Gran Canaria: Nigel Williams chills out in a warm spot with his 14-year-old son, whose main interest proved to be the pool and food.
The blue water of the lake was inviting, but as I hobbled barefoot over stones at the edge, I braced myself for the icy shock. It never came. I launched myself into cool, refreshing waters and admired the view of a cloudless sky, rocky hills and the pines that shaded the lake shore.
Forget infinity and wave pools, this was the real thing – and the best way to cool down after the heat and dust of a 4x4 safari, even if I couldn’t persuade my 14-year-old son Tom to join in. All too soon it was over. “We leave in five minutes,” boomed Stephen, our tour leader.
A jovial, shaven-headed Englishman, he had swapped life as a lorry driver grappling with the M25 for an island in the sun. “It’s another day in paradise,” was his mantra. Gran Canaria is the most heavily populated of the Canaries, a cluster of islands in the Atlantic, but an autonomous region of Spain. It’s shaped like a volcanic cone, the highest point is at nearly 2,000 metres in the middle, and has been called a miniature continent with the sand dunes of Maspalomas on the coast to the mountains and ravines in the centre.
We had left behind the often ugly, overdeveloped coastal strip with its busy road, concrete hotels and apartment blocks, for the natural beauty to be found in the island’s interior. Our safari had begun at Puerto Rico on the coast where we had assembled for the obligatory group photo and split into parties of eight.
The road twisted through whitewashed villages, past pines, almond and banana trees, lime and orange groves, and candelabra-shaped cacti. We stopped for a refreshing papaya juice in a mountain cafe, and to admire the view with the Roque Nublo (rock in the clouds) pointing skywards like a spiky finger in the distance. After half an hour, we were ready for a water stop and Stephen’s impromptu lesson on how to prepare and eat a prickly pear (carefully).
We finally got rid of the dust by taking a shower back at the Hotel Orquidea in Bahia Feliz (happy bay), a small resort among the many that sprawl along the south east coast. With our poolside berth secured, I would have been happy to lie back with a book, but my son had other ideas. “Dad, I’m bored,” he said.
So we found ourselves boarding a bus for the Aqualand water park. The place is huge, with an array of twisting, plunging slides towering over the pools. A burger and chips later, I was eyeing the VIP area, a quiet sanctuary and serious chilling space. That idea was quickly sunk by my son with the oldest challenge in the book: “You’re not scared, are you?”
“Of course not.” But when I surveyed rides with names like Adrenalina, Aquamania and Kamikaze, I could feel the doubts grow. Soon, I was speeding down a tunnel in complete darkness, or being shaken and stirred in a giant rubber ring before being dumped over what felt like a precipice.
Back at the hotel, Tom was (finally) ready to unwind, taking over the jacuzzi that came with the master bedroom of our eighth-floor penthouse suite. It boasted stunning sea views, two balconies and other teenage must-haves, a fridge to be stocked with goodies and huge satellite TV. He also liked being able to graze for most of the day – from 7.30am until 9pm there’s always somewhere serving hot food, or cold snacks in the afternoon. Like an increasing number of holidays, this is on an all-inclusive basis.
I insisted we try the tapas at the El Sultan restaurant but Tom didn’t share my taste for the delicious sizzling chorizo cooked in Asturian cider, or the prawns in garlic and chilli. But we did agree that we preferred the pools to the beach, where the sand was a disappointing grey colour, though the sea was pleasant.
At my prompting, we tried a quieter, more cultural excursion and an hour’s bus ride took us to the island’s capital Las Palmas. The Santa Anna cathedral, and the bronze statues of the now-extinct dogs that originally inhabited the Canary Islands and gave them their name from the Latin, canis, left him unimpressed. And the mansion where Christopher Columbus is said to have stayed in 1492, which includes maps and charts of his voyages, also drew a blank. Time to admit defeat and with the prospect of a cooling swim. I didn’t mind a bit.
Nigel Williams was a guest of Thomson Holidays, which offer seven-night all-inclusive holidays to Gran Canaria staying at the Hotel Orquidea in Bahia Feliz from £680 per adult, £214 for first child and £254 (second) this summer. Departures from Manchester from £30 extra. Reservations: 0871 231 4691 or visit www.thomson.co.uk.