CAR­RIBEAN DREAM

Bar­ba­dos may have been put on the map by the young, rich and fa­mous, but Claire Spread­bury dis­cov­ers a trop­i­cal is­land full of fam­ily fun

Friday - - TRAVEL -

There are many ways to blow a four-year-old’s mind. But look­ing down at her pink flip-flops and sud­denly notic­ing they’ve turned pur­ple, is a pretty big wow mo­ment for my daugh­ter. We’re 45 me­tres be­low sea level, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ‘colour change’ on board our At­lantis Sub­ma­rine.

I had only just re­cov­ered from the lit­tle prank the crew played on our way out to the dive site. Be­ing the gullible, pan­icky hol­i­day mum I am, my eyes widened as I heard the words ‘get changed into your wet gear and swim across to the sub­ma­rine’ to­wards the end of the safety pre­am­ble. We were on a boat – me, my four-year-old and my beloved cam­era. We had no swim gear, my daugh­ter can’t yet doggy pad­dle and my cam­era’s not wa­ter­proof. As I looked around at the other pas­sen­gers, des­per­ately eye­ing up be­long­ings for signs of tow­els and swim­suits, I no­ticed a few smirks. Our in­struc­tor was jok­ing, of course. They like to do that a lot here.

As we take our seats, there’s a feel­ing of claus­tro­pho­bia and ex­cite­ment when the cap­tain yells, “Dive! Dive! Dive!” and we plunge into the depths of the ocean. We swirl past a ship­wreck and bob around co­ral, while yel­low goat­fish, blue tangs and trum­pet­fish swim busily past our port­hole. Chil­dren taller than 90cm are all wel­come on board and will de­light in see­ing what re­ally is at the bot­tom of the deep blue sea. When de­cid­ing where to go for a fam­ily hol­i­day with guar­an­teed sun­shine, the ob­vi­ous list isn’t very long. Camp­ing in the south of France? A ho­tel in Spain? Maybe a villa in Greece? Let me throw in an­other op­tion that might ex­cite the grown-ups just as much as the lit­tle ones. How about Bar­ba­dos? With year­round aver­age tem­per­a­tures of 28°C, beau­ti­ful beaches, friendly people and fab­u­lous fam­ily ac­com­mo­da­tion, there are few rea­sons not to visit.

Hav­ing said that, dis­tance and cost are hur­dles. A long flight is never some­thing to look for­ward to, par­tic­u­larly when you’re trav­el­ling with small chil­dren. Other mums will read­ily of­fer ad­vice about keep­ing them en­ter­tained. “I went to a shop, bought lots of tiny toys, wrapped them up, then brought them out one-by-one, over the course of the flight,” one par­ent told me. I nod­ded sus­pi­ciously, won­der­ing how any­one finds the time. I’m fully stretched en­sur­ing all the pass­ports are in date, the wash­ing is done, hol­i­day clothes are bought, the sun­cream, mos­quito spray and medicines are packed.

But there’s no need to stress about a plane ride – just take a deep breath and the sand will be seep­ing through your toes in no time.

The plush Royal Vil­las at the Royal West­more­land re­sort make a great base on the Plat­inum coast – so called be­cause this is where all the rich people own property. Wayne Rooney has a villa here, and oo­dles of sports­men and celebri­ties have homes in the area, Si­mon Cow­ell is a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor and there’s no es­cap­ing the fact pop su­per star Ri­hanna grew up on these shores.

De­spite it be­ing a sup­pos­edly busy time for Bar­ba­dos, the re­sort’s 750 acres, gor­geous green­ery and vast fa­cil­i­ties mean you barely see a soul. We share an en­tire pool area with We swirl past a ship­wreck and bob around co­ral, while yel­low goat­fish swim past our port­hole

about half a dozen other people. You can smugly turn up at any time of day and have an ar­ray of sunbeds to choose from – a wel­come change from the Euro­pean re­sorts where you’re lucky to find one af­ter 9am, let alone four of them to­gether.

Other nice touches in­clude a fired-up bar­be­cue on your ar­rival, com­plete with a cheery chef to cook fresh meat or seafood for you. So once you’ve tucked the tots into bed, you can put up your fraz­zled feet and be waited on hand and foot – they even wash up af­ter­wards and leave you with the left­overs!

T he rather stun­ning 7,045-yard cham­pi­onship golf course is worth a visit and lessons can be or­gan­ised with Roger Beale, who rep­re­sented Bar­ba­dos in the 2006 World Cup of Golf. Our lit­tle ones are too small for the fam­ily les­son, but my hus­band im­proved his (al­beit aw­ful) tech­nique no end and ap­par­ently has great po­ten­tial…

And, of course, you can hop on the shut­tle and head down to Mullins Beach and Spa. The sparkling turquoise sea is tepid enough, even for teeny toes, all year round. Grab some sunbeds, wedge your yel­low flag in the sand to or­der your choice of re­fresh­ment, and it will ap­pear in a mat­ter of mo­ments.

For older kids, the float­ing in­flat­able swing/slide/climb­ing wall set-up looks im­mense fun and days can eas­ily be spent build­ing sand cas­tles and soak­ing up vi­ta­min D.

For a day with a dif­fer­ence, though, try a trip to the Bar­ba­dos Wildlife Re­serve. Tur­tles hide away in their shells or pant in the heat, while deer and agouti are every­where – all within touch­ing dis­tance. The friendli­est pea­cocks I’ve ever met share space with pel­i­cans, chick­ens and other birds.

Much to the re­lief of my four-yearold, the only snakes we see are in cages, but it’s only at the very end of our visit when we fi­nally sniff out the mon­keys. Big fam­i­lies of them play at our feet, scarper­ing up on rooftops and into trees, gen­er­ally be­hav­ing a lot bet­ter than my own lit­tle mon­keys!

Grown-ups in need of time out can book a babysit­ter and pre­tend to be young and rich in Ri­hanna’s home­land. We play Spot The Celebrity while in­dulging in din­ner at the renowned (and hugely ex­pen­sive) The Cliff. Busi­ness­men fly their pri­vate jets in for a meal at this restau­rant, over­look­ing the ocean. If you’re lucky enough to book a ta­ble on the deck, you can lis­ten to the waves crash against the side, while tar­pon, stingray and a plethora of tid­dlers swim right be­neath you.

But if spend­ing $125 (Dh460) on a cou­ple of cour­ses of food doesn’t float your boat, you can al­ways opt for a Ti­ami Cata­ma­ran cruise to take in the sites of Bar­ba­dos, have fun with the crew and snorkel for tur­tles.

Bar­ba­dos is full of colour. There are vi­brant flow­ers, won­der­ful wooden shack houses, and shops proudly pre­sent­ing their pristinely painted fronts, look­ing like glo­ri­fied beach huts. Driv­ing past a lo­cal school, even the colour of the uni­form is bright or­ange.

It might just be the ul­ti­mate fam­ily hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion. And it’s cer­tainly a great place to blow the mind of a four-year-old lit­tle girl.

TRAVEL The Al­tan­tis Sub­ma­rine opens up a whole new world

Celebri­ties flock to Bar­ba­dos for its amaz­ing scenery

En­joy fresh seafood cooked on a bar­beque by your own chef

TRAVEL Sandy white beaches are a great set­ting for wa­ter­sports

Royal Vil­las make a great base on the Plat­inum coast

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