Yas Island: A Tourist Favourite In Abu Dhabi

This tiny man-made island packs quite a punch with exceptional theme parks, Grand Prix circuits, beaches, and restaurants
 An aerial view of Yas Island
An aerial view of Yas Island

I woke from my comfortable slumber just as the Etihad flight was about to touch down in Abu Dhabi. The early morning sun reflected off the sea, creating patterns on the high-rise buildings dotting the shore. As the plane descended, I could see the sprawl of busy freeways glistening in the sunlight with luxury cars zipping along. Abu Dhabi looked impressive, but my destination was Yas Island, a 25 square kilometre 'mini Monaco' - 20 minutes from downtown Abu Dhabi and about an hour from Dubai. I had heard about Yas Island's varied leisure and entertainment experiences, and I was more than ready to embrace it all.

Yas Island is all about the largest, tallest, fastest and most thrilling, and the visit was memorable in more ways than one.

Not A Bird, Nor A Plane

Flying inside the world's tallest indoor skydiving tunnel at CLYMB was one of the most hair-raising experiences I have ever had. When you enter, you are taken into a room where you suit up and are taught simple hand gestures for different situations you may encounter. Your instructor wouldn't hear a thing during the flight hence it is essential to pay attention.

Air is blasted at very high pressure inside a large vertical tunnel, and you are lifted about 32 metres into the air. You fly or keep afloat in this airy capsule. Your body must maintain a specific position - on your stomach, hands bent at the elbow, fingers spread out at eye level, and toes pointed out. However, it is more complicated than it sounds. The trick is understanding your body's aerodynamics and manoeuvre yourself to fly comfortably. Even a slight change in the arch of the back while flying could cause you to sink to the floor of the tunnel or suddenly soar up at full speed. Think of it as a simulation of an actual skydiving situation.

Our instructor was a brilliant acrobat and performer in the ring but also enthusiastic and friendly. He even gave some kind encouragement to a friend who was too scared to attempt the flight.

At the end of my flight, I felt like I had been through an intense 20-minute cardio session. After my second flight, when my instructor asked me if I wanted to try a higher or longer flight, I signed him a 'no', not so much for the additional 40 to 80 dirhams but from sheer tiredness. It was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time.

Up-Close With Scooby Doo

The Warner Bros. World lets you step back in time to meet your favourite characters from childhood. It's a 1.65 million square feet theme park where characters from WB shows and films come alive with nearly 30 innovative rides and experiences. I loved Bedrock, the imaginary world of Fred, Wilma and the whole gamut of characters from The Flintstones. Solving mysteries with the Scooby Doo squad was a delightful way to reminisce familiar moments from my favourite show. The occasional appearances of Bugs, Daffy, Coyote, Tweety, Marvin, and the Jetsons add to the entire throwback experience.

Go frolicking at the Warner Bros World
Go frolicking at the Warner Bros World

It's a different world when you enter the dark Gotham city alley. Hop on to a Batmobile and fly over the lanes of Gotham as Batman gives you a first-row seat to watch him bring down Joker.

The fast-spinning twisted Scarecrow ride, where you get suspended upside down for a few fearful seconds, will make you see stars

Falling Head Over Wheels

Billed as the world's largest indoor theme park, Ferrari World has rides, exhibits and other activities linked to the Ferrari road car and racing team. You can go on the world's tallest roller coaster loop here. They also have child-friendly rides for kids. For me, the highlight was the crazy, gravity-defying roller coasters, which hold many world records.

An aerial view of Ferrari World
An aerial view of Ferrari World

I went on a Friday, and people were thronging the queues to ride on the fastest roller coaster in the world.

At 240 km/hour, the Formula Rossa ride has doom flashing before your mind's eye for exactly 58 seconds before you are dropped back to safety. The World's fastest roller coaster is surely not for the faint hearted.

Woven into the Flying Aces experience is a 1900's war story of the Prancing Horse Ferrari emblem, brought to life through life-size animatronics of a plane that has crashed into a tree and LED projections of speaking human faces.

Making A Splash

Yas Island's third major theme park, the Yas Water World, is perfect for a summer day with winding tunnels, slides and motor rides. The entire experience is thematically woven together by an original story rooted in the local culture, where Dana, a little Emirati girl, goes searching for a lost pearl for her village. Cinesplash, a 5D experience where you are inside a theatre that gets flooded by a waterfall and instantly drains out, tells this tale of the water park. Bandit Bomber, Falcon Falaj, Liva Loop and Jebel's drop are some of the other popular rides in the amusement park.

A Massive Aquarium

Aquariums are a source of fun and entertainment for many people
Aquariums are a source of fun and entertainment for many peopleShutterstock

Spanning across five indoor levels, covering roughly 183,000 square meters and capturing eight different realms of marine ecosystems, the newly opened SeaWorld offers an eclectic experience. Housing 58 million liters of water, it offers a diverse habitat for over 150 species of marine animals and hosts 75 immersive experiences. Walk into the eight different realms of the marine world and watch animals like adorable penguins, sea lions, walruses and mantas up close. Located next to the park is the Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue Center, the UAE’s first dedicated marine research, rescue, rehabilitation and return center. It supports regional and global conservation efforts, providing an advanced knowledge hub with a focus on indigenous Arabian Gulf and marine life ecosystems.

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