by Paul Ruben
Ever since it had been announced last year, I had been looking forward to experiencing Manta, the new B&M flying coaster at SeaWorld Orlando. Not just for the ride, but for the theming.
SeaWorld does a spectacular job with its theming. The last time it introduced a new coaster was in 2000, and its theming was outstanding too. That was a B&M floorless coaster called Kraken, named after either a mythological sea monster or something one smokes in a pipe; I forget which.
Manta had been contracted for several years ago, before the recent economic downturn and before the sale of Busch Entertainment to InBev. With the budget in place, SeaWorld spared no expense to make Manta a memorable experience. In this troubled economy I see Manta as a ray of hope. Unfortunately, InBev saved money by eliminating the free beer formerly offered in the park, so I’m conflicted. Free beer does taste better.
Manta’s first “wow” moment occurs even before climbing on board the ride. The attraction includes 10 aquariums. One aquarium contained a fish with no eyes. It’s called a “fsh.” Overhead, supported by a huge slab of clear acrylic, is a pool of manta rays. Have you ever viewed manta rays from below? Awe inspiring.
With my thrill moment at hand, I climbed aboard Manta. The park had thoughtfully placed a camera pointed towards me so as I rode it snapped photos and even they attached a microphone for a video. Does it look like I’m enjoying the ride?
Because of the threatening weather and occasional downpours, the park offered me a vinyl poncho. But real men don’t wear ponchos. If you’re going to fly like a manta you need to feel like a manta. That is, wet. Wet is good; wet rails make the train roll faster.
On a flying coaster one rides face down in a prone position, thereby taking the G-forces on your stomach, not in the seat of your pants. With four inversions there were some heavy Gs. It’s not my favourite style of coaster, but it is a worthwhile change of pace. Manta’s ride is excellent, punctuated by a wing dip near the end, a low swoop over the lagoon that sends up a wave of water.
If memory serves me, this is the same lagoon that was previously home to the park’s flock of pink flamingos. You know, those plastic lawn ornaments that dot suburbia, but these were real. They’ve been moved across the midway where they can watch Manta if they wish. Or pose as lawn ornaments.
Before I departed one of the park’s representatives invited me to lunch. Manta ray was not on the menu, but dead fish was. And chips. To wash it all down, an adult beverage, too. It may have been the world’s last free beer. Oh, was it good!