Taking a leap of faith at Aquaventure
A day out with children at the Aquaventure water park at the Atlantis hotel in Dubai requires more than one leap of faith
The first, and best-known ride, is the Leap of Faith water slide that involves climbing to the top of a ziggurat and launching yourself off the equivalent of a nine-storey building in just a bikini into a smoky unknown. It is frightening, unpleasant and unnerving, but child’s play compared with the other leap of faith. This consists of wondering why on earth you have brought six children to such a place and how you are going to get out either without losing at least two of them or, failing that, losing your mind. And this lasts more than 11 seconds.
Our trip started badly. The three younger children (Leo, aged six; Bea, aged nine; and Olivia, aged 10) were almost banned from coming for waking up the older three (Hugo, aged 17; Tom, aged 17; and Julia, 15). Then, realising I had no nanny, I reneged and packed them all into the car. We arrived to a big queue, which was uncomfortable in the mid-morning heat. But 15 minutes later we were inside.
The three largest children were keen to go straight to the biggest water slide. Only two of the three smaller children were eligible, however, to ride the Leap of Faith and one of those, the eldest, is about as brave as a banana blancmange. She took the youngest down the rapids, which is exciting enough for me. You go quite quickly in a rubber ring. I was slightly concerned that he might smash his head or legs against the side, but every time I looked at him he was smiling or singing.
Later on my middle daughter and I queued up for the shark ride. Trouble is, the queues were terrible. So much for the economic downturn – the place was packed. We didn’t see the three big children again until lunchtime. We hadn’t planned where to meet, but there is a splendid stall that sells coconuts, halved pineapples and watermelon. The fruit may cost 10 times what you’d pay at Carrefour, but Carrefour with six children is not something I am willing to try. By the time the big three had found us scoffing perfectly sliced pineapples, they had done all the rides.
“Wasn’t there a problem with the queues?” I asked. “No. We pushed in.” They had fruit too and we stood on the steps watching people come down the Leap of Faith. By now I was beginning to realise that the Aquaventure is a watery version of a Dan Brown novel. Obvious and without any sort of pretension, but pleasing in a simple way. The children were happy. Then Tom, Hugo’s friend, decided he should take my young est daughter on the Leap of Faith. This required another leap of faith on my part: should I let her go? They went; we waited. After a lengthy delay, Bea came flying down the slide, arms aloft.
I felt much the same when we left, still with six children, and only a couple of thousand dirhams lighter.
Aquaventure at Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai (www.atlantisthepalm.com; 04 426 1000). For guests not staying at the hotel, tickets cost from US$54 (Dh200)
Helena Frith Powell was born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and Italian father, but grew up mainly in England. She is the author of eleven books, translated into several languages including Chinese and Russian. She wrote the French Mistress column The Sunday Times about life in France for several years. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Tatler Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.
Helena has been the editor of four magazines, including M Magazine, a supplement for the Abu Dhabi-based National Newspaper and FIVE, a high-end fashion glossy, also published in Abu Dhabi. Helena was also editor-in-chief of 360 Life, a quarterly glossy magazine published with the Sports 360 Newspaper in Dubai, part of the Chalhoub Group.
Helena contributes regularly to UK-based newspapers and magazines and holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge. She is working on a thriller set in Sweden as well as a novel about the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield called Sense of an Echo.
In 2022 her short story The Japanese Gardener came second in the Fish Publishing Short Story Prize. One of her stories was also shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize. When she’s not writing, she works as a headhunter for the media and entertainment industry for the Sucherman Group.
Helena, who was educated at Durham University, lives in the Languedoc region of France with her husband Rupert and their three children.
More France Please, we’re British; Gibson Square 2004
Two Lipsticks and a Lover 2005; Gibson Square (hardback)
All You Need to be Impossibly French; (US version of above) Penguin 2006
Two Lipsticks and a Lover; Arrow Books (paperback) 2007
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (hardback) 2006
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (paperback) 2007
So Chic! (French version of Two Lipsticks) Leduc Editions 2008 (also translated into Chinese, Russian and Thai)
More, More France; Gibson Square 2009
To Hell in High Heels; Arrow Books 2009 (also translated into Polish)
The Viva Mayr Diet; Harper Collins 2009
Love in a Warm Climate; Gibson Square 2011
The Ex-Factor; Gibson Square 2013
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles; Gibson Square 2016
The Arnolfini Marriage; Amazon Kindle December 2016
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles (paperback); Gibson Square spring 2018
The Longest Night; Gibson Square spring 2019