Finding Nemo

I had many questions to ask myself as I pulled out of The Andaman in the lush island of Langkawi. How often did I get to stay in a resort flanked by a 10 million-year-old rainforest on one side and the Andaman Sea on the other? Was this really my first time in a resort that had dedicated itself to conserving an 8000-year-old coral reef on its shores, badly damaged by the Tsunami? Had I ever really had a massage before in the company of animals? Were the kids and I ever going to have a private snorkeling session in a coral nursery again? Was it likely that junior was ever going to be a marine biologist in the future? It was only when the answer to everything was no, did I realize that I was leaving someplace very, very special.

There are family-friendly hotels and then there are those that will just pull out all the stops when it comes to families. The Andaman belongs to the latter category. And the part of the hotel that all members – big and small – of all families throng to here is the beach – it is stunning, to say the least. Shallow, warm and clear waters extend forever and the coral sand never gets too hot. The hotel offered a variety of non-motorized water sports, which I later realized was intentional, so as not to damage the coral. To be honest, I found it quite strange that we barely drove 30-minutes from the resort and suddenly all beaches turned muddy, murky and almost non-swimmable.

Nurture Nature
The beach aside, my family’s favourite part of the hotel was the coral nursery – truly one of a kind. As a part of its coral conservation efforts, The Andaman has built a coral nursery to rescue and rehabilitate corals. Every morning guests enjoy a private guided snorkel of this nursery. Guests are fitted with a life jacket and float on the surface while being taken around by a guide. One of the most fascinating journeys that I have ever taken, you will witness many beautiful species of coral and varieties of fish including my children’s favourite clown fish (better known as Nemo). My 3-year-old loved his snorkeling session! The best part – it’s free!

The daily fish feeding at the coral nursery was a lot of fun too. Another one of the ‘firsts’ for me here was the hotel’s Marine Life Laboratory. This newly opened lab is home to a number of aquariums housing a variety of marine life. It is also equipped with microscopes, maggylamps and other equipment.

The lab encourages children to participate as ‘Young Marine Biologists’ by coral transplanting, aquarium and coral nursery keeping, understanding coral reef ecosystems, coral clearing, guided coral reef walks and other related activities. Certificates are given at the end of the programme.

Still can’t get enough of nature? Indulge in guided nature walks every morning and evening with resort naturalist to learn (and spot) the fascinating plant and animal life that surrounds the resort in this 10 millionyear- old rainforest. There were drongos, great hornbills, dusky leaf monkeys, flying lemurs, macaques, geckos and over 300 species of butterflies to spot. And nature was there yet again, that too when I least expected it! I had not one but two monkeys sit by either side of my head, watching intently, as my skilled therapist ironed out all my kinks at the spa. One of the many pleasure of open-air spa pavilions!

Room with a View
We absolutely loved our super familyfriendly ground-floor pool suite which came with a private plunge pool, cabana daybeds and a little sand pit too. Plus, a little door connected it directly to the gorgeous beach – such a bonus!

Family Favourites
The hotel has a number of other familyfriendly touches the kids (and the kid in me) loved. The swimming pool had a fun slide and even a little wading section for toddlers. Just off the beach, seafood restaurant Jala had a gorgeous sand floor, where guests were only allowed in with their shoes off! To be very honest, we didn’t much care for the food at other restaurants at the hotel and had most of our meals here.

And last but by no means the least, the kids’ club – Young Explorer’s Club – was a real hit with my younger son. This kidfriendly facility is stocked with toys, games, puzzles and books, including an entire collection by my favourite author Enid Blyton. All activities here revolve around nature and exploration. These include butterfly hunts, bird watching, junior yoga, nature collages etc. He loved the slide, play house, little bikes and the other play equipment. My older one was hoping to lay his hand on gaming consoles like X Box or PlayStation and was disappointed not to find these.

Though in the need of refurbishment, this luxury resort was such a treat for the entire family, especially the kids, who finally found their Nemo…

Read more on family-friendly hotels from our columnist Mandira Rai on withmandy.com.

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