Review: CHM Monta in Vendays-Montalivet, France

Review: CHM Monta in Vendays-Montalivet, France

The origin of naturism has been subject to a lot of debate. Many historians who studied the lifestyle will point out a period in early 20th century when the German Dr. Heinrich Scham wrote the book Nacktkultur. Some however say it started already during the industrial revolution when a Belgian guy first used the term “naturism”. And others will tell you that it was way earlier, during the Roman times, when naked sports were more common than clothed ones.
Honestly, we don’t have a clue who’s right. But what we do know is that there’s a place in southern France which has been significant for the organisation of “modern” naturism: Centre Hélio-Marin in Montalivet, or shortly: CHM Monta, because that’s where in 1953 the International Naturist Federation (INF-FNI) was founded.
And guess what… We’ve been there.

 

During the last decades, CHM Monta has grown from a small naturist spot at the beach to a naturist paradise which can accommodate up to 12 000 visitors in the heat of the summer. And yet they have been able to stick to their values. While reading the campgrounds charter and watching the many genius cartoon signs we imagined that the blog post we’ve written some time ago about whether naturist resorts which hold on to the traditional values still have a future could as well have been written here.
Maintaining a clothing prohibited atmosphere in such a large place is of course an impossible job. Every minute of the day someone is arriving or leaving or getting a bit chilly. Yet there are many staff members who will question your amount of textile if you clearly don’t have any reason for wearing them. These staff members are supported by three naturist clubs within the campground: CLN, CSBCA & NACA.
This is a place where naturism is still standing strong.

Location
Montalivet is a small village located at the magnificent Atlantic coast in France, in the area that’s called the Bay of Biscay. Most Western Europeans opt to self drive to the campground. Coming from the south it’s best to follow direction Bordeaux and drive north from there. Coming from the north or east you could also opt to drive to Nantes and go south from there, crossing the Gironde river in Royan. Also those coming from the UK can take the ferry to France in Bournemouth and then follow directions to Nantes/Royan.
Coming by plane, your best bet will be to fly into Bordeaux airport, which serves many European destinations. From outside of Europe you’ll probably have to take a connecting flight in Paris, or you could take the high speed train from there which will bring you to Bordeaux in about 2 hours. Public transport is available from Bordeaux, especially during high season, but if you’d like to explore some of the surroundings we can strongly advise you to rent a car at the airport.

Accommodation
Where on earth can you bring those 12 000 naked people together? Well, a 200ha piece of land is a good start. Divide this land into somewhat 2 000 individual spots and there you are. Of course such a large group of people have many different requirements when it comes to the perfect place to spend their summer so the range of accommodation types is huge. Many tent and camper pitches are available for those who prefer to bring their own home away from home. If you prefer a bit more comfort (or in some cases a lot) there are several sizes of ready set luxury tents available for rent as well as mobile homes, chalets and studios.

 

Although CHM Monta is a huge place, we can imagine that it does get packed during the peaks of high season. But we’ve noticed before that this doesn’t need to be something negative. In other places around the world it has shown that being close to your neighbours often improves the community feeling and the social aspect. Two values which are very important for naturists.
At CHM, the choice is yours. The campground is divided in about twenty different “neighbourhoods” and just like in any kind of village, those around the heart of CHM are the most densely packed. If waking up and hearing “good morning” from every direction is your thing, try to get hold of a spot in La Lande, Bruyeres or Ecuruils. The larger chalets which you find in for example Atlantique, Medoc or Polynesie provide much more privacy and for those who prefer a real camping in the woods feeling there are the neighbourhoods near the ocean like Sables.
We very much enjoyed our fully equipped mobile home in the La Lande neighbourhood, the roaring of the ocean was the perfect song to put us to bed and we couldn’t imagine a better way to wake up than with the friendly smiles of our German and French neighbours.

