Showpiece rides: The big attraction here is the Leap of Faith, a 27.5m vertical plummet that shoots riders through a shark tank (albeit enclosed inside a Perspex tube).
Other rides: There are lots, plus a huge lazy river, although aside from the Leap of Faith they’re all tube-based rides and don’t really have much to differentiate them from each other – they all feature varying twists, turns, dips and dark sections. Many of the rides are linked to the lazy river by ingenious aquatic conveyor belts, so you don’t even need to get out of your rubber ring.
Queues: The queues are entirely dependent on the time of day you visit. Arrive when the park opens at 10am and you’ll never have to wait more than five minutes; turn up post-3pm and you could well be queuing for more than half an hour. That said, the queuing system is orderly – no queue jumpers here.
Other facilities: The park is spotlessly clean, boasting a huge beach, aquarium, plenty of cafés and restaurants, a kids’ area, dolphin experiences and even diving (the latter two for an extra charge). For an extra Dhs50 guests can also tour Atlantis’s Lost Chambers aquarium.
Well attended? There are lifeguards every 10 metres or so on each ride, so families always feel safe and well looked after.
Best for…an all-round experience for every age group
UAE Residents summer rate! Dhs185 (adults), Dhs160 (kids less than 1.2m tall). Under two, free. ID required. Open daily 10am-sundown. Atlantis The Palm www.atlantisthepalm/aquaventure (04 426 0000).
Dreamland Aqua Park
Showpiece rides: There are several: raft ride, wave pool (the largest in the region), Twisting Dragons (three intertwined water tubes that are pitch black inside), Kamikazi slides (very steep, very fast), the Twister (a huge bowl that swishes you round and drops you out the bottom), the Dreamstream (a lazy river), the Slam Dunk pool (for water ball games) and three family play pools.
Other rides: There are around nine, excluding the children’s activity pool areas, which feature smaller slides, tubes, tipping buckets, squirty things and even a volcano.
Queues: The park gets busy on Fridays, but even so the rides are well managed and you don’t have to wait long for your turn.
Other facilities: There are two poolside cafés and a café beside the lazy river, two restaurants – the Taj Mahal (Asian) and Atlantis (international) – and a coffee bar. There’s also a mini zoo, an amusement arcade (which we’ve never known to be open), a swimwear shop and a small grocery store.
Well attended? At any one time there are up to five lifeguards attending the family activity pools, as well two guards on every ride (one at the top and one at the bottom).
Best for: Although Dreamland seems to attract a mixed bunch, families make up the bulk of the crowds.
Dhs160 (adults) Dhs100 (children); free for kids under two. Open daily 10am-7pm. Umm Al Quwain: take the Sharjah Bypass Road through Ajman and follow the signs to Dreamland Aqua Park approximately an hour’s drive from Dubai. www.dreamlandaquapark.com (06 768 1888).
Showpiece rides: Mount Tempest, where you can race your mates to the bottom while being flung through the air on the way down. There’s also Mount Attack for the brave (or stupid): breathe in, shut your eyes and go for it! All the while you’re surrounded by fake mountains and a plethora of plastic penguins.
Other rides: There are around 20.
Queues: On a Friday, the queues aren’t too bad, but do expect a short wait on the more family-friendly rides.
Other facilities: Aqua soccer is worth a try. You play football in your bare feet while being gently cooled down by sprays of water: every World Cup should be played this way! The usual fast-food fare is available, plus Kids’ Cove has shallow waters for little ones to enjoy. The downside is that there are few places to relax and sunbathe – the park would benefit from some green areas.
Well attended? The lifeguards aren’t particularly visible and the ride attendants could do with having a little more banter (like the chatty folk at Wild Wadi), instead of just pushing you down the flume.
Best for: Kids and young adults. The rides go from the very slow and tame to pretty fast and scary.
Dhs175 adults, Dhs100 children (below 1.2m tall). Open Thu-Sat 10am-7pm; Sun-Wed, Fri 10am-6pm. Ras Al Khaimah, www.icelandwaterpark.com (07 206 7888).
Showpiece rides: The park’s main attraction, Jumeirah Sceirah has reopened with two tandem slides. Guests climb up to 32 metres and then ride the slide at 80km/h! It is also worth queuing up for the Burj Surj and Tantrum Alley.
Other rides: There are around 24.
Queues: Get to the park before 11am and you won’t queue for longer than 10 minutes. Arrive in the afternoon and you should expect to wait 30 minutes just to get in, and perhaps that for each ride. However, it does depend on the season.
Other facilities: Get your toes nibbled by toothless garra rufa fish at the Fisho Spa, where the helpful fish eat dead skin from the feet, leaving them exfoliated and smooth. Wild Wadi features a good range of fast-food stalls, drinks stands and ice cream vendors. Food can be on the expensive side, with fast-food meals for Dhs50 and a plate of watermelon for Dhs30. You’ll also have to fork out Dhs25 for a locker.
Well attended? You will never be in the water and out of view of at least one lifeguard (and often as many as four or five). More than 150 on duty throughout the park at any one time.
Best for… Kids and bigger kids: Wild Wadi is a fun-packed day for kids, parents and non-parents alike.
Dhs275 (adults), Dhs230 (children under 1.1m). Open daily 10am-8pm, Jumeirah Beach Road, www.wildwadi.com (04 348 4444).
Showpiece rides: Dawwama, a 20-metre high giant funnel that shoots you, six at a time, in a tornado-like state through 238-metres of huge dips and turns. There's also the Liwa Loop, the high-intensity chute that pulls the floor away from beneath you. Literally.
Other rides: The park is divided into four ‘thrill levels’: Adrenaline Rush, Exciting Adventure, Moving and Grooving and, finally, Young Fun. There is something for everyone, as well as giant central points, like Amwaj, the Middle East's largest wave pool.
Queues: Yas Waterworld can from the entry feel packed on weekends, but it's sprawling nature means crowds are split evenly among the rides. That said, the highlights can have waits of up to 20 minutes at peak time.
Other facilities: Soak up with soul and culture of the region with a huge souk of souveniers and other goodies. There's also your usual theme park fare.
Well attended: Lifeguards line the waterways and landing pools, while those setting you off at the top are always game for a chat.
Best for: The whole family. The four 'thrill levels' mean your entire group will find something they will enjoy.
Dhs240, Dhs195 children (below 1.1m tall). Open daily 10am-6pm. Abu Dhabi. www.yaswaterworld.com (02 414 2000)