I wonder if anyone remembers the BBC television comedy ‘Hi-de-Hi’, which was first broadcast in the 1980s? It was classic, camp comedy, which was based upon a fantasy world of a not so glamorous ‘Butlins style’ holiday camp. Looking back, it became a kind of documentary, since I remember visiting a number of British holiday camps that were very similar to the fictional ‘Maplins’ featured in the show.

One of the more memorable characters in the show was the ‘Chief Yellowcoat’, Gladys Pugh, who would make regular radio announcements to guests, and proudly announce various events around the “Olympic size swimming pool”. Well, I am sure that Gladys, as well as campers, would be most impressed to learn that the island of Lanzarote has just opened its first Olympic size swimming pool in the town of Arrecife.

This project has included the remodelling of Lanzarote’s ‘Sports City’ at a cost of around 6 million euros, and will be the home of the island’s Youth Information Centre. This new pool will be available for top-level swimming competitions, synchronised swimming, as well as water polo.

Visitors to the Canary Islands often imagine that the sea will be warm, but forget that these islands are surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, which is never truly warm enough to swim in. This new swimming pool will be heated from renewable energy sources, making the most of natural ventilation and light. I think Gladys would be immensely proud to announce the pool’s many new facilities to her campers.

The current trend to be ‘bigger and better’ does come with a number of risks and challenges. Perhaps one clear example of ‘shooting oneself in the foot’ may currently be seen on the island of Gran Canaria where work is currently underway to build what is touted to be “The Best Water Park in the World”, as well as “The Biggest in Europe”. 

This massive project and investment is already well underway, and there is no doubt that it will provide many new employment opportunities, which it is hoped will be given to local people.

This development is part of an overall plan to provide more leisure opportunities for national and international tourists. Gran Canaria is already a very popular and busy island that is trying hard to enhance its reputation for rural tourism in many of its beautiful, unspoilt and peaceful locations, so yet another, even more massive water park on the doorstep of rural tourism may seem something of a contradiction.

It is often reported that visitors are demanding yet more commercial leisure facilities to enjoy during their holidays, in addition to the many water sports already provided within a natural setting. Whether this is true, and visitors really do want to visit this beautiful island, mainly to enjoy being in the “Biggest and Best Water Park”, at the expense of destroying the natural island character that has been so popular with visitors over the years, remains to be seen.

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at my websites: http://barriemahoney.com and http://thecanaryislander.com or read my latest book, ‘Letters from the Canary Islands’ and Spain’ (ISBN: 9780995602731). Available in paperback from Amazon, Waterstones and all good bookshops, as well as Kindle editions.

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© Barrie Mahoney



  1. May I clear up a couple of errors please?

    The Olympic sized pool in Arrecife will be the fourth on the island, not the first. There are two in La Santa and one in Costa Teguise already.

    The ocean here is always warm enough to swim in. In the coldest month of February, the ocean temp can get down to 18 degrees (the same as say, Bournemouth, in mid summer,) but from May through to October, it’s generally about 24 degrees.