Mama reviews two outstanding resorts for families in the Indian Ocean
Words Dani Wilson
Shangri-la’s Villingili Resort & Spa Maldives
An established family resort in the beautiful Maldives, Shangri-la’s Villingili property is located on the southernmost island of Gan; It’s just a four-hour flight to Malé – a breeze when you’re used to six or seven hours to Europe – and then one additional hop. From here it’s just 20 mins on the speedboat to your destination. Arriving at the resort was like falling into paradise: we were welcomed by smiling staff, beautiful flower arrangements, cold towels and cool fresh coconuts. We checked in to our Deluxe Pool Villa from the comfort of our room which was a relaxing way to begin.
The Villingili Resort is one of the biggest in the Maldives. It’s about 3km long, so there is plenty to explore on foot, in a buggy or on bicycles, which we absolutely loved. The resort feels eco-friendly, as it retains a lot of its original vegetation and wildlife. There are three natural lagoons and stunning jungle to explore full of frogs, lizards, bugs, birds and flying foxes, which made the island completely fascinating for children.
At the centre of the resort, The Village is the hub of everything, and has the shop, dive centre, eco centre, health club, medical centre, tennis courts, kids club, the reception and the M lounge, which we adored for sundowners. The main restaurant Javvu is here, where breakfast is served by the sea; also nearby are the the swimming pool and the watersports centre.
The whole place feels big enough to cater for everyone without being crowded; but you can meet other guests if you are looking to socialise or if the little ones want to make friends.
Kid’s activities vary from tennis to coral planting, while the kids club offers enormous choice for little ones. We also enjoyed exploring on bicycles – the helpful staff even equipped my husband’s bike with a child seat.
As a family resort, Shangri-La offers a plan which provides children under 12 years old free accommodation staying in the same room with their parents, up to a maximum of two children per room; and that’s inclusive of the food, which was excellent throughout our stay.
We will never forget this special family holiday- we all loved it and we are all dying to go back as soon as we can.
Shangri La – Hambantota in Sri Lanka
Overlooking the pristine southern coast of stunning Sri Lanka, Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa is located along the ancient Spice Route in a city steeped in rich history. Hambantota is known for its natural beauty and wildlife, and allows visitors to explore Asia’s most fascinating nature sanctuaries, including the Yala, Udawalawe, Lunugamvehera and Bundala National Parks.
Just a four hour flight from Dubai, and then a short drive, the luxury resort spans 58.8 hectares, making it the largest resort in Sri Lanka, and boasts 300 spacious rooms, including 21 suites, all surrounded by stunning tropical gardens. It is home to an 18-hole golf course, an expansive spa and an artisan village that celebrates local arts and crafts.
Once we arrived, the children were blown away by the variety of activities on offer; as parents we were impressed with the incredible manicured grounds. The huge swimming pool boasts a waterfall, and there is also a baby water park area and a kids pool with two large water slides: we loved this area because the water was shallow enough for my smallest to stand in.
Twice daily the circus school allowed children to climb a 7m high trapeze. The staff were very cautious of safety and were extremely hands-on and supportive while assisting the kids, and it was an incredible activity for them to try!
The kids club also kept the little ones entertained every afternoon which was a perfect way for them to take few hours out of the sun. The staff were very patient, kind and friendly. Daily activities included arts and crafts, sports and a soft play area. As the hotel is less than a year old all the facilities and equipment were new.
GOLF AND SPA
On the opposite side of the kids area was the CHI spa which has talented therapists and wonderful outdoor relaxing area. If you book the family package the hotels offers free 90 minute massages which was ideal for a little R&R time.
Also on this side of the hotel was a 30 metre sunset pool where most guests without children relaxed and enjoyed the stunning views of the beach. I personally loved the food tuk tuks, which roamed around offering drinks and desserts to guests.
For golf lovers, the resort is home to Sri Lanka’s premier 18-hole* golf course which is set amid a vast coconut palm plantation, and offers absolutely spectacular views. The beautifully landscaped par-70 course takes you on a memorable golf experience through three landscaped zones, each with its own unique character.
Guests need not worry about tiring of the food there are so many different options to choose from: our children loved the all-day dining and I have to high five the hotel as every day they offered a kids buffet on children’s character plates at a height where the children could serve themselves -and they all loved the independence this offered.
An hour’s drive from the hotel was a wonderful Elephant Safari tour at the Udawalawe National Park, which lies on the boundary of Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces. Tours take a total of 5 hours; you can choose to visit for the morning or the afternoon.
We all came away agreeing that the Shangri La Hambantota was a perfect family destination: we managed to relax and the children were constantly entertained. The staff were really friendly and the service was fantastic.
Guests can fly into Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, which is 35km away from the resort, or Emirates flies direct to Bandaranaike Intl Airport in Colombo, and then it’s roughly a 3-hour drive to the resort.