FIVE questions
you should
ask ...
Speak to one of our travel
within 5 rings

Which of these is important to you?

  • Concierge style service. Your own dedicated travel manager who'll look after you until you travel.
  • Better value. Exclusive fares you won't find online to save you money.
  • 24 hour helpline. A worldwide team just a phone call away if you need help while you're overseas.
  • Top on Trustpilot. More highly rated than all our competitors with 98% saying they'd book again.
  • Risk free. Fully licensed with Client Trust Account to protect your money. ABTA, ATOL protected.

Your calls always answered within 5 rings.

You've read the reviews so why not call us NOW?
Tell us what you need. We'll find you a solution
Indian Ocean Reviews 1716
Indian Ocean Offers 28
Perfect for families

Honeymoon heaven? Maybe, but it's paradise for kids too

Imogen Edwards-Jones thought the Maldives were just for romantic couples - until she took her children there and found they fitted in perfectly

The idea of taking two small children to the Maldives is not something anyone of sound mind would usually entertain. The Maldives is a honeymoon destination, right?

The 26 atolls are renowned for their serenity… I'd been promised that the LUX* South Ari Atoll was different. Beloved of hand-holding couples but also child and eco-friendly, with a marine biology programme.

But on the flight, with husband Kenton, four-year-old Rafe and Allegra, eight, I was still questioning my decision to head there as a family.

On arrival there followed a 25-minute seaplane hop to our final destination.

LUX Resort's overwater bungalows

South Ari Atoll is a big island resort by Maldivian standards. There are just over 190 villas and suites (either on stilts or nestled along the beach), nine bars and restaurants, a delicious ice-cream parlour, two pools, and countless watersports. But their ethos is to be a bit different from the usual family-orientated resort.

It is full of little secrets and surprises, such as a bright red phone box where you can call home for free, or the open-air photo-booth where my children amused themselves for hours by pulling funny faces at the camera.

There were messages in bottles hidden all over the hotel every morning, offering the lucky finder free pizza or bottle of wine. And a bar that popped up in various palm-fringed coves, where you could help yourself to a cocktail or three.

There were fresh coconut stalls, and stashes of chopped fruit here and piles of nuts there. In short, the walk to breakfast was fun. There was no better way to motivate Rafe to make the ten-minute walk down the beach each day for his boiled egg and soldiers than the prospect of finding a hidden treat along the way.

South Ari Atoll knows how to cater for children: there's a kids' pool, films on the beach, a kids' club with arts and crafts, and, best of all, the marine biology centre run by Italian powerhouse Francesca.

My daughter became rather obsessed with Francesca, a gorgeous polyglot, with a degree in marine biology and a passion for whale sharks with which she managed to enthuse everyone.

The resort has a major whale shark-spotting area on its doorstep, and Francesca and the rest of the marine centre staff photograph and monitor these gentle giants (they can grow to 40ft and weigh 21 tons) as part of a global preservation plan.

Swimming with giants

We spent most of our week on, or in, the water, either swimming in the crystal-clear ocean, snorkelling, or sailing. One evening, instead of going to watch stingrays being fed outside the Umami sushi restaurant, we fished for our supper. As a storm came in and the rain lashed down, the children became all the more determined to land any sort of catch - but to no avail.

Fortunately, some Japanese tourists who came with us caught plenty so gave us some of theirs. And what a delicious meal it made. There's nothing more glamorous than having your chef barbecue freshly caught fish while you sip a glass of rosé.

The best was yet to come. On our last day we went sailing on the resort's catamaran and we were joined by 30 or so over-excited dolphins that showed off their swimming skills for at least half an hour, much to Allegra's delight.

Just then the call went out from Dolores, from the marine centre: 'A whale shark! Over the starboard deck.' There was a mad scramble for masks and snorkels before we all threw ourselves over the side.

By a stroke of luck, as everyone else was swept in the wrong direction, I landed within a few feet of the whale shark's head.

Dark grey and the size of six London buses, it was one of the most beautiful, serene and impressive animals I have ever seen. For ten minutes we swam side by side, one of its large soulful eyes staring at me, and me staring right back. It was a heart-stopping, privileged moment I will never forget.

The hotel food was delicious, particularly the Umami sushi. However, it was the ice-cream parlour ICI that drove my children wild - choc, double choc, or choc with extra choc delight. There were marshmallows and sprinkles and Smarties to throw over the top. It was as if Willy Wonka himself had set up shop.

LUX South Ari Atoll is a delightful family resort

On that final day, as we stood on the jetty with our bags packed waiting for the seaplane, I did feel a terrible twinge of jealousy as a group of new guests arrived for their week of delights, while ours was over.

Whoever suggests the Maldives is not for families doesn't know what they are talking about - ask my children, one of whom came home a stingray-feeding pirate, while the other discovered she is actually a marine biologist.

First published in the Mail on Sunday -  March 2016

More articles below...


For more inspiration, read what travel writers have to say...

Family fun in the Maldives

Presenter Jamie Theakston and his young sons fall in love with the Four Seasons

Is Sri Lanka an island paradise?

Thomas Burrows believes there's no doubt

Seychelles paradise

Sandra Howard finds it hard to fault stunning Fregate Island

A love for nature

Christa D'Souza discovered an eco-resort setting a whole new standard

Mad for the Maldives

Tom Chesshyre decides which resort is right for you

Chic Sri Lanka

Freddy Halliday finds the air in Sri Lanka is filled with optimism

Botswana and the Seychelles

My perfect mix of thrills and pampering

Floating playground

Max Hastings found these islands were a playground of underwater wonders

Maldives rediscovered

Louise Atkinson finds romance in the air in these idyllic islands

Serendip Sri Lanka

Gareth Huw Davies finds joy on the island that gave its name to serendipity

The River Kwai

Roderick Gilchrist journeys to the spectacular jungle location of the famous bridge

A happy return

Max Davidson reports on a golden new dawn in Sri Lanka

So that's what they mean by Paradise!

Sri Lanka really is paradise

The tiny island that's huge on fun

Sally Chaplin's all-action family discover paradise in Kandima

Seychelles serenade

Mary Lussiana cherishes these idyllic islands

Saluting the sun in paradise

Is Tristan Davies on a blissful yoga break?

Maldives joyzone

These lovely islands are a hit with Ronan Keating and his family

Magical Mauritius

Marcus Scriven has body and soul rejuvenated by a beauty queen

The biggest wow on Mauritius

Tom Laing has a jaw dropping experience

Falling upside down in love with the Maldives

Honeymooning TV presenter Amanda Byram samples aerial yoga in paradise

Epic luxury on the beach

Tammy Hughes finds that pampering in the Maldives is of blockbuster proportions

Delightful Dodo Island

Its national bird may be long gone, but Mauritius is far from extinct, as Doreen Parry discovered

Barefoot paradise

Laura Hamilton finds herself living a life of luxury - and shoes are not needed

A new level of luxury

TV presenter Alice Beer finds perfection in the Seychelles

Swing into Mauritius

This island may be small, but according to Harry Denning, it is a riot of colour and creativity

Not quite what you're looking for?
We can easily customise an offer to suit your exact requirements