01 Feb Family holidays in the Canaries – never boring!
My family loves the Canaries and we try to visit a different island every year. They are bursting with natural beauty and boast landscapes that range from desert dunes to snowcapped volcanoes – a variety of scenery that you’d find crossing a continent. But there’s a lot more to do than wonder at the majesty of Mother Nature – the eight inhabited islands are also packed with family-friendly activities.
Over the past few years, we’ve visited Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. Each island has its own distinctive features. Gran Canaria is lush and full of rugged mountains and deep gorges. Lanzarote is dotted with volcanoes and dark, lava-scarred landscapes. While Fuerteventura has a golden hue because of its sandy, desert-like badlands. Have a look at them on Google Maps in satellite view and you’ll see what I mean. The contrast is something else.
Dolphin watching with the kids is always a winner
A staple of any of our Canary holidays is a dolphin-watching cruise. You get to go on a boat, see the island’s coastline from a different perspective, enjoy the thrill of watching dolphins in their natural habitat and, best of all, the kids absolutely love it. It ticks all the boxes.
During our last holiday in Gran Canaria, we stayed at the TUI BLUE Orquidea in Bahia Feliz, a family-friendly hotel that made an excellent base from which to explore the island. It was from here that we went on a dolphin-watching cruise aboard the Spirit of the Sea, which sails out of Puerto Rico in the south of the island. It’s a really flexible service, with both two- and three-hour expeditions – morning and afternoon on alternate days. The boat has spacious open-air viewing areas on the top deck and the bow, while the stern is covered if you want to avoid the sun. It’s what a Canary Islands excursion is all about.
The waters off southern Gran Canaria are, to the surprise of many, rich in cetaceans. There’s a good chance that you’ll spot up to six types of dolphin, including bottlenose and common. That said, the crew have sighted almost 30 species over the years, and they’ll point out any rare ones when they see them.
Dolphins flock to these waters because they are warm and are teeming with the sort of food they thrive on – fish, squid, shrimps, jellyfish and octopus. We and the children had a ball watching the dolphins frolic in the water. They are such friendly and curious creatures, and really know how to put a smile on your face.
There’s also a good chance that you’ll spot other species during the trip. Pilot and fin whales – the second largest mammal on the planet – are often seen in these latitudes of the North Atlantic as are porpoises, turtles, flying fish and brightly coloured parrot fish.
Waterpark fun for all the family – especially the kids
We also had fun on the water during our last family holiday in Lanzarote – this time at the Aqualava waterpark in Playa Blanca in the south of the island. It’s not the biggest of waterparks but it more than makes up for it in excitement and it’s also easy to keep an eye on the kids. Best of all, it was just a short walk from our hotel, the stunningly located TUI BLUE Flamingo Beach.
It’s themed on volcanoes – there’s a famous one, Montaña Roja, just a kilometre away as the crow flies. And true to concept, its pools are heated using geothermal energy. The volcanic inspiration is also evident in the names of some of the attractions such as Timan Fire and Magma River.
As TUI guests, we availed of the PLUS option when we visited so had fast-track entry, a locker and our lunch – as with most waterparks, it’s child-friendly fare such as pasta, pizzas and burgers – included. I’d highly recommend it as it’s a great way of enhancing your excursion in the Canaries.
Keeping the kids happy in the Canaries
And on our most recent Fuerteventura holiday, the kids drove a hard bargain with us. In exchange for agreeing to visit historic, whitewashed colonial towns and village markets as we wanted, they demanded a dolphin cruise – yes, they love them that much – to keep them happy.
We made our way to Jandia on the ‘heel’ of Fuerteventura – the journey there is part of the adventure as you cross both a desert and lava fields. What makes the boat trip even more enjoyable is that it’s a proper catamaran – it’s called the Magic – with nets to sunbathe on and a mast.
The crew are experienced and know exactly where to go to find dolphins and, with luck, pilot whales. We spotted only bottlenoses but what we saw was blockbuster material. We watched in awe as schools of dolphins jumped out of the water in what looked like perfect synchronicity. And a couple even came close to the boat to give us a smile.
The waters off Jandia have highly oxygenated currents, which along with the abundant feeding grounds attract the dolphins to them. It’s what helps make a trip on the Magic such a special experience.
As we glided back to port enjoying a complimentary drink, we took in the views of the island, happy that we’d made that bargain with children for our latest Canary excursion. No wonder the ancient Greeks called the Canaries the ‘Fortunate Islands’.