Club Med Kani: Why the Maldives is the beach destination for everyone, including families

Surrender to the charms of an all-inclusive holiday at one of the world's most luxurious destinations.

"Mum, we're swimming with the sharks!" These words make my blood run cold.

We're on the emerald atoll of Kani, in the archipelago known as the Maldives. Banyan, palm and pandanus trees pepper the property, ringed by White Wings sand. The water palette is alternately turquoise, aqua, and sea glass blue.

Reef sharks skitter in the shallows, each the length of my forearm; naturally timid, they scamper as the kids splash about. On a scale of snappiness, I'm more of a danger to the kids than they are. Nearby, I spot a baby manta ray, hawksbill turtle, and school of triggerfish.

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While this destination is renowned for romance, it's fabulous for families: especially at Club Med.

Arriving at night by speedboat, after a 13-hour flight from Sydney via Singapore, we're greeted by Byron, our GO – Gentils Organisateur – with a warm, "Welcome home". 

(GOs are a combination of carer, partner, and fixer, for the duration of your stay.) The luggage is spirited away, while we enjoy the bonhomie of the bustling welcome lounge, cocktails-in-hand.

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Our interconnecting Family Club Bungalows are vast, overlooking the postcard-perfect sea.

Flowers are strewn across the California king beds, dotted with towels tied into animal shapes. It's one small step to the sand. You can upgrade to a Five Trident experience, with over-water bungalows connected by a private bar: from above they appear to fan across the water like a giant palm tree.

Frankly, Four Trident is luxurious enough, with all meals, beverages, and most activities included.

This is one of the reasons I love Club Med: no mental arithmetic is required. You don't have to agonise about whether to order dessert or an after-dinner drink.

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The buffet boasts a United Nations of flavours, from tuna sashimi to steamed sailfish, gnocchi Gorgonzola, Szechuan beef and American-style hamburgers. All meals are cooked fresh and entrée-sized, so you can try a bit of everything. Kids are further catered for with a cornucopia of chopped vegetables, fruit, and crackers. Blessed are the cheeses, ranging from Pont l'Eveque to Tomiblanc and Roquefort, while the dessert stand heaves with macaron, tarte tatin and crème caramel.

Wiggling our toes in the sand, we sip chablis while watching the kids kick a soccer ball on the beach.

Now I don't know about you, but I tend to go all Homer Simpson at a buffet: too much food is barely enough.

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Fortunately there are pilates, yoga, and abs-and-butts classes in the air-conditioned gym, as well as table tennis, beach volleyball, and dance lessons outside.

The somewhat sedentary can go to an art or cooking class.

The good thing is, you don't have to book: just tell someone you want to ride a catamaran or kayak and they'll pop you on. There are snorkelling trips twice a day to a dozen spots around the island, but only for over-11s.

Instead, we float in a gentle current close to shore, over a colourful coral garden.

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The kids find driftwood to build a fort, crack open coconuts, and collect hermit crabs.

On the odd occasion when the weather's inclement, there's always the karaoke room.

I bribe the kids to join me in repeated renditions of Adele's Rolling in the Deep.

It starts sounding like a cat screeching, so they go outside.

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"Mum, you are so embarrassing," Grace says afterwards. "People could hear you, and they were LAUGHING!" (Of course, I keep singing. One of the joys of parenting is mortifying your children. I plan to grow old, disgracefully…)

Taj decides he wants to hang out with Dad to tackle one of the gnarly reef breaks offshore: for a small fee, you can hire a boat and crew. I'm lying on a surfboard just off the break "packing darkies", as they say, while Jason and Taj paddle towards the two-metre waves.

"When you come off, make sure you don't stand up. Your feet'll be cut to pieces on the coral," the instructor warns.

A former world surfing champion, he shares a board with Taj to keep him safe.

I don't know how he does it, but he manages to catch several waves with a small child standing between his legs.

