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Airship Hangar to Tropical Paradise

A former aircraft hangar, that was built before the Second World War for the Luftwaffe, has been transformed into a tropical paradise in the heart of Europe. The spectacular Tropical Island holiday resort is located in the one-time Cargolifter airship hangar at Brand-Briesen Airfield in Brandenburg, Germany.

Boasting a climate resembling the Maldives, the resort has been open since 2004. The hangar is the third largest building on the planet in terms of its 5.2 million cubic metre volume, and at a constant 26°C inside, the building houses the world's biggest indoor tropical rainforest.

Aircraft hanger pool

Credit: Wikipedia


What's the history of the hangar?

The story behind the Tropical Island resort is a fascinating one. Originally planned and constructed in the 1930s, during the run-up to the Second World War, the hangar is located around 35 miles from Berlin. It was to be a factory for the construction of airships.

However, the Hindenburg disaster of 1937 led to the widescale distrust of the airship. German passenger airship, the LZ 129 Hindenburg, set alight and was destroyed as it attempted to dock at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, causing 36 fatalities.

Instead, the hangar became a base for the Luftwaffe after it opened in 1938, but just seven years later, as the war ended, it was captured by the advancing Soviet Army in May 1945. Germany could not reclaim it until after the nation's reunification in 1990.

The Soviet Air Force had extended the runway and housed a fighter regiment there in the interim, but they agreed to hand it back after the reunification of West Germany and East Germany. The airfield was officially given back to the Federal Government of Germany in 1992.

In the 1990s, the Cargolifter company of Wiesbaden planned to build airships there, returning the site to its original purpose. The hangar is 360 metres long, 220 metres wide and 106 metres high - big enough to contain the Eiffel Tower on its side, or the Statue of Liberty and eight football pitches!

Cargolifter began converting the hangar into an airship factory called Aerium in 1996. A 180-metre cutting table was installed and the conversion (which cost €78 million) was completed by November 2000. However, the company went bankrupt in 2002 and the hangar was put on the market by the receivers.


How was it turned into a tropical paradise?

In June 2003, the hangar and its 500 hectares of grounds were sold to Malaysian company, Tanjong, who wished to convert it into a spectacular leisure park, for the sum of €17.5 million. Construction of the amazing attractions within the hangar were soon underway. The original investment to build the attraction was €75 million.

It is laid out as a theme park with four parts: the Rainforest, which contains around 50,000 exotic plants, the Tropical Village, the Bali Lagoon and the Tropical Sea. The outdoor area has been transformed into a fifth area, Amazonia. There are even exotic birds, turtles and fish living at the resort.

The Tropical Village features many beautiful buildings, based on the traditional architecture of Bali, Thailand, Samoa and Borneo. The Rainforest contains some very rare species of plants, while the Tropical Sea is a spectacular 140-metre long pool, with an area of 4,400 square metres – it is 35 metres deep. Featuring a 200-metre long beach of white sand, it looks like the sea surrounding a coral island.

The Bali Lagoon is a water park, which covers an area of 1,200 square metres, but is less than one metre deep in places, making it ideal for children. It has fountains, whirlpools, a canal and two water slides. It is home to Germany’s tallest water slide at 27 metres.

The outdoor Amazonia area covers more than 35,000 square metres and boasts two spacious pools, beach soccer, beach volleyball, a sunbathing area and a refreshments kiosk.

The whole interior of the hangar is lush and green, with other inspiration coming from the cave temple on Elephanta Island in India and the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia, which was used as the basis for the tropical paradise's children's play area.

66,000 square metres of floor space are packed with 600 different species of lush plants, and 6,000 visitors can fit into the hangar at once.

Accommodation includes lodges and mobile home parks, providing a total of 535 beds. There are also 138 tents for people who enjoy being at one with nature. There are seven different saunas dotted around the building.

Built to allow airships to enter and leave, the two huge, curved doors at either end of the hangar, each with a weight of 600 tons, now remain permanently closed.


What are the resort's future plans?

The resort is riding high on its success at present. It opened in 2004, but after 20 months in existence, it had attracted only 600,000 visitors and was barely breaking even. However, it combated this by introducing accommodation and has been a massive success ever since. The Amazonia area was constructed after the resort had already opened when it began making a profit.

A further €23 million has been invested in further developments and expansion work since the theme park opened. The latest development was a new Polin waterplay structure, which opened in March 2019. Istanbul's premier waterslide designer, Polin Waterparks, created the new attraction by blending a multitude of different thematic elements. The 317-metre long slide is one of a kind. With a huge entrance arch that welcomes guests, who climb 116 stairs to reach the top, it has multi-levels and even a themed hut.

In December 2018, it was reported that Parques Reunidos, of Madrid, Spain, wished to buy the Tropical Islands resort and was in talks with the owners. The theme park reportedly had a price tag of $256 million. A formal announcement has yet to be made.

To reduce the risk of accidents, water parks and swimming pools require the appropriate safety products, such as Coruba's range of wet area pool matting. Please contact us for further details of our range of safety matting for swimming pools and wet areas.

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