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Livu Akvaparks, Riga, Latvia

Livu Akvapark

OVERALL RATING – 7/10

Entry price: 5/10 – The prices were expensive, but this probably contributed to smaller numbers of people being there. If the outdoor part was open it might have been better value.

Fast track option: No, but no real need for one.

Food: 5/10 –There was a selection of food available, including the Zambezy Bistro (more of a canteen really). Apparently there was also an in-pool bar but I couldn’t find it.

Queues: 8/10 – We arrived at 11am and the queues were minimal. By the time we left at 1.30pm there were larger queues but they were well managed.

Kids: 8/10 – The park isn’t huge but it has its own area for kids to splash around and some smaller slides. They also have a lazy river and water cannons for kids (and me) to play with.

Safety: 8/10 – The waterslides were well managed, with lifeguards covering the splash pools and ensuring waiting times were observed at the top of each slide.

Review

I’d never been to Latvia, so when I had the opportunity to visit Riga the first thing I did was look for a waterpark. Livu Akvapark was the first thing that appeared in my search results, and according to my findings it was worth a visit…interestingly I’ve never found one that hasn’t sounded like it was worth a visit! Located just outside of Riga; it was surprisingly easy to find. After reading the website I’d intended to get the train or bus, but lacked the confidence to know where to get off. Instead I got a taxi, which took about 15 minute from the Old Town and cost around 13 euros. When I arrived I realised how obvious it was and I’d recommend getting a bus (number 7021 or 7023) and getting off at Leilupe. The bus costs about 2 euros.

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View from the bus stop

Prior to visiting Livu Akvapark I’d tried to contact them numerous times to clarify how to get there and whether I could use my GoPro on the slides. Unfortunately they didn’t respond, but I brought the camera along anyway. When we arrived at the park, I was pleasantly surprised to see how modern and clean it was. I’m not totally sure what I was expecting but it was very similar to other waterparks that I’ve visited. The park opens at 11am at the weekend and midday during the week, and costs 25 euros for 4 hours (adults), 18 euros for 4 hours (6-14 years old). Up-to-date prices can be found here: Prices

The staff at the park (and in Latvia in general) are friendly and speak excellent English, so we had no trouble buying our tickets and making our way through to the changing room. You aren’t allowed to wear outdoor footwear in the changing room, so there’s a separate changing room to take your shoes and socks off just after the entrance gate. Do not…I repeat DO NOT start taking your clothes off here. Splash King was slightly confused and thought it was some sort of unisex open changing area. Luckily I’m not yet of the age where I take my trousers and underwear off before I’ve taken my shoes off…so no-one had to suffer seeing me prop my leg up on a bench whilst naked to take my shoes off. As with a lot of European waterparks you are given a wristband that doubles as a locker key and credit facility for purchasing food and drink in the park. Unlike some parks you don’t need to preload the card with money, and instead you pay on your way out. The changing areas have private cubicles and there are plenty of lockers to go around. You simply lock them with your wristband and make your way upstairs into the waterpark.

As I had only seen a few signs suggesting that you couldn’t take cameras into the park I decided to chance my luck with the GoPro…however a lifeguard was onto me quicker than a tramp on chips. The very moment I walked into the swimming area a lifeguard was saying something to me in Latvian, then German, then English. They have their own photographers in the park to take pictures, which can be purchased for around 3 euros each when you leave. Unfortunately for me I wanted to take videos of myself actually on the slides…but there was no room for maneuver. My initial thought was to get on the closest slide I could find, so I threw myself down it and found it was a very tame, but enjoyable, dark tube slide. I landed in a splash pool below surrounded by other tubes that people appeared to be sliding down. It was at this point that I realised that the park was some sort of labyrinth (minus David Bowie’s pouch) and actually finding your way to the top of the slides was quite difficult. Most of the slides require a tube to ride on, and you have to use the correct colour tube for each slide. Initially this seemed a bit pedantic, but I soon realised that it helped to ensure a steady flow of traffic to the slides and stopped people from pushing into the queue.

The second slide was a two-person tube slide that is totally in the dark. After flying down it at breakneck speed, I came out of the other end with my heart racing like when you’ve decided to run home after a few beers (seemed a good idea at the time didn’t it?). It was at this point that I noticed two slides tucked away, and they had some sort of scoreboards at the end. As I didn’t have my contact lenses in I couldn’t really read what it said but I knew I wanted to have a go. I ran up the stairs to find two slides…neither with a queue…and felt that it was my lucky day. The lifeguard gave me a briefing about correct slide posture (he obviously didn’t recognise the world-leading expert on waterslides) and let me get on my way. After watching my splash companion tamely begin her descent I did my usual…like an Olympic gymnast on the bar I swung myself down the slide and immediately began a steep descending curve into hell. I was flying and for a brief moment I thought I was in the train station with Dumbledore…that’s when I realised that I’d produced enough power to destroy a horcrux! My back was being torn to pieces by the bumps in the slide and when I came out at the bottom I smashed my head and face on both sides of the slide and realised I was actually back to front. I have no idea how I’d turned around in the slide but it had happened…luckily I didn’t snap the Elder Wand. I looked around for my splash companion and when my hearing returned I realised there was a screeching noise coming from the other slide. A few seconds later she emerged, looking like Dobbie on meth, with pure anger in her eyes…apparently the sign I couldn’t read was a scoreboard of fastest times and these slides were called Extreme. Not great for someone who isn’t a huge fan of waterparks and swimming. It was at this point that I had to muster up some sort of words to make the situation better…all I could manage was a quiet “Sorry”. Little did she know that I was apologising for not being sorry – who in their right mind wouldn’t enjoy a waterslide?!

In total there were 9 slides, with 8 open. There are more slides outside but they’re only open during the summer months. They were all good fun and there were plenty of slides that you could ride with friends. The queues throughout the day were minimal, and the Latvian people understand the very British concept of queueing. It’s possibly the first European country I’ve been to that doesn’t find the concept ludicrous. The whole park was very clean and well-staffed with lifeguards. There’s also a Jacuzzi section, although it’d be nice if it could be separated from the rest of the park so that people can get some relaxation without having to pay extra to go into a spa. The photographers were papping people all day but when we came to leave we found a selection of pretty awful photographs. They had a talent for making every person look like they’d recently murdered someone and that they were planning the next gruesome crime. It’s probably why people wrongly believe that Latvian people are just like the bad guys from Taken. It’s a shame really because I’d have liked to have taken some photos myself, in addition to the videos.

