Watersports, gulet trips and disco dance-offs make for a successful family package holiday in southern Turkey, says Ben Mitchell
“Wheeeeee!” squeals my five-year-old daughter Marie, with sheer joy, as she’s pulled clinging to a wakeboard across the biggest hotel swimming pool I’ve ever seen.
Two incredibly fit members of staff are tied to one end of the rope and the faster they run, the louder the screeches, as 30 youngsters take it in turns to skim across the pool’s surface.
This is just one of the many activities on offer at Neilson’s Andriake Beachclub, ensuring our family holiday is packed with non-stop entertainment.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love going on holiday with Marie but we have something in common, we both need to be kept busy. A beautiful beach is all well and good, but after half an hour of making and smashing sandcastles she’s off looking for the next distraction. And I’m the same.
So Neilson have come up with the perfect solution - kids’ clubs which keep the youngsters engaged and active, providing the grown-ups with the freedom to relax or exercise to their heart’s desire.
On our first morning at the resort, which opened last year and is located on Turkey’s south coast, near to the town of Demre, we’re given a handy schedule packed with enough sporting events to fill the Olympics. It includes the timings of everything, from Vinyasa yoga in the forest to black route mountain biking, with activities colour-coded for different levels of ability.
There’s plenty of opportunity for grown-ups to play, thanks to the excellent kids’ club facilities, catering for two to 17-year-olds. (Smaller ones are also covered by the Starfish club, available at a supplement.)
Marie is already an old-hand at such clubs, ready to enjoy games and activities, safe in the knowledge that Mummy and Daddy will be available to play in the pool during the gaps in club time.
And those gaps seem to get smaller as the week goes on and Marie chooses to do more and more things.
On the first afternoon, I spot her going out to sea on a catamaran, and when she catches sight of me she calls out: “Daddy, I can sail better than you!” She’s not wrong.
The following day, she takes part in a dance-off as part of a ‘disco time in the forest’ session. One of the carers, Catrina, calls out: “Girls, the boys are wiggling their bums at you,” which immediately prompts Marie and two other girls to swing around and shake their behinds twice as fast. All the fun of the disco but with no dad dancing required!
Looking on from a distance, I feel jealous I didn’t have the chance as a child to try out so much while on holiday.
All this sweaty enthusiasm might sound exhausting but it’s not mandatory; the pool is surrounded by a generous number of sunbeds and shaded chairs, and one mum finds her favourite spot early on and sticks to it for the duration of her holiday.
Additionally, there are also excursions to explore the surrounding area. Marie and I decide to join a gulet trip along the calm coastal inlets to the cut-off village of Kalekoy, a popular yachting destination, which is only accessible by boat or foot.
I’m struck by how tranquil the coastline is, quite different to our beach with its roaring surf. I put my feet up and watch the glistening waters as the sun starts to set.
Marie, however, is running around the boat with all the other kids, engaged in a game of hide and seek.
“Look at the sky, isn’t it beautiful?” I say to her as she crawls underneath a bench.
“Sssh Daddy, or they’ll find me,” she whispers back, quickly shutting me up.
The boat then sails over the sunken village of Kekova, which was swamped following earthquakes in the second century. I can just about identify the rooftops of long-gone houses gouged into the rocks along the shore, while below me, I study their foundations through glass bottom viewing panels on the boat.
But as I call to Marie to have a look, I just get the same response: “Ssssh!”
When we arrive at beautiful Kekova, screams of excitement erupt from Marie. “Daddy, I’ve just seen a tortoise swimming!”
A turtle as large as a rubber ring pops its head above the water then dips back down. Two minutes later it does exactly the same thing.
We disembark the boat and make a dusty climb to visit a castle which stands on top of the hill.
“Does a princess live here?” asks Marie, dazzled by its classic fairytale fortifications.
It’s certainly an enjoyable day trip, but Marie is soon eager to return to her own castle.
At the end of the week, the kids’ club holds a presentation ceremony, giving certificates to each of the youngsters. Marie receives an Art Attack Princess award for her colourful drawings and I can see in the hug that she gives her favourite Lilly that she truly feels at home and has made good friends.
She sums up the holiday as she drifts off to sleep that night.
“This place is beautiful, it’s like a princess wedding.”