A s the orange sun sets over the Mediterranean, the sound of young, energetic male voices fills the air. A moment passes before I recognise the familiar Horslips tune floating from the second floor window of a block of holiday apartments. A large Irish flag is draped over the balcony where a group of teenage boys shout with glee at the bikini-clad girls in the apartment next door who are busy applying make-up for the night ahead.
Fliers litter the pavement advertising foam parties, washing machine parties and glow-paint parties. The rising hum of dance beats can be heard at the end of the street where neon signs have begun to light up. Girls in string tops and hot pants walk up and down the strip in platform heels, enticing customers into the numerous bars that line the beach.
Welcome to Magaluf, notorious for debauchery, rowdy drunkenness and, sadly, the number of tourists falling from hotel balconies in a drunken stupor. Situated on the southwest coast of the island of Mallorca, Magaluf, along with its neighbour Santa Ponsa, has become a hot spot for post-Leaving Cert students looking to indulge in a week of 24/7 partying, having finally escaped the grasp of CAO points and exam timetables.
“We were told by so many people go to Santa Ponsa because it’s more Irish than Magaluf,” Tiarna Dermody from Portlaise tells me as I pull up a chair in her beachside apartment.
Sunscreen and alcohol
I’ve travelled the 8km from Magaluf to visit Santa Ponsa, the location favoured by Leaving Cert students from outside Dublin. Dermody tells me she’s met people from Cork, Armagh, Longford, Galway, Tipperary and Wicklow, but no one from Dublin. “There’s no Dubliners here, they’re a lot more wild,” her friend Shannen Kearney adds.
The girls, former students of Scoil Chríost Rí, have come on holiday with a group of male friends from Naas who are staying in the apartment next door. They sit around a sparsely decorated living area in light summer dresses and flip-flops, while a distinct smell of sunscreen mixed with alcohol lingers in the air.
Caoimhe Dollard tells me she’s been looking forward to the holiday all year and in preparation used a sunbed for two months. “I wanted to get a base-tan before the holiday,” she says, explaining that each session cost 90c a minute.
The girls admit they were nervous before arriving in Santa Ponsa, having heard stories of robberies and attacks in the resort. “We were so terrified we weren’t going to be safe here, that we’d get robbed and couldn’t bring anything with us,” says Dermody. “But you actually feel safe, everyone is so nice.
“It’s unreal here with the atmosphere. There’s music everywhere and everyone is 18.”
Getting a tan
Before travelling, they made a pact to look out for one another at night. They’ve also agreed to review the sleeping arrangements should one of them decide to bring a young man home for the night.
However, they’re actually far more interested in getting a good tan and argue there’s very little pressure on 18-year-old girls to have sex on a Leaving Cert holiday. It’s a different story for the young men.
“Girls are here for the sun and to have fun, but with the lads, sex is just on their brain,” says Dermody. “Every lad here wants to pull, that’s their main goal. Especially once they get drunk; it’s just straight out, let’s go.”
Down the corridor, the “Naas boys” are “pre-drinking” before heading out for the night. We crowd into a tiny livingroom while the boys sit back and crack open cans of beer. They tell me they organised the holiday months in advance and are paying €110 each for a week for the apartment. Dermody and her friends are paying the bargain sum of €65 each for the week.
When I ask whether sex is an important part of the holiday, I’m greeted with nervous laughter, broken by a number of sex-related jokes. A voice from the back of the room pipes up: “It’s not like it has to happen, you’d be pleased with just getting a shift.”
“But we’re not here to pull Naas girls,” he adds quickly. The young man speaking from the back of the room refuses to give his name but reminds me they’ve come abroad to meet new girls.
“You don’t want to go in and shift the same girl that you could go in and shift in the local place. Anything outside the Naas radius is game.”
‘Best week ever
’ The lads plan on taking their time with the drink as they turned up at the nightclub far too early the night before.
“Last night we stayed here drinking for four hours but I think we could push it tonight because it was quiet when we got out,” says Darren McCabe. “ We were eager to get out because it was our first night.”
And why did these 11 young men choose Santa Ponsa for their holiday? “It’s cheap as shit,” says Niall Aherne without a moment’s hesitation.The boys says they will probably get “hammered” every night on alcohol, but have zero interest in any of the drugs that are readily available in the resort. “We all know people who would take them but we’re not into that,” says McCabe.
After only one night in Santa Ponsa the boys admit they are a bit disappointed with the nightlife. “We expected loads and loads of people, absolute mayhem,” says Shane Murphy.
“And there’s, like, one girl to every sixteen lads,” adds Aherne to nods of agreement. “It’s shite.”
The quieter nightlife has not deterred the group from enjoying themselves though. They’d already joined the girls for a skinny-dipping session the night before on the beach.
Murphy is determined to make the most of the holiday, saying he feels real pressure to enjoy himself.
“You hear it will be the best week ever and you think, ‘Shit, I better make it good.’ ”
The lads tell me they plan to visit the infamous BCM nightclub in Magaluf which holds 6,000 people. They become even more excited when I tell them my flight to Mallorca was packed with Dublin girls. The club charges a whopping €50 at the door, but the boys assure me its worth it given the unlimited access to free alcohol throughout the night.
Meanwhile, Dermody and her friends are feeling nervous about making the trip down the road to Magaluf.
“I’d be kind of intimidated in Magaluf, I don’t know why but I’m nervous,” says Dermody. “I’ve heard stories about a lot more drugs being there, a lot of fights and lots of prostitutes apparently in the streets.”
Somewhat reluctantly the girls say they’ll visit Magaluf before the end of the week, but the lads are raring to go. I tell them I plan on going out in Magaluf the next night and we agree to meet up.