Livu Akvapark

An example of the photography inside the park

Overall I would recommend visiting Livu Akvaparks; the price is a little bit on the expensive side but due to the small queues it’s very easy to get on lots of slides without having to wait around all day. The park is mainly indoor so you can visit all year. The kids section is impressive and isn’t dissimilar to Cariba Creek at Alton Towers. I’ve had to knock some marks of for the entry price, and a few more off for being unable to take my camera in…or even being responded to before I arrived…but as usual…I’d go again!

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Tropical Islands, Brand, Germany

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OVERALL RATING – 4/10

Entry price: 4/10 – The prices were quite expensive for a waterpark, especially one without many slides. They did do student discount though.

Fast track option: No, but no real need for one.

Food: 5/10 –The food was good quality and there was some choice. It was reasonable value for money and you could get alcoholic drinks. Due to the layout of the park restaurants are quite hard to find.

Queues: 9/10
– There weren’t any queues all day, possibly due to the small number of people in the park.

Kids: 5/10 – The park is huge but I couldn’t really see a kids only area.

Safety: 3/10 – There was only one lifeguard for the four waterslides, although the main pool areas are well supervised.

Review
I’m a big fan of Germany and after a good experience at Therme Erding (Munich) I decided to make Tropical Islands my next destination. Located in Brand, just outside of Berlin, I felt it was an ideal location to continue my adventures. After a slightly confusing read of their website and www.bahn.de I couldn’t really work out how to get from Berlin to Tropical Islands. I contacted Tropical Islands for help but they just told me to look on the website again…not very helpful but they did tell me I could use my camera in the park. After a bit of digging I found that I could buy a Berlin-Brandenburg rail pass for 29 euros, which covered up to 5 passengers. As I was staying in Mitte (central Berlin) it was a short walk to Alexanderplatz station for an hour-long train journey to Brand. I read that the free shuttle bus to Tropical Islands would be waiting for us at Brand Station, and in typical German fashion it was exactly where it should be. The experience of getting there couldn’t have been easier, although it did take about an hour from Berlin.

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The water world opens at 9am, but I couldn’t find any information about when the slides actually open. The entry price is 36 euros for adults, 31 euros for students, 28.50 euros for kids (aged 6-14), with toddlers allowed in for free. It is possible to enter the spa and sauna complex for an extra 6 euros or 7.50 euros for students. The staff at the park are very friendly and speak excellent English, so we didn’t spend long trying to decipher my attempt at speaking German (speaking English loudly and saying danke). As with a lot of European waterparks you are given a wristband that doubles as a locker key and credit facility for purchasing food and drink in the park. Unlike some parks you don’t need to preload the card with money, and instead you pay on your way out. There aren’t many private changing areas unfortunately, but with the huge swathe of lockers you’re unlikely to see anyone anyway. Germans and nudity go hand in hand.

Upon entering the park I was struck by just how massive the structure is, I’ve since learned that it’s the biggest indoor hall in Europe. After walking in from the bitter German winter you’re met by a faux-tropical paradise, featuring waterfalls, lagoons and an indoor rainforest. Apparently the whole complex is heated to a constant 26 degrees, unfortunately reality isn’t quite as pleasant and I had to go and dive in the water to melt the icicles hanging from my nipples. In the lagoon I found two mini waterslides, a nice start to the day and a chance to use my new selfie stick. There are also some waterfalls, Jacuzzis and a rapid river. The whole area is surrounded by sun loungers and a mock beach, kitted out nicely next to a beach hut bar. After a bit of playing around I decided to go and check out the main beach on the other side of the ‘cliffs’. This is the main area and features a restaurant/bar area. There is a stage in the middle of the water where entertainment acts perform…unfortunately the entertainment was akin to Barrymore on a comeback tour…and not just because of the swimming pool.

After having a little swim and strolling along a fake beach I decided to do what I was born to do…throw myself down some slides. After a lot of getting lost (the place is huge) I finally found the slide tower. Tropical Islands is home to the tallest slide in Germany at 27 metres, which I decided to leave ‘til last. I initially tried to go on red tube slide…although it was great fun the tubes are extremely heavy and I saw a number of kids barely being able to get them up the stairs. The best thing about the weight of the tube is that you go even faster than usual…which lead to me nearly kicking myself in the head a few times. When I got to the bottom of the slide the lifeguard told me I couldn’t use my camera, despite already getting permission before coming to the park. Slightly irritating, but after arguing my point she seemed ambivalent and let me continue using it. Proud of defending myself I strode back up the stairs to go on the second highest slide, a yellow bendy slide. Due to only have one lifeguard for all of the slides, Tropical Islands use a green/red traffic light system. After letting my Splash Companion go down first I waited patiently for the light to go green. When it eventually did (after what seemed like an age), I threw myself, with selfie stick in hand, down the slide. I was thoroughly enjoying flying round the bends, completely unaware that karma was waiting just around the corner. Just as I hit top speed I rounded a corner to see my Splash Companion sitting there stranded like a rabbit in the headlights. It was either take the full impact to the testicles or somehow try to fly up the side of the slide and past them. Taking another shot to the balls wasn’t an option so I decided to try and dodge them. I somehow managed it but the selfie stick took the impact instead, making the camera pop out of its waterproof housing and into the water. Bloody typical! Although no-one was hurt it did worry me, as at 13+ stone I could have really hurt someone going at that speed. I’m sure the lifeguard enjoyed seeing it though.

Annoyed at breaking my camera, I decided it was time to head up to the big slide. The website boasts that you can reach speeds of 70km/h…which is more of a challenge than anything. As I got up to the top of the tower I began suffering from altitude sickness, and it’s only when you get there that you realise how big the building is. At the top of the stairs is a turnstile, which is once again managed by a traffic light system. Cleverley this one has a turnstile at the bottom that triggers the lights at the top once the previous rider has left…something that should be on the other slides. Unfortunately the light was on red constantly which meant that you couldn’t get past the turnstile. After a lot of waiting around and waving to the oblivious lifeguard I decided to just jump the turnstiles and hope that it was in full working order. I can confirm that you can reach speeds of 70km/h, and possibly more. All I remember was being at the top and letting myself begin to slide. I then woke up floating face down in the splash pool at the bottom.

