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Indian Ocean Reviews 1708
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The Maldives is our joyzone!

These lovely islands are a hit with Ronan Keating and his family (but who expected Father Christmas to pay a visit on a banana boat?)

Going back to a place you have really enjoyed can be a bit of a risk. Can you recreate those happy memories?

We went to the Maldives four years ago and loved it. This time we returned over Christmas.

This was my first 'hot' Christmas. My wife Storm is from Australia, so when she was growing up, December 25 was a day spent on the beach or playing cricket on the lawn.

An aerial view of the exclusive Anantara Kihavah Resort

I, meanwhile, grew up in Ireland, so I'm used to wet, cold and damp days. If we were really lucky, we had snow.



As we were taking four children - my three older ones, Jack, 18, Missy, 16, and Ali, 12, and our baby Cooper, who was born last April - I was a little anxious. How would a non-traditional Christmas in the sun appeal to them? But from the moment we arrived at Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas, they loved it. We were delighted to discover we even had a Christmas tree in our room - with gifts underneath.

It was the children's first trip to the Maldives, and the journey is a thrill in itself. After arriving in the capital Male, we took the seaplane for the half-hour flight to Kihavah Huravalhi. We flew over glorious desert islands before landing on a beautiful turquoise lagoon. 

Enjoy the tranquilityand privacy of one of the beach pool villas


As we stepped on to pristine white sand, the staff were waiting, singing welcome songs, clapping and beating drums - it was magical. Garlands were hung around our necks and we were handed glasses of fruit punch. We suddenly felt very cosseted.

Next came the excitement of being taken to our villa - an over-water one which was fantastic. In the bathroom there was a glass floor, which made for an interesting, if slightly unnerving, experience.

On the way to the villa we could see uninhabited islands surrounded by reefs which we were told are home to turtles, eels and beautiful coral formations. Anantara forms part of the Baa Atoll, with baby sharks, stingrays and every fish you can imagine. It meant the snorkelling was exceptional.

We needn't have worried about the children having a good time -  the staff worked tirelessly to make certain everyone was happy.



The food was phenomenal, the service extraordinary, the weather brilliant, the sea perfect. We were floating on air.

And any anxieties about Christmas were swept away when Father Christmas arrived on a banana-boat!

At Anantara they take dining to new levels. At Sea, an underwater restaurant, you dine inside a tank and the fish are outside looking in at you.

One of its attractions is the world's first underwater wine cellar. Wine with depth, you might say. But when we were in Sea, we couldn't bring ourselves to order the fish - in the circumstances it seemed wrong!

A setting like no other: get pampered beside the crystal clear waters


We liked Fire, a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant, while Salt, an Asian fusion restaurant, was also superb. All the children loved the food.  The new Sky Bar, with its own DJ, was a  very cool place and it features an observatory. We could have sat there all night looking through the telescope at the stars.

The children were never bored. There was something going on all the time and lots of other children were there, so they were never short of people to hook up with for a game of beach volleyball, for example.

One day we all went on a boat trip which allowed us to snorkel out on the reef - we were right among the turtles.

Head down to the turquoise waters for a bit of snorkelling


In the evenings, we loved the open-air cinema, watching movies under the stars.

The resort also had a good kids' club - Ali had a brilliant time making sushi.

In the evenings, there was a pool party with a DJ, and on New Year's Eve there was a band and fireworks. Did I succumb to the temptation of performing on New Year's Eve? Of course I did - I can't help myself. I sang my hit When You Say Nothing At All, which seemed to go down well.

When I was growing up in Ireland, we never left the country - Killarney was as good as it got for me. Every summer, we'd go for a couple of weeks to a guesthouse. We had a great time -but it's still quite a leap from Killarney to the Maldives!

First published in the Mail on Sunday -  April 2018

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