Sonara Lead

Luxury Desert Camp

Having lived in Dubai for the past 25 years I have been to my fair share of desert camps  but nothing prepared me or impressed me quiet like the newly opened Sonara Camp.

 

Sonara Camp is an exclusive dining experience in the desert approx. 35 mins from Dubai, located in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.

Arriving guests at the Conservation Reserve gate can either leave their cars in the car park and choose to arrive at the Sonara Camp via a Land Cruiser dune drive, which takes 10 minutes, or a 20-minute camel ride (AED 100 per person)

 

When we arrived at the camp we were greeted at the lounge area with a welcome drink and I immediately noticed the subtle differences: size of the camp being so spread out with a very chic  & modern design with a large round wooden bar in the middle of the set up; chilled background music created a very elegant vibe - think of a Nammos style play list in the beautiful desert setting; the laid back lounge style seating to bamboo pods and hammock areas all offered the perfect view to watch the sunset.

 

Activities such as archery, camel rides, sand boarding, football and falconry are on offer during daylight. Once the sun sets guests can enjoy an astronomy talk, fire performances and a cinema experience.

 

The sand boards are set out on top of the dune sliding down the dune into the dining area. You can either climb the dune back to the top or enjoy the simply way – by taking the wooden lantern lit staircase. With so much to do the children didn’t stop for a second. They totally loved sand boarding and even though they had never tried it before, they had no fear and just went for it.

 

The staff were ever so friendly and extremely attentive, helping the kids with the sand boards and the archery while a very well informed and eloquent gentleman educated us about the falcons with a small show on how the falcon eats its food.

 

If you’re like me and quite particular about a good loo, well Sonara have taken care of that. There are many washrooms available, from the outside they look like beach huts and once inside these large cubicles included a beautiful washbasin, mirrors and even a bench – it’s the little things that go along way.

 

At the bottom of the sand dune or the wooden steps is the dining area; this is where the magic happens once the sun goes down. All the tables are laid out around the large triangle fire setting with an open air kitchen, a bar and a cinema room on the boundary.

 

As this is a luxury dining experience, even the table settings are beautifully set for dinner. During dinner there’s a fire show and once you have finished your meal you can retire to the laid back seating area around a fire to roast marshmallows.

 

Sonara offers a stunning well thought out East meets West fusion and French cuisine menu which is carefully and passionately created by French Chef Franck Sanna who can be seen busily preparing everything in the open air kitchen. Chef Sanna has intelligently designed an innovative sharing concept for meat lovers, vegans and people with allergies.

 

This was our menu:

 

Appetizers

Handpick organic crudités

Creamy guacamole with tortilla chips (vegan and gluten free)

 

Starters

Beef tacos marinated in dak bulgogi (gluten free)

Corn fed chicken sharwarma in a cone (dairy free)

Fusion style fattoush – nicoise salad

 

Fish

Wild caught hammour on the grill with citrus virgo dressing (diary free)

Shrimp & leek ravioli with coconut bisque sauce (diary free)

 

Meat

Grass fed Angus beef oyster blade steak served with arugala chimichurri and black pepper corn sauce

Lamb chops marinated with kaffir, sweet spices and mint

 

Vegetables

Nara’s home made roasted organic potatoes

Mediterranean ratatouille

 

Desserts

Sonara lemon & mint pie (diary free)

Cocoa ganache served with avocado emulsion & cumin chocolate tuile

Chiboust cream with strawberry ginger juice in an apple puff

 

Kids enjoyed wagyu burgers, pizza, corn on the cob and for dessert they had nutella pizza and marshmallows roasted on the fire.

 

Just like any fine dining experience, Chef Sanna came to chat to his guests about the menu and our feedback. We were all in agreement that this was one of the nicest meals we have had in a while. It just shows how amazing Chef Sanna is that he can create and serve such a wonderful fine dining experience in the middle of the desert. The food was a true highlight of the night and foodies everywhere should venture down to Sonara just for the gastronomical delights if nothing else.

 

We had initially arrived at 4pm and it was now 9pm so the children were getting tried, not surprising after all the running up and down the dunes.. We had requested a car to take us back to the gate which was on hand waiting for us otherwise you can stay and enjoy drinks and shisha until the camp closes at 10.30pm.

 

If you think the price tag for this experience is steep, that’s because you haven’t witnessed the experience for yourself. I can guarantee that the entire set up, service, quality of food was second to none. Plus the camp is eco-friendly and sustainable with a core belief in sourcing ethical products and materials while using solar energy and having a zero waste policy. With all this im I’m very happy to give Sonara Camp the Unique Family Travels stamp of approval .

 

Also if you want to experience an over night stay  Nara’s private camp has 10 tents (2 styles) all providing the highest level in comfort while respecting the environment. We haven’t tried this yet but it sounds like my idea of glamping!

 

 

Price Per Person:

Adults AED 860

Children (5 – 12 years) AED 380

Toddlers (below 5 years) Complimentary

 

Getting to Dubai Desert Conservation Gate from Downtown Dubai drive east on the E66 Dubai Al Ain Road.

 

Watch our video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liGEfObTkXs

 

For more information visit www.nara.ae

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
Lead - Soneva Kiri

Island Life At Soneva Kiri

Back to city life with a thud after spending the last 5 days immersed in ultimate island living on the lush green island of Koh Kood in Thailand staying at the uber-stunning Soneva Kiri.

 

If you know anything about the Soneva brand you will understand their brand ethos for intelligent luxury, which includes a SLOW LIFE philosophy –meaning Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wellness, Learning, Inspiring, Fun Experiences.

 

The moment you book your Soneva holiday the Soneva experience starts as you are emailed a short questionnaire in order for your Mr/Mrs Friday (butler service) to know more about your personal preferences in order to make your stay as comfortable as possible. Be it the type of pillows you like, the scent in your room, your music of choice and your dietary requirements to name a few.

Soneva always aims to surprise and always delivers - the more remote the island the more unique experience you are going to receive and this is exactly what Soneva Kiri provided. Set amid a tropical rainforest is a secluded bay on the north west coast of un-spoilt Koh Kood Island is a Robinson Crusoe way of life, think natural beaches, tree house living and farm to table cuisine.

 

Most visitors to Koh Kood fly from Bangkok to Trat, and then take a public boat. But this is not the case for Soneva Kiri guests. They fly on the resort’s own airline from Bangkok airport 1 hour to the neighboring island of Koh Mai Si, then take the hotel’s speed boat across to the resort. Soneva’s private plane also operates from Siem Reap Cambodia.

 

Once we arrived at the island’s jetty we were greeted with a warm welcome by the GM and his team and our Mr. Friday was on hand to escort us to our room. Once on the island the “No news no shoes” policy kicks in so your shoes are put away and the time goes back an hour in order to give you more hours in the day.

 

Heading to our room through the jungle paths capturing glimpses of the sea through the trees we arrived at what can only be described as the largest tree house I have ever seen. Walking up the wooden stair case opening into a world of escapism and complete luxury as we were given a 6-bedroom ocean view sunset villa. All rooms are double rooms with large bathrooms and one room is perfect for kids with 2 sets of bunk beds, open the door and it’s the entrance to the slide! The slide goes into the large infinity pool, which embraces the wonderful views of the ocean. Dining can be enjoyed in the villa with a large dining table or sunken dining area in the pool. There’s an open massage area so the spa can come to you. For a little time out there’s a beautiful library, TV room and a games room. This villa provides so much space that you can get ample time alone to sit back in peace to take in the breathtaking views. 