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Overall I wouldn’t recommend Tropical Islands as a water park. There simply aren’t enough slides to justify the entry price, and despite some of the park being aimed at kids it was severely lacking compared to other parks. The complex is more of a German Centre Parcs than a waterpark, and I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to visit.

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Aqua Fantasy, Kusadasi, Turkey

Aqua Fantasy, Kusadasi

OVERALL RATING – 8/10

Entry price: 6/10 – Once again in Turkey, the prices weren’t clear. I paid 74 Turkish Lira, which is the equivalent of £34.

Fast track option: No, but would benefit from one on the main attractions.

Food: 8/10 –The food was good quality and there was a lot of choice. It was good value for money, with a decent dinner costing around £6-£8.

Queues: 8/10
– There were queues for the major slides, but they usually moved along quite quickly. Most slides didn’t have much of a queue which meant that you got more slides for your money.

Kids: 8/10 – The park is quite new and is well laid out. There is a separate pirate-themed kids section, but also a number of slides that are friendly for smaller splashers. In addition to this there is a wave pool and a lazy river.

Safety: 8/10 – Lots of lifeguards around who were attentive and helpful…although they did seem to be balance precariously on the edges of slides and sheer drops.

Review

I’ve been to Kusadasi on a number of occasions and I vaguely remember a small waterpark attached to a hotel complex beginning to take shape, but I’d never visited. When I returned this year to review Adaland I felt it only fitting to check in on Aqua Fantasy, especially after I read that it had really grown over the years.

As with Adaland, the waterslides open at 10am, but the price was slightly more expensive at 74 Turkish Lira. Similarly, I was slightly annoyed at the pricing as it wasn’t displayed in Lira anywhere, and my emails had been ignored. Their website claims that entry price is the same as Adaland (24 Euros), but my ticket price was 9 Lira more. Something must have happened in the Turkish stock market the previous night as I went to Adaland the day before and was charged 65 Lira! The entry system to the park is slightly frustrating as you have to visit a window to get your tickets, enter the park, then go to the other side of the same kiosk to add money onto your food/drink card, and then pay a deposit for your locker (if you didn’t realise they weren’t included in the price…like myself). Slightly inefficient and long in the tooth, but once you’re in it’s all forgotten about. There is a 5 Lira deposit for the food/drink card, and any unused credit is returned at the end of the day. The entry price includes the use of changing rooms, sun loungers, umbrellas and all slides.

There are about 20 slides that are adult focused and a separate kids section, and only one slide was undergoing maintenance on the day I attended. A number of slides require either a rubber ring to slide with, or a rubber mat, but there were plenty available for the number of people at the park. Most of the larger slides are located in one main tower, but there are a number of different sets of stairs depending on which slide you want to go on. The signage isn’t totally clear, but it’s worth noting what type of raft/mat you need before walking up the stairs. The slides were genuinely excellent and are aimed at both adults and kids. Unlike Adaland, I didn’t experience or witness any queue jumping throughout the day, which was a nice change.

I arrived at the waterpark slightly later than usual, suncreamed my battered and bruised body from the previous day and decided that I should test the replica version of the slide I tested first at Adaland – the Crazy Raft. Unlike at Adaland, the rafts weren’t returned by a donkey powered pulley system and this meant that the queues were much shorter. Not only were the queues shorter but the raft went down the slide at breakneck speed and I was getting thrown all over the place. It was a great start to the day and a sign of things to come. After splashing down in the pool at the bottom I went on a toilet bowl style slide, followed by a slide in the dark and a short, but powerful cannonball style slide…all in quick succession. I personally don’t like to be dry before I ride the next slide, and Aqua Fantasy certainly delivered.

I like to try out as many of the attractions as possible, and even Splash King needs a rest, so I decided to float down the Lazy River. Unlike most Lazy Rivers, you actually floated along unaided due to the current. Obviously this makes it a lot easier to just sit back and relax with your eyes closed…just remember to wake up before the waterfall drenches you or you’ll get a rude awakening like I did. That’s the last time I drink that many Efes the night before going to a waterpark.

The main attraction at Aqua Fantasy is a slide called the Super Combo; which is a hybrid of a toilet bowl, a master blaster, a black hole and a rafting slide. Apparently it’s the only one in the world and I can verify that it’s awesome. Unfortunately (due to its awesomeness), it comes with a big queue of about 20-25 minutes. What we also didn’t realise before queuing for the slide was that it had a very specific weight restriction of 120kg (min) to 180kg (max). Before you ride the slide you’re asked to get on a weighing scale (sorry ladies) to check that your combined weight is enough to get you around all sections of the slide. Luckily Splash King had been eating burgers and drinking beer all week so we passed the weight test without any issues. After getting our legs in order in our two person raft, we began hurtling down the slide to our first stop…a huge toilet bowl. After a few spins and some sprays of water we managed to fall out of the pipe at the bottom facing in the right direction. As we fell down the pipe we were blasted uphill by a huge stream of water…unfortunately it went straight up my arse; I could taste the chlorine. We then flew headlong into some sort of black hole with lasers…it was all very unexpected. After swirling around for a while we found the exit pipe and flew down another pipe that seemed to have been made from Joseph’s Technicolour Dream Coat (RIP Joseph), before coming to rest at the bottom. It was an excellent ride, and was certainly worth the queue.

The final slide to mention is Xtreme; a body slide that apparently goes 80km per hour. After walking up a lot of stairs I was surprised to find that there wasn’t a queue, so I got seated and waited for the lifeguard to give me the thumbs up to go. As she did, I gently pushed myself off and waited for the inevitable rush as my insides hit me in the face. Unsurprisingly I fell off the edge of the slide and down a huge drop, only to be greeted by the hard slide at the bottom. It was a huge rush, and despite having a dead arse, I felt I should go and give it another try. I ran/limped back to the top and decided that I’d really throw myself off it this time. I swung back on the bar and got the leverage of an Olympic gymnast on the bars and started hurtling towards the edge of the drop. It was only at this point that I had a vague flashback to my Physics lessons at school, learning about some guy called Newton, and suddenly considered that my body was going too fast to stay stuck to the slide. I flew over the drop and for what felt like an eternity I wasn’t touching the slide, until my heels, back and arse finally came into contact at the bottom of the slide with a huge splash. It was only at the bottom that I really had the mental capacity to piece together what I was trying to remember about Newton at the top of the slide…then it hit me…he sung that song, Dream Catch Me (When I Fall). Newton Faulkner, that must have been it.