"Best holiday ever," the 10-year-old says, drying off. "Can't wait to tell the guys at school I surfed in the Maldives!"

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A photo posted by Ronnie Koh (@ronkoh) on

There's no kids' club on Kani, but the generous GOs will look after them while you escape to the adults-only island of Gasfinolhu, a five-minute trip by speedboat.

This is one of Club Med's exclusive collection of villas, with designer over-water bungalows staffed by butlers.

At the boutique-style buffet, we sample calamari, dumplings, and the best mille-feuille outside Paris, before a two-hour treatment at the Club Med Spa by ILA, based on Ayurveda and yogic healing.

Listening to lapping water, gazing at turtles through the glass floor, I'm scrubbed, moisturised and massaged to within an inch of my life: this is paradise.

Would it be wrong for hubby and I to stay here and leave the kids on the neighbouring island? Perhaps. We return to find two GOs teaching the kids the finer points of table tennis.

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"We've been playing for hours!" the kids beam. "Yes," Rajiv replies, "his backhand is much better. He was terrible before." Club Med is renowned for its energetic staff, smilingly "at your service" any time of the day or night.

It seems some work around the clock, singing, dancing and cracking jokes during nightly performances.

Sure, it's cheesy. But that's part of the fun.

At aqua-aerobics, the instructor exhorts us to, "Hold your luggage in, ladies", with hands across his chest. "Make it pretty!" Taj curls into a corner, categorising it as "things bogans do".

But Grace and I don't care. We're having the time of our lives, leaping across the pool like wet gazelles.

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Every day, it's the same: a leisurely breakfast followed by an energetic activity, languid lunch, afternoon nap, cocktails at the beach bar, early dinner, then reading in bed.

Our last day is my birthday, so Byron sets up a table on a remote part of the island, under a leaf-entwined love heart, for dinner under the stars. (For the family, not him and me. Although he is rather good-looking…) I suspect there are still claw marks in the sand, where he had to drag me to the boat to say goodbye.

Where else can you swim safely with sharks, meet families from the four corners of the earth, dine on fine fare, and swill sensational wine, without breaking the bank? As the founder of Club Med, Gerard Blitz, famously said, "The purpose of life is to be happy. The moment to be happy is now, and the place to be happy is here".

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION

clubmed.com.au

GETTING THERE

The capital of the Maldives, Male, is about 13 hours' flight from Sydney via Singapore. Return economy airfares from $1219 adults and $1065 children. Then, it's a heart-thumping half-hour speedboat ride to Club Med Kani. See singaporeair.com

STAYING THERE

Deals start at $5550 for a family of four in interconnecting rooms, all-inclusive, for seven nights. Any time of year is fine — there are two monsoon seasons and we travelled during one of them, but there wasn't a drop of rain.

Tracey Spicer and family were guests of Club Med and Singapore Airlines.

FIVE MORE THINGS TO DO (WITH KIDS)

BOWL

Play petanque on the sand. The GOs will help with your technique.

THROW

Form a team for beach volleyball. This is one sport the Aussies usually win.

COOK

Learn to cook with the resort chefs. There's one cooking class a day, based on a regional specialty.

EXPLORE

Take a half-day trip to a local village. Learn how the Maldivians live on North Male Atoll.

FLY

Fly over the island in a hydroplane. It is said to be one of the world's most beautiful views from above.

FIVE MORE THINGS TO DO (WITHOUT KIDS)

DIVE

Scuba dive with turtles, eagle rays and reef sharks. Kuda Haa is considered one of the best diving spots in the Maldives.

PADDLE

Take a glass-bottom kayak across the reef to see trigger, parrot and butterfly fish.

FISH

Go big game fishing, for tuna and barracuda. This is best from November to March.

THROW

Challenge GOs and guests to a game of water polo. The middle of the pool is a bit too deep for kids to join in.

RELAX

Enjoy a Bliss treatment at Mandara Spa, including body scrub, footbath, herbal steam, massage and facial.

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