Now that we have more opportunities to travel, you may be thinking about booking a long-awaited family holiday that’s bigger and better than ever. The Indian Ocean islands are fast becoming a sought-after destination for families looking to broaden their brood’s horizons beyond the beaches of Europe.
To inspire your next getaway, we’ve rounded up our favourite family-friendly escapes to the Maldives, the Seychelles and Mauritius.
“The Seychelles is a dream destination for families. You could justify a visit here for the beaches alone, with safe shallow waters ideal for little ones and powdery soft stretches of sand perfect for shell hunting. Resorts are incredibly family-friendly, and direct overnight flight options from the UK mean you can snooze on the flight and wake up in the balmy Seychelles. And with only a three-hour time difference, body clocks won’t be too off track. Temperatures here are an average of 27 degrees, and with the driest weather between June and September, this times in well with a school holiday getaway.”
Michelle, Personal Travel Expert
Have treetop adventures at Constance Ephélia, Seychelles
From the moment you arrive at Constance Ephélia, your kids are in for a treat. The resort is located on the largest island in the archipelago, tucked between two beautiful beaches and surrounded by acres of mangrove forests. It’s a natural wonderland for the whole family to explore. Following a warm welcome at check-in (complete with milkshake and marshmallows for kids and a refreshing drink for mum and dad), you’ll be whisked to your villa or suite. The one- or two-bedroom villas with private pool are perfect for families. For an extra special touch, if you have younger children, a tepee tent can be set up in your room on arrival, which comes with colourful balloons and a cuddly tortoise companion.
There are activities at Constance Ephélia to keep all of the family happy. Older children will be kept busy scaling new heights on the climbing wall, kayaking through mangroves and flying through the treetops on a zip wire. For younger ones (aged 4-11), the kids’ club is exceptional. There’s a daily themed activity programme where they can paint shells, learn about the local flora and fauna, try pizza making or meet the friendly island tortoises. There’s plenty on offer for adults too. Take advantage of the babysitting service and head to the spa for a tranquil treatment, or book a table for a romantic date night. We love the signature restaurant, Cyann, which serves up amazing French-fusion cuisine and has spellbinding views over Port Launay Marine Park.
The hotel team go above and beyond to delight children during their stay here. As well as the ‘bracelet barter’ initiative, where kids can exchange bracelets for treats such as ice cream and smoothies, there is also the ‘feel like a team member’ project. Teens have the chance to join one of the hotel departments for half a day (even getting their own uniform and name badge) and go behind the scenes of the hotel. They can help prepare dishes in the kitchen, zip around the resort grounds on buggies helping to deliver luggage or shake up mocktails in the bar.
“The Maldives is often seen solely as an island paradise for honeymooners, but it’s also the perfect family playground. With bungalows just steps from the beach and deluxe family villas with their own water slides, it’s not surprising that families choose the Maldives as their holiday spot year after year. Travelling here is all part of the fun – kids will feel like James Bond as they hop on a speedboat or seaplane to reach their island. The beaches are what childhood dreams are made of, with soft white sand and clear waters home to colourful fish. Kids will love spotting a shiver of reef sharks, cute hermit crabs scuttling on the beach and geckos darting about in the greenery.”
Sharna, Personal Travel Expert
Big island: Big fun, Kuramathi Maldives
While many islands in the Maldives are so tiny you can walk around them in just 10 minutes, a stroll around Kuramathi takes closer to an hour. The size and space of this popular resort are what makes it a brilliant choice for families; there are plenty of hidden corners to explore and a huge choice of activities. Kids can run wild on empty stretches of beach, snorkel in the ocean or dive-bomb into one of the three pools dotted across the island.
Rooms range from cosy beach villas nestled in the foliage to ultra-chic water villas that look like they could be on the cover of a top-end travel magazine. You could also choose a wow-factor two-bedroom beach house – these modern two-storey villas are ideal for families and groups (they can comfortably sleep up to six people) and are set directly on the beach with incredible views over the dazzling lagoon.
There’s an exciting range of activities for children. Teens will love the watersports centre, where they can head out for ocean thrills on kayaks or banana rides, and footie fans can challenge the staff to a match on the island’s football pitch. The Bageecha kids’ club (free, for ages 3-12) is tucked away in the centre of the island and has its own splash park and huge treehouse. As well as organising exciting adventures such as a pirate’s treasure hunt and barbecue parties, children can also visit the eco-centre to meet a resident marine biologist and learn all about underwater life in the surrounding ocean.
What makes Kuramathi stand out from other Maldives islands is its vast range of dining options. With 12 restaurants to choose from, even the fussiest eaters will find something to tuck into. The buffet restaurants have a different menu theme each night, or you can reserve a table at one of the speciality restaurants. We love the Mediterranean eatery, Palm, for delicious wood-fired pizzas and homemade ice cream. Or if you have a family with a more adventurous palette, Kobe offers a teppanyaki dining experience with live show cooking (you can dine here with children over 6).
“For a family beach holiday with an exotic twist, you can’t get better than Mauritius. There are plenty of things to do on this culture-rich island. Head out to the capital, Port Louis, to explore vibrant markets and museums, go on a dolphin-spotting cruise or meet the island’s giant tortoises at La Vanille Nature Park. You can visit any time of year, but the winter months – which coincide with the UK summer holidays – are perfect, when the temperatures average around the mid-’20s so it’s not too hot for younger travellers.”
Andrew, Personal Travel Expert
Live like a local at Zilwa Attitude, Mauritius
Zilwa Attitude is a charming, rustic-chic resort, tucked away on a sheltered bay in the north-east corner of Mauritius. Arriving here offers a real ‘pinch-me’ moment. You walk into the airy reception and you’re hit with the most incredible view of Gunners Quoin, a volcanic island jutting out from the sparkling ocean which serves as the striking backdrop to this little paradise.
Zilwa means ‘islander’ in Creole and the concept here is exactly that: live like an islander. The gifts of straw beach hats, vanilla rum and a pair of ‘dodo’ flip-flops on arrival get you in the right frame of mind to embrace this. The whole family can get involved with the ‘Otentik’ (authentic) experiences, which include Creole lessons under the palm trees, a sunrise boat trip with a local fisherman and tucking into a Mauritian feast in a local home.
The authentic theme carries through to the guest rooms, which are all simply styled with local materials and pops of colourful Creole artwork. For families, we love the deluxe rooms, which open up onto leafy gardens and have separate bedrooms. Picture yourself relaxing with a cocktail on your private terrace once the kids are asleep.
The resort is small but perfectly formed which means kids can easily make friends while splashing around the pool, or they can head to the mini club for some fun organised activities. ‘Ayo the Dodo’ is suitable for ages 3-12 and offers a space where youngsters can play pirates in a real boat (on land), or hunt for treasure on Zilwa’s private island, Gran Zil.
After a fun-filled day, the main restaurant, Karay, comes to life with an extravagantly themed buffet. You can also try any of the speciality restaurants as part of your dine-around all-inclusive package. Evening entertainment is delightfully low key. Sink into a comfy lounge chair with an icy drink in the atmospheric bar (kids will love the fresh fruit mocktails), watch traditional ‘Sega’ dancers, or cosy up together for a movie under the stars.
This is just a taster of what we can offer in the Indian Ocean for a fun family escape. For more inspiration, take a look at our worldwide Family holidays. We know that all families are different, so talk to one of our Personal Travel Experts about your family and we can create a holiday that’s right for you all.
This feature was published on 20 November 2020. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of print. Feature by Heather Flanagan.