Overall, Aqua Fantasy is an excellent waterpark. The slides are well set out, and offer a good variety. There are a number of raft slides, body slides and other attractions, and the queues are small for such a well-attended park. I was lucky enough to be able to go on every slide during my day. The only real improvements I could suggest would be related to making the ticket prices a little more clear (and cheaper), and improving some of the signage. There really was something for everyone at Aqua Fantasy, and I would certainly choose it over Adaland based on my most recent visit.

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Adaland, Kusadasi, Turkey

Adaland, Kusadasi

OVERALL RATING – 7/10

Entry price: 5/10 – The prices weren’t clear, and appeared to be different for tourists than locals. I paid 65 Turkish Lira, which apparently equated to 24 euros on the day.

Fast track option: No, but would certainly benefit from one. The queues were quite large.

Food: 5/10 –The food was largely junk food, and a bit overpriced for what it was.

Queues: 6/10 – There were queues for the majority of the day, but after 2pm they became a lot smaller and it meant the slides were easier to get on.

Kids: 7/10 – There was a brand new section for kids that was flanked by sunbeds so that parents could enjoy the park, whilst also watching the kids.

Safety: 8/10 – Lots of lifeguards around who were attentive and helpful. They were slightly too whistle-happy though, demanding you leave the splash pool before you’ve recovered consciousness and pulled your trunks back out of your colon.

Review

Having visited Adaland back in 2007 I felt I needed to return to give it an up-to-date review. It’s located just outside of Kusadasi and is easily accessible by taxi, dolmuş, or car. The park itself covers a huge area and I believe is one of the biggest outdoor waterparks in Europe, featuring a seapark (with dolphins etc) in addition to the general splashpark.

The waterslides open at 10am, and the price for a full day was 65 Turkish Lira (24 Euros). I was slightly annoyed at the pricing, as it wasn’t displayed in Lira anywhere, and my emails to Adaland were ignored. Children aged 4-9 get a discounted entry of 17 Euros, and children under 4 are allowed in for free. The park is open from 10am, although things like the wave pool don’t open until midday. When you enter the park you are given a card which must be topped up with credit that you can use to buy food and drink with. There is a 5 Lira deposit, and any unused credit is returned at the end of the day. The entry price includes the use of changing rooms, lockers, sun loungers and umbrellas and all slides except the rafting slide.

There are about 15 slides that are adult focused and a separate kids section, although two slides were undergoing maintenance on the day I attended. Annoyingly not all of the slides were working by 10am, which meant that queues were forming for most rides before the slides were even open. A number of slides require either a rubber ring to slide with, or a rubber mat, but there were plenty available for the number of people at the park. The slides were genuinely excellent and are clearly aimed at adults. Unfortunately my last visit to Adaland was ruined by people simply pushing in front in the queues, and the lifeguards were simply not interested to help…my return was no exception. I get the impression that the park is aimed at locals more than tourists. Unfortunately you aren’t allowed to take cameras on the slides, which meant I couldn’t get any videos of the slides.

As you enter the park you have no idea of the sheer scale of it, and I’d advise you to get your locker key from the changing rooms and add credit to your food/drink card before going into the park itself. There are sun loungers everywhere, but I’d recommend going right to the top end of the park and getting settled by the diving pool. Not only is it quieter up there, but it has its own bar. Hours of entertainment is provided by people bellyflopping into the pool from a great height. The slides are mainly located in two areas, which makes accessing them relatively easy. There are 3 separate swimming pools, and one jacuzzi pool in addition to a deep diving pool…ideal for badly executed backflips. As usual I got into the park, slapped some suncream on and decided that I should start testing the slides straightaway in the hope of avoiding the worst of the queues. Unfortunately from the moment I got there the queues had already formed. I decided to go straight up to the main attraction, a multi-person raft slide called the Amazon Family Slide. I got near the top and decided that the queue wasn’t so bad and I’d wait…unfortunately I hadn’t realised that the system that returns the rafts from the bottom was something designed at about the same time as the wheel…and it could only return 3 rafts every 5 minutes or so. It took about 20 minutes to get on the slide, and about the same time to reach the bottom due to how slow the water was. All in all, not worth the wait. Luckily a lot of the other slides were much better, including the Master Blaster slide, the Head Down racer slide and the Freefall slide.

I decided that my day so far hadn’t been extreme enough, so I tried out a slide that appeared to be called the Red Phantom; it was hard to verify because I didn’t have my contact lenses in. As usual I swung from the bar at the top to get as much speed as possible. I immediately regretted the decision when I felt like I was in freefall and hurtling towards water that would inevitably hit my private parts like concrete. As I neared the bottom a completely unnecessary spray of water was shot directly into my eyes (which somehow were still open), and to my utter surprise my vision was completely corrected to 20:20. Unfortunately, the impact at the bottom of the slide approximately one second later blinded me, and by the time I had floated face down to the edge of the pool, regained consciousness and pulled myself out I realised that I was back to being short sighted. SIGH.

The slides were all excellent, although those who aren’t into extreme speed may want to avoid one or two. After a few hours of throwing myself down slides and getting a bite to eat, I remembered that there was a diving pool. There are 3 platforms, ranging from 2 metres to 5 metres. After deciding that I was clearly too big for the 2 and 3 metre boards, I went straight to the top one…it’s only when you’re up there and everyone is looking that you realise it’s a lot higher than it looks. In true form though, I chucked myself from the top with all the grace of Felix Baumgartner during his jump from space, and entered the water in a mixture of a pencil dive, cannonball and sideways flip…beat that Tom Daley!

Overall, Adaland is an excellent park and has a multitude of great slides. Unfortunately it’s let down by poor signage, a lack of staff to prevent people from pushing in and huge queues for the majority of the day. I would go back if I was nearby, but I’d probably not bother going early and arrive at about 1pm instead (the queues really subsided by 2pm). I contacted Adaland via email and Facebook prior to arriving, but they didn’t respond to either. As I have mentioned above, I get the impression that the park caters for locals over tourists, and I’d recommend going to Aqua Fantasy instead (2 minute drive) if I had to choose.

