Get wet in the Emirates with Kerry Baggott's guide to the region's water parks
For a country a fifth the size of the UK, the United Arab Emirates isn’t short of water parks.
The best known are Jumeirah’s Wild Wadi and Atlantis’ Aquaventure, both in Dubai, but in January this year Yas Waterworld opened in Abu Dhabi, and there are options in the lesser known Emirates of Um Al Quwain and Ras Al Khaimah.
Take our wet and wild tour around the UAE so you can sell to water babies young and old.
At the heart of this water park within the colossal Atlantis The Palm resort sits the Ziggurat – a pyramid from which seven heart-thumping slides and ‘watercoasters’ emerge.
The obligatory Lazy River meanders around for over a mile, while ingeniously connecting to most of the rides. Access to the Atlantis beach is a nice touch, as are the private cabanas for those wanting their own patch.
Best for: Guests taller than 1.2 metres (the required height to enjoy the park’s slides). However, tinier tots can go crazy in Splasher’s – a maze of tunnels, tubes, slides and climbing frames. All ages and sizes will enjoy the river rides.
What’s new? There’s definitely something afoot. Exact details are being kept under wraps but a highlight will be a new 40-metre-high water slide, so a head for heights will be required.
Don’t miss: The Leap of Faith sees riders plunge 27.5 metres in one second before zipping through a clear tube surrounded by sharks and rays.
Located a stone’s throw from Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, Wild Wadi has 30 rides and attractions, including an array of gravity-defying thrills.
Best for: This park is generally considered best for bigger kids and adults, although tots love the children’s play area and 350-metre lazy river.
What’s new? The all-new Jumeirah Sceirah reopened last year following a redesign. It now has two tandem 120-metre slides whizzing guests down at a trifling 50 miles per hour.
And don’t miss the Burj Surj, where up to five people cling on for dear life in a rubber tube as they hurtle down a water slide before completing a spiralling spin in ‘the bowl’.
Don’t miss: Apart from the signature slide down the Jumeirah Sceirah, the Wipeout and Riptide FlowRiders are considered a one-off in the city. The seven tonnes of water producing consistently perfect waves is ideal for body and knee boarding.
This new mega water park has so many world firsts it’s hard to know where to start.
Sharing the same Yas Island address as Ferrari World and Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Waterworld has 43 rides, slides and attractions – including five rides found nowhere else in the world. These include the world’s longest and fastest tornado water slide, the region’s first looping water slide and the world’s first interactive laser ‘watercoaster’.
Best for: All ages are well catered for within this park’s 15 hectares.What’s new? All of it! It only opened in January.
Don’t miss: Dawwama – the world’s first hydromagnetic-powered six-person tornado water slide. Plus, check out Liwa Loop – the Middle East’s first looping water slide.
This state-of-the-art watersports facility in Al Ain, a city within the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, is unique in that it’s smack-bang in the middle of the desert with an impressive mountain backdrop.
Perfect waves of up to 3.3 metres allow surfers to learn or perfect their board skills, while the three whitewater rafting and kayaking runs are ideal for anyone wanting to take on the rapids.
Best for: Surf dudes – from complete novices to expert athletes. Instructors are on tap to teach rafting, kayaking and surfing to all ability levels. It’s best to leave the little ones at home as this is more suitable for teenagers and adults – although you only have to be 1.2 metres tall and above to enjoy the Air Park (an adventure course of climbing walls, high ropes and zip wires).
What’s new? All of it (again)! It’s only a year old.
Don’t miss: Learn to paddle, spin, turn and roll during a one-hour kayaking lesson before taking on the whitewater.
This is a well-kept secret among UAE residents. Entry is a fraction of the price of the other parks and food and drink is great value.
Although a 45-minute drive from Dubai to the smaller Emirate of Um Al Quwain, your efforts will be rewarded with short and speedy queues. There’s a large central pool with 19 attractions for toddlers alongside an array of slides and a giant wave pool.
Best for: Families. Adrenaline junkies may find it a little limiting.
What’s new? Not a lot. This is one of the region’s oldest parks, so do expect a little chipped paint and rust here and there, although we’ve been told the changing rooms and toilets have been given a recent lick of paint.
Don’t miss: The Family Raft Ride. Up to five people sit in a round boat and hurtle down an enormous slide, screaming allthe way.
This park is where you feel the full force of nature as you face rides called Mount Tempest, Mount Cyclone and Great Tornado.
With an ice and snow theme – quite a novelty in the desert – guests brave blizzards, hurricanes and typoons. Being located in Ras Al Khaimah, a 90-minute drive from Dubai, it is quieter than those parks in Dubai and Abu Dhabi – which means visitors can try out most, if not all, of its 20 rides.
Best for: Those under 1.2 metres will find lots to entertain them in the massive Kid’s Cove and Penguin Bay – in fact, this children’s play area is much bigger than those in the other parks. Having said that, it’s the ‘thrill rides’ that dominate.
What’s new? It opened in 2010, but feels older.
Don’t miss: The chance to rattle down Mount Tempest, plus don your snorkel and flippers and go exploring in the man-made coral reef and see what fish you can spot.
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