Anytime you have to sign a waiver before you have any idea what you’re in for isn’t a good sign, but Atlantis water park on Paradise Island has held a certain appeal.
Atlantis is so much more than a water park. It’s one of the most well-known theme parks in the world, a pivotal draw to attract tourists to the island and for us, it’s been on our bucket list for years.
Just minutes from Nassau downtown, it sits in a bougie millionaire’s enclave of luxury yachts and marinas, extravagant condos and haute couture shopping. To get into the water park, you have to have your nose rubbed in all the opulence.
A mall of expensive designer label clothing leads through to a casino. Two grandiose statement pieces are worth noting, they are both masterpieces by famed glass artisan, Dale Chihuly, the Temple of the Moon, a glass crystal and Temple of the Sun, a blazing ball of orange glass dominating the main gaming area of the casino.
The main lobby of the Royal Towers hotel is spectacular, with fountains, spinning water features and monumental columns.
The undisputed centerpiece of the Atlantis experience is Aquaventure, the 154-acre water playground. Here there are adrenalizing thrill rides, sedate lazy rivers, saltwater pools and an impressive aquarium. Natural lagoons and pools are home to 50,000 sea creatures from 200 species.
Leap of Faith
Two words: shit scared
Lengthy wait to get up the stairs of the Aztec ruin its set in. On one side – dual challenger slides. Let through six at a time for a briefing before you await your fate. An attendant and traffic light system ensures there’s adequate time for the previous rider to exit the water. Push off and within two seconds, propelled by water and zero gravity, you freefall before hitting a wall of water that stops you from almost passing out in fear. You’re flung through the shark tank completely oblivious from the combination of speed and temporary blindness from the water slapping into your face. Rating: 5 racing hearts
Lengthy wait to get up the stairs of the Aztec ruin its set in. On one side – dual challenger slides. Let through six at a time for a briefing before you await your fate. An attendant and traffic light system ensures there’s adequate time for the previous rider to exit the water. Push off and within two seconds, propelled by water and zero gravity, you freefall before hitting a wall of water that stops you from almost passing out in fear.
You’re flung through the shark tank completely oblivious from the combination of speed and temporary blindness from the water slapping into your face.
Rating: 5 racing hearts
Sharing the Aztec themed tower in the center of the park, the Cobra is a ride where you sit on an inflated ring as you’re propelled down a tube. Once comfortably seated, you drift into a darkened tunnel where you speed down on a thin layer of water, completely disoriented. After twisting and turning like a snake, you drop into a well-lit transparent passage, offering clear view of sharks and fish swimming beside and above you. It’s a beautiful experience and a heap of fun.
Rating: 2.5 racing hearts
Most water parks have a lazy river, where you float along on a pneumatic tube and contemplate life’s little things. Atlantis has a not so lazy river. In fact, it’s quite a crazy ride. What starts as a river ride propelled by surges of turbulent waters throw you forth at pace with no way to control yourself. It’s heaps of fun until you realize that the cement walls offer no protection and the lack of control and waves of up to a foot mean you can be caught off guard while laughing at family and friends with your head mashed into a wall. It’s really quite dangerous as Bernie was to find out. After riding up a final lift, which is actually a straight serrated escalator system, where if you have excess pounds and a less than fully inflated tube, can be felt through your butt department. The most dangerous part is the final section of rapids where an intense volume of water is released sending you surging between narrow concrete faux rock walls. The action of one wave crossing into another threw him off his tube backwards, head and then limb first into the shallow waters, bouncing multiple times before recovering and collapsing into another tube being flung by. It’s a fun ride, but one that should be undertaken with caution.
Rating: 2 racing hearts, 5 potential law suits or fatalities
Atop the120-foot Power Tower, a structure that is straight out of Stargate with a touch of Jurassic Park and its ilk, it dominates the landscape, overshadowed only by the main luxurious blocks of the Atlantis rooms. There’s an ominous atmosphere due to a long lead up channel where you float nervously before it’s your turn. The lights green and your world turns dark as you’re lost in screams and water going up your nose and down your throat. It’s quite a buzz and you end up out on the finale of the rapids.
Rating: 4 racing hearts
As adults we avoided the kids’ pools, but we still managed a nice cooling swim in the main Aztec pool. It offered an icy calm down after all the thrills and there are some faux rock caves where water falls over you.
The Shark Tank
Below the towering Aztec pyramid, several breeds of sharks shoal together in the shallows, occasional looping around the blue waters where Sun rays beam a beautiful diffuser light through three rather unnatural water slide tubes. Schools of colorful fish drift lazily, oblivious to their more predatory brethren.
The shark tank is one of the park’s main focal points, offering the thrill of sliding through clear tubes while sharks swim above and around you. A series of wide viewing windows offer a fascinating perspective of both humans and animals brought together unnaturally. For an additional fee, you can walk with the sharks, wearing a breathing apparatus seemingly designed by someone with an addiction to the eighties cartoon, the Snorks.
Aquariums are a dime a dozen, but with the park’s Atlantis theme, this one is taken to the next level. A ruined underwater temple is the stage for a mesmerizing parade of sting rays and tropical fish, where you can wander the tunnels and feel like you’re almost underwater with them. Kids will love the hands-on starfish tank, while we were hypnotized by the graceful jelly fish.
There are two main beaches accessible from Atlantis. A public beach where anyone can go even without a park wristband and a private beach. Cove Beach, the private beach is a calm, peaceful and pristine beach with the Power Tower as its backdrop. Sun lounges are readily available and snorkeling gear can be hired for a small fee. The water is a brilliant turquoise and it’s a stress-free Caribbean escape, just like you’ve always wanted.
The public beach is a different affair. It’s packed with the general public, with vendors selling beers, jerk chicken, sunscreen and souvenirs. It’s more of a circus, but it’s free so you roll with it. It’s still the same beautiful water but if you are looking for solitude, you’ll need to look further afield.
The final score: one large bump on the head, a grazed knee, grazed wrist, swelling, and one fried GoPro Hero 6 Black.