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Aquaworld, Budapest

Aquaworld, Budapest

OVERALL RATING – 7/10

Entry price: 7/10 – Like most European waterparks, the prices were split into sessions or the full day. It was good value for money, although I’d like to see an all-inclusive price to avoid any confusion.

Fast track option: No, but doesn’t need one. I didn’t queue for a single ride all day.

Food: 8/10 – If you’re Hungary (get it?) the food was good. Hot and cold selections are available, as well as ice creams and alcohol. It was very reasonably priced.

Queues: 10/10 – No queues!

Kids: 6/10 – There was a special section for children and it was away from the main adult areas. The park was really more adult focused though.

Safety: 8/10 – Lots of lifeguards around who were attentive and helpful. Not over-zealous though which is always a good thing.

Review

I decided to visit Budapest for the first time and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Aquaworld, which is based on the outskirts of Budapest. According to their website, Aquaworld is one of central Europe’s largest indoor waterparks, boasting 11 slides, Jacuzzi’s and a selection of saunas. I had a look on a map and it looked a little bit out of the way, but a taxi from central Budapest only costs about £20 and takes around 25 minutes. It is also possible to catch public transport, and Budapest has a great network of buses and trams, but between four people it’s probably cheaper and more convenient to get a taxi.

Aquaworld is part of a large resort called Ramada, and is set in manicured gardens away from the hustle and bustle of Budapest. The waterslides open at 10am, and the price for a full day is about £10. There are discounted prices for students (£8) and children (£5). Children under the age of 3 are allowed in for free. The park is open from 6am-10pm, although 6-9.30am is swimming only. As with other European waterparks, you are given a wristband on entry that you can use throughout the day to buy food, drink and entry to the exclusive areas (such as Saunaworld), which negates the need to carry cash around all day.

There are 11 slides, although two were undergoing maintenance on the day I attended. Most of the slides require either a rubber ring to slide with, or a rubber mat, but there were plenty available for the number of people at the park. The majority of slides are clearly aimed at adults, so to get to the slides there’s a five-story walk…fortunately there’s also a lift which means you can access the slides the lazy way! You can go down most of the slides with a friend, apart from the ones that require a rubber mat. Due to the confusion with prices I didn’t go into Saunaworld, but I now know that it costs 800HUF, which is about £3. You aren’t allowed to take swimming wear into the saunas though, so you need to hire a sauna sheet to protect your modesty. There is also a surfing machine, which looks like great fun but it was undergoing maintenance on the day I attended…so I’ll have to embarrass myself another day!

As I entered the park from the changing rooms I was surprised to see that the park was housed in a large dome, with an Angkor Wat themed centrepiece. The slides are mainly located in one area, which makes accessing them extremely easy. There are 3 indoor swimming pools, one heated outdoor pool and another outdoor swimming pool. There are 3 jacuzzi’s and a deep-diving pool for extreme cannonballing.

When I got into the park I decided that I should start testing the slides straightaway, mainly due to the severe lack of queues…what I didn’t realise was that there wouldn’t be a single queue all day. After making the initial ascent up five-storeys without a rubber ring or mat, I was left with one option…a slide called Kamikaze. Despite its name meaning Divine Wind, I felt it looked quite tame so I threw myself as hard as I could down it…when I was stuck to the ceiling on the first corner I began to realise I’d made a huge mistake. My ‘Divine Wind’ from the previous night of beer and gnocchi was in danger of becoming a messy follow through, but luckily my landing in the splash pool was so forceful that I felt like I’d had a colonic irrigation treatment. A great start to the day, and it was a sign of things to come.

The next slide I went on was another toilet bowl style slide, but you can go down with a friend which makes it all the more fun. After gaining some serious speed in your dual rubber ring, you come out in a massive bowl with water spraying all over you. If you’re lucky by the time you manoeuvre to the exit slide you’ll be facing the right way…but Splash King doesn’t like to be conventional so I made sure that we were facing backwards for the exit. Needless to say when we entered the splash pool we did some sort of backwards somersault that nearly tore off our swimwear and left us in a heap…my sort of slide! When I came up for air I found my Splash Companion floating face down in the pool, so I dragged their lifeless body out of the pool and up the stairs for another go! Premature death is no excuse to not ride a waterslide.

The slides were all excellent, and even those who aren’t into extreme speed can have fun. After getting my initial fix of adrenaline I decided to have a relax in the Jacuzzi, it was only when I’d got my bearings that I realised that there was a diving pool. The platform was only about 3-4m high, but it was good enough to jump off for me. After going up and doing a classic pencil jump I asked the lifeguard if I was allowed to do a flip…his response “Of course!” told me everything I needed to know about this park…as long as you’re having fun then it’s OK. Being the adrenaline junkie that I am, I felt a normal flip wasn’t going to be enough, so I decided to do it whilst holding one of my Splash Companions. It turns out that I’m not the professional gymnast that I thought I was, and landing flat on my back whilst holding another person gave me that typical British-tourist-in-Benidorm look. Lobster back.

Being the child that I am, I then decided to have a go on one of the slides that is really designated for kids. The main attraction of this ride is that you can all go down together in individual rubber rings. It certainly adds to the fun, and watching one my Splash Companions come off the slide balancing on their head with the rubber ring still attached to their arse made particularly funny viewing.

If you’re in Budapest I’d recommend adding Aquaworld to your itinerary. The staff are extremely friendly, the park is great for adults and kids, and the whole place is high quality. A sign of a good waterpark is that you’d be willing to go back, and if I’m ever in Budapest I’ll make sure that I go back again.

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Worgl Waterpark, Worgl, Austria

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OVERALL RATING – 8/10

Entry price: 8/10 – The prices were quite confusing, and should maybe be a fixed price, but you can access plenty of amenities. Good value for money.

Fast track option: No, but doesn’t need one. I didn’t queue for a single ride all day.

Food: 8/10 – There was a excellent selection of food, including freshly made pizzas, salads and more.

Queues: 10/10 – No queues!

Kids: 7/10 – A special section for children, despite the park clearly being aimed at adults.

Safety: 9/10 – Lots of lifeguards around, and special precautions taken on the main attractions.

