Stepping into Yas Waterworld, the new water park in Abu Dhabi, the first impression is of a souk straight out of Aladdin. Hanging lanterns, fences and booths in antique-looking wood, camel statues that look suspiciously real and directions indicated by sign boards shaped like compasses all add up to an Arabesque flavour over the 15-hectare park on Yas Island. Of course, there is also the presence of a shop called Flying Carpet, which unfortunately, does not sell any magical objects (no lamps with a genie, no flying carpets, no magic rings). The magic at Yas Waterworld is in the 43 rides and attractions, which open to the public on Thursday.
The park was, indeed, designed with an Arab theme, telling a pearl-themed story through a dozen colourful characters including an Emirati family, a camel, a falcon and a snake. The park’s creators drew inspiration from Emirati heritage, general manager Mike Oswald said during a media preview of the park on Wednesday (reporters were not permitted to experience the rides). The evidence can be seen all around the park, from the entrance, shaped like an old fort, to a gigantic pearl on a rocky outcrop.
“I can’t say enough on the park and its rides,” Oswald said. “It’s like no other in the world and it’s an experience [people] cannot miss.”
Of the 43 attractions, there are 24 rides, including Liwa Loop, in which riders drop in through a trapdoor; Bandit Bomber, a 550-metre-long “water roller coaster” — other park guests can shoot water cannons at riders as they go past; Slither’s Slides, a series of six flumes with light and video special effects; and Dawwama, which is categorised as “extreme” excitement, a 238-metre-long, 20-metre-high funnel. Five of the rides are unique to the Yas Island park.
Along with some of what the park says are the longest and fastest waterslides in the world, Yas Waterworld will offer visitors the world’s largest simulated surfing experience. “Bubble’s Barrel” provides a surfing experience even for those who do not know how to surf, or for those cannot find big enough waves on the UAE’s beaches. Water is pushed at a speed of 1,250 horsepower to create a three-metre wave that constantly curls up on itself. Visitors strap on a surfing board and ride the wave, under the guidance of professional instructors. Since the wave is continually drawing, those who already know how to surf can perform stunts by jumping and spinning in the air.
DAWWAMA– The park claims it’s the world’s first and largest hydromagnetic-powered 6-person tornado waterslide with the world’s longest run-in at 238 metres. Visitors will be able to enjoy the power and thrill as they ride the walls of Dawwama’s 20-metre-high funnel.
SLITHER SLIDES — The series of six slides is inspired by the park’s snake character, Slither. The slides are equipped with LED effects and 3D videos displayed on sheets of thin water, giving riders a three dimensional world as they twist and turn with the slide before emerging from a snakes’s mouth.
SEBAG – Arabic for “race”, Sebag is a six-person racer slide and has sensors to tell each person how much time they took to get to the bottom.
HAIRAT YAS – Visitors can go home with pearls after passing by Hairat Yas where an interactive pearl diving show takes place. For Dh55, divers head underwater for up to two minutes and gather a handful of oysters. Guests choose one and watch as it is opened before their eyes to reveal at least one pearl. With a souvenir shop right by, guests can pair their pearl with other jewellery.
Bandit Bomber — A 550-metre interactive coaster with on-board water and laser special effects. Riders will be able to shoot jets of water at targets, drop water bombs and trigger special effects while coasting through the park.
Children between the ages of six months and one year can also have fun at Yas Waterworld as there is an infant area especially designed for their age group, Yehal. Just like the rest of the park, the area has a lot of attractions including waterslides. For bigger kids, there’s Marah Fortress’ six slides and water games — and parents are welcome to join in.
“I would say the most thrilling ride is the Liwa Loop. The floor drops down beneath you and you go on to the ride,” said Oswald, adding that it is the Middle East’s first looping water ride.
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“For those who want something more calm, there is a lazy river where they can just relax there and we have an infant area so we really tried to accommodate everyone.”
Even before the gates have been opened, Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi had walked away with the World Waterpark Association’s inaugural Leading Edge Award for “demonstrating leadership and innovation through its storyline, park and ride design and attention to every detail”.
To cater to cultural sensitivities, Yas Waterworld has dry attractions where visitors can have fun without the need for a swimsuit. The park is sheltered from outside so those passing by will not be able to see visitors.
To ensure safety, there are 130 lifeguards on staff who have been trained to spot an incident within 10 seconds and to reach the person in need of help within 20 seconds. All rides have also been tested by thousands of test riders and experts to ensure that they adhere to the highest safety standards. The rides and the lifeguards are certified by a premium risk management industry that Yas Waterworld works with.
The park can accommodate 6,000 visitors at a time, which means it can take up to 10,000 visitors per day, Oswald confirmed. On the opening day alone, around 4,000 people are expected. The park operators plan to have women only timings by summer.
The water park will use 356,000 litres of water per day for all the pools and rides. While the park has a water capacity of 9,000 cubic metres, it will use 30 per cent less than that a typical waterpark this size would use, said Oswald, using a filtration system to recycle the majority of the water and to minimise the amount that goes to sewage. The park is rated 1 pearl out of five by Abu Dhabi’s sustainability initiative, Estidama.
Tickets are Dh225 per adult (those taller than 1.1 metres) and Dh185 per child, and do not include towel or locker rental. Children under the age of three enter free. There’s no need to barge in the queue: Those who wish to get ahead in the queues at each ride can purchase a premium pass, Dh325 per adult and Dh265 per child. A year pass is Dh650 (adult) or pay Dh995 to get unlimited access to both Yas Waterworld and Ferrari World. The park is open 10am-6pm daily.
3 metres: That’s how high you can expect the waves to be at Bubble’s Barrel
15 hectares: Is the size of the park, which features a mountain topped by a massive glittering pearl, bandit towers, an authentic wood-raftered souk and a giant falcon’s nest spilling over with slides
70: Uniquely themed quest items or clues around the park for the PearlMasters treasure hunt, including large-scale sculptures such as treasure chests, giant oysters, or magical sea creatures