When I was asked if I wanted to visit Atlantis, The Palm's Aquaventure water park in Dubai, I said yes without hesitation. Then I remembered that I can't swim. Oops.
You see, the story goes something like this: nearly 20 years ago, I almost drowned (coincidentally at a water park in Canada). And so it follows that for many years thereafter, I stayed away from any body of water wider and deep than my bathtub.
It wasn't until I decided to go on a week-long sailing trip to Croatia that I realized that I needed to get over my fear of water. With my partner's encouragement, I enrolled in swim lessons in Hong Kong, where I learned a passable breast stroke and improved my ragged, uncoordinated breathing.
But here the thing: I still can't swim to save my life.
As it turned out, I needn't have worried. The array of water slides are monitored by a gaggle of outgoing staff, the variety of pools are filled with water that only envelopped me up to the chest when standing.
The fact that I'm not a strong swimmer didn't mean I couldn't thoroughly enjoy myself. In fact, quite the contrary. I had a fabulous time.
My partner and I floated lazily on the tubes on the river that surrounded the complex, and threw ourselves down slides that at once exhilarated and terrified me. I screamed as I hurtled down the tubes (dubbed "water coasters") with the reckless abandon of my nine-year-old self, previous water park trauma completely forgotten and utterly vanquished. Yes!
I even went down the mother of all water coasters, the appropriately named Leap of Faith. Nearly 100 tall and about 200 feet long, this gargantuan slide deposits you into a tank filled with exotic and fear-inducing sharks (which you are of course protected from thanks to a very thick pane of glass). I took the leap of faith, but not before much nervous titter and hand-wringing beforehand. However, like a big girl, I rose to the challenge and took the plunge -- and bellowed in sheer terror all the way down.
After we had sufficiently exerted ourselves on the slides, it was time to hit the gorgeous man-made beach.
Then it was off to another Atlantis property, The Lost Chambers Aquarium.
We ooh-ed and aah-ed at the marine life for a good hour and a half -- and we even found Nemo, as you can see in the slideshow below.
You could even get inside the tanks and swim with the marine life -- provided you were a certified diver and willing to pony up some extra cash for the experience. Très cool.
All in all, despite my initial reservations, this was a great way to spend an afternoon. My only complaint was the weather: Don't let the pictures fool you, it was unseasonably cold for Dubai. The water in the pools at Aquaventure was unheated, which made for a bit of a shock upon first dip. That being said, I imagine that 350 days of the year, this is not an issue. This is the desert after all!
All photos Oneika Raymond.