Marine life parks tend to have the most distinct attraction lines of any theme park. Even the most sophisticated of them are often just aquariums and enclosures for seabirds and reptiles. They are often approached as a film about conservation. Not in the Middle East.
Last week, the doors opened to the new Sea World Park, located in the glittering emirate of Abu Dhabi. It is entering a market already crowded with foreign attractions. Within an hour’s drive of SeaWorld Abu Dhabi you can find one of the world’s largest indoor ski resorts, full-size Swiss chalets. A shopping mall with an indoor fountain; The world’s largest source; And the People’s Child et lumière spectacular is free to see every night and matches the breathtaking scenes of flames, lasers and twirling spotlights atop the 36-story hotel. SeaWorld Abu Dhabi had to pull out all the stops to make waves in this type of competition. He did it in the most unexpected ways.
At nearly two million square feet, SeaWorld Abu Dhabi is comfortably the world’s largest indoor theme park. That’s not a big deal to brag about. Being under cover protects guests from Abu Dhabi’s intense heat, which regularly tops 100 degrees in the summer. Ultimately, this allows the park’s eight spaces to be decorated with intricate detailing without being open to the elements. The exteriors of the attractions in the park allow them to have the same level of theme as you find on the interiors of Disney rides.
Attention to detail begins before you even set foot in the park, as the indoor environment around the ticket counters is designed to resemble a traditional Middle Eastern city from days gone by. A wooden ship on the beach stands among palm trees, piles of boxes and artificially rusted oil barrels. The ticket counters themselves are housed in a cream-colored fort with war burials, oil lamps hanging from the walls, and ornate stone carvings.
Camel hoof prints are carved into the sandy surface and palm trees look like they have faded over the decades as they are blown away by sandstorms. Distant mountain vistas on banners covering the walls invite guests to head toward them. As we mentioned, the park’s central circular room is surrounded by the world’s largest LED screen, creating even more confusion. A pin-sharp 8K display shows bewildering scenes of schools of fish, waves and currents rushing around the room.
From the center, guests can access the various areas of the park. It looks like a tropical Caribbean hideaway with huts built of bamboo and thatched roofs. Colorful vegetation fills the walls and the stonework that rushes past them. Traditional baskets woven from multi-colored beads stand on bamboo fences and trees hang over stone paths. Bark appears to be peeling off some branches while others are sprouting new shoots. It makes the trees look so real that it’s hard to resist touching them and only then will you realize that they are truly artificial.
In the middle is a wide pool, smoothly lowered into the ground, and set on a sandy beach where pink flamingos congregate, as in the West Indies. Bob floating on the water in the distance and dolphins can sometimes be seen leaping in the air.
It’s a different story when you step through the stone gate into the neighboring polar ocean area. The atmosphere is very cold and the road seems to be cut by small mountains of snow covered rocks. It climbs so high that when you show photos you can see snow bikes on the peaks and on the wooden paths leading up to them. Pine trees dot the landscape that stretches right down to ground level, while ice floes float on the water just out of touching distance. For otters, sea lions and walruses, they become part of an intricately designed tank.
The water passes rustic cottages that look like they’re straight out of Frozen, but far from Mickey Mouse. Icebergs hang from the ceiling, their walls are lined with wooden stalls, and window boxes filled with colorful flowers are attached. Guest roads are graced with overhead cargo through a full-size icebreaker. It gives guests the feeling that they are walking through an old fashioned harbor in Canada and adds to the reality that there are so many ways to go. Some of them are signposted so there’s a wonderful sense of discovery in seeing where they lead.
One path eventually takes you several floors up into the mountain range and you can look down on the land below. Following the decking on the pier in the other direction takes you to the ship where you can even enter the complex-detailed control room for a photo-opp on the wheel. However, the biggest surprise comes when you climb a rocky staircase filled with stalactites hanging from the ceiling.
