Waterparks in the UAE
We stay cool at the country's top water attractions Discuss this article
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When searching for a way to cool off during the summer months, thoughts usually turn to water. Unfortunately, the sea is beginning to resemble a hot bath, and while the temperature-regulated pools in apartment blocks are all well and good, they lack that special something when it comes to keeping us entertained. Fortunately, there are plenty of waterparks in the UAE, where the water always feels cooler and there’s far more fun to be had. We’ve visited five of the best, including new-kid-on-the-block Wadi Adventure, which requires skills rather than rubber rings, and old favourites such as Dreamland for a day out that’s both fun and relaxing in equal measure.
Visited them all? Hold out for the new waterpark under development on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island: this new Dhs606 million project is slated to open towards the end of the year, and will include more than 40 rides and attractions. Until then, make the most of the UAE’s best H20-heavy playgrounds for kids and big kids alike. To help you choose, we’ve rated them by the length of their queues, number of rides and size of the lifeguard squads as well as the added extras. It’s a long summer ahead, so plenty of time to try them all.
Holly Sands tries white-water rafting at the new adventure park in sunny Al Ain.
As the Middle East’s first man-made white-water rafting, kayaking and surfing spot, Wadi Adventure offers something very different to the rest of the UAE’s water-oriented leisure destinations. There are no rides, slides or lazy rivers here, which explains why the management don’t like it being referred to as a waterpark (in fairness, it’s the only place we visited where we were made to watch a safety briefing before we hit the changing rooms). It’s about an hour and 45 minutes from Dubai by car (make that three hours if you find yourself hopelessly confused by Al Ain’s many roundabouts), and I’ve opted to pay a visit to try my hand at
white-water rafting. Strolling past the surfing pool (where waves reach heights of up to 3.3 metres) and the vertiginous ‘air park’ adventure course, which combines a climbing wall, high-rope course, zip line and falling swing (harnesses included, phew) I arrive at the rafting and kayaking runs. First up is the safety DVD: white-water rafting poses dangers and there is the potential to injure yourself, but I’m told this risk will be minimised if I follow the instructions.
After a quick change into swimwear and some old trainers (essential, as you’ll be using your feet to hold yourself in the raft), I’m strapped into a helmet and life jacket. There are two instructors in the raft, and before we set off on the easier blue run we practise paddling together. (Note: make sure you go with friends – the instructors can be a little surly.) There are three white-water runs of varying intensity, with a combined length of 1.13km. The blue run proves to be very gentle, and we paddle the full length without incident – I’m grateful for the relaxed practice run. Once we return to the holding pool, it’s time to get out of the raft and carry it across to the start of the black run – which, as the name infers, is the toughest of the three.
Unfortunately, we’re behind a couple of kayaks and I’m in a raft full of people whose sole aim seems to be to flip their vessel. As we shoot over and bounce down the rapids, there are a couple of occasions when I have to quickly pull my oar up to avoid hitting the dinghy in front. As we navigate the first big drop, I slip off the side and into the centre of the boat, then struggle to get back into a rhythm and maintain my balance when I haul myself back up.
If you’re planning a visit, try to go on weekdays if you have the time, as we’re told the centre gets extremely busy on weekends. The park is open late during the week (until 11pm), so a post-work trip should be possible for most. Yes, it’s a bit of a drive, but there’s nowhere else you can brave white-water rafting, a zip line and three-metre waves in one visit. Just make sure you have plenty of friends along for the ride.
General admission Dhs100 (adults), Dhs50 (children). Surf pool Dhs100 for 55 minutes; kayaking Dhs100 per day; white-water rafting Dhs100 for 90 minutes; climbing wall Dhs40 for 20 minutes; air park and zip line Dhs50 per day; giant swing Dhs25 per ride. Lessons available. Lockers Dhs25, towels Dhs20. Open Sun, Tue-Wed noon-11pm; Thu noon-midnight; Fri noon-midnight (surf sessions 9am-noon); Sat noon-11pm (family swim morning 9am-noon). Al Ain, www.wadiadventure.ae (03 781 8422).
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