School’s out! Pack your bags and hit the beach with the entire family. Lizzy Thomas leads the way to selected beach destinations around the region for some R&R.
The lesson in Spanish class that Saturday was timely. “Me gusta tomar el sol,” explained my teacher, “means I like to sunbathe. Tomar el sol literally translates to ‘drink the sun’, which is how we say sunbathe in Spanish.”
Señor Angel, my young Guatemalan instructor, touched on my favorite subject, beach holidays. I wish my husband and I were on one right now. There’s nothing like sunbathing while the children were busy with the Kids’ Club. Nothing compares to a beach vacation! You enter a new paradise the moment you set foot on the white sand and feel the gentle kisses of the waves on your feet. You leave your worries in the world at the airport and it’s always good for the kids to run around under the sun. Skeptics would do good listening to Ian Morgan and what he has to say about sun and children. In a report in Today, the lead scientist of the Australian Research Council study said that “exposure to bright light for two to three hours such as during outdoor activities helps to regulate the eye’s growth (hence) reducing the risk of myopia (a.k.a. nearsightedness) in children.” Bring on the sun baby!
Hubby and I have been working on our destination list and finally narrowed down our choices to three places: Kandooma Island in Maldives, Cherating in Malaysia and Sentosa Island in Singapore.
Named after the Kandoo tree that grows abundantly on the island, Kandooma is heaven that’s a quick 40-minute speedboat ride from the Male International Airport. Kandooma, the island, is set apart by its white sands, clear turquoise waters, azure skies and tropical greenery, spanning 13 hectares (or 32 acres) in area. It is located two thirds down the south eastern edge of the south male atoll and is neighbors to resort islands Cocoa in the north, Biyado in the west and local island Guraidhoo in the south.
Kadooma, the resort, is nirvana dotted with 160 villas in varying categories – beach and garden, duplex, family and water. Designed with cool clean lines of white-washed timber, each villa radiates warm textures and a sense of comfort. Sunlight streams through the large windows, which frame the naturally beautiful ocean in postcard-perfect moments. Pleasant and luxurious creature comforts such as iPod docking, fresh ground coffee, loose tea leaves and citrus press delight the senses to no end. Dining is simple but enjoyable: from the Kandooma Café to the take-out/delivery, expect orange juice in the morning to be just squeezed; coffee – even in the villas – freshly ground; bread and ice cream home made; and all done warmly and honestly.
While some find immense satisfaction in lazily soaking up the sun, others can push the fun factor a notch higher with the myriad outdoor activities. For water fun, choices include lessons like catamaran, windsurfing and snorkeling; guided kayak safari; aqua safari; island visits and fishing. For terra firma amusement, try your hand in beach volleyball, petanque, beach croquet, futsal, football or beach cricket. Still on land but a little more holistic is an exhilarating treatment at the COMO Shambhala Spa. At sunset, enjoy tales by a campfire, night sky exploration or a walk with Kandooma’s resident biologist.
Kids rule at Kandooma! At the Kids’ Club, they engage in adventure, creativity and education under the guidance of the coordinators. Children between four – 12 get wet and splashy with the mini snorkeling sessions at the pool and in the shallow waters of the lagoon. Back on land, they’re dry and cheery with indoor activities, board and card games and table games. They’re also taught to be clever and nosey with the “see and feel” adventure where they identify the marine life of Maldives together with the marine biologist. They turn into chefs in the kids at a baking session where they mix, mash, mould, mush and bake cakes. This is followed by a picnic under the trees where they enjoy their “creative” endeavor. And what would a Kids’ Club be without a bit of role playing? At Kandooma, they take part in the make-believe version of “Pirates of the Maldives” that’s filmed and screened later in the evening for all to see.
Located on Cherating Beach is the fun village called Club Med where you’ll never want to leave it, which, of course, you eventually have to. But when you do, you’ll be leaving feeling completely renewed. Hugging the eastern coastline of Malaysia, Cherating Beach is Eden peppered with the modern creature comforts of today’s travelers, as envisioned by Club Med. Its teak-wood bungalows-on-stilts are surrounded by lush greenery that recreate that pristine and bucolic ambiance but without a hint of desolateness. Through the thick foliage, nature comes alive with the rhythmic presence of the macaws, gibbons, giant lizards, rare species of birds and bright butterflies ensconced within the 197-acre area.
Fun is the philosophy of Club Med that permeates every aspect of the resort. All Club Med Guest Officers (GOs) are there to lift you from the doldrums and bring back that smile in your eyes. For a leisurely-paced activity, sign up for the cooking classes or laze around the pool or go a work out at the Club Med Gym. Better yet, a Hot Stone massage or reflexology session the Wellness Center might be your cup of tea. If you’re a social butterfly and into group activities, have a go aqua fitness, archery, climbing and sailing. There’s also golf, yoga, badminton, basketball, soccer, beach volleyball, squash and tennis to consider.
Kids are top priority at Club Med with three concepts specifically catering to the needs of their young guests – Petit Club Med (from two to under four years old), Mini Club Med (from four to 11 years old) and Club Med Passworld (from 11 to 18 years old). Under the watchful eye but fun-loving GOs, the kids are in for a lot of fun, adventure and discovery.
SURF & FUN
Sentosa Island’s appeal was more strategic defence for Singapore in the 19th century than a mini-resort destination, as it provided safe passage into Keppel Harbour. Concerns over the protection of the coal stocks against enemy attack were growing and plans to fortify the island in the 1880s resulted in the construction of four forts: Fort Siloso, Fort Serapong, Fort Connaught and Mount Imbiah Battery. From the base of the Royal Artillery in the 1930s, it was transformed into a British military fortress and eventually a prisoner of war camp for Australian and British prisoners of the Japanese forces during World War II. The Singapore government developed it into a holiday resort in the 1970s, and renamed the island Sentosa, which means serenity and tranquillity in Malay, in 1972.
Connected by the causeway bridge to the mainland, visitors can get to Sentosa Island via car, taxi and the Sentosa Express monorail, which links HarbourFront, Vivocity Mall and St. James Power Station to Sentosa in less than four minutes. The cable car from Mount Faber and public buses are excellent ways to get to the island too. Get around the island via the Sentosa Express, beach trams and Fort Siloso, Open Top and Sentosa buses.
The 500-hectare resort island is divided into two parts: Western and Eastern. The Western area contains majority of the attractions found at the Imbiah Lookout such as the Sentosa Luge and Skyride (part go-cart and part toboggan ride), Sky Tower for a panoramic view of Singapore 131 metres above sea level or the 37-metre high Merlion. Take in the ocean life on dry land at Underwater World oceanarium, which houses more than 2,500 fishes from 250 different species. The 3.2-km beaches stretch across thematic Siloso, Palawan and Tanjong: Siloso is for beach volleyball and other outdoor activities such as canoeing, mountain biking or rollerblading; Palawan is for chilling out with friends; and Tanjong is for solitude or romantic rendezvous. A new attraction, iFly Singapore, will be ready this year. Measuring five metres in diameter and 17 metres flying height, the air-conditioned skydiving simulator allows up to 20 professional flyers at one time while offering views of South China Sea, Siloso Beach and nightly fireworks display from Songs of the Sea.
On the Eastern side are the high-end resort hotels, and ONE°15 Marina Club that’s nestled in the exclusive Sentosa Cove, a luxurious well integrated waterfront lifestyle community. Take your pick from The Sentosa Resort & Spa to Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort or Resorts World at Sentosa, the integrated resort that will open its doors in 2010.
(Written under my pseudonym Lizzy Thomas | Published in Motherhood March 2009)