It takes you to a high-tech base where LED screens are mounted on the walls of a dark waiting room. They feature a conversation between a computer guidance system named Jules and a cute robot character (VERNE, of course). Then comes the big reveal.
The vault doors open and give way to a cathedral-like dome that rises 13.6 meters. It stands in stark contrast to the claustrophobic cabin next door and is the last thing you’d expect to find, especially since it’s completely hidden from the view of guests wandering around the cave building.
Called the Hypersphere 360, the dome is covered in hexagons, giving it a painted exterior. It’s only when you look closely that it becomes clear that they are digital images. The dome-shaped surface is actually a large screen, but the level of contrast and quality is the same on the curved surface, so it’s hard to tell.
Dome screens like planetariums are usually powered by projectors, so they appear too bright in directly opposite areas and washed out to the extreme edges. The integrity of the Hypersphere screen is a sign that it’s actually LED, but unfortunately there don’t seem to be any joints between the panels. This is because it is made of a massive LED mesh and even has an LED floor underneath the dome. Soon he will come to his senses.
The edge of the dome is lined with 80 chairs that have over-the-shoulder straps, overhead speakers, and scented atomizers that point to the other side of the narrow corridor that runs around the perimeter of the room. When all the guests are trapped in something unexpected, the LED floor will be lowered to reveal the lower half of the LED dome. The seats leave them hanging around the edge of the sphere, but that’s just the beginning.
The ring of seats begins to slowly rotate around the edge of the circular room and even tilts up and down along an axis with the underwater images on the screens. The scenes show the globe going up and down the currents of water, and cleverly, the chairs reach the edge of their seats when they want to be on the crest of a wave. The chairs rotate downwards, while the scenes show the water waves moving downwards, tricking your mind into thinking you’re moving straight ahead, even though you’re actually spinning around the room. The 13.6 meter drop below the dome is far from man-made, giving anyone with a spine a sense of confidence.
Despite the over-the-shoulder harness, the ride doesn’t recline and the visuals aren’t in 3D, reducing the risk of getting sick for riders with weak stomachs. There are no unexpected surprises on the trip and no unexpected activities for parents to worry about. The story is a bit incomprehensible but that’s part of the beauty. He rides like this for the show, not the story or the characters. It delivers on this and then some.
Immersive is an overused term in the theme park industry, but it’s not a ride that really immerses visitors in scenes like this. The spectacular spherical screen surrounds the riders and makes them feel like they are swimming in the ocean alongside schools of fish. Even the smell of the sea is introduced to increase the effect.
The only criticism is that although the roof has a dome, the base of the sphere is flat because it descends initially when it is created from the floor of the room. Occasionally fish will be seen swimming across the screen to the bottom of the sphere and when you hit it, their image will be slightly distorted as it moves from the curved wall to the flat surface. It breaks the illusion a little bit, but it’s a small price to pay for the undeniably wonderful sea world. A lot of time has passed in the making.
Dome Ride Theater Technology Behind The Mistake It was first announced at the AAE Beijing trade show in 2014. Many manufacturers show Blue Sky projects at trade shows in an attempt to find buyers, and if they fail to do so, they never get off the drawing board. The Dome Ride Theater seems to be one of them, especially since it was first opened in Luwa Adventure Park in China but never got off the ground.
It was the brainchild of Markus Baer, CEO of Austrian AV Systems Interactive Attraction! The biggest challenge is to “make a flawless 17-meter diameter LED dome. To make a fire protection and security system for the sphere.” It’s probably easier to keep the images in sync with the rotation as it is handled by timecode.
Behind the scenes “4 millimeter custom LED sphere with more than 75 million pixels in the attraction! Travel system by Intamin, 360 degree audio: 45 channels, space audio server, Martin Audio speakers, QSC Core, a Q-SYS system and Brainsalt video server. Caring in the park It’s far from easy to walk, and Bair says, “We offer 24/7 service and maintenance agreements as a typical system integration.” That’s what’s needed as word gets around about the attraction.
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