Travelling with teens presents a whole new set of challenges. Seemingly overnight your previously compliant, smiling little topsy, who’d be happy with a waterslide or a train ride and an ice-cream thrown in, morphs into a gangly, often sullen soul who seems only able to communicate by means of a series of grunts, shrugs and sighs. Planning a family holiday where everyone will have fun suddenly seems almost impossible.
Club Med’s 80-hectare, 297-room Cherating Beach resort, on Malaysia’s eastern coast has the antidote to sullen teen syndrome. It was the first Club Med resort in the Asia-Pacific region to offer a ‘Passworld’ area for 11-to-17 year olds (there is now another at Club Med Phuket), and it’s off-limits to adults (with the exception of young and ‘cool’ GOs, or gentils organisateurs) and small fry.
Taking a sneaky peek inside, I spot a drum kit, electric guitars, and all the equipment for making music videos. Beyond cool! There are also funky hanging ‘pods’ where teens can sit in a semi-circle and play Wii and other video games, and over to one side there’s a fridge full of soft drinks.
Now, in case you are worried bringing your teen to Malaysia and that all they will see is the inside of a room, don’t be concerned: the ‘Passworld’ is open certain hours only, so your teens will be exposed to fresh air and sunlight during some of the other activities on offer. They can choose from sailing, kayaking, tennis, archery, learning to ‘fly’ on a high trapeze, rock climbing up a vertiginous cliff face, or practice their swing at the golf driving range – all while hanging out with a young GO and getting to know other teens. New to the resort is a Treetop Challenge Rope Course, where kids, teens and adults can test their skills and their nerve across a series of graded rope bridges and flying foxes.
Those annoying younger siblings will be out of the teens’ way, with their own program of activities and events as part of the inclusive Mini Club Med, and can even take part in the evening GO shows if they want to. GO’s are the people who run the resort and they’re a young, enthusiastic multi-national bunch who dress up (there is a theme night most nights), perform, dance and ensure everyone has a good time.
I’ve yet to meet a child who didn’t love animals, and at Club Med Cherating kids are in for a treat. The resort’s beaches are a turtle-nesting habitat for the endangered green turtle, with females laying hundreds of eggs in the sand. Staff patrol the beach and transport the eggs to a nearby turtle sanctuary to hatch, before returning them to the ocean. Depending on the season, guests can watch the turtles come onto the sand at night, or take part in the release ceremony, and can also visit the sanctuary to see the work done there. The resort is also home to a host of monkeys (be careful not to leave food out or your door open), roving lizards and a range of tropical birds, including endangered hornbills and macaws.
Club Med Cherating Beach boasts a Green Globe Benchmarking (Silver) award and kids can learn about the eco focus and initiatives undertaken here. The resort has a natural waste water treatment system and kitchen waste is recycled and composted. Mini Club Med activities include an arts program that uses ‘found’ objects. In another example of the resort giving back to the community, since May 2010 it has been part of the Club Med Foundation Sports Academy, which welcomes disadvantaged local children to the resort to play sports once a week.
Set on four kilometres of coastline, where the jungle meets the ocean, Club Med Cherating Beach’s predominantly timber architecture echoes that of a traditional kampong, and is raised above the ground. There are inter-connecting rooms that are ideal for families. The resort encompasses two beaches, one of which is a short walk or miniature train ride from the main buildings, and this is where the watersports and rock climbing take place. There is also an à la carte restaurant, Rembulan, at this beach and it’s open for lunch and dinner on selected days.
Kids of all ages will love the food, which is buffet-style in the main restaurant, with great pizza, chips and burgers as well as a range of steak, prawns, fresh local fish, vegetarian foods and fresh, healthy salads, vegetables and tropical fruit. No two days see the same dishes prepared, so there is plenty of variety. The kids will certainly be intrigued by the range of international cuisines on offer, and may even be game to try some of them! As befits a French-owned company, desserts have a decidedly Gallic flavour and might feature macaroons, eclairs, a chocolate and banana torte (yum!), with the ice-cream also on offer every lunch and dinner sure to please young palates.
Club Med was a pioneer of the all-inclusive holiday and it is bliss not to have to get out your wallet or worry about the final bill as you order a poolside cocktail and soft drinks for the kids or decide where to have lunch.