My daughter had just finished final exams and summer holidays were starting. She wanted to spend some quality time in water parks. After searching out for several likely destinations we finalized on a desert as our water park destination – Dubai in United Arab Emirates. The emirate of Dubai is located southeast of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula and is one of the seven emirates that make up the country. It has the largest population in the UAE (2,106,177) and the second-largest land territory by area (4,114 km2) after Abu Dhabi. Dubai is nowadays often mis-perceived as a country or city-state and, in some cases, the UAE as a whole has been described as ‘Dubai’. We went specifically to Bur Dubai are of Dubai.
We flew to Dubai from Mangalore International Airport via Air India Express direct flight which took off at 9AM IST on March 29th. We reached Dubai Airport Terminal 2 at around 11:20 GST. During take off I did not get much of the view of Mangalore as there was a dense fog. What you see above is the glimpse of New Mangalore Port area from air. Rest of the journey was through the sea.
As we approached UAE by flying almost 2600 Km which took around 3:25 hours in a relatively cramped seats of 737-800 aircraft, I could glimpse beautiful Al Hajar Mountains between northeastern Oman and eastern United Arab Emirates. Here is a view through the window of the aircraft. I had taken my new bridge cmera Panasonic Lumix FZ-200, review of which I had published in my earlier blog. I purposely left my bulky DSLR at home, along with bunch of lenses. This was partly to prove the myth that DSLR are superior piece of equipment as compared to point and shoot. All the photos you see here and in the subsequent series was created using this camera.
I am a strong believer of the quote made by David duChemin – Remember, gear is good, but vision is better. So it does not matter what gear you have. This whole trip I could carry this simple camera which weighed almost nothing inside my Lowepro Passport Sling bag which I borrowed from my good friend Roshan Rao. I got so impressed with the versatility of the bag, I ordered a new version of this sling bag (now in version II) after returning from the trip.
For staying in Dubai I had booked Regent Palace Hotel Opp. Burjuman Shopping Centre & besides Khalid Bin Al Waleed Underground Dubai Metro Station. This hotel now managed by Raj Shetty belongs to the Ramee group of hotels. Ramee group has over 12 Hotels in Dubai itself and several in rest of UAE. Through Expedia.com I had booked the hotel which worked out quite cheap for the comfort it offered. Whole stay in that hotel was very pleasant and hassle free. The Regent Palace Hotel is a four star deluxe hotel in the heart of the city commenced in early 1997. It is a delightful boutique hotel conveniently located in the heart of the city, a short drive from airport. So traveling from the hotel to other places of Dubai was never a problem. We wanted to travel Dubai all by our selves experiencing what we want and not following on a typical package tour format. We wanted to avoid much cliched tourist attractions. As we had all five days at our disposal to do whatever we wanted to do, I could plan it accordingly.
Despite being in the middle of desert Dubai is greener than many other cities in the world. Despite haveing sparse rainfall, the UAE is one of the highest water users in the world, with a daily consumption rate of 350 litres a person – 100 litres more than the global average. The UAE has the least sustainable water use policy in the world and 97% of water used for domestic purposes comes from desalination. It is no exaggeration to state, Lack of adequate rainfall and the inequality between recharge and groundwater withdrawal rates is a crucial problem facing the UAE. The traditional water supply for agriculture in Gulf States is from groundwater sources and these are being depleted by over extraction, which allows seawater ingress as levels drop, reducing water quality. Non-agricultural water is mainly supplied through desalination. In the UAE the proportion of agricultural water use is 68%; domestic water use is 23% with 9% industrial use. Currently in the UAE there are 35 desalination plants producing 700 million cubic meter of water per year. The process of desalination uses a large amount of energy in comparison with other water supply methods, and in the UAE this energy comes from burning oil. It has been estimated that they require 3.6 million tons of oil per year to produce desalinated water. The figures indicate that the UAE is depleting non-renewable groundwater reserves by 1.4 cubic kilometer /yr. This groundwater, known as fossil water, cannot be replaced and exploitation of these sources is unsustainable in the long term.
As our goal in Dubai was hunt for water park, as soon as we freshened up at Hotel we set off to the first water park in our list, Aquaventure water park situated in Atlantis, The Palm is a resort located on Dubai’s reclaimed artificial island Palm Jumeirah. The Atlantis is part one of a trilogy including the larger Palm Islands: Palm Jebel Ali and Palm Deira, whose construction has been put on hold since 2008. Atlantis, The Palm, opened on 24 September 2008 as a joint venture between Kerzner International Holdings Limited and Istithmar.
You enter the Palm Jumeira on a 6 lane highway bridge while the new metro is following you along the way. A truly amazing project. Most Parts have been finished, but there is still so much more being built. The branches of the Palm spread away from this 6 lane highway. You can drive through the tunnel under the sea to emerge at the huge Atlantis hotel and to the top of the Palm. This hotel is impossible to describe without resorting to superlatives. It has 17 restaurants and 65,000 fish, and it cost US $1.6 billion to build. Shahrukh Khan was probably the happiest with his lot as he stayed in the Bridge Suite, which spans the top of the hotel’s giant Moorish dome; at AED 92,000 a night, it’s the world’s most expensive.