 

I loved my bedroom, minimal yet extremely spacious with a four poster bed, and at the end of the bed were the signature Soneva stacks of vintage suitcases/travel trunks which hide the flat screen TV. Across the way was the largest bathroom you could imagine with floor to celling windows, a relaxing seating area and doors opening onto the terrace showcasing a view that goes on for miles. 

 

Soneva lives by the ethos of sustainability and is very forward thinking in its approach. I witnessed this when I was staying at Soneva Fushi in the Maldives as well. One of the ways to truly understand the depth of which they take their promise is by going on an Eco-Tour of the island and seeing for yourself the work and commitment that goes into making a property/island sustainable. It’s not just about no plastic, not using straws and other conventional eco-solutions. Soneva’s responsibility, goes further - cooking oil is recycled as biofuel, water gets reused several times with many oxidation ponds to help purify water for irrigations so as its not put back into the sea.  All food waste is put into a sophisticated compost system and the organic garden is a delight growing nearly everything that you will eat during your stay. They are now even growing coco plants for the vast amount of chocolate served in their chocolate room. After chatting to the Soneva founder and visionary himself -Sonu, he informed us of a new system which they will soon implement at Soneva Kiri which has proved very successful in the Maldives which eradicates the mosquito without using any sprays/chemicals.

One of my favorite concepts at Soneva Kiri is the tree pod dining which ticks the sustainable box and leaves a very small footprint as a waiter zip lines your food to you in a bamboo pod made for four people winched 6 meters in the air surrounded by trees with the noise of the waves crashing in the sea below.

The Soneva Spa provides a sensory journey with all the rooms designed for couples with some facing the sea and the others in the middle of the jungle. One of their most popular services is the Wellness Screening, a full non-invasive reading of your body’s composition and biomarkers.

When it comes to dining, wellness plays a prominent part in the composition of the menu, with one exception – the all day ice cream and chocolate rooms  - but hey everyone needs a little treat!

One of the resort’s very well respected chefs is Khun Benz who looks after a small restaurant on stilts that is reachable via a speedboat through the mangroves called BENZ. This traditional Thai restaurant is a hit with all the guests and receives so many wonderful reviews.

 “Views” restaurant provides the most amazing sunset views so book a table in time to watch the sun go down with a cocktail in hand.

I am not in my children’s good books as on this occasion they didn’t come with me to Kiri and being such advocates of the Soneva experience, they really knew that they were missing out as when it comes to children and families, Soneva have thought of everything. The Eco Den is for 1-4 year olds. Qualified childcare experts look after children. The Den is the most creative playground a child could wish for, A giant bamboo structure shaped like a manta ray hangs in the tree tops providing not only a wonderful place to play but brings nature inside.

 

For outdoor activities you can enjoy the kayaking and water sports, snorkel around the island or diving to explore the coral reefs. For a unique adventure you must visit one of the islands many waterfalls. There is one particular trek, which takes you through the island’s lusciously dense rainforest. Along the way, cool off in the crystal-clear waterfalls that cascade magically over five different levels and swim in your own private waterfall pool.

 

You can really experience the many facets of this island with a short boat ride to Koh Kood fishing village, which has many local restaurants. We enjoyed an amazing seafood extravaganza eaten on the waters edge in a very local setting.

 

I really believe once you immerse yourself in the Soneva experience, you are spoiled for life, I find it very hard to compare the experience, service and way of life to anything else. My Soneva Ambassadorship is very important to me as it complements my own ethos and that of Unique Family Travels and I get excited every time I book my clients to a Soneva resort as I know they are in for an unforgettable experience.

 

Thank you to the wonderful Soneva team for always making my stay the most enjoyable ever and I will be back soon as I’ve promised my children a stay in the room that has a water slide!

 

Watch our full resort video here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RLxkSSQokU

 

Check out our bedroom within the villa:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXa_4t4wWlY&t=10s

 

Sliding into Island life:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp2AKjkk_CI

 

Contact Unique Family Travels for exclusive rates

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
lead 137 Pillars

137 Pillars House

In the heart of Chiang Mai, through the teak wooden gates is a romantic and peaceful retreat waiting to be explored. Welcome to the stunningly beautiful 137 Pillars House. A member of ” Small Luxury Hotels of the World”

 

The property is rich in heritage and was given its name from the traditional teak house located in the middle of the estate, which is the main restaurant and a museum, which stands on 137 pillars and was once the headquarters of the Borneo trading company.

Rooms

The spacious suites are situated in a well laid out garden and furnished in sumptuous modern interpretation of colonial style, radiating unbridled luxury.  The rooms are expansive and beautifully laid out.

 

Visualize teak wood floors, a four-poster bed and a large outdoor seating area complete with comfortable sofas, complemented by extra-large bathrooms which feature colonial style claw tubs, as well as indoor and outdoor showers. Some of the larger suites come with private pools, which are ideal for families. The rooms have been well thought out in order to create a more relaxed at-home feel for additional comfort and relaxation.

 

By now most of you know I have a thing for baths – its apparent on my Instagram – so this beautiful white washed bathroom with clawed bath tub teamed with mosaic patterned floor tiles and vintage wall hangings gave a modern colonial twist to this utterly perfect bathroom.

 

Service

We checked in from the comfort of our room and were assigned our personal butler who was on hand via Whatsapp. To be honest I love this service and a lot of luxury properties are starting to offer it for convenience and all-round indulgence.

 

Food

The 137 Pillars caters for all dietary requirement and allergies. Breakfast is Asian style but chef is happy to make you anything you desire. Their fresh juices and ginger shots are great! For dinner you can opt between locally influenced ‘The Dining Room’ and Western themed ‘Palette, (produce grown in the hotels farm) both offer intimate dining experiences.

 

If you’re a foodie, the property offers a wonderful cooking class  showcasing how to make very tasty dishes which are actually rather simple but will leave you looking awesome at your next dinner party.

 

Relaxation

There are lots of peaceful areas around the hotel and in one quiet corner is the 25-metre long pool, set against a huge vertical plant wall that adds instant tropical vibes to the mood.

Their inhouse spa offers a vast menu of services with a couple of signature treatments.  

 

Family Friendly

Children are welcomed at the property, there’s not kids club as such but your personal butler will help with everything you and your family need. Opt for the rooms with the private pool as the space is ideal.

 

Location

Located on the west side of the Ping river in the Wat Gate area of Chiang Mai’s historic foreign quarter, the 137 Pillars House is close to the city’s main sites, boutique shops and cafes plus the famous night market which is a 15-minute walk away and the old city can be reached by a 10-minute tuk-tuk ride.

 

 

137 Pillars is a beautiful escapism and a place I will surely return too. They also have a property in Bangkok.

 

Read the beautiful story behind the brand which includes so much historyhttps://137pillarschiangmai.com/en/our-story/

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
Anantara Kulutara

Anantara Sri Lanka

Anantara Peace (Haven) and Serenity – Sri Lanka

 

We recently came back from a wonderful stay at the stunning Anantara Peace Haven in Tangalle. From the second you walk into the property, with the melodic sound of a traditional Sri Lankan welcome song, the view from the open reception greets you with spectacular force and you know you are in for a special stay. The hotel sits on a rocky outcrop of the south coast so you can imagine just how wonderful are the panoramic views of the grounds, beach and ocean.