Facilities
It’s impossible to list all the facilities of CHM without having to write a book about them. Take all the things you’ve ever seen at a naturist place and bring them together and you might get a slight idea. But you’ll have to add a lot more, some things you’ve probably never even heard of. Mini-ten for example which has actually been invented here. The court looks the same as a tennis court but smaller and instead of rackets you use some kind of wooden glove to hit the ball to each other (we understand if you have no clue what we’re talking about, really, you have to see this for yourself). A great way to spend an hour or two in the late afternoon. You can just rent the equipment and give it a try for yourself or you could take a class to learn the tricks to become a professional mini-tenner. Who knows it might be added to the Olympics one day.
For the active ones among you, all different kinds of sports can be practiced. From petanque which is still the unofficial French national sport to more adventurous ones like diving. It’s even possible to do you level one diving course at CHM.

 

If there’s one sport for which the Atlantic is famous, it’s of course surfing. Its waves are just perfect to give you a cool ride on a board without having to risk your life. And it’s one of the few places around the world where you can still surf like it was initially invented in Hawaii: naked.
One afternoon we and a sixty-something couple (many respect for them!) were ready to receive our surf initiation from Yann, one of the local surf instructors. One toe in the chilly late September ocean water was enough to convince us that it was probably better to be naked inside a wetsuit but nevertheless we had an amazing time. Although we have to mention some jealousy when the sixty two year old lady was the first one to catch a wave.

Surfing does put a lot of pressure on certain muscles of which you had no idea that they exist so the next day our first (and only) plan was the spa. A perfect choice. The serene atmosphere inside the spa together with the relaxing music make you completely forget the time. You could have been in this large hot tub for only seconds or forever, you don’t have a clue until the friendly girl from the reception comes whispering in your ear that it’s time for your massage. We can highly recommend to try the Ayurvedic massage, really, if there’s anything you just HAVE to do at this spa it’s that one. It blew our minds.
Afterwards you just head back to the hot tub or sauna or hammam to lose time again, until your stomach starts telling you that it really wants some attention as well.
We can certainly recommend the Gaia restaurant near the water park for some delicious food, it has a surf bar like atmosphere which will make you feel like a real surfer even if you’ve never managed to stand up on your board. The fish restaurant at the commercial center serves delicious and cheap lunches.

 

You see? We’ve only talked about a fraction of the facilities and this is already becoming a very long piece… But there’s one thing we still have to mention, especially if you’re interested in the naturist lifestyle and the history of it: The Museum Albert & Christiane Lecocq. They were the founders of CHM and have been a huge influence on what worldwide naturism is today. It’s located in the cabin where they used to live and you can find photos, newspaper articles and many artefacts from back in the day. Look out for what’s called “The Minimum”. It’s a hilarious piece of clothing which was used when full nudity was not yet allowed on the beach.
Oh and one more thing: bring a bike or rent one of you don’t want to spend most of your holiday walking.
Oh and one more thing: try the waterpark, it’s amazing.
Oh and one… nah, we’ll leave you with that.

Surroundings
Let’s say you’ve booked at CHM for two or three months, then you might actually find some time to explore what’s to see outside of the campground. But you’ll have to put on some clothes though.
The open-air summer market in Montalivet town (just about 1km away) is the largest at the Atlantic coast and the perfect place to find souvenirs for those who stayed at home, or for yourself of course. Another nice half day trip could bring you to Verdon-sur-Mer at the tip of the peninsula from where you can visit the Cordouan lighthouse, the oldest one in France.
If architectural beauty is more your thing, you should certainly put a visit to the towns Lousac and Royan on your itinerary where you can spend several hours awing at the typical historical buildings. The whole area is perfect for cycling and if you take the Medoc route you’ll find about 200 different chateaux where you can taste delicious wines. In fact, everywhere you go you’ll be tasting something, cheese, foie gras, oysters, seafood, you name it. It’s all a speciality here.
For amazing historical beauty, the city Bordeaux is only somewhat 90km away. It’s UNESCO World Heritage and the historical center takes you back to the early eighteen hundreds. Don’t forget to appreciate the landscape along your way.

