Holiday Snapshots makes a welcome return this week with Clara from The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide. Her blog is all about her expat life in South Africa. She’s lived in eleven countries on five continents, and visited nearly 70! Clara tells us all about her family holiday to Hurghada in Egypt. With all the recent troubles there for tourists, it makes a welcome change to see something positive about the country.
Over to you, Clara…
The main thing we look for in a holiday is something that will suit us all – adults and children. We are quite an active family so we like to “do” things, but we haven’t really yet attempted any “culture vulture” holidays with the children yet. This may change as we would like to take them to Italy at some point.
Where did you go?
We went to Hurghada in Egypt.
We were looking for something not ridiculously expensive during the summer holidays, with plenty to do. Everyone in our family likes waterparks and Egypt has become known for (among other things!) hotels with good waterparks attached. We also thought it would be quite an educational holiday for the children at the same time as being fun. Plus both me and my husband love diving and snorkeling and the Red Sea is a wonderful destination for underwater activities. And you are pretty well guaranteed sunshine every day at that time of the year.
All four of us – myself, my husband and our two daughters who were 5 and 7 at the time.
Where did you stay?
We spent a bit of time online looking for a hotel with a waterpark and also with good accommodation – we hate all being in one room for a holiday so either interconnecting rooms or a suite is important. The hotel we chose – the Jungle Aqua Park – fitted the bill well. Fantastic waterslides, gorgeous rooms with a sliding partition to make two sleeping areas and lots of swimming pools!
We found it online – thank-you Google – but then booked it through the only travel agency in the UK that dealt with it at the time. It was a package deal including flights, which is unusual for us but it was an excellent deal. The hotel was all-inclusive, I think this makes life easy with children as you don’t have to worry about them constantly wanting another drink or snack.
Were there plenty of activities for the kids?
Well there was the waterpark! It was seriously good with lots and lots of slides and also well-organized. You did have to queue a bit for the tubes but life guards kept strict control to stop people queue jumping. My children loved it. There was also a water play area for younger children which they spent quite a lot of time in while we relaxed with a drink on the loungers. There is a kid’s club and organized activities like an evening disco etc but we didn’t use any of those. I think there was a whole raft of things to do in the daytime like poolside Zumba but we stayed clear!
Your most memorable moment/s of the trip?
We went on a trip into the desert and at the end we lay on the ground to watch the stars. The milky way was as clear as I have ever seen it – magical!
Any sights, activities you want to shout about?
The trip into the desert involved a very fast and bumpy jeep ride (which the girls loved!), running down sand dunes, visiting with Bedouins and trying out their freshly cooked bread, learning about life in the desert as well as about the Islamic culture, watching the sunset, eating a meal cooked fresh for us and then the star-gazing. We were able to see Saturn’s rings clearly through a telescope, which was incredible.
We also did a boat and snorkeling trip which our youngest daughter absolutely loved as she is a fish. However my elder daughter hates the salty sea so really wasn’t into it at all. I enjoyed it, though! Finally, there was a visit to the next-door hotel with a rather eccentric show involving horses and whirling dervishes and then a look around a museum which we were told was full of artefacts brought from the Cairo museum for safety. I have never got to the bottom of whether they were genuine or not!
Was it good value for money?
Yes I would say so – apart from the food. There were many buffet restaurants but a lot of the food wasn’t that good. However, so long as you knew what to look for (freshly baked bread, freshly made pizzas, baklava etc) you could always find something nice. In the end though the children ate a lot of chips and bread! There was also a few problems with the electricity and there were quite a few power cuts – which meant the rooms got very hot as the aircon would go off. Although this would only happen in the day so it was always possible to go and sit in the pool with a cold cocktail!
Your top tip/s for the area?
Although they weren’t mega-cheap, definitely book trips as Egypt is a beautiful and fascinating country – you don’t want to be stuck in your hotel for your holiday. We couldn’t go on any of the longer trip to places like the Valley of the Kings or Luxor, or even to the pyramids at Giza (which is possible to do by plane) as the security situation didn’t allow it at the time. However we definitely would have taken this opportunity if we could – although perhaps if the children were a bit older as they were very long days!
Which photo is your favourite and why? Tell us the story behind it.
Hard to choose but probably the one of my youngest daughter on the tube. She was scared of the slides at the start of the holiday but as the days went by she got braver and braver until – as you can see – she was doing some of them solo! It was great to see her confidence growing over the course of the holiday and it certainly made it easier for the rest of us when she was happy to go down alone!
Would you recommend to a friend? Would you go back again?
Yes I would recommend Egypt to a friend and I would probably recommend the Jungle Aqua Park – although not to all my friends! I think you have to like water slides to make it worthwhile ?
What are the five holiday essentials you couldn’t live without?
This does depend on the holiday – now that we live in South Africa we take our binoculars everywhere! But for Egypt: Sun tan cream, a good book (or three), chargers for tablets (for the children), a camera and some small and portable games like UNO.
What is your most favourite place in the whole world and why?
This is impossible to answer!!! If I could only chose one place to ever go to again it would be our home town of Cheltenham in the UK as it is HOME – we have a house there, the children grew up there and feel happiest and most comfortable there, our friends and family are close by. However I also LOVE Florida – my brother-in-law lives there and we visit frequently, I always feel like I am coming home when we go. Then there is New Zealand where I spent the most amazing nine months of my life, I am really, really loving South Africa, I adore South East Asia (I spent four years in the Philippines as a child), I have had fabulous holidays in Thailand, Peru, Jordan, Belize, Australia…I would like to return to Jamaica, Venezuela (where I spent another few years in my youth)….how can you choose just one?
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