Known the world over for its white-sand beaches, teeming coral reefs and turquoise waters, the Maldives is a double ring of isolated islands (1,190 in all) in the Indian Ocean. In the remote natural wilderness of the Baa Atoll—the Maldives first UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve—Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru beckons. With lush jungle interiors and a two-kilometer lagoon, here kids can go swimming with manta rays, tracking sea turtles via GPS and snorkelling among Nemo and friends. (There is also a family-friendly sister resort to the south at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa.)
We spoke with Ilonka Sharmaine, Landaa Giraavaru’s kids’ club supervisor, about the resort’s kids’ club, Kids For All Seasons*, and everything on offer for families.
FS Family: There are lots of fabulous tropical resorts for families to choose from. What makes Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru special?
IS: It’s the additions—like our Passport to Adventure program, family rooms, Marine Discovery Centre, environmental projects, family spa ritual and kids’ lagoon diving courses—original and meaningful activities for families to do individually and together. The island also offers a real sense of discovery and freedom. Families love cycling together along the jungle paths and exploring all the parts of the island. The island is completely natural and has a lovely, relaxed atmosphere.
FS Family: Tell us about kids and fun at your resort—what are your top five things to do?
IS: Gosh, it’s hard to highlight just five… OK, here goes:
1. Our Passport to Adventure: It’s a booklet presenting a series of challenges—kids get a stamp when they complete each challenge. And seven or more stamps earn a toy prize. If they collect all 14, they earn ice cream sundaes for the whole family at Blu Restaurant & Sunset Bar.
2. Building a coral frame with marine biologists and then snorkeling off the beach to see it in its new home in the Coral Garden. And visiting the Marine Discovery Centre to see the baby seahorses, clownfish, touch tank and Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.
3. A mini Ayurvedic Immersion in the Spa & Ayurvedic Retreat, where kids can find out about their dosha and learn the basics of Ayurveda.
4. Becoming a PADI Seal Team member, something kids eight and older can do. We’re the only resort that offers the course in the lagoon (vs. the swimming pool).
5. Fifth? It’s got to be the kids’ club, Kids For All Seasons*, which features a lot of what I’ve mentioned and more!
FS Family: We understand that diving, water sports and conservation are key focuses. How can kids participate?
IS: Kids eight and older can take Bubblemaker (taster) courses and do their PADI Seal Team, which involves all sorts of exciting AquaMissions in the lagoon. The water is so clear and warm, and we have so much coral close to the shore in our Coral Gardens, that it’s equally lovely to snorkel. Conservation projects include coral reefscaping, turtle rehabilitation and fish breeding. Kids who are confident snorkelers can also go out on turtle snorkel safaris or join the manta research team and swim with mass gatherings of mantas during the season (June to November).
FS Family: Tell us more about your Marine Discovery Centre…
IS: It’s an interactive research and education center designed to guide guests and the local community through the underwater world of the Maldives. It’s the base for a lot of our pioneering conservation projects—Reefscapers, Turtle Rehabilitation and Fish-Breeding—and is a place where guests can learn more about these projects and the local marine ecosystem. The center also has a dedicated children’s section with touch tank and interactive activities, and hosts groups of school children from local islands as part of an extensive out-reach program.
FS Family: Do children learn about the Maldives and its culture at the resort’s kids’ club, Kids For All Seasons*?
IS: As part of our Passport to Adventure, we include lessons in Dhivehi (the Maldivian language) and run an art class with a local artist. We also include kids in the Maldivian “sport” of hermit crab racing!
FS Family: What other arts, crafts and activities are on offer at the kids’ club?
IS: We run up to eight daily activities that complement the Passport of puzzles, facts and challenges that kids get when they arrive. We do lots of arts and crafts alongside anything from Coral Reefscaping to Wishing Tree Walks, Dosha Discovery and Lizard Spotting, herb hunts and mocktail making. There’s also snorkeling, kayaking, cycling, cookie and pizza making.
FS Family: Tell us more about your a new interactive spa treatment for kids?
