Enjoying paradise with the little angels
Josie Clarke enjoys a trip to St Lucia to see how a family holiday can also be relaxing
IT’S a simple conversation that ensures our family holiday gets off to the best possible start. “Eliza, we are going to the Caribbean so that mummy and daddy can have a nice rest.” “Well, what am I going to do?” “You, my little love, are going to learn how to become a ninja.”
On arrival at St James’s Club Morgan Bay in St Lucia, after a 90-minute drive from the airport, we have barely stepped out of the taxi before we’re handed a rum punch, while the children receive an alcohol-free version and a kid’s pack outlining their week ahead with the author Chris Bradford, who is running a series of ‘boot camps’ based on his bestselling Young Samurai and Bodyguard series.
Bradford is the latest Puffin artist in residence for Elite Island Resorts in the Caribbean, where Rachel Bright, author of My Sister Is An Alien! and Curtis Jobling, the original creator of Bob The Builder, have also run two-week holiday workshops as part of the all-inclusive package.
It’s a high-octane, energetic series of mornings that teaches all the essential skills required to become a holiday ninja – silent creeping, self-defence techniques, a dash of origami and the correct pronunciation of konnichiwa and sayonara – amid some great lessons about the importance of perseverance and individuality.
The workshops also make use of the resort’s stunning setting amid 25 acres of tropical gardens overlooking its own stretch of sandy beach.
The older children are taken on a tour of the grounds to test their newfound stealth skills (although sneaking up on a dozing dad with his third rum cocktail in hand is no great feat, even for an eight-year-old) and later try out their bodyguard abilities on a ‘pop star’ who urgently requires their assistance during her stay.
All of this is an awful lot more entertaining than sitting with mum and dad, who are enjoying the sort of blissful peace and relaxation they thought had been relegated to a previous lifetime.
Safe in the knowledge that the children are under the watchful eyes of not only Bradford, but a full complement of dedicated child carers, we spend our mornings gliding gently between the swim-up bar (it opens well before lunch, which is hardly our fault) and the lovely beach, where a vast range of water sports are on offer.
There is also a spa, where we narrowly miss out on a ‘his and hers’ treatment due to an overtired toddler who scuppered the deal.
But by this time, we’re actually starting to miss the little ones and it’s lovely to collect them for a lunch date at the ever-popular family pool with its bar and grill. We spend almost every lunchtime here, as it enjoys a slightly elevated position on the site where breezes take the edge off the heat of the afternoon and the children make new friends as they play.
We also make good use of the resort’s new cafe, which opened shortly before our stay. Some may wonder why you’d want hot drinks at the height of a Caribbean summer, but it’s a refreshing alternative to the cocktails and other sugary drinks that are a staple of the all-inclusive holiday. It’s also the perfect spot for the children’s glass of warm milk first thing – it opens at 6.30am, specifically for those who are slightly thrown by the four-hour time difference – and last thing at night. The range of cakes and pastries is also delicious.
Dinner is run on a reservations system, easily made up to three days in advance at guest services. Particular favourites are the Tree Tops pizza and pasta restaurant, which serves a jerk chicken pizza – the likes of which I’ve never tasted before, in the best possible way – and Morgan’s Pier, where we eat freshly-caught seafood to the sound of lapping water as the sunset fills the sky with every shade of red.
But despite the many delights of the resort, there comes a point when the sea beckons and we decide to venture out to explore the island.
Joy’s Cruises run from the resort’s beach and we set off down the coast, headed for the mighty Pitons, which we had tantalisingly glimpsed as we flew in. They are a truly extraordinary sight and capture everyone’s attention – until a pod of dolphins appears about a metre from the bow. We slow down and they play a great game of hide and seek as we approach the town of Soufriere, where we leave the boat for a mini bus that takes us to the Sulphur Springs, or the “Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano”.
It’s here that our day’s adventure steps up a notch as we slap on mineral-infused mud before sinking into the pleasantly hot sulphuric pools, emerging with beautifully soft skin and smelling like old eggs, before taking a short drive to a waterfall where we swim in its warm waters.
Then it’s back to the boat and off to a deserted beach with crystal clear water, where a barbecue lunch is waiting for us, showcasing delicious Caribbean spiced fish and fresh fruit and vegetables.
And if this immersion into Caribbean heaven isn’t enough, our next stop is the stunning Sugar Beach, an utterly lovely strip of white sand nestled in between the Pitons – surely one of the most striking coastal vistas anywhere in the world.
We swim, and the children try snorkelling in a cordoned area near the cliffs, where they enjoy a Finding Nemo-style extravaganza that has our daughter marvelling that she “can’t believe it’s really real”.
As we cruise out past the headland, the dolphins reappear and we hang about with them for a while, before cutting the engines to dive into the deep blue, both children joining us, such is their newfound love of the sea.
Our daughter, now a fully-fledged ninja warrior who can count warm mud baths, climbing waterfalls and leaping off a boat into the Caribbean among her life experiences, declares herself satisfied with how mummy and daddy’s restful holiday has played out.