Back before the park adopted its trendy spelling (when there was a space between "Sea" and "World"), the most thrilling ride--really the only ride--at SeaWorld Orlando was the Sky Tower. The gentle ride is still taking guests high above Shamu and his marine life pals, but since Busch Entertainment took over the Florida park, it's been adding coasters and other thrills to go along with the animal exhibits and shows. In summer 2009, SeaWorld will up the thrill quotient with Manta, a themed flying coaster. What's a flying coaster, you ask? Passengers will be harnessed in a prone position under the coaster train as they soar through the air and skim along the water.
- Type of coaster: Steel flying coaster
- Height: 140 feet
- First drop: 113 feet
- Top speed: 56 mph
- Track length: 3359 feet
- Ride time: 2:35 minutes
- Height requirement: 54 inches
More Manta Info
Skimming the SurfaceLocated at the front entrance of SeaWorld Orlando, Manta will take its place among the park's burgeoning skyline. (Other thrill rides include the floorless Kraken coaster and the hybrid flume/coaster/dark ride, Journey to Atlantis.) By incorporating animals, the attraction will also introduce visitors to SeaWorld's marine life theme. The park says that even coaster wimps who have no intention to ride will want to check out Manta's pre-ride queue. Viewing tanks, enhanced by waterfalls and other themeing, will offer underwater glimpses of a variety of rays as well as sea dragons, sea horses, and many other species of fish.
While SeaWorld hasn't provided all of the details, it's likely that Manta will be similar to other flying coasters designed by its manufacturer, Bolliger & Mabillard of Switzerland. (To learn more about flying coasters, read my review of Superman- Ultimate Flight at Six Flags Great Adventure.) When they board Manta, passengers will probably sit in seats facing forwards. Once the ride ops check the restraints, a mechanism will likely tilt the seats 90 degrees clockwise, and riders will leave the station facing the ground in "flying" mode--although their knees will be bent. As with most flying coasters, Manta will probably take longer to load and unload than conventional coasters. Unlike any other flying coasters, however, Manta will have a compelling and unique ray theme. Passengers will be placed four across in cars shaped like rays. The rays will have wingspans of 12 feet.
The first drop will swoop down 113 feet and reach a top speed of 56 mph. As it curves at the bottom of the hill, Manta will skim along a lagoon and its wings will create a plume of water spray that will be quite a sight for riders and onlookers (and might soak them as well). The ride will include four inversions that will send passengers twisting and turning before returning them to flying mode.
While many coaster fans enjoy putting their arms up in the air to more fully experience the rides' airtime and other thrilling sensations, flying coasters like Manta especially inspire the look-ma-no-hands posture--although the over-the-shoulder restraints make it difficult for passengers to fully extend their arms. Like comic book superheroes, however, riders are able to soar through the air and perform acrobatic maneuvers. It's a giddy sensation. And coaster fans will be giddy with anticipation as they count down the days to Manta's opening.