x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

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.

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, 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)