The Maldives is commonly perceived as a destination for honeymooners – or at the very least, for couples – but there are many reasons why the islands are great for families too. If you travel as a family but hadn’t considered the Maldives as a potential family friendly destination, then think again. Here are just some of the reasons we found during our stay at JA Manafaru.
An opportunity to travel by seaplane
What little kids (or big kids for that matter!) don’t love the thought of going on a seaplane?
Flown by a barefoot pilot, a seaplane experience in the Maldives is one not to be missed!
Friendly staff who are great with kids
For me, what makes an experience truly luxurious is the level of service and attention to detail. And that needn’t stop with the adults. We were always made to feel very welcome everywhere we went on the island, as were our boys. Waiters made a fuss of them at meal times, staff spent the time showing them around when they first went to take a look at the kids’ Coolzone and Chillzone areas, and boat staff were eager to help them haul in their fishing catch if needed. Even personal notes and gifts were left for them in the room.
Family friendly, luxurious accommodation
When you travel as a family, it’s always a pleasure to have ample space for you all rather than be cramped to a single family room. Our beach villa not only gave us this, but also a private pool and easy beach access.
We also took a look at JA Manafaru’s two bedroom Royal Island suites which offer even more space and comfort should you wish… a whopping 600 square metres in fact (440 sq m of which is indoor).
You only have to look at brochures of the Maldives to know how idyllic the islands are. Factor in that that it’s all white sand as well and you’ll realise that the beaches are not just beautiful to look at, but they are also comprised of sand that doesn’t get too hot – regardless of how much the sun shines – and so they’re easy to walk on.
Our children are reasonably adventurous when it comes to food but have a tendency to opt for familiar dishes when ordering from a menu. Healthy child-friendly options are available but with the buffet option at JA Manafaru’s Kakuni restaurant they can try small amounts of a variety of different dishes; through this, on the weekly Maldivian night our youngest discovered he was rather partial to the Maldivian curry – something we’ll struggle to replicate back home!
Children can also try ‘mocktails’ (non-alcoholic coctails) at JA Manafaru’s Infinity Bar and Horizon Lounge.
Learn to cook Maldivian food
It doesn’t just stop with trying different foods! Your children can learn how to make it, too! We really enjoyed the family cookery lesson with Moosa where we learnt how to make a variety of Maldivian snacks before sitting down to sample our efforts.
Did you know that the Maldives ranks among the top five places on Earth to see whales and dolphins? Over 20 different spacies (a quarter of the world’s total) call the Maldives home. Spinner dolphins are the most common and occur in their tens of thousands.
In fact, over 1,000 species of fish have been recorded in the Maldives and, on top of that, you of course have turtles and other marine life to keep an eye out for. The region is home to both green turtles and hawksbill turtles, both of which are on the list of endangered species.
Head to the end of one of the jetties at JA Manafaru at around 6pm and you can take part in the daily fish feeding experience and start to get an appreciation for the variety of species that are out there.
What many people do not know is that the further north you go in the Maldives, the lusher and greener the islands become so whilst JA Manafaru is fringed by the white beaches that we all know, it also has a jungle-filled interior ripe for exploration. As many as 167 different species of birds have been recorded in the Maldives. You’ll also see lots of geckos which are great at keeping the mosquitoes in check!
And at dusk look up towards the treetops and you may just see the flying fox – a huge fruit bat with a wingspan of around one metre. We saw them frequently but I was never quite quick enough to get a good picture!
Fishing with a single line is great way to spend time together as a family. Forget about the stresses of work and just relax, spend quality time together and see what happens. It’s a great leveller, too, with our boys upstaging us by catching four fish to my one tiddler which was thrown back.
And, whilst you head back to shore, the boatmen from JA Manafaru will even ask you where you’d like to dine that evening and how you’d like your fish cooked, and pass the details on to the kitchen staff for your dinner that night.
Swimming and snorkelling
As well as there being multiple pools to swim in, at JA Manafaru you can go on a snorkelling excursion over the coral – a great way to observe what’s going on beneath the ocean surface. And for those with suitable experience, there are also opportunities to dive.
Fancy trying your hand at kayaking, windsurfing, stand-up paddleboarding or sailing a catamaran. JA Manafaru has its own watersports centre where you can partake in any of these activities.
Prefer your sports on dry land? If watersports aren’t your thing, there are lots of other sports to entertain the kids with. The Chillzone at JA Manafaru has a table tennis table and pool table.
There’s also a tennis court and you can even try your hand at golf.
The resort also provides you with bikes with wide tyres (makes it easier over the sand) if you feel like cycling.
I can’t say I’m wildly in favour of children going all the way to the Maldives only to then play on video games but I suppose a quick 20 minutes of play whilst you’re waiting to go on out an excursion doesn’t do any harm. And at JA Manafaru, you congregate close to the kids’ Chillzone where there’s a games room with X-box, a racing driving game and a flight simulator where you can even choose to fly a seaplane.
Fancy a night out as a couple? JA Manafaru offer child minding and babysitting services should you wish.
They say that travel is one of the best forms of education and I am inclined to agree. Aside from the wealth of experiences already mentioned, travelling is an excellent way for children to get an appreciation of the world – its scale, the differences between countries and so on and so forth. And whilst at JA Manafaru we took up the unique opportunity to visit a local inhabited island.
We were welcomed into a home where we drank fresh coconut milk, wandered the island’s streets and beaches, called in at a school (our boys were even briefly roped into a lesson!) and visited the local hospital.
It gave us all a much greater appreciation for what island life for Maldivians is truly like, away from the luxury resorts that you only get to see in the travel brochures – an opportunity that most visitors to the islands probably never get.