We were in Sri Lanka touring the south coast and I had decided to start at the southern tip of the island in Tangalle pronounced Tan-GAH-leh and then head slowly back up the coast to Colombo. If you wish to cut out the drive time you can take a seaplane from Colombo to Tangalle where you will land at what might be the world’s most picturesque airport in Dickwella, just a shack near a dock on Mawella Lagoon, about 15 minutes from Tangalle. The 40-minute plane ride will spare you the 3.5-hour drive and provides a mesmerizing bird’s eye view of Sri Lanka.

 

Sadly since the deal with China has run into problems Hambantota Airport is temporarily closed for international flights, otherwise Fly Dubai flew directly from Dubai and being only an hour away from Tangalle is another fast way to get to the Sri Lankan south coast.

 

We were shown to our villa by tuk tuk – a lovely alternative to a golf buggy.  On the way to the villas you past the spa and gym, the kids club and once over the little bridge you spot two resident cows whom my kids named Milky and Clover. Around the grounds you will find a couple of hammocks where you can relax and enjoy the many squirrels, peacocks and a massive Sri Lankan turkey which looked very amusing walking by!

 

The 2 bedroom double story villas don’t have sea views but are more secluded and offer wonderful garden views with a really large private pool. Upon seeing the villa we immediately fell in love, it was so spacious, comfortable and felt like home. Spread across two floors the floor to ceiling windows let in so much natural light and picture perfect views.

The ground floor has a separate kitchen and bathroom and a large open living/dining room with sliding doors opening onto the garden and pool.  There is a large bedroom with two queen beds, a separate walk in open wardrobe and large bathroom, which included a bath and an outdoor shower. Upstairs is the large master bedroom with a separate walk wardrobe and a large bathroom.  What makes you feel really at home are the little touches such as a selection of books on the bed side tables and in the kids room they even had children’s books. If you’re a keen artist, in the master bedroom they had a desk complete with a large sketch pad and pencils and with the outdoor views, its certainly offers a great artist canvas.

 

The children loved the beach, there’s a surf school however the water was a bit rough for swimming in the sea, but that didn’t stop them from having fun playing on the rocks screaming as the large waves crashed against the side.  In the trees they had a tree swing which provided so much entertainment. The beach is raw, untouched and provided that sense of escapism. I love walking on the beach with the kids, kicking the water, collecting shells, which we always make into an adventure – well that’s my version anyway as my husband encourages the kids to climb the high rocks and jump off totally fearless while I am a nervous anxious wreck!

 

The large hotel pool is on two levels, offering various degrees of infinity inspired vistas. The shallow end has beds soaking in the water which are great for keeping cool.

 

I really enjoyed the cliff side restaurant Ll Mare , not only for its floodlight views of the ocean and the sounds of the waves but the food was amazing.  It serves Italian cuisine, which I don’t always eat, but with so many gluten free options paired with a nice bottle of red wine and the kids happily enjoying their pasta, it was a perfect dinner.

 

The other restaurant offers buffet for dinner and breakfast. With a vast variety of Sri Lankan and western dishes plus freshly squeezed juices from the "raw bar" which were delicious every morning - we were always spoilt for choice.

 

During the day we enjoyed lunch at the poolside bar and I believe during peak season the Verala beachside restaurant is another great option!

 

If you want to venture out of the hotel and into Tangalle you can discover the charm of rural fishing villages and fields of rice paddies, interspersed with Buddhist temples. Rekawa Beach is not far away and is famous for five species of turtles nesting on the beach, including the very rare hawksbill and leather back turtles.

 

It’s also a suitable base for combining a beach holiday with a visit to Udawalewe National Park and Yala National Park. We visited Udawalewe Park, two years ago which was amazing as we got to see so many elephants in their natural habitat - you can read our review here:

 http://www.uniquefamilytravels.com/2018/09/10/elephant-safari-in-sri-lanka/

 

So if you plan on visiting Tangalle you have to stay at Anantara Peace Haven - luckily for you they are a partner of Unique Family Travels so we can offer amazing rates and packages.

 

Heres a snap shot of the resort: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1whMl5JqL4

 

Anantara Kalutara

 

Our last destination on our road trip was Anantara Kalutara which is nearer to the airport and a great place for people to enjoy a few days who have been in the Kandy area and want a hotel not too far from the airport. This property is not as luxurious as its sister property Peace Haven, but its warm, friendly and amazing for kids. In fact from the moment you arrive the hotel is focused on the children as they gift them a very cute handmade elephant rucksack each and wooden jigsaws.

 

Let me start with the thrilling zipline/abseiling and rock climbing area, which is simply awesome. If my adrenalin junkie kids could have stayed on this all day they would have. They rock climbed and abseiled a wall of 10m and the zip line is 165 meters going over the lagoon. This was extremely well managed with the most gentle and sweet staff who made sure the kids were harnessed safely and encouraged them to have multiple turns.

 

Next to a fully equipped gym there is also a kids club with an indoor and outdoor area and a teenagers games room. Around the hotel are giant chessboards, which the kids enjoyed, especially my eldest who is really into chess now! There was also an area to learn archery.

 

On the far side of the resort there’s a cute duck pond and on the edge of the lagoon is the coolest tree house accessible by ladder and a swing over the lagoon which you get to from a little bridge – talk about back to basics fun fun fun!

 

We had a lovely large 2-bedroom villa with a swimming pool in the middle of the hotel courtyard. It was really comfortable and spacious but it offers no views as it has a wall around the villa providing privacy.

The hotel has two large swimming pools – one by the main restaurant where a lot of the hotel rooms look out onto which also has a dedicated kids pool and the other one is a large lap infinity pool but it’s adults only and has a bar/restaurant attached to it.   

 

Due to the lack of tourism in Sri Lanka since the start of the year, only one restaurant was open which served buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner – for me, I like a little variety so the chef went above and beyond to assist with this and I can’t thank them enough for being ever so caring, thoughtful and considerate to my families needs.

 

When we checked out of this splendid property I was blown away by the farewell ritual we received which is customary to Sri Lankan life. A young man sang a beautiful prayer with the most angelic voice, which was so moving, while he also tied a thread around everyone’s right wrist in order to wish us safe travels – a simple but powerful gesture that really touched me and my family and truly reinforced the feeling that Sri Lankans are the most soulful people and despite the recent tragedy, tourism in this magical place will come flowing back strongly.

 

Watch our videos here:

 

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
Our Villa at Cape Weligama Lead

Cape Weligama

This was our second visit to Cape Weligama, a stunning cliff top resort and a true hidden gem. Up a winding road, off the beaten path until you can’t go any further are two large gates - once through these gates you are greeted with 12 acres of lush vegetation and ridiculous views of the coast and the town of Weligama.

 

This is a resort where you can literally switch off and enjoy total R&R. Its peaceful, offers tranquility and its private, you may not see another person staying at the resort during the entire day. There’s a dedicated kids pool if you want your children to play with other kids and for child free guests there is an amazing 60 meter infinity half moon adult pool, which is just simply WOW! We actually put the kids in the kids club for a couple of hours just so we could enjoy the beauty of this pool and its views and we were so lucky to spot a whale in the distance! Weligama is known for being the best spot for whale and dolphin watching, so make sure you book a trip to witness these beautiful creatures.

