Thomas W. Hodgkinson

Happiness is a water park

Peloponnese, Greece
Daily Mail, February 2018

You stand on the trapdoor and make your peace with the world. Your friends look on with hideous schadenfreude. And then — blam!

The hatch is released and you plummet downwards, arms crossed at the wrists, legs crossed at the ankles, and there’s water gushing everywhere as you hurtle on into a vertiginous spiral that continues for a surprisingly long time before the red plastic tube deposits you, with a shocking suddenness, into a horizontal channel of deeper water.

How do you feel? Fantastic. This is the slide called Looping Rocket at the gleaming new Aqua Park at the Riviera Olympia Mega Resort on the western tip of ’s Peloponnese.

And it’s just the start. There’s also the Space Hole, the Black Hole, the Wave Slide, the Multi Surf — each with their own gleeful indignities and masochistic kicks.

The Aqua Park is tenderly policed by lifeguards, with age restrictions on most of the rides. 

For tinier tots, there’s a specially designated construction that may be the zaniest of the lot: a multi-coloured fantasia of gentler pipes and slides, topped by a vast bucket that is repeatedly filled with ice-cold water and then upended over the squealing infants.

There are four linked Grecotel hotels: the Olympia Riviera, Olympia Oasis, Olympia Oasis Village and the peach-coloured Mandola Rosa & Aqua Park, where I stayed.

All offer a gamut of activities on and off the water. Adults looking to soothe the spirit and smooth the wrinkled brow can head to the Elixir Thalassotherapy Centre. There, after donning swimming costumes and transparent shower caps (whose purpose remains a mystery to me), you enter the thalassotherapy pool.

A discreet attendant manipulates levers, and lo! Jets of water emerge to agitate the soles of your feet or pummel your shoulders, according to taste. 

A very odd experience, but I have to say, I liked it. Upstairs, I padded, cat-like, through the hushed corridors to an Ayurvedic massage room, where I was manhandled by a burly Hindu called Vinot. His name, when spoken, sounded like ‘Vhy not?’

Which made me smile, while he thumped me in the back with a herb-packed pouch soaked in scalding-hot aromatic oil.

Afterwards, I tottered to one of the many terrace bars and rewarded myself with a tall, cold glass of Mythos lager.

There’s only one drawback. The Riviera Olympia Resort isn’t easy to get to. You fly three hours to Athens and drive for a further four to get from one side of Greece to the other.     Having said that, when you arrive, you’ll congratulate yourself on having made the right choice. And your children will love you for ever.