From spa to sharks, Atlantis has it all

The ShuiQi Spa at Atlantis The Palm Hotel, Dubai
The ShuiQi Spa at Atlantis The Palm Hotel, Dubai
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Sharks are circling in the lagoon 100ft below and all my senses are screaming at me not to do it.

Trying not to look down, I shuffle towards the precipice – and take the plunge.

It takes just a few seconds to reach the bottom of the Leap of Faith slide at Aquaventure in Dubai, the Middle East’s largest water park, but the buzz lasts all day.

The huge beachside attraction is part of Atlantis The Palm hotel, which sits at the top of a man-made island sticking out of the Arabian Gulf.

And this wet and wild wonderland is much more my kind of playground than the one with skyscrapers and fast cars in the desert city I can see across the water.

Aquaventure is a huge hit with kids, and no wonder. It’s the largest in Dubai, covering 17 hectares, with seven water slides, white-water rapids and a 2.3km lazy river, all powered by 18 million litres of water.

Just before the Leap of Faith spits you out, you shoot through a transparent tunnel past sharks and stingrays cutting through a lagoon like shadows.

Unashamedly flamboyant, luxurious and decadent, Atlantis symbolises the emirate city whose residents talk about ‘the haves, and the have yachts’.

Even the 65,000 different fish swimming in the hotel’s massive 11 million-litre centrepiece fish tank, The Ambassador Lagoon, receive the promise of only ‘restaurant-grade’ produce when it comes to dinner time.

But Atlantis isn’t all about adventure and activity, so I decide to take things down a notch or two and head indoors to the tranquil, grown-up surroundings of the ShuiQi Spa.

I have to confess, I’m not really one for beauty treatments. Aromatherapy oils, tooting pan pipes and foot baths don’t generally do it for me, so I asked my masseuse to give me a more heavy-handed workout. He didn’t hold back.

The softly spoken, eight-stone gentleman seemed to summon the strength of a cage fighter as he kneaded my shoulders, working away at the knots. At one point I was sure he was walking up and down my back.

Set over two floors, the spa is the perfect retreat for adults looking to escape the full-on commotion of the resort at large. And for the ultimate blend of romance and indulgence, couples can luxuriate in the Royal Spa Suite with a private terrace and hot tub.

It’s perfectly possible to not leave the Atlantis complex for the entire duration of a holiday, but for the slightly more adventurous traveller, the city has a lot to see and do.

The resort is well-placed for venturing into Dubai, with its own station on the Palm Jumeirah Monorail.

Just a couple of miles up the road is the Dubai Mall, the largest shopping centre in the world, which includes an ice rink, aquarium, cinemas and dozens of places to eat.

Alongside the mall stands the current tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. Standing at 828 metres, it soars up like a needle trying to pop the sky.

It’s mind-boggling to stand back and look up at the 160 floors, while the viewing platform offers spectacular views across the city.

Other activities around and about include trips to the historic souks, palaces and mosques plus days out in the desert.

Back at Atlantis, the hotel offers yet another assault on the senses at night – the tastes and smells of its culinary experience.

This resort has a whopping 17 restaurants to choose from.

ESSENTIALS

James Edgar visited Atlantis The Palm, in Dubai as a guest of Virgin Holidays, which offers three nights’ half-board during September and October from £939, including return Emirates scheduled flights ex-Heathrow and Manchester, including taxes and surcharges.

Connecting flights ex-Glasgow start at £100.

Virgin Holidays reservations: 0844 557 3859 and virginholidays.co.uk.