We watch a delighted child of about 9 carry a plate full of chocolate cake from the afternoon tea table. Mutters my cynical travel companion: “Any child who starts out life with an experience like this has only one direction to go from here.” Certainly life doesn’t get better than this for the little people, whose shiny, happy faces you see around Thonga Beach Lodge, never a grumble or frown, let alone a tear. Come to think of it, in my 3 visits to Thonga Beach Lodge I have never seen a sad face on a single child or adolescent.
The activities to choose from include snorkeling, swimming in the sea, swimming in the small or bigger swimming pool, going out on the ocean experience by boat (older children only), forest walks, community visits, canoe rides and sunset drives to Lake Sibaya. Even teenagers are notably absent from the wifi hotspot in the lounge, and may be seen, I kid you not, laughing and exercising at the oceanside.
Although we enjoy mingling with such happy and pleasant versions of children of all ages, there are early eating hours and baby-sitting services for the little people, for the sake of adults who need some respite and time to reconnect with one another. The staff delight in the presence of children and many a lasting bond is formed with the kindly personnel at Thonga.
I give a warm smile to the chocolate cake carrying little girl and her parents, and I say to my cynical friend “Why not?” Why not give them an idyllic childhood experience? Enough heartache and trouble awaits and we all know the power of happy holiday memories to fortify us against all manner of adversity. Investing in positive experiences of nature, sun, surf and family can only be a good thing. Recent studies show that especially boys who spend more time in nature develop a more secure sense of identity and masculinity. And when parents and children alike are given an opportunity to function as the best versions of themselves, this creates a lasting bond which will survive many a subsequent sullen interaction.
I take a mental snapshot of the delighted cake carrying girl and I hope that I can store this memory away for her future so that she remembers her idyllic childhood family holiday at Thonga Beach Lodge one day when she needs it most.