In the wake of a rather damning TV documentary that has led to a lot of controversy surrounding the treatment of orcas in captivity at SeaWorld parks across America, the company is now doing everything it can to win back the support of the general public and transform itself into a name that is synonymous with animal protection and conservation rather than animal entertainment. The breeding programme of captive orcas has already been suspended at all the parks, and now information has emerged regarding new attractions at all 3 parks set to debut in 2017, which will hopefully win back the crowds and increase visitor numbers for the company.
I’ll start with the stuff that I, personally, am least enthusiastic about. SeaWorld Orlando (the only one of the three I’ve actually been to) is set to unleash virtual reality onto its floorless coaster Kraken by summer of next year. The new technology will throw riders into the midsts of a battle between themselves and the Kraken as they perform seven inversions and travel at speeds over 60mph. On the one hand, this makes sense as I can see the appeal of Kraken dwindling after the opening of the much taller Mako coaster earlier this year, and they’re looking to debut a new style of headset that is a part of the restraint system itself, which will hopefully reduce loading times and, possibly more importantly, keep the thing in place while you’re being flipped upside-down seven times. As to whether you still get the thrill of the coaster with all this, however… I’m reserving judgment for now.
SeaWorld Orlando is also making changes to its dolphin nursery, with new viewing areas and features to enhance the appeal of the attraction. There’s also talk of some maintenance and upgrades to the park’s Journey to Atlantis attraction, which will hopefully rejuvenate this classic attraction (and my personal favourite ride in the park).
In San Antonio, SeaWorld will be debuting a new roller coaster to join the likes of inverted coaster Great White, hypercoaster Steel Eel, their own Journey to Atlantis and kiddie coaster Shamu Express. The park’s fifth coaster represents the company’s new commitment to conservation and will be entitled Wave Breaker: The Rescue Coaster. A launched coaster themed around jet skis, the coaster promises a top speed of 44mph, maximum height of 61 feet and two magnetic launches. The coaster itself appears to be a ‘motorbike launch’ design with riders straddling the jet ski cars, similar to rides such as Velocity at Flamingo Land, UK, and Pony Express at Knott’s Berry Farm, California. These provide a unique experience with riders reasonably high and exposed above the track, adding to the sense of vulnerability and excitement that the coaster provides.
The biggest changes are set to happen at SeaWorld San Diego, with a brand new orca show to premiere next year. This will focus much more on the personality and information about the animals rather than using them for entertainment, and is designed to feel more like a live documentary while still being a lot of fun for guests to experience. Similar shows are set to roll out in Orlando and San Antonio by 2019.
In terms of rides, a new Ocean Explorer themed area will open with four new family-friendly attractions including a jellyfish swing ride with added bubbles (and who doesn’t love bubbles?). The flagship ride of the area will be Submarine Quest, a three minute elevated indoor / outdoor journey that incorporates challenges such as locating a camouflaged octopus. Apparently riders will be able to choose their level of difficulty for the attraction, which will adapt to how well you’re doing as you go along. Despite being aimed primarily at kids, this actually sounds like really good fun and certainly something new and unique in the spectrum of interactive rides currently on offer at parks around the world.
SeaWorld isn’t going anywhere, and they want you to be a part of their future. They firmly believe that everyone loves animals and wants to help protect them, and their attractions, rides and shows from this point onward will all be geared around that central purpose. Whether you’re a roller coaster lover, marine life enthusiast or just looking for a fun family day out, SeaWorld promises something new and exciting for you in 2017.
See you around =] x x