IS: We have four Reconnection Rituals. These are designed to give the family the opportunity to reconnect with their inner bliss, both individually and as a unit. The Kuda Vela ritual is a good introduction: it includes a series of yoga postures, body painting, bathing and song. We also have dedicated rituals for teenagers and adults. The highlight is the 150-minute Aailaa Ritual, a magical journey of relaxation and bonding for up to four people.
FS Family: What’s doing for tweens and teens?
IS: The resort has its own Teen Centre, a hangout where they can shoot some pool, chill with movies, catch up on Facebook or play Wii. We have a large variety of water sports, too, such as catamaran, Jet Ski, kayak, banana boat, along with dive courses. Just ask the concierge for more details.
FS Family: What’s the story with manta rays and Four Seasons Maldives?
IS: Landaa Giraavaru is close to some of the world’s most renowned manta ray feeding sites, where big groups of mantas and whale sharks gather between June and November to feed on the plankton that is swept into the Baa Atoll by the southwest monsoon. Since 2007, marine biologists from The Manta Trust have been conducting research, education and conservation on the resident population of Maldivian manta rays based at Four Seasons. Guests can join the Manta Trust team on their research boat during manta season or sign up for a Manta on Call excursion and swim with mantas at nearby hotspots.
FS Family: What other creatures can kids expect to see?
IS: Dolphins, turtles, Maldivian clownfish, lemon sharks and hundreds of species of reef fish.
(Read more on how Four Seasons is helping protect our friends of the sea http://bit.ly/MhzUBE)
FS Family: What’s the set-up like for visiting families? What are accommodations like?
IS: We have 102 spacious bungalows, villas and suites hidden along dense jungle paths, lining the beach and on stilts over the lagoon. There are two-bedroom Family Beach Bungalows (with pool), plus lots of beachfront and seaside-chic interiors. They have an additional twin bedroom linked by a short corridor to the master. A separate bathroom and outdoor shower make them especially suitable for families with older children and teenagers. The Family Beach Villas (with pool) have an attached study including a single bed with pullout underneath, a desk, wardrobe, TV and adjacent shower room—ideal for families with younger children.
FS Family: If I’m visiting with my family, what should we be sure to eat/see/take home?
IS: In terms of eating, it has to be amazing pizzas at Blu, mezze at Al Barakat, built right over the water, and reef fish at Fuego Grill.
The things to see are mantas and whale sharks (seasonal), turtles and dolphins, and the baby fish in the Fish Lab. To take home? Has to be a piece of traditional Maldivian lacquer ware from the resort shop and the number of the coral frame you planted so you can watch it grow online; and of course, some of the most incredible family memories you’ll ever have!
*Kids For All Seasons (KFAS) is a Four Seasons complimentary recreational and educational program for children of resort guests. Most KFAS clubs are designed for youth four to 12 years old, and open daily from 9 to 5. (Younger children can often join KFAS with a nanny or parent, or resorts can arrange for babysitting.) But details vary from property to property, so check the resort’s website for more information.
Kids can go all day or just for an hour or two. Activities inside and out include games, sports, music, treasure hunts, swimming, arts and crafts, cultural education, environmental preservation work and yoga. Not your average camp, the VIP offerings are pretty extraordinary—for example, at Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, following an educational talk by a diving instructor, kids get to make their own aquarium featuring the exotic creatures of the Red Sea, such as flying fish and parrot fish.
Read more about the Maldives in Four Seasons Magazine.
Born and raised in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Ilonka Sharmaine joined Four Seasons Resort Maldives in 2001, leaving her two children “to build them a better future.” She started in Kuda Huraa in Housekeeping before transferring to Four Seasons Prague after the 2004 tsunami. In 2006, she returned to the Maldives: Landaa Giraavaru. Each day after work, she would help the resort’s florist create special arrangements and cards for guests. Because of Ilonka’s warm, enthusiastic manner and knack for arts and crafts, she was soon promoted to the kids’ club, where she’s been happily supervising the resort’s youngest guests ever since.
View all posts from Ilonka
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