The kids club, referred to as the “Jungle Nook” is on the smaller size but it still provides enough activities to keep them busy including arts and crafts. We also gave the children a culinary experience by putting them in a cooking class. If they had been a little older they could have made a unique Sri Lankan dish to enjoy for lunch but instead chef showed them how to make iced tea and decorate cup cakes. For this they used “Tableau” the chef’s table dining experience, which is housed separately on the cape.

 

Each of the stunning villas are in clusters of 2 or 3 and come with a shared 15 meter swimming pool in the most immaculate lush gardens, most of them with sea views. Each cluster is named after a famous adventurer such as Samuel Baker, Ernst Haeckel, Marco Polo to name a few. This is a perfect resort for large families traveling together but need their own villas as you can all be next to each other yet still have your own space. Designed by renowned Thai architect Lek Bunnag, the resort is an upscale evocation of a Sri Lankan village. Each of the spacious villas is topped by terracotta roofs and surrounded by flower-filled gardens. 

 

Our two bedroom villa was perfect for my family providing enough space, beautiful grounds for the kids to play and of course a swimming pool. I have a thing for bathrooms and this bathroom was so big with a shower/steam room, large bath, double sinks on either sides of the wall and a large walk in wardrobe. Also such a genius idea - they had a beautiful chest in the bathroom which hid a massage bed so as you could have the spa message service in the comfort of your own room.

 

The villa’s sound system is run on Sonos which we use at home so we already had the app on our phone so the volume quality was great and the Smart TV is loaded with a vast collection of movies and television shows.   

 

There are a couple of options for dining starting with the main restaurant “Ocean Terrace” positioned at the top of the cape all open fronted and showcases the most wonderful panoramic views. With a vast menu including a large selection of gluten free and diary free options, this is a great spot for breakfast or dinner.

 

For breakfast one morning we were offered a floating breakfast which is part of the Cape Weligama experience and is at no extra cost. You order what you would like to eat the night before, set a time and in the morning your food is waiting to be served to you in the swimming pool. I loved this experience but my kids were so confused! I always tell them not to eat in the pool or even go in the pool straight after they have eaten, but this experience goes against everything I have told them – they could now eat their pancakes and coco pops in the pool!!! It was very amusing to watch the kids try and eat and also a perfect picture/Insta opportunity.

 

For lunch you can have a more relaxed vibe, either ordering to your villa as they will set up the dining area on your terrace or you can go to the surf bar, which has a pool table, and out door seating. The Surf Bar is also attached to a fully equipped gym, so while the husband burnt a few calories, I piled them on enjoying a couple of glasses of rose!

 

As Cape Weligama is owned by Resplendent Ceylon (Owners of Dilmah Tea) you have to experience their afternoon high tea, which is served in the elegant setting, of “Cape Club” - we also enjoyed sundowners and evening drinks in this bar/lounge that invokes a lot of Sri Lanka’s colonial history with pictures, paintings and old books.

 

The resort does provide buggies to get around the property but its much more fun to experience the grounds by walking. We were told that there were 4 “look out spots” on the cliff edge all named after whales, which had been spotted in the sea below. One of these divine hidden spots, called “lookout blue’ is also a beautiful location to enjoy a private al fresco dinner, the sound of the waves crashing below being your only soundtrack.

 

Cape Weligama is the perfect resort for romantics and families. Switch off and totally chill out in luxurious settings and breathtaking views – all of Sri Lanka at its true finest.

 

Watch our video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T__xrEMXASg&feature=youtu.be

 

Dani
Family Friendly Couple
Ibiza Lead

Our Top Ibiza Beaches

Although it is renowned for having some of the best nightclubs in the world, the island of Ibiza has an absolutely beautiful coastline with dozens of tiny coves to discover, not to mention some of the most stylish hotels in the Mediterranean. 

If you’re a beach lover then Ibiza is the perfect Mediterranean relaxation holiday – just stay away from San Antonio’s party scene.

 

Below is our list of things to do, places to stay, beaches to discover and restaurants to enjoy.

 

Hidden beaches and beautiful bays:

 

Starting with our favourite:

 

Cala D’en Serra – North East of the Island

Although it’s a relatively small bay, first impressions are monumental. Cala d’en Serra is one of those special Ibiza beaches that once discovered, is never forgotten. Facing east, the oval-shaped beach is surrounded by stunning high cliffs, fine blue water and golden sand. There’s an opening between the cliffs in the middle of the sea, where you can catch a glimpse of what appears to be the end of the world on the horizon.

 

Portinatx – North East of the Island

With three beaches making up the area – S’Arenal Gros, S’Arenal Petit and Playa Porto – it seems just one day at the northern haven of Portinatx is never enough! With plenty of sand complemented by rocky areas and tranquil waters lapping the bay’s shores, there really is something for everyone at Portinatx, very popular with families due to the surrounding resort areas.

 

Cala Xuclar – North East of the Island

A tiny, horseshoe shaped bay surrounded by rustic fishing huts and crystal clear water, Cala Xuclar is a peaceful hideaway offering a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of tourist-filled beaches in the height of summer.

 

Cala Conte – South West of the Island

Surrounded by gorgeous scenery, including sand dunes and rocky cliffs behind the beach, Cala Conte boasts stunning views of the amazing sunset each night. The golden sand is perfect for little ones, with gentle, shallow and crystal clear water, while another rockier ledge leads to a sheltered, private cove where the sea is a little deeper, yet amazingly clean and clear.

  

Cala D’Hort – South West of the Island

Presiding at the bottom of a rolling green hill, just like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, sits Cala D’Hort, one of Ibiza’s most magical and laidback beaches. The arc-shaped golden beach boasts uninterrupted front row seats to one of Ibiza’s most beautiful natural spectacles, the island of Es Vedra, a rocky limestone formation jutting out of the sea as if it were superimposed on the water.

 

Cala Carbo – South West of the Island

Arriving at Cala Carbo evokes an instant feeling of being on vacation – whether you’re on holiday or merely on your lunch break! The small, secluded cove is surrounded by pine trees and feels as though it is a private beach – although one and all are always welcome. With retro palm leaf umbrellas, but sun loungers equipped with plush mattresses and sheets, Cala Carbo is the best of both worlds – rustic and chic!

 

Cala Vadella – South West of the Island

Approaching Cala Vadella is an absolutely spectacular sight – as you snake around the winding road, the first glimpse of the deep blue bay dotted with glam white yachts is amazing. As you wind your way down the hill into the quaint resort town, you’ll see the beach emerge with pretty turquoise green waters at the shallow, calm end.

 

 

From lunch time to sunset here’s our top beach restaurants:

 

Los  Enamorados  in Portinatx

Boho vibes and bay views

https://losenamoradosibiza.com/#food-

  

Aiyanna Ibiza

A beautiful beach restaurant in Cala Nova

https://www.aiyannaibiza.com/

 

Cala Bonita

A hidden beach restaurant in S’Estanyol

https://www.calabonitaibiza.com/

  

La Escollera 

A Mediterranean beach vibe restaurant in Es Cavallet

https://www.laescolleraibiza.com/

 

Experimental Beach

A hip beach club on the sands of Cap Des Falco, Ses Salinas

http://www.eccbeach.com/

 

Atzaro Beach

Stylist beach vines on Cala Nova

http://atzaro.com/beach/

 

 

Beach House Ibiza

Famouse restaurant in a stunning hotel grounds in Playa D/en Bossa

https://www.beachouseibiza.com/

 

Amante Ibiza

This is an iconic beach restaurant over looking the beautiful Sol D’en Serra

https://www.amanteibiza.com/

 

Pura Vida Beach

Trendy beach restaurant on Playa Niu Blau

https://puravida-ibiza.com/

 

 

Where to stay

 

Casa La Vista – Private Villa

Set in 30 acres of serene pine forest in northern Ibiza stands a stunning 6 bedroom villa with views of  Cala Xucla Bay and located next to Portinax.

