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Wild Wadi vs Lost Paradise of Dilmun

Around $200m is expected to be spent at parks and attractions in the Middle East by 2011 (up from around $50m today). Dubai’s nine year-old Wild Wadi, operated by Jumeirah, has a new competitor, Bahrain’s Lost Paradise of Dilmun, a $15m venture started in September 2007.

water park, wild wadi, lost paradise of Dilmun, Dubai, Bahrain, brand, rates, play, fun, entertainment, size, middle eastAround $200m is expected to be spent at parks and attractions in the Middle East by 2011 (up from around $50m today). Dubai’s nine year-old Wild Wadi, operated by Jumeirah, has a new competitor, Bahrain’s Lost Paradise of Dilmun, a $15m venture started in September 2007.

More or too much?

According to Gordon Dorrett, president of theme park specialist Forrec, amusement parks are all about a unified theme. While Wild Wadi is designed around a tale from Arabian folklore, featuring Juha and his seafaring friend Sinbad, Lost Paradise is based on ancient Bahrain, around 4,000 years ago.

It recreated Dilmun (the island’s original civilization and the setting of the Sumerian creation myth), Mesopotamian and Macedonian ruins, ancient artifacts and replicas of real historical sites, with more than 500 sculptures and fittings that incorporate the key design aspects of the Dilmun period. Even its two (quite ugly) bull mascots – Delmo and Delma, represent the heroic figure of Gilgamesh, depicted as “the bull of heaven”.

That’s for the looks. But what about actual fun? Beyond the rides and lazy rivers (Lost Paradise has 14 connected slides, Wild Wadi has 30 rides, out of which 14 are also interconnected), the usual souqs (where branded merchandise, souvenirs and swimwear are for sale), restaurants and snacks, spa pools, the children wet play area, it’s all a matter of superlatives and fancy names.

For one, the 77,000 qm Lost Paradise (divided in six zones), boasts the largest wave pool in the region, and the first one with a natural sandy beach. In comparison, the slightly smaller 50,000 qm Wild Wadi, offers the Jumeirah Sceirah, the tallest and fastest ride outside the US, reaching up to 80km/h. It also features three surfing simulators and an 18m waterfall that goes off every ten minutes.

Location

To lure visitors, both have worked on access facilities and proximity to resort hotels. Wild Wadi is situated next to the Burj Al Arab and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, only 20 minutes away from the city center and boasts one of the best views of the seven star hotel.

Last Paradise is part of the $1.3bn Al Areen development, which also includes the Banyan Tree Desert Spa & Resort and Al Areen Wildlife Park. It claims to be a 35-minute drive from Bahrain International Airport, 25 minutes from the city and, most importantly, 20 minutes from King Fahad causeway.

“Lost Paradise will not only act as the ideal leisure and entertainment destination for families in Bahrain but also those visiting from neighboring GCC countries and from around the world,” gushed chairman Muhannad Hamad.

Lost Paradise also imitated Wild Wadi’s cashless technology. Both parks use waterproof wristbands in which the amount to be spent is encoded, sparing patrons the problem of loose coins.

Expensive fun

With marketing in mind, both make a point to give away, once in a while, free tickets. Probably because customers would rush to get free tickets for something otherwise quite expensive.

Wild Wadi is open from 11am to 7pm in May and September, from 11am to 6pm in November and February, and from 11am to 9pm in June and August (one may have a hard time following the various operating hours). Though customers can spend up to 22 hours in the park, the tickets don’t come cheap- it costs $53 for people over 1.1 m and a not very different $44.9 for those under the height limit. Six VIP cabanas along the Lazy River are also available for around $260 a day.

But inspite of the rates, the park has welcomed more than five million customers and even on Yahoo travel, gets a rating of 4/5. “I can’t go back”, says one contributor. “I like the games, but the value’s the thing I dislike. It’s fantastic, please go there.”

Being the new entrant, Lost Paradise does seem to be trying to lure people with its more affordable rates, charging around $34 for adults over 1.2 m and around $13 for people under 1.2m, for a 20 hour long day in the park.

Open between 10am and 6pm from May to June, with Tuesdays off, it also charges around $5 for towels and lockers. While the rates maybe lower than Wild Wadi, it hasn’t made many happy.

“I don’t think this park was meant for the locals,” says Bahraini blogger ammaro.com. “[…the average Bahraini won’t exactly be able to afford it. I don’t think your average BD400 bread-earner is willing to pay a good 50 or 60 dinars for a single day of water soaked entertainment for him and his family.”

Which may be the point: “Keeping the prices high ensures the quality of visitors doesn’t drop below a certain level,” adds the blogger.

In any case, such a price tag gap could make a huge difference, added to the fact that Lost Paradise is newer, fancier and bigger than Wild Wadi. While Bahrain has been somewhat sidelined by Dubai’s sudden touristic expansion, it is hoping that this latest addition to its fun map will tilt the balance in its favor.

 
 

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