The following evening I set off to check out the Magaluf nightlife. Throughout the day I’ve watched both teenagers and adults drinking cans of beer and bottles of vodka on the beach, ready to get the party started. I’m surprised to see families with children around town, but they hastily retreat to their hotels before the sun sets.
South Dublin delegation
I’m on my way to meet the south Dublin delegation which was so well represented on my flight to Mallorca. The young Foxrock lady sitting beside me on the plane advised, with real concern in her voice, that it would be better not to wear expensive jewellery in Magaluf.
“We feel we have to take precautions; we’re going to hide our cash in shampoo bottles,” she says. “No one is bringing their iPhone. You want to look nice when you’re going out but don’t wear anything expensive.”
“I didn’t bring any of my nice bags.” I later see her showing a friend the handbag she’s brought for the trip which “only” cost €90.
I meet a group of former Muckross Park College students in the Fiesta Sahara Apartments, 10 minutes walk from the centre of Magaluf. They're staying directly across from Mallorca Rocks, the biggest party hotel in town. Only 24 hours on the island and I'm already well aware that Mallorca Rocks is the spot to stay in.
However, the Dublin girls say they wanted a break from seeing the same faces all the time.
“Literally all our friends are staying in Mallorca Rocks,” says Daneka Stewart from Ballinteer. “This place was cheaper as well and we were comfortable not having people we know in our face 24/7.”
Money has been a real issue for these girls since they arrived. They say they’ve brought enough to make it through the week (€200-€400) but feel real pressure from the holiday reps to spend a lot more.
“The reps tried to talk us into getting bands that cost €130 just to get into every club, but we knew realistically that was a waste of money,” says Orla Byrne from Dundrum.
“There was one girl who was trying to convince us to do everything,” adds Isabelle Henry-Hayes from Churchtown. “She was taken aback when we said we only had €200 and was a bit rude to us.”
I ask the girls how it feels to finally be free from school and parents.
“I just want a change of routine,” says Isabelle. “My reality has been school everyday, the same thing for about 14 years.”
The girls tell me they need to change before going to see DJ Disclosure perform at BCM that night; they’ve decided to splurge and spend the €50 each on tickets. I arrange to meet them outside the club later in the night and begin walking towards Punta Ballena, the main bar-strip running through the centre of Magaluf.
When I get there, it is already teeming with drunk (mostly) English and Irish tourists of all ages. Clothing is beginning to fall off and I can’t help noticing the growing number of bare breasts on show as I make my way to the nearest tattoo parlour.
The owner, one of the first Spaniards I’ve come across, says he can expect up to 200 customers in a night. He shows me pictures of the most popular tattoos of the season – “Maga2014” and “Magaluf2014”. When I ask him where on the body people choose to inscribe this permanent mark, he laughs.
“On their ass, always on their ass.”
Across the street I notice a waitress cleaning tables at a KFC outlet. I approach and ask what time she’s expected to work until. “KFC stays open all night,” she tells me with a sigh, adding that the busiest hours are from 2-6am.
Nearby, an older couple sit on a roadside bench with a look of fear mixed with amusement plastered across their faces. It turns out they’re visiting from Sweden and are waiting for their son to meet them. I can see the tension in the woman’s body as she looks down the street.
“We’re waiting for a taxi to take us back to our hotel in Palma Nova,” she says with a degree of hope in her voice. I follow her gaze down Punta Ballena which is now jammed with people. There is no way a car will make it through those crowds to rescue this poor couple. The only way out is on foot.
Back at BCM, I run into Stewart, Henry-Hayes and Byrne again who are now dolled-up and ready for a night of dancing. I can’t help noticing they’re wearing quite stylish outfits and have less skin on show than the average Magaluf partygoer.
“The people here dress like third-years; we’re not 12 anymore,” says Henry-Hayes. “I don’t think it’s attractive flaunting everything.”
Byrne agrees. “You’re putting out a message saying ‘I’m easy’. I’m surprised people still do that.”
“I understand that it’s warmer here and maybe things do get shorter but you can still put your bum away,” says Stewart.
Nearby a girl is downing a bottle of white wine, while her friends, who are covered in face paint and body jewels, cheer her on. I learn they’re from Kerry and Cork and have been living in Santa Ponsa for over a month.
“We’ve gone out every single night,” says Rachel from Kerry. “We couldn’t miss a night out.”
The girls are regulars at BCM and describe for me the exotic dancers who decorate their naked bodies with tassels and butterfly wings.
At around 2am, I head back to Punta Ballena where I meet up with the Naas boys and join them for a drink in Bonkers bar. They’ve just arrived from Santa Ponsa and are delighted to have finally unearthed the chaos and mayhem they hoped for in a Leaving Cert holiday.
“This is a million times better than Santa Ponsa,” says Murphy, before downing a luminous green shot. “It’s exactly what we were expecting from the holiday.”
The lads offer me a taste of the sugary concoction they’re drinking which, as far as I can tell, is a mixture of Red Bull, lemonade and a tablespoon of sugar.
As they get ready to hit the dance floor, I pull them aside and ask who is planning to pull a girl. Every single hand shoots up. It’s clear there’s no lack of ladies tonight.
A few hours later I make my way down the promenade towards my hotel. It’s 5am and the party is still raging, but after 12 hours on my feet, it’s time to call it a night.
I get up early the following morning to allow time for a swim before my flight home. I emerge from the hotel expecting war-torn streets, filled with bodies and debris. I’m surprised to find families walking along spotless pavements, while council workers empty bins and clean windows.
I do notice a group of frail and debilitated partygoers, dragging themselves towards the bus stop. Yet they are from a different world – they belong to the deafening inferno I left a few hours before.
The morning sunshine has erased all traces of vomit and alcohol, in preparation for a new day of sun, sand and fiesta in the town of Magaluf.