Watch their property video -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ml0o19VCzSw

http://www.uniquefamilytravels.com/2018/09/24/a-unique-retreat-in-ibiza/

 

Finca Can Marti

Set in a lush green valley north of the island is one of the island’s best-kept sustainable secrets. Can Martí is a heavenly hideaway with eight rooms, a 100% certified organic permaculture garden, traditional hammam, yoga platform, an eco-friendly freshwater swimming pool theres everything you need to truly disconnect from the world outside.

https://www.canmarti.com/

 

 

7 Pines Ibiza

Overlooking Cala Codolar and the mythical rock of Es Vedra, Seven Pines Resort Ibiza is breathtakingly beautiful, bringing a new level of sophistication to the island’s west coast.

https://7pines-ibiza.com/en/home

 

 

Pure House Ibiza

An intimate oasis shrouded in natures abundance offering a peaceful sanctuary where you can simply relax and unwind. Pure House Ibiza offers a unique home away from home experience just minutes away from Ibiza Town. 

http://www.purehouseibiza.com/

 

 

Nobu Hotel, Ibiza

Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay has brought all the style and excellence one would expect from the world-renowned brand to the shores of Talamanca on Ibiza’s east coast. A beachside sensation with two stunning pools designed to inspire ultimate relaxation, it’s the perfect playground for those in need of sun-kissed days and let your hair down in the evenings.

https://www.nobuhotelibizabay.com/en/default.html

 

 

You can't leave Ibiza without visiting: 

 

The Hippy Market

There’s many hippie markets on the island on different days. The best known is Las Dalias which is the biggest is every Saturday. 

 

Ibiza Town

The port city overlooking the Mediterranean is the largest city on the island and really does have something for everyone. With so many quaint restaurants where you can enjoy amazing cuisine and watch the world go by.

You'll find a great selection of small boutiques, high-end fashion stores, shoe shops and all kind of novelties. Home to citadel of Dalt Vila whichis a history lesson in itself.

 

Looking down from the battlements by the Cathedral of Nuestra Señora de las Nieves, there are some wonderful panoramic views over the city, the harbour and the sea stretching out as far as sister island, Formentera. Look down on the red tiled domes of the 16th Century church of Santo Domingo, and from here you can also spot the statue of General Joaquín Vara de Rey, the Ibizan hero of the Cuban War, standing proudly at the centre of the boulevard that bears his name.

 

Formentera

Ibiza’s sister island is only one hour away on the ferry which you take from Ibiza Town port. However the best way to visit Formentera is by private boat which you can rent for the day. This is the perfect way to sail to the island and take the day at your own pace stopping to dive into the crystal blue ocean.

 

Santa Gertrudis

A cute little town to stop for lunch as there are a couple of restaurants and you can also visit a quaint church. There are many villas in this area for rent.

 

Es Vedra

At almost 400 metres high, this uninhabited rock island is situated 2km off the west coast of Ibiza and is right opposite to Cala d’Hort beach. 

Es Vedrà is shrouded in myths and legend, the most popular of which is that it is in fact the third most magnetic spot on earth (after the north pole and the Bermuda Triangle).

  

Top Tips:

You really need to rent a car while in Ibiza. Don’t worry its really easy to drive around the island and this gives you the freedom to check out all the secret beaches and amazing restaurants.

Dani

  Family Friendly Couple

Al Bait Lead

Welcome Home – Al Bait

Having lived in Dubai for the past 25 years, I have had my fair share of visiting Sharjah or at least driving through it, but I have never had a staycation in the city - after all why would I, seeing as I live only 25 kilometers down the road in Dubai.

Well, that all changed the minute I drove up to and was introduced to Al Bait, a property under GHM - Leading Hotels of the World and managed by the wonderful Chedi Group. I immediately had a feeling that my children and I were in for an experience that we wouldn’t soon forget.

Whilst pulling up to the hotel, the outside looks like the old Emirati home - cream walls, single story with those distinctive ‘wind towers’. With a “leading hotels of the world’ sign on the wall and a beautiful, vintage limousine sitting in the driveway, my interest was even more sparked.

Welcome Home (Al Bait’s literal English translation) is how we were greeted as we walked through the alleyway to a beautiful courtyard and in through classic Arabic doors. In a quaint check-in area refreshments were served alongside small, sweet treats that exploded in your mouth.

After the seamless check-in we were led towards our room, at which point we realized the true uniqueness of this hotel. If you have ever been to old Dubai and walked through the streets, especially the Bastikiya area or wandered the souks of Marrakech then you can begin to visualize the architecture and the design. What was marvelous was that behind the doors and the walls was a touch of Chedi and ‘Leading Hotels of the World’ type of luxury waiting to be explored.

Al Bait the hotel is actually made up of 10 Arabic heritage homes that have been carefully renovated. They originally belonged to the Al Midfa family, a prominent Sharjah family but then were used as the headquarters for the first postal services during the British Presence. Another of the homes was used as the customs office and another was the Sharjah maritime museum. What is so unique about this hotel is that they’ve fully embraced the rich history and heritage of the place and made it an integral part of the experience. One of the homes is a fully functioning museum showcasing the history of the building, the family and even one of the magnificent ‘Elephant’ doors that one of the Midfa brothers brought back from India in the early 1900’s!

This process has preserved the architectural heritage of the hotel premises, reflecting the unique lifestyle heritage and the timeless architectural elements of Sharjah’s past. These homes were originally built from coral stones, gypsum and limestone while the doors and windows were made off teak wood and the ceilings were made of palm fronds. Attached to the museum is a lovely library where the children enjoyed reading and playing board games. 

This luxury 53-room property offers interconnecting rooms for families of all sizes with most of them having small courtyards. Throughout the hotels labyrinth of alleyways you will find many quiet nooks to relax and enjoy the peace and tranquility be it under a tree or one of the many courtyards. While exploring the grounds the hotel staff were very attentive providing knowledge of the property and refreshments.

Getting a little hot, the children needed a cool down - the swimming pool is hidden in one of the courtyards and a great size. The pool attendant kindly played games with the children while we relaxed – this is certainly rare, the kids were happy and so were we!

 

Dining
This is where the hotel turns it up a notch. Foodies should go to this hotel period. They have an incredible Chef who isn’t afraid to experiment. Breakfast and lunch menus have many options including an extensive gluten free menu – a true gastronomy of flavors presented like beautiful art. Quality food craftsmanship is at work here and one can tell the hotel is looking to differentiate itself from its peers with the quality of its kitchens.

I also have to acknowledge the pasty chef – as a person with an admittedly addictive sweet tooth, the offerings on hand were simply thrilling. They had a special button on the phone that you could press for your ‘Sweet of the Day’ – that day’s special concoction would then be delivered – from gold covered éclairs to chocolate balls that erupted into a crackling sensation in your mouth. 

