Water is central to the Phuket lifestyle and way of life. Since the distant past up to the present day, we literally cannot live without it. As an island locale, we’re surrounded by the essential life force and our lives revolve around it; the monsoons bless us with rain for two-thirds of the year, filling our reservoirs, canals, lakes and storage tanks. Indeed, water is everywhere and everything.
But just as it gives, nourishes and nurtures life, it can also destroy and end it. Sadly, many locals and visitors who cherish and depend on this valuable resource, have never properly learned how to survive in water – an untold number of drownings occur year-round, many of which could have been prevented with some basic swimming lessons.
Local hotelier and entrepreneur Mr Katha Watcharapin saw a golden opportunity to fill such an important need with his latest venture, Manta Kids Phuket.
Having just opened its doors on the bottom floor of the iconic Dara Hotel in Phuket Town, Manta Kids Phuket is the island’s first dedicated swimming academy for infants, toddlers and tykes, offering 10-week courses to learners as young as four months, up to six years old.
Featuring Phuket’s only climate-controlled, indoor swimming pool, Manta Kids Phuket uses curriculum from the Australian Swimming Coaches & Teachers Association (ASCTA), which is instructed by experienced, trained and dedicated instructors.
“Encouraging your child to be able to have confidence and survival skills in the water is a fundamental duty of parents,” comments Mr Katha.
“There is a common misconception that kids should be older before they start learning how to swim, but a lot of research suggests otherwise … We found that infants adapt to the water quite easily and thus develop confidence and skills more rapidly.
“Even when kids start by the age of two or three, may have some difficulties getting use to the water at first. For babies, it’s like going back to their mother’s wombs, where they were immersed in water.”
Mr Katha, who is also the owner of the Dara Hotel – located across from Wichit Songkhram School on Chalermprakiet Rd, near the Central Intersection – got inspired for this venture, not only as a keen and clever business man, but as a father of a two and a half year old daughter.
“From the start of my wife’s pregnancy, we did a lot of research about child health and development. As parents, we can’t cut any corners and must give the best we can for our kids,” he told The Phuket News.
“We have to ensure that our child doesn’t become another unnecessary statistic, and we quickly found that there is a great need in Phuket. In Bangkok, there are many swimming schools and academies for infants and it’s really popular there, but there really isn’t anything in Phuket.”
So he opened his own Manta Kids franchise, which is based on the mother franchise in Bangkok.
“Many of the other swimming school and programmes here tend to be oriented for athletes and competition for older learners. And one problem with outdoor pools, is you are really limited by the weather here, especially during the wet season.
With courses offered, year round, Manta Kids Phuket facilitates a unique “family oriented” experience, as the parents actively participate in the learning process.
“Having parents or another close family member in the water with the child is essential. Young babies and kids need someone they trust to hold and guide them. Our instructors direct the activities and training pace based on the curriculum, and learning takes place both in and out of the water.”
Mr Katha explains that with swimming, like all disciplines and skills, practice makes perfect.
“The parents are encouraged to practice the rudiments and exercises as often as possible at home, in between their weekly classes. We are there to guide them weekly, but much of the learning and development will be fostered between the parent and child bonding.”
Other family members are welcome to offer encouragement and observe classes from the pool side seating area, or refresh with a coffee, hot chocolate or snack from the adjacent “Kaap Kaap” Cafe. The Manta Kids curriculum comprises three stages – Manta Splash (four-18 months old); Manta Swirl (18-42 months old) and Manta Swim (3.5-6 years old) – offering a total of nine levels and respective skillsets.
“The point is not to rush the children through the levels, but to gradually develop the skills and confidence and advance only when the child is ready. Each child is different, depending on many factors,” notes Mr Katha.
To inquire about Manta Kids Phuket courses, curriculum, instructors, schedules and fees, contact the academy on 095 452 4241, or visit them on facebook.com/mantakidsphuket. Refer to this article to receive a free trial class.