The Atlantis resort’s most publicised attraction may be Aquaventure, its incredible waterpark, but a visit to The Lost Chambers is another spectacle not to be missed; an exploration of The Lost City of Atlantis with exotic marine species.
Although there are no explanatory signs, plenty of ‘navigators’ are on hand to give you and the kids the guided tour, and they’ll share educational facts at the same time as adding to the atmosphere by describing the legend of the lost mythical underwater city of Atlantis – artifacts including machinery, uniforms and computer consoles said to have been extracted from the lost city are all on display.
The stats behind the attraction are impressive: a whopping 220 kilos of restaurant-quality ‘seafood’ are prepared every day for the 65,000 creatures that reside in the 42 million litres of salt water in the marine habitat. And the herbivores enjoy a luxurious feeding regime too – no scraggy old salad leaves for them; it’s Romaine lettuce all the way in their five-star home.
Head to the 10 sq m viewing panel of the Ambassador Lagoon early in the morning or during the late afternoon, and you’ll be able to witness feeding time, a truly amazing spectacle. On a recent Time Out visit, adults’ and kids’ jaws alike were literally hanging open in awe as sharks tore chunks of raw fish from the daring divers’ hands, friendlier stingrays schlurped tidbits up through their funny little mouths, and legions of smaller fish attempted to batter each other out of the way to score the juiciest bite.
But if you don’t make it in time for the feeding session, don’t despair – the kids (and you) still cannot fail to be captivated by the serene beauty of the fish simply gliding around their mysterious-looking habitats. The eerily lazy movements of the jellyfish are almost hypnotising, while if you look behind the back fence of the piranha enclosure you’ll catch a glimpse of an altogether scarier beastie. We were mesmerised for a full 20 minutes in silence (although such a feat may be more difficult with excited tots in tow) by gazing at one tank alone, where thousands of tiny, neon-hued jewel fish flitted around the flourescent coral. Be sure to take the children to the touch pools, one of which is filled with baby stingrays and starfish, and the other with small crabs and skates.
Because of the Atlantis theme, there is more to a trip to The Lost Chambers than just fish: slightly bizarre but doubtlessly intriguing to kids are the props and decor of the passageways and submerged habitats. In the main chamber, moray eels slink around an ancient kiln, which would apparently have been used by the ancient Atlanteans to craft glass and ceramic items for the city’s engineers to use in their infrastructure. The Abyss Room, where colour-changing giant cuttlefish reside, is set up to look like the gateway to a mineshaft extending deep into the earth’s core. Tatty-looking discarded miners’ suits and elaborate drilling tools add to the effect.
The scale of the Seven Sages Chamber’s giant catfish is initially alarming – they really are huge – until you realise that they’re more docile than a sloth that’s been shot with a tranquiliser gun. Once you’ve had enough of observing their interesting but static state, take time to notice the ‘remains’ of an Atlantean computer. It makes the odd beeping noise to remind you that it may have been buried under the sea for thousands of years, but it’s still semi-functional.
Next, pass through the Lobster Crawl, where the tasty crustaceans poke at the glass above your head as well as either side of you, and happen upon the Workshop (apparently, the Atlanteans were very industrious folk) where you’ll be greeted by lookdowns, giant groupers, lionfish and anemones.
It’s a fascinating and highly educational experience; whichever way you look at it, The Lost Chambers satisfies in terms of both learning and entertainment. If you haven’t made it to the attraction already, it’s time to dive in and make the most of Dubai’s latest addition.
Entrance to The Lost Chambers costs Dhs70 for adults and Dhs55 for children aged 12 and under. While you’re there, pay a visit to Aquaventure (open 11am-7pm daily) – the adjoining waterpark has two slides with transparent tunnels that whoosh through a shark-infested lagoon. Entrance to Aquaventure costs Dhs220 for adults and Dhs190 for children under 1.2m tall. Entrance to The Lost Chambers is included in the price. No reservations required for Aquaventure or The Lost Chambers. For an altogether friendlier encounter, swim with the bottle-nosed residents of Dolphin Bay, the 4.5 hectare lagoon, for a once-in-a-liftime experience. A Dolphin Bay interaction session costs Dhs750 for all ages, and includes entrance to Aquaventure and The Lost Chambers. Reservations for Dolphin Bay are essential – to book call 04 426 1030. General info at www.atlantisthepalm.com or call 04 426 1000.