The Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island
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On land, it was even more impressive. But aside from being the mega-resort to outdo all mega-resorts, it's the fish angle that really got me hooked.
Okay, so the term "resort" doesn't begin to describe this one-of-a kind experience. It's centered around an archaeological dig recreating the alleged 11,000-year-old Lost Continent of Atlantis (reassuring to know it's finally been found, huh?), and includes a mere 2300 rooms, a six-story Mayan Temple (doesn't every resort?), waterslides, 11 pools and lagoons, a lazy river pool (in over your head, yet?), over 35 restaurants, and the largest entertainment center-cum-casino in the Caribbean. And really, ignoring the DisneyWorld aspect, it's not nearly as tacky as it sounds. But it's the largest marine animal habitat in the world, second only to Mother Nature, that got my attention. As you know, I do better with animals than people anyway.
There are almost as many ways to view the fish as there are schools of them. From the balcony off your room, underground viewing tunnels, in underwater exhibits, through restaurant water-walls as you dine, from within see-through acrylic tunnels while descending a water slide, from a 100-foot suspension bridge -- and, oh yes, as you stroll along the many walkways and viewing stations located all over the resort. It's sort of a fish frenzy free-for-all.
Take for instance the underwater tunnel walls of The Dig. There's this rambling maze of underground passageways, alleyways and corridors lined with large picture-window views of deep-water environments. The Ruins Lagoon, home to life-like remains of a whole city and very-much- alive animals, simulates the feeling of being underwater, but without the scuba equipment. You'd love it!
Also in The Dig are smaller habitats of rare animals living in separate water panels among their own kind, some of which never have successfully flourished in captivity before. We're talking venomous Lion Fish, equally unfriendly Piranhas, pernicious Moray Eels, sad-looking Look Downs, elusive Goliath Groupers, florescent coral and phosphorescent jellyfish. You do not for one minute confuse this with Sea World. Kaiser touts Atlantis marine exhibits as the finest facilities in the world -- 50,000 little creatures and big swimming around a 34-acre waterscape. And you're made to feel like a part of it all. It's no surprise they thrive so well -- all the animals feast upon the same seafood that's served in the hotel's outstanding restaurants. Lucky, lucky fish!
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Fyllis Hockman is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance travel writer. She writes regularly for The Washington Times, is syndicated by the Copley News Service, and is a feature columnist for several online travel magazines. Ms. Hockman's travel stories also have appeared in the New York Post, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Providence Journal, Halifax Herald, Boston Herald, Gazette Newspapers, Asbury Park Press, New Hampshire Sunday News, Buffalo News and many other publications. She is the author of AAA Guidebook: A Photo Journey to Washington, D.C. and co-author of the Pelican Guide to Maryland. Ms. Hockman is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and Travel Journalists Guild.
Photos courtesy of the Atlantis Resort