Couldn't back up far enough to get a photo of the whole thing. Not even close.
200 dirhams apiece for the adults and 160 apiece for the kids (about $200 -hooray for the 2 for 1 coupons in the Entertainer book---yep, they have those here too!) earned us blue electronic entry wristbands. We'd gotten there just after it opened at 10 am under a hot September sky. The grounds are lush with tropical flowers and cleverly planned water rides flowing along sea-themed architecture. Lifeguards everywhere. Mostly Filipino and Kenyan, kind faces watching out for us at every turn.
Bethy and Mike hopped onto one figure-eight double innertube and Thomas and I grabbed another and we all set off down the Rapids ride.
There weren't too many other people in the water, through there was an excess of unmanned innertubes, unwieldy things which the staff were pulling out of the waters in a concentrated effort.
It was a blast. Thomas was impressively brave. The water was cool and pleasant, and the seemingly endless ride was just the right level of splash and speed, wave swells and waterfalls, interspersed with lazy river sections where we'd drift.
At the beginning of one of the fast sections there was a woman who'd apparently fallen off of her innertube. She was...rather large. Not huge, but definitely big. And completely hysterical. Two tall slender Kenyan lifeguards, their arms and legs like skinny sicks next to her heft, had gotten into the water and were trying to help her. She probably could have turned around and walked out if she'd tried in the least but was too busy screaming to calm down.
As it was the water was pushing her downstream into the fast-moving, steeper area, so the lifeguards walked her slowly down, holding her up by the arms and being extraordinarily patient.
The rest of us had gotten off our innertubes and waited in the pool-like calm area before the rapids. The drama escalated when a large man plowed through the water, wild-eyed, screaming what I can only assume was the woman's name. This was getting a bit Bollywood. He went down the rapids as well, without an innertube, arms waving and flab flapping.
We waited a bit longer and then a lifeguard waved us back on and downstream. I was a bit worried we'd come upon one of the non-riders and knock them down, but they were to the side beyond the fast bit. The man was screaming with new vigor, in the faces of the lifeguards and being heavily abusive and she added her wails to his. At first I thought he and his woman were Arabs, but upon further reflection I'm pretty sure they were from India or thereabouts. For one thing, she was wearing a regular swimsuit instead of a Burqini. Why yes, there is such a thing. It is "modest" swimwear which covers head, arms to wrists, and legs to the ankles. Here's a link: http://www.ahiida.com/
Back to the story. The man yelled "She is pregnant!" and the she jumped in on this with all her might and added her even higher-pitched scream to his "I am pregnant! I am pregnant! I did not want to go!" Spittle was flying, whites of eyes showing, it was grotesque.
As Thomas and I floated past this total train wreck, I heard one of the Kenyans say politely and with firm dignity: "This is called the Rapids Ride, sir. "
Aw man. Give that guy an Oscar for a great line under pressure.
I could see reinforcements arriving. Good. We sailed on. A bit later we unexpectedly flipped over ourselves. Within seconds there was a guard in the water with us. I'd already gotten Thomas out from underneath the innertube, he sputtering and clingy. My sunglasses, my favorites that I've had for 10 years, and for which I should get idiot points for wearing to a waterpark, had flown off. The lifeguard snagged both our innertube and also caught my sunglasses underwater with his toes. I was both grateful and very impressed.
Taking a break for Thomas' sake, we ate overpriced food (the water was 10x the cost in stores, for instance) and Thomas indulged in his absolute favorite food: Belgian Waffles. In this case with bananas and whipped cream and Hershey's syrup. Why not?
Then the kids went nuts in the kids' area where deluges of water would cascade over everything ker-whumph at regular intervals, there were slides and climbing nets and lifeguards every 5 feet throughout the structure. There was no point for parents to even try to follow their kids, so we let them at it.
Mike went to try some of the big boy rides, lots and lots of fast moving action, but he didn't try out the ride of rides, the Leap of Faith. The Leap of Faith is a near-vertical drop of 27.5 meter drop...into a shark pool. Well, actually there is a clear tube at the bottom that you shoot through with the sharks all around. The sharks would not do well with being landed upon, so this works out well for both organisms. Outside of the tube in a giant tank, along with stingrays and multitudes of fish. It looked absolutely terrifying. The tube, not so much the sharks. They were cool.
Thomas and I watched as the truly brave (or perhaps truly foolish) plunged down and through that tube. By this time the sun was beating down and the stones under out feet had gone from toasty to HOT. We all burned the soles of our feet to some extent. I don't mean that our feet were uncomfortable. I mean burned. One of Mike's co-workers had blisters. Our kids didn't do too badly since they got carried as often as possible, but there wasn't enough shaded walkway to spare our tootsies.
The best ride was one that Thomas couldn't go on, but Bethy and Mike did. The same shark pool that the Leap of Faith zooms through also has this:
A dark winding ride that opens up to the turquoise light and a slow, undulating wave that floats riders through an underwater tube through the aquarium. Sharks and stingrays all around. Thomas would have been jealous but he was trying to stay awake. We were too tired to go explore the hotel, much as we would have liked to. Nicely, this week Bethy was invited to a birthday party in the Kids Club portion of the Atlantis Hotel. Sweet!
The Atlantis Hotel is stunningly opulant, sea theme is rampant throughout, and I loved it. From huge metal seahorses adorning the main doors to the enormous glass sculpture in one of the lobbies by---of course---Dale Chihuly, beneath a glittering golden dome, surrounded by giant murals depicting various myths of the sea. There are architectural tributes to the ocean and its creatures flourishing everywhere, to great effect. This place makes sure you know you are in the lap of luxury whether you want to be or not.
We liked it.
And the Kid's Club wasn't half bad either. Fabulous chocolate mousse birthday cake. Mmmmm...