Our announcement that we were heading to the Maldives for a week was met with cheers from friends, “Oh, you will love the Maldives; it’s so romantic”. We mention that we are bringing the kids and the mood changes. “The Maldives is not for kids. There’s nothing for them to do.”
All that water and nothing to do? Impossible, we say. Ever unconventional and with no alternative childcare, we had searched Google to find a resort suitable for families who love water sports and The Maldives is actually a top find.
A collection of 1,192 islands, it’s home to more than 200 resorts catering to every type of tourist, from surfers and backpacking holidaymakers, to wealthy folk spending upwards of Dhs90,000 per night.
We, however, search for a more budget-friendly spot and stumble upon the Holiday Inn Resort at Kandooma, one of a handful of family-friendly holiday resorts. And so we depart, kids in tow, from Abu Dhabi to the capital city Malé.
On arrival at the tiny island airport, a guide greets us, waiting to take us to our island paradise. We sling our bags into our chariot – in this case, a lightning fast speedboat – and head out on a 45-minute sea tour of the island nation.
Our speedboat drops us off on a fantasy island. A rainbow festoons the island and a misty rain shrouds the air, which, to us desert dwellers, is yet more proof that we’re in paradise.
After a brief tour, we are taken to our ocean-view family villa and quickly whisked off to the Water Sports Centre where our itinerary has been carefully planned.
We choose from scuba lite classes, various snorkelling trips to see different reefs, paddle boarding, surfing lessons, kayaking and sailing. Rather over-excited, we book ourselves in for everything.
After we’re kitted out with wetsuits and snorkelling masks, a boat then ferries us to a nearby shallow reef where the promise of swimming among hundreds of colourful tropical fish lures in any number of families twice daily.
Before we dive in, however, we’re given a few warnings: what not to do if we encounter beautiful or venomous fish (don’t touch them). While that may sound obvious, some of the more precarious fish here are stunning, such as the lionfish, and, of course, it’s important to protect the species.
Warnings heeded, we swim out into the azure seas, diving down into the shallow reef, and see fish with names as colourful as their scales; clown, angel, butterfly, parrot, anemone, soldier and trumpet. They dart in front of us, pose for our underwater cameras or chase us away if we get too close to something they’re guarding such as their vibrantly hued coral blooms or sea anemone homes.
As water sports enthusiasts and lovers of the ocean deep, this is what our family holiday dreams are made of. But we aren’t so contrary that we wouldn’t admit the Maldives is also where the newlyweds flock to and proposals are a daily occurence.
Throughout the trip, we spot enough honeymooners to understand that most people do visit the Maldives for a dash of romance, but there are numerous resorts that cater to every type of tourist.
So, if you are keen on an unplugged holiday with the family, and if you, like us, are keen on adventurous activities, then simply ignore the naysayers and book in for a holiday to the Maldives.
Just make sure you’re prepared to be awed by an undersea world so vibrant you will never want to come up for air.
Etihad offers daily direct flights from Abu Dhabi to Malé starting at Dhs1,770. Flights take four hours and 35 minutes. www.etihad.com.