Although now open since July 19, I waited until the Xterra Special Edition weekend to visit the park. The waterpark is part of the new Desaru Coast destination developed by Themed Attractions Resorts & Hotels (TARH) and special events are a big part of their marketing strategy to put the destination on the map, thus them moving Xterra from Langkawi to Desaru Coast.
I sat down with the SVP of Operations Yusmady Yatin who shared with me a few things about the park. It is one of the biggest waterparks in SE Asia and they were inspired by Waterbom Bali to spend a lot of money on landscaping. The park can comfortably take up to 6,000 people a day and is already achieving 3,000 people on weekends, only a few months after opening. The market is majority local families from Johor and thus the focus on kids offering (11 kids slides, dedicated kids zone) and safety (120 lifeguards).
After my chat with Yusmady I decided to take 3 of my friends and experience the park for ourselves. We came in from the dedicated hotel guests entrance from the Hard Rock Hotel, which works really well in making guests feel special. The hotel is wrapped around the entire waterpark with amazing views from the lobby over the wave pool and the coaster at the back.
These are probably the two biggest attractions of the park. Tidal Wave Beach is one of the biggest wave pools in SE Asia holding more than four million gallons of water over nearly three acres. Kraken’s Revenge is a combination roller coaster and splashing flume ride, which we all loved. It provides great views of the park and the beach at the back and it’s just enough thrilling but not too much. I liked that the huge restaurant (not yet open) will have views of the splashing area of the coaster, making the dining experience entertaining.
My friends and I particularly liked the music in the park: the right sound level, the right tunes. Together with the lush landscaping it helped putting us – and 3,000 other visitors – in the right chilled mood for a day at the waterpark. The staff was very friendly and helpful.
We had a drink at the swim-up bar just off the lazy river; juices were fresh and tasty and the music was even different there so we were in our own little relaxing capsule.
From a design point of view everything works: the circulation, the shower and locker blocks, the shaded rest areas, etc. However there are not that many attractions yet (Yusmady tells me they already have plans to add more). The 4 main slides had long queues and were not that interesting, yet still fun of course. The cabanas were all empty; maybe too expensive for local visitors.
TARH have high ambitions with this park; they are expecting more than 600,000 visitors per annum, which is more than what Waterbom gets in a destination like Bali with over 10million visitors p.a. The product is not quite on par with Waterbom yet but it’s definitely on the right track. Let’s hope the service remains tip top and that the destination picks up with new hotels opening (Westin, Anantara, One & Only). How the park will deal with very different visitor profiles, from local Johorians to rich Singaporeans, is the key to their success.