The Lost Paradise is a recreational water park located next to the Al Areen Wildlife Park in the southern region of Bahrain. Set in 77,000 square metres of what was previously arid desert land, this impressive playground is created and landscaped in the style of Bahrain's historic Dilmun era.
The pristine open areas are split into six zones with speed slides and tube slides, raft rides, winding rivers, fountains, waterfalls, a beach with automated waves, a spa, toddlers’ paddling pools and a swimming pool. There's something for everyone with all ages catered for.
The park has been a huge success from the beginning, attracting visitors from Bahrain and the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Daily attendance figures ranges between 500 and 2,300, depending on the day and the time of year; school holidays and weekends are naturally the most popular. The park's management are hoping for 300,000 visitors this year.
The park recently introduced Ladies Nights for women only and their children less than 10 years of age. These evenings proved so successful they now stay open until midnight and even then it's difficult to encourage the ladies to go home!
Public feedback is positive and surveys are encouraging, many visitors come again and again. Corporate packages are possible: local clubs, schools, hotels and airlines can arrange tailor-made packages, which are popular. It's even possible to book the park for private use, at a cost of just BD 50,000 per day.
The Lost Paradise employs 170 members of staff, including 23 different nationalities, of which 35 per cent are Bahraini. Training in all areas is stringent, it's on-going, carried out on site and is in strict accordance with international health and safety regulations. Staff uses two-way radios to summon extra help when necessary.
"Our medics usually only have to treat people who have fainted though" Paul said. “Some guests don't drink enough water and then suffer from over-exposure to the sun. " There are, however, ample shaded areas around the Lost Paradise plus eight food and drink outlets strategically placed offering popular choices including burgers and chips, sandwiches, shawarmas, salads, fresh fruit, water and juices. Visitors are not permitted to bring their own refreshments, no glass is allowed and smoking is only possible in three designated spaces.
There were some unexpected water problems (for swimming etc) in the early days, due to the park's supply and purification plant not being ready on time. Now rectified, their reservoir currently stores an estimated 1 million litres of water and the Lost Paradise uses a staggering 10 million litres of desalinated water. The park's water is tested 24 hours a day; treated with chemicals and balanced, it flows on for safe, healthy public use.
Paul Blunt came to Bahrain three years ago, initially to oversee the theme park's team of architects, engineers, designers and builders engaged in the construction. The Lost Paradise opened under Paul's supervision in September 2007; it closed to the public during the cool winter months and re-opened in March this year. The 2008 season will extend to December, weather permitting.
I asked Paul if the Lost Paradise looks as he had envisaged. “Yes, it does actually, though I'd say the conceptual designs looked greener on paper!
"This is a harsh environment for a $1.3billion investment. It was a risk to create something like this here but it's actually a good location. It's unique, very different and after five years our surroundings will be spectacular too. " He said all the clusters of land in the Al Areen Holding Company's 2 million sq. m. master plan have now been sold. The development will eventually include three major hotels, conference facilities, a medical centre, a shopping mall, commercial, retail and residential areas. Extensive building is already underway around the park's perimeter where the Italian Domina Hotel is expected to open next year.
As well as being general manager at the Lost Paradise, Paul is also a director of Sim Leisure Consultants, the leading design, development and operational specialists of theme parks around the world. A British-born Australian, Paul has been in the business for 20 years and he's worked in or helped open similar water-parks in Australia, Cyprus, Malaysia, Vietnam, Bulgaria and now the Middle East.
Paul Blunt lives in Bahrain with his wife Nicole and son Zac. “We enjoy Bahrain and like the region. Sim Leisure is looking at opening more parks in the Middle East, so I expect we'll remain in this part of the world for years to come. I love my job. The Lost Paradise was a challenge; location wise, logistically, hiring the right people for our staff and then training them. The staff seems happy enough and that's important. If the staff is content, it reflects well and that's what we want. "
I then toured the water-park. It's spectacular: well presented, well staffed and spotlessly clean. At 11am on a Monday business was already brisk, everyone smiling, enjoying the thrill of the rides. The Lost Paradise is supposed to reflect Bahrain in the Dilmun era - but I don't suppose they had such excitement in those days - this is Paradise Found.
The Lost Paradise of Dilmun Water Park is located at Al Areen, near the Bahrain International Circuit, Kingdom of Bahrain
From Ohlala! Magazine - Bahrain - http://www.ohlala-magazine.com