From Siti Hawa Othman | Bernama
BERLIN, Dec 9 -- Not many are aware that Tropical Islands in Brand, Krausnick, Germany is Europe's largest tropical island resort created and owned by Malaysian interests.
Besides being a "rainforest" outside the Tropics, its also the largest indoor theme park in Europe and the largest Malaysian investment in Germany.
Tanjong Plc, a group associated with tycoon Ananda Krishnan, has a 75 per cent indirect shareholding in the project, through subsidiary Tanjong Entertainment Sdn Bhd, while another 25 per cent is indirectly owned by Au Leisure Investments Pte Ltd, a Malaysian interest based in Singapore.
The project was Colin Au, formerly Chief Executive Officer of Star Cruises, simple idea of transporting the Tropics to Europe instead of transporting holiday makers to the Tropics.
Since it opened its doors to the public in December 19, 2004, the tropical resort has become a popular holiday destination, drawing approximately 6,000 visitors daily, from across Europe.
Ole Bested Hensing Chief Executive Officer of Tropical Island Management GmbH told Bernama recently the RM600 million project was a resounding success and a great adventure which has worked better-than-expected.
Located about 20 miles south of Berlin, the Tropical Island resort is housed in a massive retired Soviet airbase hangar sprawled over 600 hectares.
The dome-shaped indoor theme park, which is 360 metre long, 210 wide and 107 metres high, is filled with tropical settings such as rainforest trails, lagoons, beaches, water parks, tropical plants beside providing an insight into the cultural world of Asia and other tropical destinations.
"We have the capacity to accomodate 8,000 visitors at any one time but this was limited to 6,000 visitors by the authorities for specific concerns including health.
"The dome is so huge it can fill the entire Eiffel tower and two lagoons the size of six olympic pools, Hensing said.
In fact, the humidity within the dome is kept at between 50-60 per cent and around 26 degrees Celcius to upkeep the 60,000 tropical plants which include palm trees of up to 18 metres high.
European tourists to the holiday destination will be intrigued with the mix of Indonesian, Borneo and Polynesian motives such as the Bali gate and Borneo longhouse.
Beaches and lagoons are constantly crowded with people lazing around or swimming with kids screaming down the water slides.
Others prefer to trek the one kilometre jungle trail while admiring the flowing stream and Koi fish in a pond and exotic plants including creepers like keladi and bunga raya (hibiscus) shrubs along the way.
"We have a lot of watering to control the environment, strongly changing the length of day. Tropical plants sometimes grow fast in winter, so we water less in winter," Hensing said.
For visitors' convenience inside the dome, there is a campsite with 900 beds and while another 12,000 beds are available at campsites, vacation homes and hotels outside the dome.
Hensing also disclosed expansion plans included having 1,000 apartments nearby, 2,000 holiday homes, hotels and other facilities.
Entry into the resort is at 25 Euros for adults, 19.5 Euros for children aged between four and 16 years old and is free for toddlers up to three years old.
With 500 full-time staff and 100 freelance workers, the park is opened 24 hours with almost 2,000 visitors staying overnight.
Besides a skydiving base jumping facility, there are also 12 restaurants and five shops selling tropical items and handicrafts including batik, Buddha statues and other souvenirs.
Hensing said the park has three gas-fired plants to meet its power requirement but 50 per cent of its power supply was generated from solar energy.
He said the Tropical Island resort would celebrate its 5th anniversary on Dec 19 and visitors are happy with the awesome project.
The resort has been attracting people all over Europe including those from Poland, the Czech Republic and Norway.
"During the hard times, it was pleasant to have a partner from Malaysia," he said, referring to the turn of events whereby the failure of an ambitious project had led to this great adventure.
As to what makes this an adventure, it was reported that the failure of an ambitious bulk air carrier project in Germany in 2003 was the catalyst for this most interesting tourist destination on planet.
The resort is located on a huge abandoned Soviet airbase, which was the largest airbase outside Russia in the former East Germany.
The German government, eager to create jobs in the then East Germany, had pushed for a project by Cargolifter AG to make the world's largest Zeppelin "cargo-lifter" terminal.
However, the company went bankrupt before the airship could be built and a chat with a German banking friend in February 2003 led Au to the assets which administrators wanted to sell.
Au, who had the experience of bringing tourists to the tropical region, saw the potential of creating a holiday destination for the locals who wanted relief from the cold and grey weather in Germany, and teamed up with Tanjong PLC to buy over the airship hangar for a very good deal.
Tanjong and Au together turned the hangar into a resort destination which houses a variety of tropical settings besides featuring Malaysia's rich heritage of culture, arts, food, architecture, islands, resorts and its rainforest.
The resort also contains trees and plants from the rainforests of South America, Africa, Asia and Australia.