This holiday was one of those Thomson all-inclusive packages I and Emma took while we were together. It was an unusual place, off the beaten track, new to "tourism" (you could tell by the lack of facilities), however I doubt if I would ever go there again.
Even the Thomson (rep) admitted it was a work in progress as far as activities were concerned, and you did get the impression they had to "make stuff up" in order for them to offer some money making upselling products to customers.
A modern Riu hotel in the oasis of sand in an unspoilt area of the coastline that was carved out in the name of tourism. Local people were the only ones to staff this spacious tourist monastic building, rising out of the earth with nothing nearby for miles. It was situated literally on the edge of the golden sands and blue sea on a remote island off the African coast.
All infrastructure had to be built and the fresh water used in the hotel is produced using "desalination" osmosis from sea water. This Riu was the first but a second one (we were told) would be built further down the coastline and of course gives work to the locals.
The accessibility was great inside and out, with level pathways, reasonable inclines (including one from main reception down to ground level) and included lifts to all floors. Initially I walked the prescribed route we were told to use to go from the reception area to our room. Luggage was taken to our room for us - good job really, because the route was a long, long way and there was no way I would be doing that again.
Luckily, we discovered a short cut through the entertainment area going past the dining room but the problem was that it included a number of sets of steps, some of which were steep.
Being an Island near Africa, culturally the decor was from that region. The ceiling was very tall and space was open. To the left is the way down to ground level.
Andy was becoming a regular Riu customer, having had a few holidays around the world with the chain being used by Thomson.
The hotel is right on the beach. Leave the gated area and you're there. Off shot are umbrellas and sun beds provided for a charge.
On the tour we stopped at various places for photo opportunities and one of them was the ship wreck on the beach. It was a bit of a trek down to the beach so I decided to stay put, near the vehicles. The other stops were in the local town and it was very hard to avoid the hard sell of tourist tat, which obviously formed the majority of the resident's income.
Houses made of breeze blocks covered with whitewash, where select ones were made more colourful by the addition of colours such as yellow and blue. The main buildings like this, the ones we saw, were places such as the church and school. It was apparent the poorness of the locals yet they were friendly, hospitable and always smiling. Tourism was a manufactured industry and I really got the impression it was a fine balance of abusing the island and helping the residents to progress forward with the introduction of work, technology and such like.
Visiting one beach on the tour it was several miles long, untouched, beautiful, golden sand and blue surf rolling over it. We were told that there were plans for another Riu Hotel right here. It had been a difficult landrover ride just to get there (so we could relax, swim and sunbathe). It wasn't just the hotel that needed to be built, but desalination and electrical supplies, roads, and everything needed to support tourism.
As an island paradise, in 2010, untouched by big tourism, it was to become something else - a monster of environmental development - but at what cost?