Review

As part of my trip to Munich I decided to travel to Worgl in Austria to try out the world’s only double looping water slide. Yes, that’s right – you do two loop-the-loops! After checking on a map and making some rough estimates I decided Worgl would be an easy drive from Munich. In total it took about 70 minutes to arrive, and the waterpark is located about 15 minutes into Austria from the German border. This may seem ignorant, but I wasn’t totally sure…you don’t need a passport to cross the border! Parking is free and the waterpark is located just off the autobahn.

Erlebnisbad Woergler Wasserwelt (Worgl Waterpark) is a hybrid of a traditional waterpark, featuring slides and a wave pool, and a relaxtion spa that features sauna’s, salt pools, massages and jacuzzi’s. There is a total of four waterslides; L2 (two-loop); Formula one racer; and two more tube slides which you can ride with or without a rubber ring.

The entry price for adults was quite confusing initially, because you are able to purchase entry to the individual sections, or all at once. The price for a 4-hour session, which includes the adventure pool (slides), sauna and Isla Sola (tranquil salt pool/spa) is 20.60 euros. If you wanted a full day price it increases to 23.40 euros. Youths prices are 14.90 euros for a 4-hour session and 16.60 euros for a full day. Kids go free, and despite the park being targeted at adults, it is very family friendly. This price does not include access to L2, which costs an additional 2 euros. This price gives you access to L2 all day, no matter how many times you ride. For an additional 2.50 euros you are also able to download a video of all of your rides, which is a great memento from the day. As with other European waterparks, you are given a microchip wristband that can be used to make purchases throughout the day, prior to paying on your way out.

The park opens at 10am daily, although L2 doesn’t open until midday. There is a selection of private cubicles for use when changing and free lockers are provided. There are many amenities available for the entry price including a 25m swimming pool, a wave pool, four waterslides, an outdoor heated relaxtion pool (overlooking some beautiful Austrian scenery), a salt pool and much more. There is also a textile-free sauna, which essentially means you are expected to go in naked (no towels allowed). I decided to give that one a miss on this occasion…

On entering the waterpark, I tried my best to not just run up the stairs and get straight on L2, for a while I even dipped my feet in the water of the wave pool, but after wading in the pool for ten seconds, I gave up on being mature and ran up the stairs to go on the slide. The stairs felt never ending, but I suppose you need to get quite a lot of speed up to make sure you manage both loops. Apparently not everybody makes it around and there are escape hatches for such situations. Unfortunately they are outside, so you have a walk of shame in the freezing Austrian winter to look forward to! When I arrived at the top of the stairs I was greeted by a capsule that I stepped into and assumed ‘the position’. The operator then said what might have been the final words I ever heard, and began the countdown. 3, 2, 1…the floor disappeared beneath my feet and I was free-falling into the fastest slide I’ve ever been on. After the first few seconds, I’d managed to swallow my intenstines back down to where they belong and enjoy doing the two loops! Before I knew it I’d crashed down into the splash pool at the bottom and upon standing I realised it had literally taken my breath away. You’ll see from the video below…I’m literally struggling to comprehend what the hell has just happened! It genuinely has to be experienced to be believed, and was a fantastic rush.

As an attempt to calm down I had a splash around in the wave pool, and decided to go into the outdoor heated relaxtion pool. There’s nothing more relaxing than laying on a sun lounger, submerged in warm water and surrounded by steam, whilst you look at Austria mountains. I also decided to try the salt pool, which is similar to the Dead Sea. I simply laid on my back and floated around in the pool – it was extremely relaxing and quiet.

The main thing to mention about this waterpark, is that the whole place is extremely high quality. If you want to relax, you can without the fear of screaming children ruining your day. If you want to have an adrenaline fuelled day you can. If you want to have a swim, followed by a nice meal and something to drink, you can. The whole place is very classy.

I’d really recommend travelling to Erlebnisbad Waterpark, and it’s extremely accessible from both Munich and Innsbruck. The staff are extremely friendly and certainly made my day more enjoyable. I imagine that over time they will need to get a few more slides to really attract bigger numbers, but in my opinion it’s worth travelling just to go on the world’s only double looping waterslide…if you dare!

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Therme Erding/Galaxy Erding, near Munich, Germany

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OVERALL RATING – 8/10

Entry price: 7/10 – Quite expensive for a four hour session, but plenty of slides and other facilities for the price. The prices were initially hard to understand though.

Fast track option: No, but doesn’t really need one.

Food: 7/10 – There was a good selection of food in the park, and not just the usual junk food. The prices were extremely reasonable.

Queues: 8/10 – Most queues were only short, and it was always possible to get on another slide before you’d dried off.

Kids: 8/10 – A special section aimed at very young kids, which feature lots of safe but scary slides for toddlers.

Safety: 8/10 – Lots of lifeguards around, so it was a safe park. Like most of Europe, the rules aren’t quite as strict as in the UK, which means you can go down slides in groups – this obviously leads to a few more bumps and bruises, but it’s all in the name of fun.

Review

This week I visited Therme Erding, which claims to be Europe’s biggest thermal water world. It’s located about 30 minutes drive from the centre of Munich, and is an extremely easy drive. The park is made up of two sections; Therme Erding and Galaxy Erding. Therme Erding is very similar to a spa, and features swimming pools of varying temperatures, sauna’s, steam rooms and plunge pools. It’s even possible to get massages. Galaxy Erding is a separate section that is purely waterslides.

The admission price for a four hour session was 21 euros, which including access to both areas. Once you have paid you are given a wristband that includes your assigned locker key and a microchip. The microchip can be used throughout the day to make additional purchases without needing to use cash. At the end of the day you then settle your bill on the way out. As there are food outlets, bars and additional sauna areas that cost extra, it’s easy to spend more than you had accounted for!  Kids tickets cost the same as adults, although children under the age of 3 are allowed in for free. A full day ticket costs 29 euros, although there is an additional 1.50 euro charge on weekends. The changing rooms are vast and feature plenty of private cubicles for getting changed in, although plenty of ape-like men still walk around naked except for their shoes and socks…who puts their shoes AND socks on before putting their pants on?! Answers on a postcard please.

