Discover sharks, soakings and a spin-dry on a rollercoaster at Orlando’s SeaWorld that’s fun for the whole family
I ALWAYS sneer at those wimps who wear ponchos on water rides.
The log flume never offers the white-knuckle thrills of the rollercoaster next door, so why not get a bit wet? And there is never much of a splash anyway.
Our intrepid reporter even came face to face with a shark — a friendly one, thankfully
With that theory in mind, I confidently boarded a raft on SeaWorld Orlando’s brand-new Infinity Falls. I’m only now drying off. It is the most exciting water ride I have ever been on — and definitely the wettest.
The clues were there. In the queue, guests are warned: “You and your belongings will get soaked.” That turns out to be an understatement.My seven fellow riders had barely an inch uncovered between them.
At first, I wondered what all the fuss was about. We floated serenely past flamingos, then trickled through lush rainforest.
Talk about the calm before the storm — round the corner was a thundering barrage of waves, waterfalls and merciless fellow guests manning water-cannons. Then came the vertical elevator, which crawled up menacingly toward a towering 40ft plunge. It is the tallest drop in the world on a river-rapids ride — and it left us practically submerged, and absolutely sodden.
Adrenaline junkies will love this place
Heading for the exit, I was comforted, at least, by the squelching trainers of my companions in their ponchos. Try harder next time, guys. The 33C heat — even in November — soon dries you out, mind. As do the park’s three sensational rollercoasters, which fill the air with screams.
As SeaWorld phases out whale shows — to be replaced by education experiences — the park is repositioning itself as home to Orlando’s most impressive thrill-rides. The original is Kraken, a floorless rollercoaster named for the giant sea beast of myth. Your feet dangle as you twist and turn through seven loops, at times 150ft up.
Manta is a one-of-a-kind “flying” coaster. You climb on like any normal ride . . . then are strapped in and hurtle head first, face down, through dizzying inversions. My favourite is Mako — the tallest, fastest and longest in a city of theme parks. This terrifying “hypercoaster” accelerates to 73mph before racing over a series of giants humps.
You do get a seat . . . but my backside barely touched it. The feeling of weightlessness at the top of each hill was unlike anything I had felt before.
There is something for all the family to enjoy at SeaWorld
If that sounds too loopy, breathtaking Discovery Cove is for you. SeaWorld’s sister park is a peaceful tropical paradise of rocky lagoons, white-sand beaches and lazy rivers. Just 1,300 guests are let in each day, so you won’t be swamped. Food, drink, towels, sun-loungers, even wetsuits and snorkels, are included in the price.
So is special sun cream that will not harm marine life. SeaWorld prides itself on commitment to animal welfare. Over five decades, 30,000 animals have been rescued and rehabilitated in its medical centres. I was invited behind the scenes to see vets operate on a manatee hit by a speedboat in one of Florida’s waterways.
GETTING/STAYING THERE: Seven nights, room only, at 4* Rosen Shingle Creek is from £1,055pp, based on two adults sharing.
Includes car hire, Virgin Atlantic flights from Gatwick on March 30 and a Discovery Cove Ultimate Package for two.
That gets you an all-inclusive day at Discovery Cove – including a 30-minute dolphin swim experience – plus 14 days’ unlimited entry to SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Aquatica Orlando.
MORE INFO: See seaworldparks.com and visitorlando.com
The goal is to return all rescued animals to the wild but if experts decide that this is impossible, they are housed at the park. At Discovery Cove you get close to incredible creatures — swimming with dolphins, rays and tropical fish. The standout is SeaVenture, a unique underwater walking tour round an artificial coral reef.
Our helmets had enough air for 20-plus minutes underwater. Here lurked all kinds of colourful creatures. I even came face to face with a shark — a friendly one, thankfully.
You’ll dry off quickly in the 33C heat
The best-value package gets you into SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, Aquatica waterpark and, an hour away in Tampa, Busch Gardens. Here, antelopes, rhinos, zebras and lions roam free. On the off-road safari truck tour, you hand-feed lettuce to giraffes.
But again, rides take centre-stage. The mind-blowing Montu, with its crazy 60ft loop, was my pick, though the super-fast Cheetah Rush and huge SheiKra run it close. The showpiece, however, is the ludicrous Falcon’s Fury drop tower. It lifts riders 335ft, flips you over and fires you back downward at 60mph. Brilliant — but never again.
The 4H Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel is the perfect place to recover. On Universal Boulevard, ten minutes from Orlando Airport, it combines classic American luxury with Spanish-revival decor and a huge pool offering views over the golf course.
Keep the relaxation going at nearby Aquatica, with tranquil beaches, 27C heated lagoons and private cabanas at for £40 a day, where you can top up your tan. The 42 water slides should be enough to keep everyone entertained.
Take a ride on the Cheetah Hunt in Busch Gardens
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Test your bravery on the 80ft drop slides of Ihu’s Breakaway Falls. Step into a closed capsule, with your feet on the footprints, and wait for the floor to disappear beneath you.
But the real must-do is the new Ray Rush three-in-one slide. You and three friends board an inflatable raft to slip and slide through a series of twisting tubes before you are spat out into an enormous bowl.
After a few spins, you are chucked down a shoot into a tidal wave at the bottom. Oh, and no ponchos allowed.
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