The fourth day of the European Coaster Club's Arabian Adventure in the UAE took us to Abu Dhabi, to visit the attractions of Yas Island and ride the fastest rollercoaster in the world.
After the previous days of sun followed by sandstorm, the UAE weather seemed determined to make us complete the set, with Tuesday bringing torrential downpours. And what do you do on a rainy day? Visit a waterpark of course! We boarded our coach for the 1½ hour trip south into Abu Dhabi and to Yas Island, which was home to both our destinations for the day - Yas Waterworld and Ferrari World.
Yas Waterworld is a large waterpark next door to the future site of Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi, yet another theme park currently under construction. The rain had somewhat eased off by the time we arrived, but there was still a sprinkling in the air. We all trooped off our coaches and into the changing rooms, then back out of the changing rooms to visit a small kiosk to purchase wristbands for the lockers, then back into the changing rooms, and finally proceeded into the park itself.
Amongst the various slides, pools and lazy river, Yas Waterworld also has a Vekoma Splash Party coaster called Bandit Bomber. This is one of those rollercoasters designed to be ridden at a waterpark, although there weren't any of the usual water effects to get riders wet (either that or they were turned off ... maybe because it was raining? :p ) It was, however, a good fun ride, similar in many ways to Vekoma's Suspended Family Coasters. We did manage to get at least a little bit wet from the rain dripping off the track and wheel assembly above our heads. Mmmmm, lovely oily water!
Given the rather unappealing weather, having ridden Bandit Bomber a few times, we didn't spend a huge amount of time in the waterpark. After having some lunch, we went back to the coaches for the short drive around Yas Island to one of the most anticipated parks of the trip, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.
More: Yas Waterworld
Ferrari World plays host to Formula Rossa, the world's fastest rollercoaster. This is an obvious draw for coaster enthusiasts, and most of our group headed straight for it as soon as they entered the park. Not wanting to have to wait in line behind the best part of 150 people, especially having heard about some of the less than speedy ride operations, a few of us headed instead for Flying Aces, the park's 2016 Intamin Wing Coaster. I have to say, we made an excellent choice. The ride is wonderful: a speedy cable lift pulls the aeroplane themed cars up to the top of the 206ft tall lift hill in a few seconds, before the train traverses through a massive non-inverting loop and various hills and turns, culminating in a barrel roll at the end of the circuit. Everything was executed with a smoothness unbecoming of Intamin, and sitting beside the track on the wings (much smaller than those on B&M's wing coasters) was very effective.
Conscious that our two walk-on rides on Flying Aces may not have given quite enough time for the Formula Rossa queue to die down, we took the opportunity to try out the park's other coaster, Fiorano GT Challenge. This is a racing family launch coaster from Maurer, with the two trains nicely synchronised to provide a real race, rather than having one of them speed off at the beginning of the ride and impossible for the other to catch. It was another really fun ride - enough to make us ride again to experience both sides.
Ferrari World had two other coasters under construction. Turbo Track, an Intamin shuttle coaster which launches up a spike through a hole in the middle of Ferrari World's giant glass dome, was due to be ready for our visit but unfortunately opened a few days after we had arrived back home. Mission Ferrari, which was originally due to be completed in 2016, was not open either and is still under construction a few months after the trip.
This all leads on nicely to Formula Rossa which, by the time we had ridden Flying Aces and Fiorano GT Challenge, had chewed through the majority of the queue of other trip goers. With an acceleration of 0-149mph in 4 seconds straight out into the desert, eye protection is mandatory for all riders. Most people are given thin plastic goggles to wear - glasses wearers like me get the joy of full blown safety goggles to put on over our specs. Reminded me a bit of chemistry experiments at secondary school!
We opted to queue for the front row, which proved a great choice. The view down the launch track is both exciting and slightly intimidating. The launch itself is exhilarating. I'm used to the relatively short launches on rides like Rita at Alton Towers or Stealth at Thorpe Park. Formula Rossa's is in another league - it goes on and on to the point where you feel it must have reached its top speed, and then it goes on even longer. My ears popped at some point, and my eyes were watering even underneath my two layers of fashionable eyewear. I hardly noticed the first hill, but really enjoyed the swooping turns and hills the train traverses (still at huge speed) before the final brake run. It was a great ride, and a unique experience, but I have to say I preferred Flying Aces.
Having ridden all the coasters, it was time for a bit of a sit down. Given the massively expensive food and drink at Ferrari World though, we decided that seeing the "Red" show was the best option. This takes place in a huge auditorium, and features a variety of acrobats, dancers, BMX stunt riders and other acts. Many of these were very clever, although the vast cavernous performance space wasn't really used to full effect.
Up next was Benno's Great Race, a brilliant interactive dark ride. Rather than the usual laser guns, Benno's Great Race featured a variety of mini games at various points in the ride, which included cutting strings with virtual scissors, building Benno's car and squashing shedloads of tomatoes. These all proved to be extremely good fun, and shows what a little imagination in dark ride design can achieve.
After trying a few more rides and the park's flying theatre, we just had time two more rides on Flying Aces in the evening twilight before it was time to leave. Not being a car enthusiast, I didn't expect to enjoy Ferrari World anywhere near as much as I did.
Following the long trip back up to Dubai, a couple of us went back to the Mall of the Emirates for dinner at the local branch of The Cheesecake Factory, before retiring for the night in preparation for a very early start the next day, the final day of the trip.