A beach resort for all the family
Travel Weekly managing editor Robin Searle wasn’t sure how his children would take to the activities on offer at Mark Warner’s Phokaia resort. He needn’t have worried…
I must confess that before going to Phokaia, I’d never heard of sea badgers. More to the point, neither had my four-year-old daughter Bronwen. It turns out these denizens of the deep are attracted to groups of children banging on the sides of their kayaks and, on occasion, even tip instructors and nannies out of their vessels in spectacular fashion more than 100 metres offshore.
It’s fair to say that Bronwen’s reaction to this revelation out on the water on the first day of our trip to Mark Warner’s Phokaia Beach Resort wasn’t overly positive, even when I reassured her from my erratic attempts at windsurfing nearby that the instructors were only having fun and the sea badgers didn’t actually exist.
But that initial reaction only served to make it all the more remarkable when, just five days later, she was not only banging the sides of her kayak with the best of them but also happily launching herself into the water to join the other children, who’d by now built up the confidence to follow the instructors overboard. If you ever needed a snapshot of the benefits of a family activity holiday, the little girl bobbing around in the Mediterranean, laughing her head off with her new friends, would do very nicely.
Like its other summer resorts around the Mediterranean, Mark Warner’s Phokaia property has three main focuses – watersports, tennis and quality childcare. While some may find the combination of British staff and almost exclusively British guests somewhat lacking in the spirit of adventure and exploration, for exhausted parents of young children, the reassurance of a recognised childcare qualification can’t be underestimated. And regardless of their nationality, the staff are without fail great to be around – friendly, enthusiastic and always happy to go the extra mile.
That said, as parents who look forward to spending time with their children on holiday rather than packing them off to children’s clubs, we did wonder how we would get on with the childcare concept. As it turned out, the balance struck by Mark Warner is spot on, and the idea of automatically dispatching your brood from dawn ’til dusk couldn’t be further from reality – until they become teenagers, of course, at which point you and they are probably glad to see the back of one another.
The clubs last just a couple of hours in the morning or afternoon, allowing you a brief period of R&R by the pool or on the beach while they’re off enjoying activities including arts and crafts, treasure hunts, watersports and, of course, hunting sea badgers. They are also divided by age, ensuring activities are appropriate, and while our two-year-old son Evan was a bit unsure about being away from Mum and Dad and his older sister, it was simple enough just to keep him with us on the days he didn’t fancy joining the other little ones in the toddler club.
What is in no doubt is that both children benefited from the activities on offer, from swimming unaided for the first time to exploring the local flora and fauna and discovering the joys of geckos – including the one resident in our accommodation, who was somewhat incongruously christened by Disney-mad Bronwen ‘Rosie the Crown Princess’. One of the nicest touches is the evening Movie Club, which allows parents to go and enjoy dinner in peace while the pyjama-clad junior members of the party settle in for a DVD on rows of little campbeds close by.
For the larger members of the family – particularly one as sports-mad but as time-pressed as me – the activities on offer at Phokaia are also a delight. In six short days, I fell off a windsurfing board, fell out of a kayak, fell over reaching for a forehand pinged down the line by the ever-patient tennis coach, and fell in love with just being outside in the sunshine working up an appetite.
When I felt like I needed a bit of a break from the resort itself, it was easy to grab a bike and cycle the couple of miles into the nearest village or even pop to the nearby beach bar for a well-earned beer. And for those keen to explore farther afield, tours are arranged on a variety of forms of transportation – from guided bike trips to boat tours along the coast and coach excursions to local towns and villages.
But in truth, most of the guests who choose activity resorts such as Phokaia for their holidays do so predominantly for the facilities on offer at the property itself. While I’m not a watersports expert by any means, the reports from the boaty types suggested both the equipment and conditions were in good nick – though a lack of wind on the last day put paid to the traditional finale regatta. Meanwhile, those who chose to venture offroad on the resident fleet of mountain-bikes reported some challenging routes in the peaks and crags that give the resort its spectacular backdrop.
The beauty of Mark Warner’s resorts is that each has its own personality while aspiring to deliver a consistent level of service and standard of facilities which appeal particularly to families looking for peace of mind. And while we may not have heard of sea badgers before we arrived, the fact that they remained a fond topic of conversation long after we were back in the UK showed the lasting impression a holiday like this can make regardless of age.
Read more about family holidays at the Phokaia Beach Resort.