Our not terribly game writer Jolene Dearsley finally finds her perfect sport on an all-action break at a Mark Warner resort on the Italian island
Our first sporty holiday was beginning to look like a big mistake. In the words of 80s tennis ace John McEnroe, I screamed: “You cannot be serious!”
My boyfriend Joe had just called match point for the third time – my cue to throw my racket on the floor and storm back to my sun lounger.
My usual sunshine breaks consist of lying flat for most of the day, moving only to reapply sun cream or to order a mojito.
So Mark Warner, with its program of watersports, cycling, body pump, tennis, and volleyball left me feeling quite exhausted. And that was before we’d left the airport.
I’d like to think of myself as a sports fan, a team player, a person up for trying everything once. But frankly, I’m none of those things. I’m far from sporty and a sore loser (tennis excluded, as Joe cheated!), but I was determined to change.
We were staying in Eastern Sardinia, at Mark Warner’s Perdepera resort, a two-hour scenic drive from Cagliari airport.
It’s a little out of the way, with Tortoli, the nearest town, a 30-minute drive away. But with a stunning beach and so much on offer at the resort, we didn’t once feel the need to escape at all.
After breakfast on the first morning we met all the instructors, who stood on stage in the outdoor theatre to talk through their activities. The beach is set against magnificent tree-lined mountains, and has a private section for the hotel, with a beach bar and free watersports.
We went early season, and had the beach to ourselves most days. The windsurfing looked a little too strenuous for me, so I watched from my sun lounger, as people battled to hold themselves up. You could row out quite far in the kayaks, and once we escaped the windsurfers we’d float around sunbathing.
The paddleboards were a great way of getting an all-round tan, and good for the bingo wings. We spoke to many sailing enthusiasts who flock to Mark Warner for free first-class tuition on catamarans, or for reasonably priced courses.
Stay here in the height of summer and it’s a pricey holiday – but out of school holidays, it’s much more reasonable. Nearly all activities are free. Just a few cost extra. We signed up for a half-day snorkelling trip for €20 (£15), and headed off on a RIB to a nearby secluded bay. It’s no Great Barrier Reef, but a fun experience and a nice way to meet fellow guests.
You can also borrow free mountain bikes. Joe was so excited about that I humoured him and signed up for the 16km mountain ride. After admitting to Chris, our instructor, that I hadn’t ridden a bike for 15 years, he advised me to start with a 4km guided tour. I was really impressed with myself until people started whizzing past me on the last hill, when I realised my limitations and removed my name from the 16k ride!
But the staff and instructors were professional and keen to go the extra mile – a huge part of the Mark Warner experience.
The hotel’s restaurant runs on a full board basis and to my delight, includes good wine on tap. It sits around the main pool with indoor and outdoor tables and offers a vast buffet for lunch and dinner.
There were also three a la carte nights during our week. The food was lovely – prawn risotto with chilli bubble & squeak cakes to start and succulent chicken breast with vegetables for main.
Rooms aren’t ultra luxurious, but have all the essentials and are dotted around in cute little cottages with shaded patio areas, ideal for enjoying a glass of prosecco.
Children had evening clubs (as well as daytime ones) so parents could eat in peace. The evening entertainment was pretty relaxed. There were quizzes in the bar area. Joe and I failed miserably, so we naturally approached the winning team to ask if we could join. They declined!
Another team took pity and let us join, but we still lost. For the last quiz I was feeling so competitive I rounded up half the people round the pool, but we were up against a family of Mensa members.
And the wifi was touch and go, so we couldn’t even cheat. Still, at least I’d found my perfect sport.
When to go: The tourist season is mid-June to mid- September, but you can visit all year round. In summer temperatures can reach 30 ̊C.
Top tip: If you like to shop or need gifts for those back home, sign up for the coach trip to Tortoli where you can stroll round the bustling markets and souvenir shops.
Book it: Seven nights in Mark Warner at Perdepera starts from £641pp which includes return BA flights, resort transfers, and full-board accommodation with wine, most activities, and free childrens’ clubs. markwarner.co.uk 0333 3057 442