Staff
Bringing thousands of naturists together requires a lot of work, this is something we often forget while we are on holiday. Somewhat 200 staff members work full time through the summer months (excluding staff in restaurants) to make your experience a perfect one. Fifty of those are animators whose task is to build an impressive curriculum of activities. Sports for all age groups, kids disco, aqua fitness, yoga, about 10 different dance classes, even more art classes and this list goes on and on. Try to name an activity and you’re very likely to find it at CHM. Did we hear anyone say Tarot? Yep, that’s on Friday at 8pm. Theatre for adults? On Monday. Concerts? Several days a week… Wait wait wait… A marathon! Make sure to not drink too much wine on Saturday because Sunday morning you’re on!
We noticed again the strong naturist feeling when we saw the family activities. Of course you like to drop off your young ones at Kid’s Island while you’re going to the spa, but you do want to do some things together other than have lunch and dinner, right? The often organised family games and contests like sandcastle building are just perfect for that.

 

Another number that blew our minds was the number of security staff: 70. That’s much more than the police corps at the average town with ten thousand inhabitants… And of course we start thinking “why is this necessary?” and of course dark thoughts start coming to our minds. The staff members relaxed us though, most of the time they are just there to provide a secure environment and most of their interventions include waving down speeding drivers or kids who ride their bike without lights during the evening. Probably also grownups by the way.

Guests
For such a big place we had not really dared to imagine that we would find the friendly atmosphere we were used to find a smaller naturist spots. And yet that was exactly what was there. Friendliness all over the place. Everyone we met, from our neighbours to the people sitting next to us at the restaurant to strangers passing us by on the way to the beach smiled at us and greeted us with a bonjour or bonsoir. Was it because the naturist values that are still promoted that the community feeling has been able to maintain, even in such a large scale? We can’t say, but there must be something in the air that makes people realise that friendliness doesn’t cost a cent and that respect is something you earn by giving it away. A kind of respect we found in several different ways, from the friendly people to the spotless nature to a volunteer organisation inside CHM which takes care of stray cats.

 

 

Summary
CHM Monta is much more than just being naked. It’s one of those places that really keep the naturist spirit alive. Respect for each other and for nature are highly promoted and this is reflected in a friendly community where you can chose to relax all day or keep you and your active family busy for every second of your stay.

 

Read more about CHM Monta on  NUDE
More info and reservations: http://www.chm-montalivet.com
More photos: On our Facebook

 

Disclaimer: We have been invited as guests of CHM Monta, but of course all opinions are our own. We are super confident you will love this place as much as we did!

12 thoughts on “Review: CHM Monta in Vendays-Montalivet, France

  1. “In other places around the world it has shown that being close to your neighbours often improves the community feeling and the social aspect. Two values which are very important for naturists.”
    Maybe you should invite Bart from Belgium there…

  2. I have already heart talking about Montalivet which is a really giant place. I dream to go there.
    Thank you for this article and the one about Euronat (which seems to be an intersting place too).
    But I worry about Atlantic ocean. I enjoy to go skinny dipping in the sea but I know that there are in Atlantic very strong and dangerous streams that may take away bathers from a few meters from the beach to hundreds meters (they call it baïnes : http://www.sudouest.fr/2011/07/31/les-baines-piege-de-l-ocean-464163-3394.php).
    Unfortunately (or fortunately), I do not think you had temperature to go skinny dipping. But do you have heart talking about it in Euronat and Montalivet. I do not think that there are some safety guards on these beaches. Thanks

    1. Indeed, the currents at the Atlantic can be pretty strong but in fact both CHM and Euronat have safeguards on their beaches. It’s also announced whether the sea is suitable to swim in or not.

      1. Same on Arna further down the coast. And you have to watch out for suddenly appearing thunderstorms in which case the lifeguards are evacuating the beach (happened to us last year, watching the storm building up at the horizon was quite a spectacular sight!). I used to go on holiday at the Danish west coast when i was a child, but the sea in Landes is even rougher. Which of course is fun, but also dangerous.

  3. Hi delighted to see this post. I just booked 9 nights in chm in early July. Myself and wife and 3 year old and baby to be. Glad to hear the great reviews.
    Do the staff hassle you about clothes outside of the pool area or is it relaxed. My wife is not a full naturist if you know what I mean.
    Would love to hear more about it. Any pictures?

    1. Great! Nice to hear you’re going as well!
      Nudity is very much encouraged at CHM, you’ll see the many signs. But outside of the pool area and as part of a couple your wife is quite unlikely to be commented on by the staff.
      Have fun this summer!

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