For dinner we ate at ‘The Arabic Restaurant’, which is also open to outside guests. Personally I don’t think the name does the restaurant justice, as this was truly an amazing dinner with my husband saying wow to everything he ate. Saffron, cardamom, turmeric, thyme and combination of local spices characterized the dining experience. Internationally trained chefs, under the watchful eye of the Master Chef prepared their lighter and fresher takes on traditional dishes making it a truly unique dining experience. Typically my kids only wanted pasta (boring!) but the chef was happy to cook up a dish in a yummy sauce for them.

We didnt look at a menu as everything was brought over to us to taste from wonderful pumpkin soup, aubergine dishes, meat platters and one of their signatures dishes which was so creatively designed and served and I believe tasted amazing (I don’t eat fish!) was a pan seared sea scallop on a bed of couscous with biryani and tzatziki sauce with edible cling film served in a sea urchin shell and sprayed with liquid nitrogen! Yes, see the video to truly understand this fantastic creation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fzhfwm2_6UE

It was really refreshing to witness such attention to customer service (something that is getting lost with so much on offer now in the hospitality industry) and I can only assume that this is a reflection of management and the hotels ethos. Nothing was too much to ask and every one spoke with knowledge and love for where they work. It’s not everyday you receive this type of service. 

So would I go again to Al Bait Sharjah? I certainly would - I would go for a little me time, a little R&R. If you have never been to Sharjah this is the hotel for you, perfectly located in the heart of the city with a lot of exploring to do around the property. UAE heritage, Islamic history infused with top of the line luxury and incredible food. Al Bait Sharjah ticks a lot of boxes for travelers looking for something unique.

Dani

  Family Friendly Couple

Soneva Fushi lead image

Soneva – Barefoot Luxury

The definition of Luxury is something that is "rare". The Soneva brand offers intelligent luxury while minimalising the impact on the planet. This is a brand where rareness, sustainability and wellness come together. The Maldives is honestly one of my favorite places in the world - there is something about being close to the ocean that gets me every time and I’m extremely grateful and lucky to say I have visited this magical paradise 6 times – however, until now I had not witnessed anything quite like Soneva Fushi.

Their Slowlife philosophy and “no news, no shoes” barefoot ethos complemented by Robinson Crusoe living has not only given me such wonderful memories but has etched a permanent place in my heart.

 

A 30-minute seaplane from Male (Soneva have their own aircrafts but on this day we used TMA service), Soneva Fushi’s paradise island is located in Baa Atoll. The sea plane lands close to a pontoon in the sea where a speed boat greets you and takes you to the island. You may wonder why the plane doesn’t arrive at the islands jetty – well this is for two reasons; limit noise pollution for guests and to preserve the sea life close to the island. These examples of ethical and conservation thinking are sprinkled throughout the Soneva experience. This was also evident at the airport as the Soneva car from the airport to the seaplane terminal was a TESLA.

 

Greeted by Mrs. Friday, your personal butler and in our case the wonderful and accommodating Christina, who by the way, loves her job so much that its clearly on display when she talks about Soneva Fushi. She welcomes every member of our family by name and chatted to the children.  The moment we stepped on the boat, she collected our shoes and put them into a cloth bag in order to follow the islands main rule: no shoes.

 

Once on the island, Christina gave us a tour of the island, which is 1.5 kilometers by 400 meters. Christina explained how she has designed an itinerary that she believes we would enjoy during our stay. She personally knows our likes and dislikes along with our dietary requirements. This is because a few days before we landed on the island I was emailed a detailed questionnaire in order to make our stay more personalized. These questions included: What pillows do we prefer and what fragrance we would like our pillows to smell off, preferred bathrobe sizes for the entire family, any additional items which we would require in the bathroom, everything you could imagine for traveling with babies and kids, our favorite type of music and of course favorite ice creams from the amazing variety of flavors served on the island. Also our dietary requirements and considering that Soneva Fushi is all about healthy food the options include a wide range of gluten and diary free items – more than I have seen at any other hotel.

 

Going through the lush vegetation of the islands labyrinth of narrow paths, we spot the entrance to our home for the next week with our 5 bikes all perfectly lined up outside.

 WOW - our villa was the ultimate in tree house luxury living. A massive 2-bedroom double-story house with its own large, salt-water pool and just a few steps away your own private entrance to the pristine white sandy beach and crystal clear ocean.

The design element of all the villas merge the islands ethos, with thatched roofs, large wood panel doors and timber staircases. The soft white furnishing and relaxing areas bring the indoor living outdoor. The bedroom on the ground floor offered a shower and sunken bath in the garden. At the end of the four-poster beds were beautiful vintage trunks that concealed a TV – not that you even want to watch anything. With 62 villas on the island, each one privately secluded, there are a range of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 bedroom villas with even a 9 bedroom private reserve with slides with everything you could possibly imagine.

 

The island also has 19 private residences, which are for sale, once I win the lottery, this will be my first purchase:

https://www.sonevavillaownership.com/

 

To preserve the coral reef Soneva Fushi doesn’t have any over-water villas; for an over water living experience you must try Soneva Jani their sister hotel which is about an hour away by speed boat. https://www.soneva.com/soneva-jani/

 

At Soneva their aim is to create unforgettable and enlightening experiences while aiming to illuminate lives and thread lightly on the earth. With that in mind, Soneva make every effort to create and follow sustainable practices, from recycling waste materials, conserving water and eco systems. Food is grown and sourced locally and the island has one of the largest solar power plants in the Maldives.

 

 

Activities

 

The sunset dolphin cruise was a lovely way to relax, enjoy the ocean and watch the sun go down. The kids were super excited to see the dolphins but on this occasion we were unlucky, as they didn’t want to come out and say hello – yet the day before and the day after the guests saw many. It wasn’t so bad as dolphins swam past our villa most days around lunchtime, which was beautiful.

 

Snorkeling trip – this was really the first time the kids have actually been old enough to appreciate snorkeling deep in the ocean. Our speedboat took us about 15 minutes away from the island where there was a stunning coral reef with turtles. The kids managed to swim with their fins, mask and snorkel especially Sisi but the other two wanted to dive down so they switched to fins and goggles and free dived. Using the Go Pro we managed to take many great pictures of the sealife including spotting a few turtles. Once you have been fitted for your snorkeling equipment its yours for the duration of your stay, so the kids got to enjoy the house coral reefs too and when the tide was out the amount of black tip sharks close to the shore was amazing. They don’t touch you so the kids felt comfortable swimming with them along with Nemo and angel fish!!

 

So Star Stuck

Once the sun goes down and the skies canopy is lit the resident astronomer is on hand to talk you through the stars and planets and you can get a clear view using the state of the art telescope via the only 3D technology to be installed in any resort in the world.

 

Life really is about creating experiences and Soneva bring this to the forefront. One experience you can enjoy is a private picnic on an UNESCO island, not too far from Soneva Fushi.

 

Cinema Paradiso

There is something about watching a movie under the greatest canopy in the world, but on this occasion it was even more magical as actress, producer and writer, Tilda Swindon was on the island so kindly offered to introduce a movie, which she starred in – the fantastic Wes Anderson production called Grand Budapest Hotel!

A few words from Tilda https://youtu.be/whhLILy2GZs

 

The Den

The Den is the ultimate in kids’ club entertainment. One giant open plan and no door playground with a slide going into the pool, a pirates ship made out of wood and so much entertainment that the kids could never get bored. The Den’s activity schedule was jam packed from arts & crafts, milkshake making and cooking classes, sailing, paddle boarding, mini triathlon, marine life bingo with the resident marine biologist and a scavenger hunt. They also had a great music room and built in piano on the floor which was a great way to hear when people are entering and leaving the club. The staff was super friendly and my kids all gained a friend each: Bebe, Daniella and Rio!! Funny that!!!

