x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Swimming with sharks and ferals

Sometimes when travelling with your children they ask questions that make you truly proud. This was not such an occasion.

Sometimes when travelling with your children they ask questions that make you truly proud, such as "when did the first man walk on the moon?" or "what is the square root of 566?" This was not such an occasion. We were at the Atlantis Dive Centre in Dubai. Our cheerful young diving instructor was explaining what was about to happen. "This is what you will be wearing," he said, showing us a drawing on a flipchart of our diving kit.

"Is there any pink?" asked Bea. "If a shark comes, will he eat me?" asked Olivia. As we were diving in an indoor pool there was not much risk of sharks. Leo was in the Kid's Club, since the diving experience is only for children aged eight and above. So there was no risk of a silly question from him. Sadly, I had one. "Do we wear swimming costumes?" I was slightly confused by the picture of a wetsuit.

"What do you think this is?" barked my husband. "Naked diving?" "No, there is no pink," explained our guide patiently. "And there are no sharks. And yes, you will need to wear a swimming costume. Shall we get started?" The one thing, in fact one of several things, I really hate about skiing is getting everyone into all the kit. I imagined diving would be the same kind of thing. Happily I was helped into my diving vest by our handsome guide and the girls were much more adept at getting their flippers on than I imagined.

I also thought they would have panic attacks underwater and start spluttering and complaining within seconds. Not a bit of it. They loved it. The silence once you're diving, which is truly magical, seemed to entrance even the ferals. Our guide had told us that the most important thing to do was to remember to breathe. Seems odd advice for someone underwater, but it was extremely easy. We played Frisbee in this other world and swam around happily until our time was up. Then we went to collect Leo and head off to dinner. He had found a computer game where he was Didier Drogba scoring endless goals for Chelsea so we were late for our reservation at the Ronda Locatelli restaurant.

Being half-Italian, I was not expecting to be overly impressed. But it was exquisite, quite the best Italian meal I have eaten outside of Piazza di Spagna. The service was outstanding. When the children had difficulty drinking with their straight straws, the waiter came back with bendy ones without even being asked. After their pizza and lasagne the ferals all played football on the grass by the restaurant.

"Would you like to see the menu for pudding?" asked the waiter. Finally, a sensible question. hfrithpowell@thenational.ae For reservations or additional information, call The Atlantis Dive Centre on 04 426 3000 or email reception@atlantisdivecentre.com. The Atlantis Dive Centre is open daily from 8am to 5pm. For Ronda Locatelli, call 04 426 2626