Therme Erding opens at 10am daily, although Galaxy Erding doesn’t open until 2pm. I didn’t realise this before I arrived and it unfortunately meant I had to wait until 2pm before using the slides. I would have preferred to have spent time in the spa after going on the slides, and would recommend arriving about 1pm, especially if you’re only staying for a four hour session.

I entered the main area of Therme Erding, and I felt a lot like I’d walked into Centre Parcs. It featured a similar glass dome, with tropical topiary and a variety of swimming pools, including an outdoor heated pool, which was very relaxing. After having a swim around, I felt it would be rude to not try out the steam room and sauna’s, which were all very spacious despite the number of people at the park. The whole place was very family friendly, but still catered for an adult audience. After doing the swimming equivalent of pacing around the room whilst stamping my feet and sighing, Galaxy Erding eventually opened at 2pm. I had hands like a 27 year old prune by this point, but that was going to stop my chucking myself down the slides. As kids began running through to Galaxy Erding, I found a turn of pace that I thought I’d lost since I started drinking beer, and was able to be one of the first people on the slides. In total it has 20 slides, which is astounding for the size of the area, but it doesn’t feel cramped at all. Unfortunately on the day a number of slides were out of order, and even worse…they were the ones I really wanted to go on! One of the slides that looked amazing was essentially just a launch ramp akin to a ski jump, and you are trying to break a record for how far you can get on the landing. There was also an exciting looking slide that allows you to race a friend on a parallel slide – who doesn’t love beating their friend on a waterslide? As I’m made of 90% butter, I always win.

Like most waterparks of this size, they also had some rubber ring slides (which you can go on as a group or an individual), a bowl – which feels a lot like being flushed down a toilet and some other fast and winding closed-tube slides. However, the main attraction was a slide that claimed to be the world’s longest closed-loop water slide. I grabbed a rubber ring from the bottom to ride it, and carried it up 4 flights of stairs (there were lifts, but I needed the exercise) – after watching some other people dive down head first I decided that I’d take advantage of the lax rules and throw myself down head first too. I understood the not going headfirst rule after the second corner when I was abruptly stopped in my tracks by my face hitting one side of the tube and my ankles hitting the other. I’d essentially been folded in half, and my feet probably hit me in the back of the head. To make matters worse, I’d almost stopped dead and I could hear someone else flying down the slide towards me. Luckily I was able to get moving again, and their was no permanent damage to my face. The slide was definitely the longest slide I’ve ever been on and it was great fun…so I believe their claims!

One final slide to mention, and one of the main attractions, is a slide that claims to reach speeds of 65km/h. I didn’t know that before going on the slide, and was genuinely expecting to glide down to the bottom whilst navigating some sharp turns. What actually happened? I’m not entirely sure, but I either broke the sound barrier or I went back in time. To summarise, it was fast!

Unlike most UK waterparks, you are allowed to take food into the park – or if you aren’t – they don’t check your bags in any way. You’re also allowed to take cameras into the park, without the fear of being labelled some sort of child snatcher, which is a good touch in my opinion.

I would certainly recommend going to Therme/Galaxy Erding, and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I’ve been told by locals in Munich that slides being closed is quite a regular feature at Galaxy Erding, so it might be worth calling on the day if you want to go on a specific slide.

 

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Sandcastle Waterpark, Blackpool

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OVERALL RATING – 5/10

Today I visited Sandcastle Waterpark in Blackpool, which proudly calls itself the UK’s largest indoor waterpark. It’s situated on the beach, within a stones throw of the Pleasure Beach resort, and couldn’t be much easier to find.

The admission price for an adult was £13.50, although to go on the adrenalin pumping ‘Hyperzone’ slides you have to pay an extra £6. Kids tickets cost £10.95, with extra to pay if they are old enough to enter the Hyperzone (varying from £6 to £2.50). If you book online you can save 10%, which is quite typical for most UK waterparks. When reading the sign outside, the prices said that the extra Hyperzone ticket included access to the 18+ spa, however when we came to pay we were told that you had to pay an additional £3 to access this section. We decided it would be worth a try, so paid a total of £22.50 to enter. Lockers in the changing room require a 50p coin, which is returned when you return the key.

On entering the park you are greeted by a vast array of slides and waterfalls, in an Aztec theme. As soon as we entered it was hard not to notice how busy it was, with queues for everything in sight – including the food outlets. There were 8 slides that were suitable for adults, although the queues meant that we didn’t get chance to go on any slide more than once. The Sidewinder is a particular highlight, and is essentially a large half-pipe that you shoot down before flying up the other side before finally sliding to a stop at the bottom – it’s a lot more fun to ride than it is to watch. Other highlights include Aztec Falls and Montazooma, which require mats or inflatables to ride. Most of the slides are genuinely fun, but the huge queues really affected our enjoyment. I liked that the park had a wave pool, which is also a great place to float about whilst deciding what to do next. I noticed before arriving that the waterpark also had their own ‘Master Blaster’, like Alton Towers, and I was surprised to find that it was actually a better version. However, be careful when being blasted around the park – if you’re unfortunate enough to have a torrent of water sprayed up your bum it has quite a similar effect to colonic irrigation…or so I’m told.

After going on a few slides, and getting a little fed up of constant queuing, we decided to try out the 18+ spa and it was truly excellent. The spa featured 4 rooms; an aromatherapy room, a sauna, a steam room and a salt inhalation room. These were complemented by a cold shower, an ice point (for exfoliating skin), foot spas and hot stone beds. I felt that it was £3 well spent, especially as it was a quiet sanctuary away from the copious amounts of children.

Unfortunately you aren’t allowed to bring food into the waterpark, unless you have a child under 2. I felt that this was a shame as the only food outlets I saw inside the waterpark were junk food, and extremely expensive. As the park is aimed at families, it’s a shame that you aren’t able to access a healthy option.

Entry price: 4/10 – Quite expensive, but entitles you to a full day. I felt the prices were quite misleading, which wasn’t a great start to the day.

Fast track option: No, but would possibly benefit from one.

Food: 4/10 – Can’t take food into the park, and food is highly priced and lacking in options when inside.

Queues: 4/10 – Queues for everything. This would be rectified by adequate session times. Generally I don’t want to be dry before I ride my next slide!

Kids: 7/10 – Lots of slides aimed at very young kids, and also a special splash section.

Safety: 9/10 – Plenty of lifeguards.

