Rhonda Carrier is a leading UK family travel writer and an emerging expert on the joys of travelling with teens. Her work has been published in many top travel publications, including National Geographic Traveller, The Guardian, and Lonely Planet, and has explored far-flung places from Iceland to Jamaica with her children. We asked her to tell us about her mum-and-son bonding trip to the Maldives.
With a wave and a grin, Zac dives deep as I float on the surface of the water, watching him through my snorkel mask. Colourful fish swirl beneath and around us, flashing like neon in the rays of sunlight piercing the skin of the ocean. Zac flips and turns like a dolphin, gesticulating to me as he spots barracuda, moray eels and manta rays. At times we hold hands as we move through the dreamlike marine-scape.
"It’s one of those times in life when you know even as it’s happening that it will always remain among your most cherished memories.''
The last time I was in the Maldives I was 10 years old, it was the 1970s and there was fewer than a handful of resorts in operation. As a family, we’d already holidayed in the Seychelles and Mauritius with Kuoni – and it was Kuoni, the pioneer in this unique destination as it started to open up to the world, who suggested we come here.
The Maldives was lo-fi, back then. Basic beach huts, ping-pong tables, islands with just one restaurant apiece. Over the decades I watched as it grew – first largely as a wedding and honeymoon destination, and then as a family-friendly option too. And I decided I wanted to go back with my own offspring.
Kuramathi Maldives was among the original five resorts and the first to introduce overwater villas – now almost a trademark of the Maldives. It’s also brilliant for kids, with so much more than a ping-pong table, pretty fish and fabulous beaches. At 14, Zac was too old for its lively kids’ club, but there was no danger of him being bored – not even with only his ‘old ma’ for company, his older brothers kept at home by A-level mocks and other obligations.
Our snorkelling expedition along the edge of the stunning house reef was led by the resort’s marine biology team, who have their own eco centre here, complete with a dramatic sperm whale skeleton and displays about the local environment and the conservation projects they’re involved with. Zac was horrified to read about how plastic detritus impacts Indian Ocean wildlife, making us both all the more determined to make full use of Kuramathi’s refillable bottles and water stations dispensing H20 from their own filtering plant.
Another day we went out on another boat trip – one during which even the sight of the sun setting over the ocean paled into insignificance for Zac when a shark swam right past him, so close he could almost have reached out and touched it.
Thrilling excursions aside, there’s always plenty to do at Kuramathi’s water-sports beach, including kayaking and paddleboarding.
But part of the pleasure of a holiday in the Maldives with a teen is simply hanging out and letting the day unfurl at its own pace.''
With food available all day, we felt very free just to take things as they came, not setting an alarm and starting the day with a swim off our Deluxe water villa, amidst stingrays and black-tipped reef sharks – neither of which pose any danger.
I largely let Zac dictate what we did, since I was just happy to be there and spending some precious time with him, and he hardly gets to make any decisions at home or school. We snorkelled some more together, off our villa or along some of the island’s many dedicated channels, and we chilled out at the gorgeous infinity pools. Our favourite pool was by the Champagne Loft, overlooking a lagoon threaded with meandering sharks, with sunset views and sparkly underwater lighting after dark.
But the resort’s real star is its glorious sandbank, curling out into the ocean for a whole mile. It was here that we headed to went to watch the sun go down as a full moon rose behind us, cartwheeling and dancing with the sheer giddy unreality of it all.
Our mum-and-son break was a time of heightened emotions. Having recently turned 14, Zac is floating between childhood and the person he is going to be, and it’s fascinating to be party to that evolution away from the distractions of home. Also, with his elder brothers on the cusp of leaving home, and hence family relationships and dynamics changing.
In this sense Kuramathi truly was a paradise for us – a place where I could see how Zac is blossoming, growing into himself, into travel, into making his own choices. Where I could see he is daring new things, whether that be swimming alone in the ocean (he came with a bit of a phobia after a nasty incident with jellyfish while surfing in Scarborough) or trying out unfamiliar dishes in one of the resort’s 11 brilliant restaurants, from the Island Barbecue or the overwater seafood venue Reef to upscale Italian at Palm or Thai at Siam Garden.
But as big a trip as the Maldives is, emotionally and in other ways, it’s often the little moments that stay with you just as much as the more obvious experiences. And when I think of Zac and our time at Kuramathi, I’ll never forget the exhilarating feeling of walking together through the island’s wild, junglesque interior at dusk, as fruit bats swooped around us – of feeling like adventurers. Nor will I forget how hard we giggled as we ran home from dinner along the beaches, weaving our way through the hermit crabs as they in turn skittered away from us across the gleaming sand, beneath a sky glittering with stars and promise and hope.
We can help you find the perfect trip whatever the occasion, whether you’re looking to share stolen moments with your loved ones or celebrate a big milestone event. Call us or visit your local Kuoni store to start planning a trip that you'll treasure for years to come.
This feature was updated on 20th June 2023. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of print. Feature by Rhonda Carrier.