Rob Garratt gets the lowdown on the thrilling world-first rides set to be unveiled at Aquaventure waterpark at Atlantis The Palm later this month.
It’s no secret that Dubai attracts superlative world records and global firsts. But now alongside the emirate’s raft of tallest/newest/shiniest/gold-encrusted accolades, there are three more claims to excess soon to be announced – all in one place. Atlantis The Palm’s Aquaventure waterpark will shortly be unveiling the (deep breath) ‘world’s largest diameter slide’, the ‘world’s first vertical banking group ride with a double hump at the end’, and the ‘first double slide within a slide experience’ (we’ll explain that later). If all that sounds like something of a mouth full, allow us to simplify: the park is about to reveal a load of exciting new rides.
Call us big kids, but we couldn’t wait for the proposed late-August opening, so instead popped down for an exclusive nose around behind the scenes. While just weeks away from the red carpet moment, when we visited, the new area resembled a building site more than a family attraction, but between the looming cranes and scaffolding, we got a first-hand look at the spaghetti-like maze of curious green chutes, shafts, slides and pools which is set to be completed any day now.
Any prior visitor to Aquaventure will know the bulk of attractions were focused around the centrepiece, Tower of Neptune, which still stands tall and proud, but now that Roman deity has a neighbour. The park’s four new water rides are all entangled around the new Tower of Poseidon, which is in essence the same design and concept as its predecessor, it’s just, well, bigger, towering a good 10 metres over Neptune, at 40 metres in height. ‘It’s taller and more terrifying,’ says the park’s operations manager Tarek Abdeen, swiftly explaining what the Ancient Greek deity Poseidon has over its Roman cousin.
At this stage, none of the new rides have been officially named, and Atlantis is keeping much of the 17-hectare park’s finer details hush-hush. Despite this, Abdeen, 27, is visibly excited when we visit, bursting with enthusiasm for the grand opening. Strolling around the park, dodging potholes and discarded tools, he shows us a new family raft ride where six people will be able to plummet down a 156 metre chute together, culminating in a 25 metre zdrop with enough momentum to catapult the raft back up a 14 metre vertical bank at the bottom.
‘You’re going to be screaming with your friends on this one,’ the Egyptian national tells us – ‘everybody happy, laughing and scared at the same time.’
Another new favourite is a two-chute slide allowing friends to race around 182 metres of queasily winding twists and turns, with an open top to keep tabs on your opponent. This ride follows the same route as another six-person family raft ride, the two smaller chutes suspended above the larger slide – the widest in the world at 9.2 metres – meaning the racers whizz above the heads of the rafters below.
There’s also a vertiginous slide running through the centre of the tower, where two people are simultaneously dropped from trapdoor capsules to hurtle down 116 metres of slide, including a knee-jerking five metre vertical drop and a 360 degree loop taken at 60kph.
In addition to the four new water rides there’s a regional first – the Middle East’s longest zipline and the world’s first in a waterpark. At 500 metres long, it’s possible for guests to sweep through the sky at an altitude of 20 metres, with views of the Palm and beyond, between three stops connecting Poseidon, Neptune, and the park’s 700 metres of beach. ‘It’s going to be pretty exhilarating,’ laughs Abdeen.
More than 250 workers have put an estimated one million man hours into the project, using 550 tonnes of steel and 3,300 square metres of concrete.
The works have also seen the construction of a new locker area and an overhaul of the Barracuda restaurant to create a food court, which will offer at least eight outlets serving cuisine from around the world.
But clearly it’s the record-breaking rides which will be grabbing the headlines. We can’t help but notice there’s something of a waterpark race on in the UAE right now, with rival attractions competing to bring in fresh superlatives. Aquaventure’s expansion comes a year after Wild Wadi unveiled its new bigger, better trademark ride, the Jumeirah Sceirah, while some heavy competition weighed in south of the border when Yas Waterworld opened this January.
A day at the waterpark now appears to be both a must-do for visitors and a national pastime for residents.
‘GCC residents just love water parks,’ adds Abdeen. ‘You have different nationalities and expats, but because of the weather, everybody wants to come and enjoy the day outside.
‘I can’t wait to see the new rides and see the guests come down the slides smiling – that’s the high point of the year for me.’
Aquaventure’s Tower of Poseidon is expected to open late August. Open daily 10am-sunset. Atlantis The Palm (04 426 0000).
Other UAE Waterparks
Dreamland Aqua Park
The park can accommodate 7,000 visitors a day, and features over 14 water rides, as well as a go-carting circuit, a pet land, and courts to play basketball, volleyball, badminton and tennis. Umm Al Quwain is a one-hour drive from Dubai following signs from Ajman.
www.dreamlandaquapark.com (06 768 1888).
Ice Land Water Park
This vast park stretches across 100,000-plus square metres and claims to be the largest in the world, welcoming around 10,000 visitors a day. It boasts attractions including a full-size water football pitch, tundra baths (a modern take on the old-fashioned jacuzzi) and Penguin Falls, a man-made waterfall with caves for exploring.
Ras Al Khaimah, www.icelandwaterpark.com (07 206 7888).
Yas Waterworld is well-equipped with over 18 rides. The park is divided into four ‘thrill levels’: Adrenaline Rush, Exciting Adventure, Moving and Grooving and, finally, Young Fun, so visitors are sure to find the perfect ride to suit. Additional attractions include a souk, several stores, and restaurants.
Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, www.yaswaterworld.com (02 414 2000).
On a fun-filled day out for the whole family, visitors can chose from over 30 rides and attractions at the park, from the gentle Flood River, to the exhilarating tornadoes of Tantrum Alley. The park’s main attraction is the Jumeirah Sceirah, which stands at 32 meters high and is the tallest free-fall slide outside North America.
Jumeirah Beach Road, www.wildwadi.com (04 348 4444).