Jais Adventure Park

24th February 2024

Jebel Jais is a mountain that straddles the border between Oman and the United Arab Emirates. The summit is on the Omani side, but a high point west of this peak in Ras-al-Khaimah is (generally) regarded as the highest point in the UAE. This seemingly straightforward fact has been a matter of considerable debate over the years; you may be told about a different location if you ask a resident.

In 2017, local authorities decided to open the world’s longest zip line, known as Jais Flight, and since then they have added a number of additional activities geared at thrill seekers. All are accessed from the Jais Adventure Center, located somewhere in the region of two hours drive time from Dubai. The journey can be stretched quite significantly by traffic, as there is only one road up the mountain, but the views make sitting in traffic far less painful than it might otherwise be.

The scenery today was enhanced by several convoys of expensive cars of the sort only found in quantity in the Middle East, not least a set of three McLaren Spiders. These were clearly more comfortable on the road than our Mitsubishi Pajero, though I comforted myself with the thought that they were almost certainly burning at least twice the amount of fuel that we were to get to the peak. Readers in equally ungainly vehicles should be aware that local drivers are not known for their patience; plan accordingly, and remember not to gesticulate in response to crazy manoeuvres as to do so can get you into serious trouble with the law.

Jebel Jais

I’d made an advance booking for Jais Flight, but as we arrived well before the programmed time slot our morning began with Jais Sledder. Individual tickets today cost 50 AED (~€12.57) which I paid (as I usually do) with Apple Pay on my phone. I was handed a ticket but given a strict instruction that I’d need to return my phone to a car before joining the queue as there was no storage available, a dictum repeated by the security guard at the gate. My pockets were visually checked after this was done. At the boarding platform I was asked again about a mobile phone, and just in case I had somehow missed the policy, there were repeated signs along the lift saying that mobile phones were not allowed.

The ride has two boarding stations: one adjacent to the Jais Adventure Center, and a second located at the lowest point some 150m below and almost three kilometres away by road. The latter is the one in active use as of this writing; we saw a number of people being sent away from the upper one, which its currently only operated as a point for rechecking seatbelts and bonus enforcement of the mobile phone policy. I was tempted to ask at the checkpoint if I could film using a mobile phone but I decided that such comments were probably better saved for my trip report.

The main portion of the ride layout is visually spectacular, but not particularly thrilling thanks to auto-braking at virtually every key point. I had a clear gap to the sled in front of me that I tried to take advantage of, and while it was possible to go round some of the corners at speed these were very much the exception rather than the rule. The ride is fine for those after a scenic view, but those after a thrill ride may want to look elsewhere. I decided against paying full price for a second circuit as the experience just wasn’t good enough to justify the cost.

With that done it was time for Jais Flight. I was asked to watch a short safety video before being fitted with my harness, which felt very much like a Skycoaster suit with two notable additions: safety goggles and a helmet, the latter used both as a mounting point for a camera and also for protection; if the emergency brake is required for any reason riders can swing forward quite dramatically and could potentially head-butt the line. History suggests that the line will win in this situation; it’s best not to take the chance.

Jais Flight

Once harnessed, riders are driven to the start point by minibus. The staff on duty were a bit surprised at how relaxed I was; apparently a certain level of agitation is expected and calm people are very rare. A pair of Filipino teenagers were clearly rattled at what they were about to do, insisting that I should go first. I was happy to do so – though I did point out that watching me being launched was unlikely to make them feel much better. (When the younger of the two was approaching the landing point her arrival was prefaced by a series of screams that may well have registered on the Richter scale; it felt almost churlish to laugh.)

The experience itself was much less intense than I’d expected to be. The launch angle feels very steep – I’d say it’s around 30º face down – but once you start moving there’s nothing but the wind in your face, the whirr of the wheel mechanism, and the spectacular views below. Perhaps twenty seconds in you pass over a very deep ravine which might not be overly pleasing to those afraid of heights, but it really doesn’t make a whole lot of difference in practical terms; if something was to go wrong at 20 metres then it would still likely be game over, so what difference does 200 make?

 

Travel Note

24th February 2024

Our original plan for the afternoon had been to go to Hadoota Playground and Games followed by Island of Legends. This made geographical sense, but we were so far ahead of schedule that continuing with our plan would have put us at the first stop more than two hours before the advertised opening time – which fellow enthusiasts had warned us to treat with a healthy dose of scepticism. There were no other locations of interest within reasonable driving range. Rather than wait around we decided to reverse the order; this added an extra 160km of driving, but made the overall day shorter as it ensured we’d be able to head back to Dubai earlier.

 

Island of Legends

24th February 2024

We arrived at Island of Legends roughly five minutes before the advertised 15:00 opening, and found the gate open with plenty of staff milling around. After a brief pause to acquire wristbands we made our way to the coaster, but found it was still being prepared for the day. Instead therefore we began our visit with Eye of the Emirates, a Bussink R60 wheel with that greatest of local delights: fully air conditioned cabins. The front and rear windows on ours featured a thick layer of dirt that was essentially impossible to see through, but the sides were clean, allowing for a limited selection of overview photos. (All the cars we saw were in the same general state, making it fairly clear that the park has elected to save money on cleaning costs.)

Island of Legends

Next up was Volcano Tower, a SBF launched tower that I spoke very highly of in my 2019 report. I’m sorry to report that the experience today wasn't in the same league as it used to be; the programme was similar, but the launch speed had been reduced to that of a fast elevator, making the whole experience feel like an oversized Frog Hopper. There absolutely no airtime to be had. It was clear that the power setting on the compressor had been radically cut, with predictable results.

We took a quick circuit on the Loch Ness Spin Boat before heading across to Baz Coaster Ride (#3116), a Zamperla Speedy Coaster and the main reason for our visit. I think we were supposed to get a two lap cycle, but a very unhappy child caused an abort at the end of lap one – and after she was unloaded we got another two laps for our trouble. The ride was exactly what we expected it to be; a decent and respectable family coaster, and one I’m glad to have finally marked as complete.

 

Hadoota Playground and Games

24th February 2024

It was 5:20pm when we arrived at Hadoota Playground and Games, and it was immediately obvious that things were only just coming to life despite an advertised opening time of 4:00pm. The various inflatables were inflated, but the only staff we could see were doing maintenance work on a ride. There were no other guests in sight. We decided that we might as well wait around, and after ten minutes or so our patience was rewarded when a member of staff materialised at the ticket desk. We made our way over to him and paid AED 15 (~€3.77) apiece in cash for coaster tickets – readers should be aware that the park does not accept card – following which he summoned an operator using a mobile phone.

Dragon is one of two known examples of the Top Fun Nessi, a standard model family coaster that is visually indistinguishable from the Cavazza Diego model of the same name. The operator spent a few minutes completing power-on tasks before dispatching an empty test train. This was an excruciatingly tense moment; while the train made it up the lift hill without issue, traversing the top level of track happened at a speed that could not have exceeded half a mile per hour. Fortunately it made it, perhaps with the aid of a gentle breeze, and after a few more cycles enough speed was being achieved for us to board. We were told to sit in the front rows presumably to avoid too much weight at the back.

The ride was everything we hoped it would be; a pleasantly smooth family coaster that we could have happily stayed on all afternoon. I've got a real soft spot for the type, especially since many of the older models have gone to the great midway in the sky in recent years; it’ll be a sad day for enthusiasts when the last of them is no more.

Hadoota