A preliminary sketch of one of the rides planned for Blacktip Island’s underwater amusement park, whose construction is scheduled to begin by the end of the year. (illustration courtesy of Alf Flagg)
Local business leaders Thursday announced plans for an underwater amusement park off Blacktip Island’s sheltered west coast as a way to attract more scuba diving guests to the small Caribbean island.
“Guests keep complaining diving’s too much of a Type-B-personality activity,” de facto island mayor Jack Cobia said. “Problem is, they keep trying to make it more exciting by going too deep and getting hurt. That’s bad for business.
“Others have just stopped diving because they say it’s boring,” Cobia said. “Either way, our diver numbers are down the last few years. We had to do something to make scuba exciting again. That’s when we reached out to local engineers to install thrill rides on our reefs.”
Island ride designers jumped at the challenge.
“This is a great opportunity to do something that’s never been done before,” island handyman Alf Flagg said. “We’re working on underwater-specific prototypes now, and hope to begin construction by year’s end. We’ll start with a carousel, and whack-a-jawfish booths, then add a channel crab-themed Scrambler and an anemone-themed Tilt-A-Whirl.
“The capper will be a tubular steel coaster with loops and spirals,” Flagg said. “The rides’ll move slower underwater, sure, but we’ll be chumming with fish guts to attract sharks, so the adrenalin rush’ll still be there. We’ll have dive staff shooting spear guns at the rides, too, to add more excitement.”
Opponents focused on the plan’s potential environmental impact.
“Silt from drilling pylons for all these rides will kill coral,” marine parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “Plus, the construction noise’ll scare away all the fish. Then there’s the issue of petroleum grease leaching from the rides and devastating the reefs. Short term, it may attract divers, but long term, it’ll utterly destroy the environment. And get divers hurt.
“They’re trying to turn the reefs into a playground,” Schrader said. “Despite what Jack says, people don’t come here for that. They come to Zen out underwater. And it’s no coincidence Alf is Jack’s cousin. And uncle.”
Cobia refuted those claims.
“Try to find someone on this little rock that’s not related to someone else. I’ll wait,” he said. “And as for safety, reef sharks aren’t really dangerous, and staff’ll be trained to shoot spears near—not at—divers. And all the divers will have signed waivers, so we’re covered there.
“If Val thinks folks come here to Zen out, she’s never met our divers,” Cobia said. “They’re competitive as hell. Our bariatric chamber stats prove it. We just need to harness that. This market tested of the charts.”
Island residents were cautiously optimistic about the project.
“For all the talk of excitement, I like that they’ll have a relaxing Nautilus submarine tour down the deep wall,” Chrissy Graysby said. “And a Captain Nemo’s mine train in the shallows for the kiddos. Me? I plan to kneel in the sand next to the rides and watch all the fish that come in every time a diver pukes through their regulator.”