Travelling with kids is an adventure on its own

An island holiday to Mauritius should be on everyone's bucket list. It's an experience of a lifetime you should definitely share with your kids, writes Adrian Ephraim.

A view of the Balaclava Beach in Mauritius. Picture: Adrian Ephraim/EWN

How do you convince people that gliding on clear, turquoise water in a catamaran off a beach in Mauritius is not as glamorous as it sounds? Well, you don’t.

While some may think you’re just sunning yourself and gulping down copious amounts of free cocktails, what they don’t see through the filtered Instagram pictures is that moments before this my 5-year-old daughter got her hair tangled in the snorkel and screamed like murder while I tried to help. Parents will understand this level of glamour.

A boat on the Lagoon Attitude near the Zilwa Attitude Hotel in Mauritius.

It’s difficult to describe to outsiders, but travelling with children is an adventure all of its own; the highs and lows are incomparable, the mood swings, the tantrums – and that’s just my wife and I. (Kidding, love).

Travel is something we’ve wanted to introduce our children to from an early age. It’s probably the only thing I want them hooked on - apart from life and love itself. We believe travel will broaden their world view, create lifelong memories and teach them a few life lessons along the way.

The first lesson is patience because the process of applying for an unabridged birth certificate will bring you to tears. It will take you anything from six months to a year to get it, so plan well in advance. Only three days before we travelled were we able to request a specific letter which allowed my son to travel with us without his unabridged certificate. It’s a long and stressful story. The kids had to queue with us at Home Affairs throughout this whole process, so their early introduction to our country’s bureaucratic alphabet soup has been noted.

But back to cruising. It’s a real cliché but the island of Mauritius is among the best places in the world to do this sort of thing - so why not? You could be on the school run or stuck in load shedding traffic.

You may have heard that there are no sharks and snakes on the island, which reduces the threat level significantly even for the most overprotective parents. The water is so warm your only inconvenience is wrinkly skin. The beaches are pristine, despite the abundance of sun-burnt tourists scattered everywhere, and the cocktails are sweet and readily available.

Yes, a holiday in Mauritius is worthy of being on any bucket list for any number of reasons.

The most comforting part about travelling with your kids is that they’re there with you, and you don’t have that nagging feeling at the back of your mind that something is wrong. And you don’t miss them.

But it’s also the worst part of a real holiday because kids can be relentless. They don’t really want to fall asleep beside the pool with a good book. They want to be doing somersaults in that pool. This is Mauritius, the weather is perfect, and 10-year-olds and 5-year-olds have an endless source of energy that would make Eskom cry. If they’re not on the beach, the kids want to be in the pool. If not in the pool, then they’re running around in random patterns on the manicured lawns of the Ravenala Attitude Hotel. It’s a lot to keep up with for my ageing body.

The Ravenala Attitude Hotel.

Children are constantly on the move when all the grown-ups want to do is lie still. Fortunately, the good folks at the resort have thought of everything.

Its kids’ activities are engaging and fun. They get to learn something in the process, like cooking or creating a holiday book. We secretly wished for an adult treasure hunt on the beach, but alas it was for the “minis” only.

Mauritius is a child’s paradise, and for families, it is a place to bond over sandcastles and piggyback rides. The palm fronds are as magnificent up close as they are on Instagram, but the beauty of the island lies in its people. They’re diverse, proud and warm.

This being their first trip out of the country, the kids were fascinated by the French accent coming out of people of Indian descent. Mauritian history has been intertwined with the French, Dutch and English since the 17th century. The predominant language is Creole among the 1.2-million population. Mauritians are religious and humble, with roots in India, France, Portugal, and Madagascar.

A road sign in Mauritius.

Mauritian culture is central to the Ravenala experience. Its design is eclectic and authentic - the sum of all parts that make it Mauritian. At the buffets, for breakfast and dinner, you could start in France and end up in India, via China.

A few days later we ventured up north to Calodyne, and Zilwa Attitude Hotel - “zilwa” meaning “islander” in Creole. The resort takes its name very seriously, using old-school bungalows as inspiration. It’s as idyllic as it looks in the brochures. For the kids, the rooms are a sprint away from the beach or a game of table tennis.

A view from the the Zilwa Attitude Hotel in Mauritius.

The chic holiday homes are sought-after by tourists from all over the world. The mini club is a real boat converted into a playground for the young ones. If nothing sparked their spirit of adventure by now, the boat certainly did. The beaches at Zilwa are so perfect they look like someone painted it onto the landscape.

There are five restaurants to choose from, which makes dinner for a family of four a definite highlight. We got to try a different cuisine every night, although a firm favourite among the offspring was the fresh selection of fish dishes.

Let’s face it, it’s not fair for anyone to live here in paradise; to call this their home or their place of work, but Mauritians do.

So, while lathering myself with sunblock like a typical brown person, I wondered … Could I live here? What if there was a life like this for us here? Imagine living in a country with almost no crime, where the government pays for healthcare and education all the way to tertiary level. Where students, pensioners and the disabled get free public transport, and where there are virtually no homeless people.

“No,” says the 10-year-old. “Then we wouldn’t be able to be visitors.” He has a point, because being a tourist in Mauritius means being the most important person on the island. My kids felt that way. You feel the warmth here, and it’s not just the humidity, it’s the humility and tremendous sense of pride.

Mauritius is not a paradise for everyone who lives here. Island life for actual islanders can be tough. There is wealth here, and many are poor. But what is also prevalent is a work ethic, warmth towards each other and tourists alike, and pride in their country; lessons I was happy to learn for myself, and one I hope resonates with my children.

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