"To be a parent is to sacrifice! Yes, of course the rewards are worth it, BUT when it comes to family holidays all parents of young children must face the inevitable growth and development of their kids to a level that comes with strong opinions and their own set of needs and checklists that make for a fun and rewarding vacation. Having become a convert to the joys of the 5 Star luxury resort, I have feared for some time that our children’s experience was less satisfying than that of their parents.
Whilst their taste and style is highly sophisticated and refined (thanks primarily to the influence of their designer mother) they have begun to grumble about being bored and over the last few holidays have often pulled out the dreaded iPads for entertainment. Our son and daughter recently turned 11 and with advice of close friends with a similar dynamic echoing in my ears, we decided to build a holiday with their needs foremost in mind – we booked a week at Club Med Cherating Beach, Malaysia.
Club Med comes with a certain reputation – it’s brand is universal, unequivocal: Family Fun in the Sun - Action, Noise, Sport, People, People, People! Not my idea of relaxing, rejuvenating down-time. But with an open mind and our kids smiles as the goal, we bit the bullet, made our travel arrangements and prepared ourselves to sacrifice seven days of our precious annual holiday budget – with gritted teeth we hoped they appreciated it.
WELL, we were wrong! Not about our kids appreciating our efforts or about them enjoying, in fact revelling, in this action-packed adventure – their smiles attested to the ‘blast’ they had. We were wrong about this holiday being a sacrifice, a compromise. Club Med gave us some of the finest family holiday memories and deeply rewarding experiences of our lives, both individually and collectively as a family.
It really was a life-changing holiday. Now, before you start questioning my sanity and accuse me of being easily impressed or overly dramatic, consider the following story and whether a similar experience for you might not elicit the same emotions and praise. The first ever Club Med in Asia, opening its doors in 1980, the Cheating Beach Resort is embraced by 85 hectares of rainforest, and caressed by a lazy, calm expanse of sea which, in the mornings, reflects the yawning sun and appears as a shimmering silver blanket rustling in the mild breeze over a bed of sandy beach.
Between the beach and accommodation complex (a labyrinthine network of bungalows on stilts) lays a spread of verdant, manicured lawn – soft and moist with dew underfoot as you stroll to your pre-breakfast dip. The location is idyllic, the accommodation (make sure to get one of the large beachfacing suites) is rustic but in keeping with the jungle treehouse vibe. The photos in this article will attest to the beauty of its location, the cornucopia of sports and activities available, the multinational, all-day offering of food and beverages all-inclusive in the daily accommodation rate, and the adult, zen spaces that allow for stylish, pampered, secluded repose.
What is almost impossible to convey in pictures, however, and also hard to do in writing, is the deep developmental impact that Club Med’s unique and well-crafted holiday experience had on our children, how it had an enduring effect in boosting their self-confidence, adding new layers to their personalities whilst providing moments of powerful connection between us all. Our children have never been ones for kids clubs and I don’t blame them nor do I want to offload them to kite making and puppet show baby-sitting.
At Club Med, however, our 11 year olds got to learn and experience trapeze ‘flying’, jungle mountain hiking, snorkelling, archery, hatchling turtle ocean release and even to conquer fears in the death defying Treetop Challenge – a maze of high wire and ziplines slicing through the trees and providing anxiety for overprotective dads like me and exhilaration for freshly minted daredevils. Some of these activities the kids did on their own, or should I say with their fellow resort gang members, and some with my wife and I – hitting a bullseye at the archery range had me claiming bragging rights for the rest of our stay. Some activities provided one-on-one bonding with our kids.
Although perhaps a little cliché, my wife and daughter spent three afternoons creating an exquisite batik bed spread, whilst my son and I sweated it out at our daily squash and table tennis tournaments – his skill at both improving dramatically to give me a real run for my money. We couldn’t shut them up every evening over dinner – the conversation overflowing and crisscrossing in the re-telling of fresh adventures amid squeals of excitement and anticipation of the next day. Wide-eyed, my wife and I marvelled at the growth in their self-confidence as they tentatively tackled and quickly mastered new challenges – not the least daunting of which (for our kids) was socialisation with others their age as well as the adult instructors at the resort.
Club Med provided some of the best fun our kids have ever had on holiday as well as delivering pleasantly surprising milestones in their journey to self-reliance and young adult actualisation. That’s not tosay that us fully fledged adults didn’t get what we needed also. Apart from the family fun, there was a seemingly endless offering of fine food and beverages, and indulgent opportunities for rejuvenation of body and soul in adult only retreats overlooking exceptional panoramic views of un-spoilt beaches and tropical jungle. Having exhausted ourselves from relaxing during the day, our nights routinely commenced with obligatory, heavenly spa treatments, followed by pre-dinner cocktails on the beach and a delectably maddening choice of cuisine from the four corners of the world.
Over and over I was reminded of the conversation that inspired the development of The Private Practice Education and Publishing program. It was with a retiring ENT Surgeon and we were examining regret and the characteristics of the truly successful doctor. This doctors’ greatest regret was that he had not had enough family holidays whilst his kids were still young and wanting to vacation with him. It’s the family holiday, he said, that most efficiently affords deep bonding experiences and lasting memories to be cherished throughout life. This was certainly the case for our family holiday at Club Med Cherating Beach and we all look forward to our next Club Med experience...maybe Mauritius this year."
Discover our Club Med Cherating Beach resort here.