Destinations

Atlantis, The Palm is all about adventure

I can't see her beneath the surface of the water but I know she's there, somewhere. I tread water far from the shore as excitement builds in line with anticipation.

Without warning, I'm lifted out of the pool and propelled forward at an impressive speed.

Childlike squeals escape my mouth as the dolphin pushes me toward the beach.

Her bottlenose is pressed hard into the arch of my right foot.

I'm amazed and delighted, and surprised by her strength and skill. And this is just one trick she shows me during our half-hour together.

I'm at Dolphin Bay – a 4.5ha dolphin education and conservation centre inside the famed Dubai resort Atlantis, The Palm.

It's just one of numerous oases at the sprawling five-star complex, consuming prime position at the crescent of the man-made island The Palm – Dubai's most recognisable tourist destination.

After my dolphin encounter, I head straight to Sea Lion Point, where I meet another friend who takes wet kisses to a whole new level.

It's a fun way to spend a morning at the resort, and a must for young children. But this big kid needs to move on – there's much more still to see during my brief Dubai stopover from Europe to Sydney.

As its name suggests, the resort has a strong water theme, and one of my favourite features is The Lost Chambers Aquarium.

It's a maze of underwater tunnels that weaves its way through the resort, captivating all who pass it. Children and parents seem to sit for hours staring into its bright blue yonder and at the colourful fish, turtles and stingrays that fill 20 marine life exhibits.

The Lost Chambers Aquarium is a Disney-like replica of the ruins of the lost city of Atlantis – and captures its mystique well.

My immediate impression when I arrived at the attention-grabbing pink hotel, is that I've indeed stepped through the doorway of a Disneyland resort in Anaheim.

Although its interior colours are bold and varied, the hotel manages to avoid that garish look that so often befalls mass-market cruise ships with similar themes.

Rather, Atlantis is bright and bubbly, and both entices guests to have fun as well as relax.

Relaxing here is easy. With a number of pools, three private beaches, and an award-winning day spa, you're never short of places to drop and flop.

But my advice (if you're limited with time) is to leave the downtime for your flight home, and to take advantage of this wonderful playground.

Aquaventure Waterpark is where you'll find seven thrilling water slides. On the Tower of Neptune waterslide, you'll drop nine storeys in a second before travelling through an acrylic tube surrounded by sharks and rays.

Adrenalin junkies will also want to give the 25-metre-tall Aquaconda a go.

If that's not enough adventure, book in for a scuba dive in the Ambassador Lagoon (where you'll be surrounded by thousands of different species, including bowmouth guitar sharks) or Shark Lagoon at Aquaventure Waterpark.

Adventure here is all too easy, really, handed to guests on an overly indulgent and thrilling platter.

My stopover is just a weekend to break up my long-haul flights, but I wish I'd booked longer.

There is so much to explore at Atlantis. It's a destination in itself.

IF YOU GO

GETTING THERE:

Dubai is in the United Arab Emirates and is the hub city for Emirates (emirates.com). It's an easy stopover for travellers on their way to and from Europe and the airport offers a seamless experience.

Atlantis, The Palm is about 30-40 minutes' drive from Dubai International Airport.

STAYING THERE:

There is a large range of stylish rooms to choose from, with guestrooms having views of either the Arabian Sea or the resort beach and Dubai skyline. If you're in the mood to splash out, check into an Underwater Suite, which looks to the Ambassador Lagoon.

Along with the aquarium and waterpark, Atlantis also has a range of luxury boutiques; 23 restaurants, bars and lounges (including Nobu); and a nightclub.

For room and activity rates, see atlantisthepalm.com.

PLAYING THERE:

Australians and New Zealanders visiting the UAE for less than 30 days receive a free visa upon arrival.

For more, check out booking.com.

*The writer travelled as a guest of Atlantis, The Palm and booking.com.


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