The waterpark would benefit from having session times, as it was too busy. If people were able to attend a morning/afternoon session it should reduce queue times and improve the slide-to-pound ratio. There were more slides than any other waterpark I’ve visited in the UK, and they were generally a bit more exciting than the average slide. As usual, I landed in the splash pool and immediately wanted to have another go, only to remember that I had to queue for 20 minutes to get on in the first place.

Queues often looked much smaller due to having two queues; one to pick up an inflatable and one to actually get on the slide. This was also a source of dissatisfaction, although they had the same policy at Alton Towers.

I would go back to Sandcastle Waterpark, but only if they improved the queuing times. Their unique selling point is that they have more slides than other parks, and the slides are generally a bit more intense than the average UK park. If they could rectify the situation the price would certainly be worth it and the overall score would have been better.

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Cariba Creek, Alton Towers Waterpark

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OVERALL RATING – 5/10

I recently went to visit Cariba Creek waterpark at Alton Towers, although I decided against staying over in the hotel. In typical fashion it was raining heavily in July, so a visit to an indoor waterpark seemed to be the perfect remedy.

The price for an adult to enter on the day was £16.50, although if tickets are purchased in advance (and online) the price drops to £15 per person. Children are classed as 4-11 years old, and a child ticket costs £10.50. The ticket entitles you to one session in the park, although I struggled to find the session times listed on the website. This led to us arriving at 1.30pm, only for the session to be due to end at 2.30pm. This was slightly frustrating and meant we had to wait around until 3.15pm to to be able to take part in the next session. The alternative would have been to pay an additional £5 each to splash around all day – although I was under the impression we’d still have to leave the waterpark between sessions. I informed the staff at the park that I hadn’t been able to find the session times (despite looking in advance) and they told me it’d be rectified asap – surprisingly the times were listed by the time I got home that night!

The children to adult ratio was also a point of interest, as I noted that children under the ages of 9 had to be accompanied by an adult (over 16 years). However Alton Towers classes anyone over the age of 12 to be an adult. I felt this pricing policy was slightly unfair, as clearly Alton Towers doesn’t class anyone 15 and under as responsible enough to supervise a child.

After finally being able to enter the park, we were greeted with an impressive array of waterfalls, splash pools, water guns and pools. We decided to head  straight for the main attraction; The Master Blaster. Using inflatables you are blasted around the park, sometimes defying the laws of physics, and go through a number of twisting and turning pipes before splashing out at the bottom. It’s a great slide, and better because you can go on in pairs – unfortunately adults can’t ride together (probably due to the combined weight), so it’s probably better for kids. There are 4 more slides to go on, including the Rush ‘n’ Rampage and Flash Floods. All of the slides are quite tame and are clearly aimed at kids, which means that adults are sadly a bit of an after thought. In addition to the slides there is a lazy river, with multiple tipping buckets, waterfalls and a good strong undercurrent. If you fancy a swim outside there is also a hot tub, which is great for relaxing in.

Undoubtedly, the best part of the waterpark is the Wacky Waterworks Tree House. It’s essentially a large climbing frame with multiple waterguns, bouncy walkways, and booby traps. It’s great fun splashing other people, and despite being a 26 year old man, I took great pleasure in dousing someone’s grandma with a water cannon. It was even better as she had no idea where it was coming from. I imagine that’ll be on my list of sins when I arrive at the Gates of Hell. I’ll file it under the topic “Worth it”.

There were plenty of places to sit down and grab something to eat, although as expected, the prices were more akin to a motorway service station than an enjoyable day out. The selection of food and drink was reasonable though, so I suppose it was to be expected.

The waterpark as a whole was smaller than I expected, and certainly is dwarfed by the waterparks found in mainland Europe.

After about 2-3 hours of splashing around we decided it was time to leave. The park opens at 10am, and shuts at 8pm (during peak season), so traffic was never really going to be a concern. We did discover on exiting the park that waterpark users don’t have to pay for parking (usually £6), so it’s worth keeping your tickets to show at the gate on the way out.

Entry price: 5/10 – Not hugely expensive, but only entitles you to half a day.

Fast track option: No, but no need for one.

Food: Can take food into the park, but food is highly priced when inside. 6/10

Queues: 5/10 – Queues for inflatables from 3 of the 5 slides.

Kids: 9/10 – The whole park is aimed a kids, so they seemed to love it.

Safety: 9/10 – Plenty of lifeguards.

It was worth the trip and I had fun, but I can’t help but feel disappointed. The session times were a bad start, but ignorning that I didn’t feel there were enough slides, and the ones that were there were too tame. I’m glad we went, but I won’t be returning.

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Calypso Cove, Barnsley Metrodome

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OVERALL RATING – 5/10

No waterpark is too big, or too small for me, so I decided to take a day off work and head to Barnsley Metrodome for a splash around at Calypso Cove. I was well aware before I arrived that it was designed for families, so the look on the receptionist’s face when I asked for one adult ticket to Calypso Cove was a joy to see. An adult ticket costs £6 for adults (£4.70 for children), which seems reasonable.

After paying you are ushered into the main changing area that includes private stalls and lockers. From here you can have a shower, before going through into the main swimming area. You are greeted by a long swimming pool, with lane swimming and splash areas. The water seemed to be unduly warm and the humidity in the building made it feel like a tropical paradise.

There were 4 main slides for adults, with a few further slides for children. In addition there were also 3 diving boards (2 flexible ones and a high dive board). Lots of children were fearlessly throwing themselves headfirst from the high board, whilst I seemed to land back-first after another misjudged dive. There were also a few rest areas and waterfalls to sit under which made the park seem a bit more relaxing for families.

The slides were good fun, and fast enough to want to have another go on. They also had LED lighting inside which makes it feel like you’re flying down!

The park is small, but most UK indoor waterparks are. I spent about 2/3 hours there. My scores are below:

Entry price: 8/10 – Good value.

Fast track option: No, but no need for one.

Food: Can take food into the park, and good value and selection when inside. 8/10

Queues: 9/10 – Almost no queues at all, meaning constant sliding.

Kids: 6/10 – No specific section just for parents and children, but not many adults there on their own…except people like me.

Safety: 9/10 – Plenty of lifeguards. I think this is very much expecting in the UK.

Overall it was worth the trip, and as usual, I did have fun.