 

Dining

 

Each restaurant on the island provides not only a culinary experience, which foodies would die for but each restaurant provides a different experience in the most amazing of settings. Everything served on the island is organically grown or produced with vast vegan free and diary free options. Beef dishes are not included on any of the menus due to not being sustainable, however you can ask chef to cook you a beef dish and he will come up with something truly delightful.

 

Breakfast is served at the Mihiree Mitha restaurant which is back to basic dining on the beach yet cooked and presented like no other. Every morning the resident mixologist will ask you how you’re feeling and prepare you an Ayurveda drink/shot for your needs.

 

Out of the Blue sits on stilts and hovers over the crystal clear sea attached to the island by a winding wooden bridge. It’s the perfect spot to keep cool with a giant slide into the sea and great marine life spotting. This all day dining restaurant offers Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine with the most desirable desert room that you could walk into for a sweet snack and pick from its extensive choices of the most delicious ice cream flavors.  For bespoke dining you can enjoy So Hands On the sushi counter that is in partnership with Chef Kenji Gyoten, one of the only four sushi chefs with 3 Michelin stars. There is also a Teppanyaki table for entertainment dining.

 

Fresh in the Garden was one of our favorites to dine at because of the garden to table dining but also the restaurant, which is located in a tree house in the Eco centre and vegetable  garden connected by a rope walking bridge crossing over to the restaurant which provided great enjoyment alone. There was something special about dining high up in the trees.

 

Sadly we never got to experience Shades of Green, which is a full plant based menu of Asian fusion dishes using Nordic cooking methods. And we also didn’t get to experience the underground wine cellar, which offers wine tasting opportunities.

 

Once upon a Table is a culinary theatre showcasing some of the biggest names in fine dining. The island will invite top chefs to provide a non-menu dining experience at a exclusive table of 8-10 overlooking the Indian Ocean – simply an experience of a lifetime.

 

Island Friends

The island has over 300 rabbits hopping around in the lush grounds. The kids enjoyed spotting they were super friendly so we  would feed them lettuce. All the islands communication is provided on recycled paper and presented in bamboo tubes. The children were also gifted hand drawn illustration books about the resort and the rabbits which is another magical touch.

 

Six Sense Spa

Six Senses Resorts and Spa was originally founded by Eva and Sonu the brains behind Soneva. They sold the brand in 2012 but still have Six Senses manage their spas in all the three properties, Soneva Fushi, Soneva Jani and Soneva Kiri. They invite famous practitioners to the island and while we were there they had Claude Simard and Jill Banwell, massage and meditation specialists offering their unique services and insights to the island guests.

 

Upcycle

As no plastic is allowed on the island all drinks are served via glass bottles – but what does the island do with all the empty bottles and breakages?  Well simple, this is Soneva! They have taken the solution into their own hands and manage it on the island via their very own glass factory. They first crush down the glass and melt it in a glass furnace then via a variety of techniques they upcycle!  After that Soneva’s own skilled team of glass specialists create signature items for the restaurants and villas. They also mix fine particles of glass with cement and Styrofoam to make cement bricks for construction. From the coconuts they make oil for cooking and to  use in the spa.

 

At Soneva you really are at one with nature. Nothing looks out of place as every raw material, building, and construction looks like it’s supposed to be there. You’re paying for the pleasure of being on the island, living the dream, eating the best food and literally being spoilt with attention by the staff.

 

I am also honored to be a Soneva brand ambassador – the first in the GCC. I honestly believe I manifested this relationship, as I have loved the brand for over 10 years since visiting one of their first properties. When I asked the kids to give me one word to explain their stay at Soneva Fushi, this was their reply:

Rio – “Epic”

Sisi – “Incredible”

Amara – “Luxurious”

 

Here's a little video from our stay at Soneva Fushi

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnSkApUyNbg

 

You need to disconnect to reconnect

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUTi2wmrdf0&list=UU4bm0EBz_Ex8wHeCa6RVdvg

 

Always giving back!

Sonu was one of the founders of the Soneva Foundation (previously known as the SLOWLIFE Foundation). For nearly 20 years Sonu and his wife, Eva, have created the template for sustainable tourism, coining the concepts of SLOW LIFE and intelligent luxury which recognises the ability for luxury holiday making and care for the environment to co-exist in harmony. The Soneva Foundation is a UK registered charity which supports the development of innovative and imaginative projects whose impacts directly address social and environmental challenges around the world.

The Soneva Foundation has so far raised almost USD six million from Soneva's 2 percent environmental levy. The money has been used to fund a forest restoration programme in northern Thailand where around half a million trees have been planted to mitigate 255,000 tonnes of CO2. The money has also funded a windmill in South India.

 

Emirates fly direct from Dubai airport with a 4 hour flight. Visa's are given on arrival.

Sea plane transfers are required for Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani   

Dani

  Family Friendly Couple

Untitled design (4)

Six Senses Laamu – Maldives

Six Senses Laamu is one of the more remote atolls in the Maldives with an hours internal flight and then a speed boat ride, but its well worth the extra journey as once you arrive its nothing more than absolutely stunning – the epitome of barefoot living in a lush tropical setting. I don’t think I wore flip flops during my entire stay!

I had just found out I was pregnant – not aware that I was going to be having twins, so my husband and I along with our 4 month old daughter Amara, escaped to enjoy total relaxation in the middle of nowhere.

Even though they don’t advise staying in ocean villas with young children due to safety – our daughter was only 4 months old so she was totally fine. Our gorgeous stilted ocean villa was on wooden jetty which went from the island into the Indian Ocean. Parked outside our villa were our bikes which had been personalized with wooden tags. Don’t ask my why, maybe it was instead of taking a pram on holiday, I ended up taking a car seat with me – however this actually worked out to be very handy as it fitted neatly in the bikes basket so we could all enjoy bike riding around the island. 

The villas come with the best views you could ever imagine waking upto and a private terrace where you can jump straight into the crystal blue water (OMG I want to be there right now, writing this brings back so many lovely memories) and there is also a large hammock (like a trampoline net) to relax on. The villa hass a large bathroom with an outdoor shower but don’t worry the clever design still provides privacy. 

The rooms are typically Six Senses rustic designs offering natural wood fittings with a double bed in the middle of the room facing the windows.

The snorkeling is world class all though we didn’t do it for long as one of us had to watch the baby, however when we did we were transported into a scene from “Finding Nemo” Also just off shore is the impressive Yin Yang, the Maldives most famous surfing 8 foot wave break.

Six Senses Laamu always plays on a journey of senses and this is brought to the forefront when it comes to dining. With 3 restaurants and 2 bars all offering a different vibe. The breakfast spot, Longitude is open air dining on a split level right on the waters edge.  Leaf offers fine dining cuisine where every meal was just mouth watering and the Chill Bar is perfect for sundowners and chillaxing after an eventful busy day swimming, eating and sleeping!!.

All the vegetables are grown onsite and the seafood is fresh from the ocean. There is also an ice cream parlor with so many flavours to work your way through.

Six Senses are well known for their amazing spa’s but as I was pregnant I unfortunately didn’t get the chance to enjoy any of their services – but not too worry as I will make it up it on my next visit.

