There’s no better description than “kid heaven” for Club Med Bintan in Indonesia, says Aana Marinovich. After all, how could mocktails, baby turtles, a tropical beach, pools, and a sports centre as your playground provide anything less than a perfect family holiday?
It’s fair to say that we Kiwis are a bit more reserved than some other cultures, so you’ll spend the first 24 hours simply digesting the bubble of joy that encompasses every Club Med. Everyone is happy and having a go (with great enthusiasm) at water polo, beach games, water aerobics, and even rain dancing around the pool. Sounds a bit much for the more conservative of us, but I promise you, you’ll be joining in, if for no other reason than because of the pure joy and elation evident on your kids’ faces.
Oh, the GOs
The Gentle Organisers (GOs) will become your kids’ best friends. These 20-somethings from all over the world spend their entire time making sure your kids are happy: They organise the games (there’s always enough people for a great game of beach volleyball when there are GOs around!), parties, and kids’ clubs; they chat with you around the pool; sometimes join you for lunch and dinner; and, if that’s not enough, they entertain everyone at night with shows and comedy skits. Theirs is no 9-5 profession!
All food and drinks included!
At one stage I couldn’t remember seeing my kids without a blue mocktail in hand while racing off to their next adventure. It was truly exciting for them to have no limits on what they could eat and drink while on holiday, and the food was great. You can choose between a variety of Asian, Italian, French, and Western food every meal and each has its own expert chef dreaming up new delicacies for the day.
Without a doubt, Club Med knows how to run a Kids’ Club for every age of child. Even the most anti-Kids’ Club child will be joining in. The older kids can come and go, and in the end it’s just too much fun to be missing out on. You’ll see them tearing around, moving from one activity to the next, and checking in with parents along the way, but generally, most kids can’t resist taking part. If your kids are tweens or teens, don’t worry: Activities are geared up for the older kids and they’re hanging with their own age group.
Littlies have their own pool and slide, and a cooler place to rest if it gets a bit hot. The restaurants have high chairs and special plates for little children, and there is plenty of food for all tastes, including baby food for older babies. If your children have food allergies, they are well catered for (just be careful with peanuts as Asian food often uses peanut oil).
Ask for a ground-floor room if your kids are in pushchairs. There are lifts in the main restaurant area and the resort has stroller-friendly pathways throughout.
We lazed around the pool quite a bit, despite all the activities on offer. Club Med Bintan has their own beautiful beach with fine white sand and clear blue water, so incredibly warm it’s like a bath (cooler in the pool, actually). Both have plenty of loungers and a bar close at hand.
In truth, you really don’t need (or even feel like it as the days go on) to leave Club Med. But there are some cool excursions which show you a bit more of the island. Elephant rides and shows, village tours, and river rides, to name a few.
Boy oh boy, the monkeys are cheeky. You’re advised to remember they are wild animals, but it’s hard not to laugh at their antics, like stealing togs from balconies and trying them on their heads or arms, moving them along a few balconies, or having a tug-of-war with the owners who desperately want those togs back. They also sneak into the restaurant by the beach and cause havoc with the water jugs and salt shakers!
let’s fly away
The easiest way to get to Club Med is on Singapore Airlines direct from Auckland, Christchurch, or Wellington to Singapore, then catch a quick ferry across to Bintan. We really enjoyed our flight with Singapore Airlines; with the personal screens for movies, great food and snacks for all, and lovely flight attendants (amazing with the kids), it was actually quite a restful flight.
They also make a delish Singapore Sling if you want to get into the spirit (of Singapore)! Singapore Airlines offers two daily flights out of Auckland (one flight operated by alliance partner Air New Zealand), a daily flight from Christchurch, and from 21 September it will operate four flights a week from Wellington. Under 2-years-old fly free, if not occupying a seat, and 2 to 11-years-old fly at 75% of the applicable fare.
Linger in Singapore
If you have the chance to spend a few extra nights in Singapore, I highly recommend it. Here are some “must see and do” activities:
- Future World and the ArtScience Museum (amazing!)
- Gardens by the Bay (go at around 3pm so you can stay and see the light and sound show at night, which is well worth it). The light show operates two shows per night at around 7:30pm and 8:30pm
- Chinatown (and Chinatown Heritage Centre, which is small but so interesting for kids and adults to see)
- Universal Studios on Sentosa Island (we found this has more features for younger kids than Universal in California)
- Adventure Cove Waterpark (new, clean, and a great place to have fun on a hot Singapore day)
- Singapore Cable Car across to Sentosa Island (check out the peekaloos for a spectacular view)
- Singapore Zoo (the only place in the world where you can breakfast with orangutans!)
- Shopping (Orchard Road: particularly for great-value shoes and makeup)
Trapeze, archery, badminton, tennis, volleyball, ping pong, water polo, soccer, beach games, snorkelling, sailing, canoes, theatre, crafts, cooking, movies, theatre, yoga by the sea, gym classes, massage, spa, and more!
Club Med in Bintan runs a Turtle Conservation Hatchery programme, to help with any turtles returning to lay their eggs at their place of birth (it must be a shock to arrive back after 20 years only to discover there’s now a full resort on your beach!). You can view the nest from the outside of the cage, and if you’re lucky enough to be there from March to July, they release the turtles with everyone cheering them on. I’m not sure who was more infatuated, me or the kids.
Kids’ favourites at Club Med
- Trapeze (Go the Kiwi GO!)
- Seeing baby turtles released
- Watching the monkeys have a togs-tug-of-war with one of the other mums
- Mocktails all day l Afternoon-tea crêpe trolley (yum!)
- Soccer in the afternoon
- Flour-bombing party
- Watching the GOs on stage at night
- Playing “Assassin” in Kids’ Club
More family travel ideas from Tots to Teens: