My brother had a notable birthday this year so I rewarded him with a mini stag do involving a trip to the Isle of Wight Aqua Park and Football Golf which are both at Tapnell Farm. They run as separate attractions to the farm park and cost about £20 for the Aqua Park or about £6-11 for the golf depending on how many holes you complete.
The Aqua Park was first and we all squeezed into an unflattering buoyancy aid and a colour coded rash vest so the lifeguards could shout at us if they needed to ("no heavy petting red team!")
There were free lockers for putting your car keys in and some outdoor showers for afterwards.
After a safety chat and an explanation that the water is green to make it more natural and eco-friendly ("see if you can spot the dragonflies") we were told to jump into the water or climb in down the steps.
I cautiously eased into the water and tried to disguise my squeals whilst most people confidently bombed into the water.
The park is more like a floating playground with linked things to climb on rather than an obstacle course. For some reason I had assumed it would be a question of doing one lap round but it works much better to have free reign. I'd also like to try a timed challenge if that's an option but a free-for-all means you can miss out bits and repeat others.
There are two tall towers which provide the biggest challenge. Getting up them is easy enough but jumping off requires a bit of courage.
I am not the world's greatest swimmer and would only survive on a sinking ship if I had a pair of goggles and a nose peg in my pocket at the time.
Even so, I decided that the smaller of the two towers was within my range and so I gave it a go early on.
My approach to such things is to get on with it rather than to spend too long thinking about it or waiting for a crowd to gather. As a result, none of my party saw me leap gracefully into the water. Indeed, none of them even noticed I had gone anywhere. Thankfully, I survived and there was a lifeguard nearby if I hadn't.
I emerged from the water and carried on round the park, but concluded that the taller tower was too much for me.
The course has a good mix of things to fall off. There are a few narrow walkways, one of which requires a foot on either side so you do the splits towards the middle. I also enjoyed the figure of eight slide which has a high risk of dumping you in the water at the end.
I initially thought that I was brilliant at balancing as I seemed to be falling in the water a lot less than most other people. I even got across the three giant boulders without falling off.
However, it turns out that I had a major advantage as I was wearing my wetsuit boots. Most people have bare feet as you can't wear trainers but the course is very slippery when wet (Bon Jovi reference not intended). Bare feet isn't a problem and probably makes the course more entertaining - you'll just fall in a bit more.
After 40 minutes of trying everything out, I decided it was time for me to climb the tallest tower. I didn't plan to jump off but thought I might talk myself into it at the top.
I had a brief internal argument where my brain was quite convinced that it was too high whilst my legs seemed quite keen to give it a go regardless. The legs won the argument and I found myself falling towards the water. I hit the water with such force that my fingers were yanked off my nose and I inhaled a couple of dragonflies.
Nonetheless, I survived which left me with a feeling of achievement. Also, my 10 year old niece jumped off about 11 times so I felt somewhat obliged.
If you're a little less confident, it is very easy to miss these big sections out. You will certainly fall in the water a few times at the aqua park but it's easy to avoid the more daunting bits.
After we had dried off, we headed for football golf which only opened recently. On a nice day this would offer nice views but it was foggy, windy and damp so not really perfect golfing weather. By the end we were probably wetter than we had been at the aqua park.
Nonetheless, we enjoyed our round of 18 holes. The shorter course was obviously a fair bit easier whilst the longer course gave the chance to hoof it more. It took the two of us just over an hour to complete 18 holes.
I doubt football golf is the kind of thing that you will return to every week with a coach to work on how you swing your leg. However, it is good fun as a one off for a fake stag do. There are also smaller balls and a different par for children, which should help reduce arguments and tantrums.
If I only had time or budget for one of the two activities then I'd go for the Aqua Park but both provided plenty of entertainment and I would have enjoyed the golf more if I wasn't battling a gale.
And for the record, I beat the birthday boy at football golf by two shots. That may be the first time I've beaten him at any 'sport' in the last 15 years.
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