05/22/2012 07:08 am ET Updated Jul 22, 2012

A Day Trip To Atlantis' Aquaventure Water Park In Dubai (PHOTOS)

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.

Which is why a visit to Atlantis' Aquaventure water park in Dubai filled me with trepidation.

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.

Atlantis Water Park in Dubai
Atlantis Water Park in Dubai