The resort also offers the following: private picnics and barbecues on remote patches of sand, Sunset Dolphin Cruises, as well as boat excursions for diving and snorkelling, and the dive school does certification courses. The resort is child friendly offering a kids club called The Den. The Den has a wide range of activities and games and babysitting is on request. Also a good point to mention is that the resort offers baby high chairs in all the restaurants and childrens toys are availble on request.

There is only one rule when visiting Six Senses Laamu and that’s NO shoes – so kick back and enjoy every second of your stay as time goes by far too quickly when your doing nothing but having fun.

Until next time Laamu ……… 

Dani

  Family Friendly Couple

Spices

The Magic of Marrakech

I could not visit Marrakech and not stay in a Riad especially as they have become so popular on social media. So what is a Riad? Well it’s a traditional Moroccan house located in and around the souk area that has been renovated with modern and artistic touches. Once you open the front door it leads you into a courtyard with rooms surrounding it. Most courtyards contain small swimming pools. Riad-stays have become popular due to stunning interior designs, the style of the courtyards and the bohemian type boutique living it inspires. When visiting Morocco you have to book a Riad in order to see what all the fuss is about and believe me, it won’t disappoint.

 

Many of the Riads which have become very popular due to social media offer a minimum of a three night stay. We were lucky enough to enjoy two very different yet equally beautiful properties Le Riad Yasmine and Riad Farnatchi with the latter offering one night.

Riad Farnatchi, owned by James Wix, is tucked away and nestled within a narrow medina street that even a tiny car can’t get to. In fact there was a bellboy waiting in the souk ready to help carry people’s suitcases to the Riad. Outside our Riad’s front door there was a donkey and cart chilling and blocking our way! We rang the Riad doorbell and were greeted by a well spoken manager who invited us inside this little piece of escapism.

 

The property comprises of 2 riads together giving them 10 bedrooms with not one but two beautiful courtyards. The first is emerald green with a swimming pool and relaxing seating areas and the second is filled with trees. This particular riad has an award winning spa and hammam, which is designed in black and white mosaic tiles. The good news is the spa is also open to the public. The narrow stairways around the riad seem to go on forever and take you in all directions – unfortunately for the bellboy my suitcase was as wide as the staircase itself!

 

Our suite (room 4) was a great size with a large bathroom complete with a sunken tub and every Molton Brown lotion you can think of. It also had a private roof top area where you can order your breakfast to be set up. And to make our riad experience even cozier our room had a large open log fire.

 

The hotel restaurant offers international and Moroccan cuisine and they also have a quaint little private dining room where they had set up our breakfast, which was a basket of fresh warm bread, fruit platter, eggs, coffee and juice.

 

Le Riad Yasmine is owned by French couple Gaby and Alice and is one of the most famous riads due to the amount of coverage it has received on Instagram – with 116k followers this pretty 8-bedroom riad is set around the most beautiful and picturesque courtyard, which has been transformed into a tropical paradise. White cane furniture, stripy green and white day beds, green and white mosaic tiles in and around the plunge pool with lush green plants, trees and cacti. Its beautiful how two colors can look so pretty and so tropical set inside an old Moroccan home.

 

The rooms are white and neutral color palate with curtains separating the bedroom area from the seating area. Open your front door and you’re instantly hit with the lush greenery from the courtyard.

 

They also have a rooftop, which provides great views of the medina and the Atlas Mountains in the distance.

 

When trying to arrange our stay at both riads, I loved the fact that the owners (Gaby, Alice and James) personally dealt with our enquires giving that personal touch that no large hotel can offer.

 

The Souk known as the Medina is a labyrinth of bustling streets filled with donkeys and carts, people working, street sellers and tourists. The motif of the keyhole arch is emblematic of Moroccan architecture, and this beautiful theme can be found in almost any structure throughout the medina.

 

Google maps don’t always work, but getting lost within the medina just means you experience something new around the next corner or in the next winding street.

 

We also visited the Riad Yima - Hassan Hajjaj art gallery and concept store. Famous for his bright colors, graphic patterns and use of brand name logos(especially his Coca Cola crates) The result is a mash up style that has both the captivating allure of global pop culture bonanza and the deeply rooted traditions of the Middle East.

 

The Large medina square is called Jemaa el-Fnaa. Throughout the day its bustling with rattle snake charmers and monkeys with their trainers encouraging you to take photos – however my advice please don’t take photos just keep walking, or be ready to say bye to something valuable!

 

Off the square are many alleyways with thousands of shopping stalls that go on for miles. In the busy streets of the medina, you’re sure to be bombarded with the aggressive sales tactics of would-be guides and craft-sellers. They are harmless just tell them no, however you will most probably end up following someone somewhere – it just happens.

 

When shopping remember half the experience is haggling so be prepared to bargain and be patient. I picked up some beautiful Moroccan plates and there were many large lamps that I wanted to buy. Whatever you’re looking for the medina has it all, leather, carpets, spices, tapestries, silver and metal objects.

 

FYI – I found this stunning linen shop which had the most beautiful bed sheets – think White Company but better –

V. Barkowski  https://valeriebarkowski.com

 

In Marrakech every building was and has to be the same color – think dusky pink, with blue and green accessories/plants outside to give it that picture perfect Moroccan look.

 

I also highly recommend a visit to Jardin de Majorelle known as YSL Gardens. The queue was rather long so our taxi driver, jumped out bought our tickets for us so as we could walk straight in avoiding all the people.

 

Jardin de Majorelle is a stunning two and half acre botanical and artistic landscape garden. The French Orientalist artist Jacques Majorelle initially created it almost forty years ago but then Yves Saint Laurent bought it and made it into a permanent Marrakech fixture and a tourist haven.  If you’re a lover of YSL do also visit Museum Yves Saint Laurent which is next to the Gardens.

 

This video shows the stunning grounds of Jardin de Majorelle with all its mystery, serenity and majesty:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcyBZxOC6zs

 

General information:

The currency is Moroccan Dirham so don’t be mistaken with the UAE Dirham.   

 

Uber doesn’t work in Morocco so you have to use either the public taxi’s or ask your hotel to arrange a car for you. Again be ready to negotiate aggressively.

 

Emirates flies direct to Casablanca 9.5 hours there and 6.5 hours back. From Casablanca to Marrakech is a 2.5 hour drive – it’s a long journey but well worth it.

 

Marrakech is definitely unique, incorporating a nice mixture of authentic local Moroccan culture with some serious hotel and resort offering. But don’t rely on the movies and social media – go visit to truly capture its magic.

Dani

  Family Friendly Couple

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About Us

As an avid traveler, pre and post my three children, and a lover of boutique hotels, I have been fortunate enough to travel extensively, stay at unique properties and take adventures off the beaten track.

I've been lucky to see and enjoy so much that I think now is the perfect time to share my travel experiences, so I have created Unique Family Travel - a company where my team and I can develop bespoke, wonderful and unique travel experiences for you and your family. I can guarantee our experiences aren't available on the likes of large booking websites as we take you on a tailored journey which caters to your specific needs.

Each destination and journey should be a timeless memory, created for you and your family and captured in fantastic memories to keep forever. We can help with this simply because that's how I would do it for myself, my family and friends!

Do get in touch with us, drop us a line and lets get you going on your next amazing, unique travel experience.

Happy Travels

Love Dani

PS. All photos on this site are taken by me, mostly on my iphone :)

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