Dubai: It seems like the craziest idea of all time being submerged in an aquarium filled with sharks, fish and stingrays. However, scuba diving with these predators at Atlantis the Palm’s Ambassador Lagoon is actually a pretty safe, yet adrenalin pumping activity.
The gigantic aquarium is home to stingrays, sharks and thousands of different types of fish. In fact, there are 66,000 different marine animals.
The manmade habitat houses marine life found in the local waters of the Arabian Gulf, including different types of sharks like the Zebra shark, Grey Reef shark, Bowmouth Guitar shark, White Tip Reef Shark, Black Tip Reef shark and the Arabian Carpet shark.
Gulf News went down to try out the ‘Atlantis Dive Explorer’ experience, which is a 30-minute dive session, where we came face to face with sharks, rays and fish. It was a rare and beautiful phenomenon diving alongside these incredible sea creatures.
The experience starts by receiving a briefing about what to expect and what you aren’t allowed to do, like touch the animals, for example. Then I signed few waivers, diving is, after all, somewhat dangerous. After the briefing, I got to select my wet suit and boots. Then I was introduced to my dive instructor, who helped me with my gear. The water is at a comfortably chilly temperature, which was welcome in this 40-degree heat. While sitting on the edge of the tank, my dive instructor gave me a quick recap of the hand symbols. “Ok”, “up”, “down” and “stop.”
Then it was time to dive in. For the first three minutes, I held tightly to my diving instructor until I was able to adjust my buoyancy and steady my breathing. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking diving into a tank of thousands of different fish, rays and sharks. Once I was able to lie horizontally and swim forward, that’s when the fun started.
It was a rainbow of colours. Beautifully bright fish swimming around in circles. The spotted rays curiously swimming towards me and stroking the top of my head with their large pectoral fins. The sharks were a little shyer. Blacktip reef sharks stayed hidden at the bottom of the tank, while the grey reef sharks and the zebra sharks were the most active. Coming closer to me, curiously swimming around me. I thought I would be more nervous about the animals, but I think I was too busy thinking about my diving. Although it is considered a relatively relaxing sport, it still requires more energy underwater than we realise. The best part of the experience is swimming up close to the aquarium glass and waving at complete strangers while they took my photo.
One thing to note is that in the Ambassador Lagoon divers usually swim anti-clockwise, as there is a little current, which helps propel you forward. At one point, I did kind of lose track of where I was exactly in the tank, but luckily I had a guide telling me exactly where to swim to.
It was a completely unique experience. The water was the perfect temperature, it was clear as day and the fish were very well fed, so if you wanted to have a fun, adrenaline-fueled experience, this is a great one to start with.
Location: Atlantis The Palm, Ambassador Lagoon
Cost: Dh1,100 but there is a 30 per cent discount until July 23 for Atlantis Shark Week