Heat getting you down? Fortunately, there are plenty of waterparks in the UAE, including new-kid-on-the-block Wadi Adventure.
As the Middle East’s first man-made white water rafting, kayaking and surfing spot, Wadi Adventure offers something very different to the rest of the UAE’s water-oriented leisure destinations. There are no rides, slides or lazy rivers here, which explains why the management don’t like it being referred to as a ‘waterpark’, and considering it’s the only place we’ve visited where we were made to watch a safety briefing before we hit the changing rooms we figure they’re probably right.
We opted to try the white water rafting on this particular visit. Strolling past the surfing pool (where waves reach heights of up to 3.3 metres) and the vertiginous ‘air park’ adventure course, which combines a climbing wall, high-rope course, zip line and falling swing (harnesses included, phew) we arrived at the rafting and kayaking runs. First up was the safety DVD: white water rafting poses dangers and there is the potential to injure yourself, but we were told this risk would be minimised if we followed the instructions.
After a quick change into swimwear and some old trainers (these are essential, you’ll be using your feet to hold yourself in the raft), we were strapped into a helmet and life jacket. There was one instructor in the raft, and before we set off on the easier blue run we practiced paddling together. There are three white water runs of varying intensity, with a combined length of 1.13km. The blue run proved to be very gentle, and we paddled the full length without incident – we were very grateful for this relaxed practice run. Once we returned to the holding pool, it was time to get out of the raft and carry it across to the start of the black run – which, as the name infers, is the toughest of the three.
This run is much more difficult than the gentle blue run and you really have to paddle hard, listen to the instructor and keep your wits about you. As we shot over and bounced down the rapids, there were a couple of occasions when we had to quickly pull our oars up to avoid hitting anything or each other. As we navigated the first big drop, two of us slipped off the side and into the centre of the boat, then struggled to get back into a rhythm and maintain our balance when we managed to haul ourselves back up.
On the second time round our instructor obviously thought we were doing ok and navigated us backwards down some of the big drops. We lost one of our friends from the boat and he swiftly got taken downstream with the rapids, but they have instructors on the sides who will throw you a rope to get you to safety. We got better and felt more confident with each run, and once we felt more at ease with the speed and the technique the fear left us and we started to enjoy it.
If you’re planning a visit, try to go on weekdays if you have the time, we were told the centre gets extremely busy on weekends. The park is open late during the week (until 11pm), so a post-work trip will be your best option. Yes, it’s a bit of a drive, but there’s nowhere else you can brave white water rafting, a zip line and three-metre waves in one visit. Just make sure you have plenty of friends along for the ride. The instructor we had on this particular day was great, but some of the others were surly and not very helpful. Also make sure you book in advance. There is nothing worse than turning up and paying the entry fee only to be told that everything is booked out.
General admission Dhs100 (adults), Dhs50 (children). Surf pool Dhs100 for 55 minutes; kayaking Dhs100 per day; white water rafting Dhs100 for 90 minutes; climbing wall Dhs40 for 20 minutes; air park and zip line Dhs50 per day; giant swing Dhs25 per ride. Lessons available. Lockers Dhs25, towels Dhs20. Open Sun, Tue, Wed noon-11pm; Thu noon-midnight; Fri noon-midnight (surf sessions 9am-noon); Sat noon-11pm (family swim morning 9am-noon). Al Ain, www.wadiadventure.ae (03 781 8422).