Manta – SeaWorld Orlando’s New Signature Attraction
After the eight hour drive down to Orlando for the Manta Grand Opening and Media Day, I was hoping to not be disappointed and thankfully I wasn’t. It was my first time to SeaWorld, but right away I recognized that I was at a Busch-owned theme park. The park was clean and beautifully-themed. Manta is the much-hyped flying roller coaster that I first blogged about some 13 months ago.
Manta’s station was integrated with a really cool manta exhibit. The exhibit was accessible guests without having to enter the ride’s queue. If you’ve never seen a manta in person, they’re quite unforgettable. They look like they’re flying as they swim hence the tag line for the coaster, “Ride the Flying Ray.” I recommend the exhibit whether you ride Manta or not. I will try to upload my short video of the exhibit. On to the ride.
As you reach the station, you can’t help but notice the tricked out trains complete with blue sting ray theming. The trains look like standard Bolliger & Mabillard inverted trains at first. They are positioned below the track with eight rows of cars that have four across seating. Then, after everyone is secured in the comfortable harnesses, the seats fold upward until the riders are facing the floor below in a superman-like position. SeaWorld did a nice job in spicing up this transition with a loud sound effect. Both the riders aboard the train and those waiting to ride cheer in excitement and the train begins its ascent.
140 feet later, with the tropical trees far below, the train begins its swooping 113 foot drop. After the drop, the train climbs back up and into the 98 foot tall pretzel loop. (Coaster Geek Analysis – In comparison, S:UF’s loop is 78′ tall and Tatsu’s is 124′ tall) Where other B&M flyers flatten out or gradually climb before entering this inside-downward loop, Manta makes a pretty sharp climb up into it. This causes what may possibly be the world’s first moment of airtime on a flying roller coaster. It’s brief, but noticeable and it’s the reason why I prefer Manta in the front more than in the back. At the bottom of the loop, riders are pressed against their seat as they’re now flat on their backs on the ground looking up at the sky. The g-forces are pretty strong and they seemed even stronger towards the back of the train.
Manta’s Signature Moment
After the pretzel loop, the train takes a left turn and is then thrown into an in-line twist (360 degree roll). I didn’t really enjoy this element, but I can’t really put my finger on why. It seemed kind of out place or something. Next, there’s another turn that sends the train through the pretzel loop and into a better inversion; a nice corkscrew which leads up to the brake run. The short brake run sets up the ride’s signature moment. Manta’s coup de grâce is a short dive to a pond that puts riders only a few feet from the water below. Manta gains a lot of points for the innovative dive. It froze onlookers in their tracks and had many waiting for another train to come by just to see it. As the train passes over the water a fountain-like splash is triggered which sprays the riders a little. You won’t get soaked, but if you sit on the far right seat you will get wet. I’ll have to add this maneuver to my Memorable Coaster Moments category.
An Excellent Near Miss
After Manta’s signature move the ride has one more trick up it’s wing(?). The train swoops right past a rocky wall with a water fall. If you sit on the far left side of the train you feel as if you’ll certainly hit the wall. I have no idea how close the train actually is, but it was very surprising and probably my favorite part of the ride. Manta finishes with another corkscrew and then hits the station brakes to applause from the hanging riders.
Manta Ride Guide – Back vs. Front & Left vs. Right
The back seems popular for its intensity. The pretzel loop did seem more intense in the back, but it wasn’t a cake walk in the front either. Again, with the front offering that unusual moment of airtime, I favor the front or towards the front. With regards to which side of the four across train to ride, the right side will put you right into the water during the dive. The far left side will throw you closer to the rocky water fall. My favorite here is the left side as that rock wall and waterfall come out of nowhere and you feel like you just may smack right into it. The water spray is much cooler for off-ride viewers than on the ride. Everything happens so fast, that suddenly you’re getting hit with water. When I rode on the far right, my right leg DID get wet.
As a complete attraction, Manta is excellent. If you’re a well-traveled enthusiasts, flying roller coasters are nothing new, but SeaWorld did as much as they could to make a pretty unique and memorable experience. Between the immense level of theming to the thrilling layout with few surprises, Manta delivers more than just a flight like experience. It delivers an unforgettable world-class ride. Final Rating – 9.0 (Excellent)
What’s Your Take?
Have you ridden Manta at SeaWorld Orlando? Do you agree with my rating? Leave a comment below.