The Canaries vacation island of Tenerife paused for breath earlier this year as the economy meant holidaymakers wre booking less holidays - but as host to Europe's top water park it's suffered less than others thanks to this modern family friendly holiday facility.
Just a year old, Siam Park is not only the largest water park in Europe, but it is also a testament to creativity, family fun and thrilling experiences.
Designer Christoph Keissling went so far as to obtain permission from Thailand's royal family to use the name. The Thai theme is evident in every one of the 25 buildings, as well as the statues, landscaping and food served at the restaurants in the park. Developers spent 52 million euros to construct an environment that suits both the theme and visitors' expectations.
Water parks are hugely popular with residents and tourists alike wherever they are located. Siam Park competes with Aqualand Costa Adele, also located on Tenerife. Almost every country in Europe has one or more water parks. Germany, Italy, Great Britain: Name a country and you will find a water park. In the United States even some of the coldest states have one or more water parks. Noah's Ark in Wisconsin, where the winter temperatures can dip well below freezing if not zero, is the largest water park in the United States.
Water parks in southern California and Florida, like Disney's Blizzard Park and Typhoon Lagoon, get more visitors even though they don't offer as much as Noah's Ark. In both Europe and the United States, parks located in harsher climate areas can do very well despite having to close several months of the year, because the parks are such a huge draw when they are open.
Newer parks, like Siam Park, continue to be bigger and better than their predecessors. They take advantage of desirable technological developments. It is another testament to Siam Park's developers' foresight that the entire park is environmentally friendly.
The water is heated to 25 degree Celsius, and Keissling proudly points out that it is the only air conditioned water park in the world. A desalination plant built in the park processes 700 cubic meters of salt water every day. The processed water is used in the rides and then recycled to water the park's plants. Developers also built the first natural gas plant in the Canary Islands in the park.
One of the first things that visitors notice is a wave pool that produces waves up to 3 meters in height. Surfers used to the tamer and smaller waves produced by most wave pools have nothing but good things to say about Siam Park. Park management plans to hold surfing competitions in the future. In the meantime, professional surfers are thrilled to have a new practice venue that allows them to hone their skills in man-made waves that rival ocean conditions.
Restaurants throughout the park offer Thai food in keeping with the theme. There is even a Thai floating market that visitors can wander through with a choice of exotic offerings. But those with more diverse tastes will not be disappointed. The park caters to everyone.
Though the buildings and environment are enchanting and visually appealing, the real draw for park visitors are the water rides.
Originally the park was intended to include a state of the art roller coaster thrill ride, but the developers made the decision to hold off on all of the non-water attractions in order to open last year. Once the park is fully developed with additional non-water rides, visitors may decide that the park was not complete without them. For the time being, however, no one is complaining. The water rides may be thrilling, relaxing or interesting, but they are definitely not boring.
Among the most popular attractions are:
* The Dragon, which propels up to four riders down an enclosed tube, ending with a heart-stopping drop at the bottom that sends the raft up the side of a huge cone-shaped ending.
* The Giant, where riders can go solo or in pairs through one of two tubes leading to a huge bowl-shaped structure and into yet another tube.
* The Jungle Snake, where the rider must choose between one of four tubes, each of which offers a strikingly different experience.
* The Naga Racer, which, as its name implies, offers riders an opportunity to race against each other through a six lane tube.
* The Tower of Power, which is perhaps the most thrilling of all the rides. Riders experience a fast and furious downhill plunge, reaching speeds of up to 40 kmph before they hurtle from the open chute and into a clear enclosed tube surrounded by water.
While tourism in general is problematic for many typical tourist spots because of the worldwide economic downturn, Tenerife, part of the Canary Islands, has been taking steps to lessen the impact on their tourist-driven economy. In addition to Siam Park, clearly the most talked about attraction, other improvements include the recently opened Marina de San Miguel. It features a new world class golf course, hotel, restaurant and an English-speaking radio station. It has ideal facilities for those who want to stay closeby on villa holidays in Tenerife
Another complex, the Royal Marina Golf Resort, is not quite ready yet, but it promises to offer a level of luxury difficult to compete with. Spacious accommodation features fully equipped kitchens, marble floors, air conditioning, terraced gardens and spectacular views of the golf course and the ocean.
The level of excitement generated by all these developments ensures that Tenerife will remain a desirable holiday destination when the economy picks up and hopes 2010 bookings will show a rise.