Unlike the Burj Al Arab, the other must-visit hotel in Dubai, the Atlantis has absolutely zero architectural merit. Located in the centre of the crescent around the Palm Jumeirah’s fronds, it rises out of the sea like a Anatacid solution – pink Poseidon. Fanning out from a central atrium, a vast domed space decorated with rather remedial murals and a ten-metre-tall blown-glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly (we overheard one perplexed guest describe it as ‘looking like they let a drunk loose on 5,000 modelling balloons’), it really is a gargantuan resort. You have to admire it for the sheer audacity of the offering, even if it does feel like a slice of Vegas airlifted into the Gulf. Talk about taking a theme and running with it – from the columns to the carpets, doorknobs to dado rails, pretty much everything in the public areas has an aquatic bent.
Aquaventure, the resort’s mammoth water park complete with flumes that take you through a shark tank, is as popular with adults as it is with children – especially during the summer months when, every Thursday, it is open until midnight, as is Dolphin Bay, where you can watch the porpoises perform or even swim with them. If you’d rather not get wet, the Lost Chambers, an Atlantis-themed attraction, takes you deep into the heart of the ‘lost city’ (suspension of disbelief imperative), past tanks of jellyfish, lobsters, moray eels and sea horses. Guests of the hotel get free entry to all of these attractions for the duration of their stay (although you must pay extra to interact with the dolphins).
The dining options range from Starbucks to Nobu, beluga caviar to burgers. The four celebrity restaurants include the aforementioned Nobu; Ossiano, presided over by Santi Santamaria, holder of three Michelin stars; Giorgio Locatelli’s upscale pizza and pasta joint, Ronda Locatelli; and the all-day-dining bistro Rostang, by Michel Rostang. There are also standard buffet joints, a cavernous Arabic restaurant with a shisha terrace and nightly belly dancer, and Nassimi Beach, where you can drink and snack with the sand between your toes. If you want a holiday without ever having to leave the resort and its 1.4 kilometres (almost a mile) of private beach (apart from maybe the odd trip to the mall by complimentary shuttle bus), this is the place for you.
A huge, 97-acre water park, Aquaventure offers a highly themed Mayan atmosphere, lush landscaping, unique water rides and attractions, and opportunities to interact with animals. While the ingenious “transpotainment” system that connects all of the Power Tower attractions doesn’t eliminate lines, it allows guests to remain in their inner tubes and immersed in the water while they float from one ride to the next. “Water escalators” even convey riders up to the tops of the tube slides. The mile-long Current ride, which incorporates four-foot waves for a more-than-lazy river experience, also floats through a tropical jungle and caves.
Other attractions include the Leap of Faith speed slide and the Serpent slides. These body slides are built into the side of a Mayan temple and send riders zooming under the water in clear tunnels where they float past sharks. Note that the Power Tower and Mayan Temple slides have 48-inch height requirements. There are children’s pools for younger guests. Atlantis also offers Splashers, a children’s interactive water play structure with smaller slides, soaking devices, and a dump bucket.
The similarly-themed Lost Chambers maze of underground passageways leads people past marine exhibits. The Dolphin Bay lagoon has seven interconnected pools for dolphins and will offer dolphin interactions (and possibly also dolphin rescue and rehabilitation – the only center for stranded animals in the Arabian Gulf.) The specialty restaurants are found on “The Avenues”, a promenade with shops and nightclub. Since we reached on Fiday, a weekly hoiday in Dubai we could not get any reservation in hotels which was packed to the brim.
On the way back to the hotel we visited Burj-Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. I wanted to capture its beauty of it during the night. This tallest marvel was glowing but we were so tired from all long journey, jet lag and our water sports.
Dubai Creek or Khor Dubai is a saltwater creek located in Dubai. It ends at Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary. Some sources say that the creek extended as far inland as Al Ain, and that the Ancient Greeks called it River Zara. Historically, the creek divided the city into two main sections – Deira and Bur Dubai. Night landscape of dubai was very fascinating with prominent hotels and landmark buildings lining this creek glowing in their night lighting. The most remarkable buildings alongside the Deira side of the Creek are the Deira Twin Towers, Dubai Creek Tower, Sheraton Dubai Creek, National Bank, and Chamber of Commerce.
I took this long exposure shot along with traditional Dhows which have become more of a tourist attraction. You can enjoy a leisurely cruise along the Creek as the traditional dhow glides silently through the water. This tour offers an intriguingly different view of this beautifully lit city. You can also feast on a sumptuous International buffet dinner before returning to the pier.
After taking all these photos we returned back to the hotel. We had a a nice Teppanyaki style of Japanese cuisine that uses an iron griddle to cook food. In our hotel we had a in house Teppanyaki grill which was sumptuous after a hard day’s water sport.
For the experience on the next day in Dubai you have to wait for my part 2 of this blog.