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Family frolics in Gran Canaria

Press Association logoPress Association 1/11/2016 Josie Clarke

It's 35 degrees Celsius and I'm shambling down a dusty track on the back of a camel somewhere in Gran Canaria. My five-year-old son - who has the sort of peaceful demeanour that can only follow hours of frantic action - breaks into a grin as our guide hands him a freshly-picked fig to eat.

This is absolutely not a situation I expected to find myself in on our first visit to the Canary Islands, where we are staying at a family resort at the peak of school holiday action. I was braced for carnage.

I should also add that young Arthur is looking like a miniature extra from the set of Lawrence of Arabia, having traversed the local mountain roads in a 4x4 jeep for hours before we arrived at the camel farm, his dust mask elegantly tied about his neck and his eyelashes tipped with the local sand.

But it turns out that gently swaying down a quiet Spanish Island track on a camel is enormously relaxing. The sweet and juicy fig tops everything off. I'm pretty content too.

We're staying at the family-orientated Bahia Feliz Orquidea hotel, which has an excellent kids' club, child-friendly entertainment and a dedicated healthy buffet - and sounds like a travelling circus almost 24/7.

For children, the pool area is the world's best play-date on a grand scale - although they're not the ones who have had to furtively plant their towels on a sun lounger by 7am to secure a spot.

Arthur could spend an entire day larking about the splash park making friends, and the vast majority of parents look like they're very happy indeed to snoozily soak up the constant sun, tempered by the gentle sea breeze, while keeping half an eye on their children.

But as it's our first time out this way, I'm keen to have a look around, and a little break from the poolside clatter, so come 8.45am, we're heading out the front doors and into a 4x4 jeep for an off-road jaunt through the impressive Fataga valley.

I can warn you now to leave anyone averse to dust or who suffers from car sickness back at the pool. Our drive takes us through farmland and orchards where we gaze out over stunning arid canyons under a cloudless blue sky.

But then the real adventure starts as we cut off onto an unsealed road and tie our dust masks firmly over our mouths and nose for what can only be described as a bone-juddering, hour-long drive through the island's most spectacular scenery.

Within minutes, we're all exactly the same shade of beige, as our driver steers us along a narrow track edged by sheer drops and we learn that, unsurprisingly, the route is off-limits to regular traffic.

Just when it feels like our teeth are about to actually dislodge themselves, we reach the instant luxury of a sealed road and pull off to swap the jeep for a camel and our parched throats for the taste of juicy figs.

It's been an extraordinary way to see the landscape - not least because we're now coated in it - and it holds the added bonus of us now fantasising about diving back into the hotel pool.

An hour and a half later and we're staggering back into the hotel dining room for a late lunch, caked in dust and sweat. Being a family resort, we get only looks of slight confusion and pity, rather than anything sterner, and in no time at all, Arthur's back in the pool and I'm enjoying a cold beer.

We also make use of the hotel's kids' club, where Arthur emerges with a painted face and tales of treasure hunts around the resort, while I make use of the on-site Orquidea Club Spa, which is not part of the hotel, but just a step from its pool area.

It has a blissfully child-free pool that is just on the right side of freshly cold, as well as the usual range of pampering treatments - one of which removes all lingering tension from clinging to the seat of the jeep for an hour - and a beautiful indoor pool area that offers respite from the blazing sun, and is once again, a strictly adults-only zone.

And for anyone who assumes that, being a family resort, the food is a little ho-hum, the hotel's Taverna restaurant gets rave reviews on TripAdvisor - meaning it's frequently booked out - for serving delicious tapas, such as aubergine with palm tree honey.

We complete our final day with a visit to Maspalomas beach, just 10 minutes away by car, and another dream location for a child. Arthur is unsure whether to run first for the huge sand dunes at one end, or the handsome lighthouse at the other.

As ever, we reach a happy compromise with some shrieking in the waves followed by some quiet sandcastle-building while I take to a sun lounger. The holiday has probably been the noisiest I've ever been on, but we've both had fun.

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