Paris Permenter & John Bigley's
Your guide to Caribbean family vacations from a husband-wife team of professional travel writers and guidebook authors.
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Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island, Bahamas
The vacationers looked up through the sea water, the sun
filtering down in liquid shafts and illuminating the hundreds of fish
around them. Suddenly, the light was blocked by an sinister silhouette--a
shark. Directly overhead, the six-foot predator swam with deliberate slowness,
making schools of yellow grunts scurry closer to sheltering rocks.
But, unlike the school of fish and the large spiny lobster
on the sandy floor below, the tourists were not worried. The visitors
in the 100-foot long clear tunnel -- the parents with the little boy in
a stroller, the teenagers wearing a three-day sunburn, and the couple
on their first trip to the Caribbean -- just delighted in the view. Surrounded
by thousands of tropical fish, sharks, manta rays, and sea turtles in
the worlds largest open-air aquarium, they had the experience of
scuba diving without ever getting wet.
The tunnel and the expansive water gardens surrounding
it are found at the Atlantis on Nassaus Paradise Island. The hotel
is one of the most lavish properties in the entire Caribbean. For all
its niceties, the hotel is just a backdrop to the 3.2 million-gallon saltwater
habitat, the largest outdoor, open-air aquarium in the world. A 14-acre
waterscape, where over 40 waterfalls splash and churn sea water into fish-filled
lagoons that weave among walkways and bridges. Over three million gallons
of sea water fill the observation tanks, each carefully constructed of
man-made stone and coral formations to simulate a marine environment.
Guests flock to the Predator Lagoon for a close-up look
at the half dozen reef sharks that swim a constant pattern alongside barracudas
and rays. Above the waters surface, guests watch for the sharks
tell-tale fin to break the lagoons surface; underwater, encased
in the clear tunnel, they stand within inches of the sharks. The Predator
Lagoon is popular with all ages of visitors, from small children who delight
at the diving turtles and crawling spiny lobsters to the older visitors
and non-swimmers looking for the sensation of scuba diving without getting
Water activities continue above the surface as well. Near Predator Lagoon, a rope suspension bridge swings and sways over the water. Nearby water tricycles churn across Paradise Lagoon, a salt water lagoon that opens to the sea. Here in the calm, protected waters the resort hopes to introduce tropical fish to be enjoyed by beginning snorkelers and children who are not ready to tackle the mild waves on the beach. The most popular spot with children is the Lazy River Ride, which meanders through the Waterscape for a quarter mile. Kids hop on an inner tube and set off on a journey pushed by a gentle current.
Nearby, Goombay Baths and Slides are a series of saltwater
pools where kids can tumble from one to another. Kids also enjoy a childrens
pool with a sand play area, an Adventure Water Walk with computer-controlled
geysers and fountains, and the calm waters of Paradise Lagoon, a good
place to receive an introduction to snorkeling or swimming.
Thrill seekers plunge down the Leap of Faith slide on a
replica of a Mayan temple. The slide takes an almost vertical 60-foot
drop, plunging riders into an acrylic tunnel in a shark-filled lagoon.
The temple is also home to the Serpent slide, which spins through the
interior of the dark temple before emerging into Predator Lagoon.
Guests at Atlantis can also take part in one of the most exciting childrens programs in the Caribbean: the Discovery Channel Camp at Atlantis. This program is a joint effort by the Discovery Channel and Sun International to use computer and television technology to give children an interactive opportunity to explore. Children ages 5-12 can participate in morning, afternoon or evening sessions.
The camp includes several components. The Base Camp is
easy to findjust look for the replica of a 17th century Spanish
galleon, Atocha. This play and orientation center uses the sails of Atocha
as a giant television monitor to display Discovery Channel footage.
The Technology Lab uses state-of-the-art computers,
camcorders, scanners, and plenty of imagination. The Science Outpost offers
live animal touch tanks and aquariums as well as working microscopes and
collections of fossils and bones. The Arts and Crafts area utilizes the
crafts of the Bahamas and gives children the chance to direct the creativity
in many ways.
Toll-free reservations Tel. 800/ATLANTIS
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