic resort destination sans the brand’s famed Children’s Club, which caters to kids as young as four-months-old to teens.

But this year, the refreshed Club Med Kani is unveiling new child-friendly facilities and accommodation for families, for little ones to have fun in the sun, sand and sea of the Maldives. The newly renovated adjoining Club Rooms and the just-built Happy Children’s Corner cater to couples wishing to enjoy the Maldives with kids in tow.

DREAM-LIKE PERFECTION

We zoomed off into the pitch black darkness in a speedboat to Club Med Kani from the airport pier in the dead of night, but the excitement that emanated from my six-year-old daughter Izzy was palpable, even though she was exhausted from her nighttime travels. Stepping off the boat onto the Cub Med Kani jetty to the catchy riffs of Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk and the sight of large reef fishes in the spot-lit waters, her eyes lit up in amazement.

After a very warm welcome from the team of G.O.s (which stands for Gentil Organisateur, a French term for “Gracious Organiser” coined by Club Med and one of the key pillars of the brand) and the charismatic chief du village Barq, we were ushered into our home for the next few days — a standalone Beach Deluxe Room that leads out to a quiet beach overlooking the Indian Ocean. But it was only when we sprung out of bed that the true magnificence of the island showed itself in all its vivid glory.

The beach was pristine — powdery-soft, white sand with shimmery turquoise waters that lapped gently at the shoreline, and generously peppered with tiny hermit crabs that were, surprisingly, not very shy in the presence of humans.

“This is better than being in a dream!” exclaimed Izzy, who could have easily spent the whole morning exploring the beach, but our rumbly tummies had a date with the extensive spread at Velhi, the main buffet restaurant at the resort.

Even though the chefs have the mammoth task of feeding hundreds of guests, each station (the restaurant offers Italian, Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Continental and Maldivian cuisine) offers a sprawling selection of freshly cooked dishes at a level of quality that exceeded that of any buffet I have had. The seafood was mostly locally sourced and delightfully fresh, and carb-loving Izzy had trouble choosing between eight types of bread and three types of pizzas at every meal. For late risers and all-day snackers, the resort offers full-day dining in its all-inclusive rates at Kandu and Kaana — the former a speciality restaurant with late breakfast and lunch menus, and the latter a deli serving tapas and snacks.

FUN IN THE SUN

While most other Club Med properties boast the brand’s full children’s club facilities, which include Baby Club and sporting facilities such as archery, paddle pools and trapeze, the newly launched Happy Children’s Corner at Club Med Kani operates like a pared-down version — it accepts kids from four-years-old onwards, and with lunch and shower breaks which parents will have to pick them up for.

“(The introduction of the Happy Children’s Corner here) is a strong demonstration of the growing number of families going on holidays, especially with the lowering cost of transport to the Maldives,” said Henri Giscard d’Estaing, chairman and CEO of Club Med over coffee at Kaana.

“When you have the scale of facilities that we have here, it would be a shame to not have the whole family experience the amazing Maldives. Although we don’t have the space for a very big Children’s Club, the fact is that people don’t come to the Maldives to stay indoors. You’ll find that most of the children’s activities here at Kani are conducted outdoors.”

Indeed, I had dropped Izzy off at the Happy Children’s Corner for the duration of our chat, and returned to find that she had gone off on a mini island exploration expedition with the dedicated Happy Children’s Corner G.O. On the schedule for the day are outdoorsy activities such as snorkelling, sandcastle-making, beach games and kayaking, so that parents can rest assured that their kids are not missing out on the wondrous natural seascape of the Maldives while they are sunbathing or indulging in cocktails at the open bar on the beach.

Kids also have the opportunity to participate in the resort’s coral propagation programme — an activity unique to Club Med Kani. The resort has plans to introduce more of such eco-awareness kids’ programmes that will add to their experience of the Maldives’ natural landscape; although close encounters with Maldivian marine life are a daily occurrence — we had spotted reef sharks and stingrays, and swam with a huge school of tiny fishes in the shallow waters by our villa.

The most surprising aspect of this trip — our first Club Med stay — was how much we both enjoyed the buzzing nightlife on the resort. There is an informal dress code every night (which gives parents an excuse to slip out of shorts and t-shirts into something a little more chic), a performance by the G.O. team and a themed party that goes on till late into the night for those up for some beach partying.

Our last night there was the All-White-themed night, which consisted of an opulent barbecue buffet and dance party on the beach with guests decked out in white resort wear. Izzy’s face lit up in wonder, for the umpteenth time that day, as we sat on a soft sandbank watching the fireworks go off against an inky-black, starry sky.

The Maldives is a wondrous experience for beach-loving grown-ups and kids, and Club Med Kani is the perfect base to maximise fun in the golden Maldivian sunshine for the whole family.

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