By ATD’s Florida Experts, Susan and Simon Veness
Florida knows sharks. With more than fifteen species swimming in the coastal waters and offshore reefs surrounding the peninsula, the Sunshine State is no stranger to the terrors of the deep. But there is a new shark in town, and it’s hunting its way around ship wrecks in the Shark Wreck Reef area at SeaWorld.
The park’s newest roller coaster, based on the agile movements of a Mako shark, officially opened earlier this year (10th June 2016) and we were thrilled to attend the special media premiere the night before.
There are a great deal of new Mako-themed design elements around Sharks Underwater Grill and Shark Encounter, tying the existing areas to the new area, with Fins Gifts featuring shark-themed items and artwork by famed marine wildlife artist and conservationist Guy Harvey, who also painted a magnificent mural just across the walkway from Fins.
Entry into the Mako queue is to the right of Sharks Underwater Grill, and there are informative signs along the queue with interesting snippets about sharks. And then, you come face to face with the beast.
The tallest coaster in Orlando is definitely an apex predator, with speeds up to 73mph and a fearsome first drop hill that plunges riders 200ft earthward at a 70 degree angle. The second drop hill isn’t much lower, and the massive banked curve between them is the ideal time to catch your breath—just!—before soaring up and plunging down again, like a shark on the hunt. Another enormous banked turn, another series of hills and drops, and then a long glide back when you’ve caught your prey.
But here’s the thing about Mako: it was built with families in mind. Unlike mega-coasters such as Kraken and Manta, Mako is a hyper-coaster, meaning it has no inversions but plenty of hills and dips for that wonderful air-time coaster fans love. Younger children will probably find it too powerful, and there is a 54-inch height restriction, but for those who aren’t quite ready for the intensity of Kraken and Manta’s massive loops, Mako is the perfect alternative.
We spoke with Brian Morrow, Vice President Theme Park Experience Design, who told us, “This is the next generation of immersing our guests in the story. It’s a hyper-coaster that’s about fun, fun, fun, and a magnificent exercise in butt-off-the-seat thrills!”
Morrow shared with us that he and his team went out to sea to study the mako, as it is not a shark that has been heavily observed, to make sure the movement of the coaster feels right. He also told us his first ride was at night, doing a sound check for the music on the lift hill, and, as he made the circuit he was aware of the air-time that had been designed into each hill. “I thought, this next hill will be three seconds, and so on, but it was even better than I thought it would be,” he said. And we agree.
SeaWorld has a lot to be proud of with this new offering that will certainly become a coaster fan favourite. But, as Morrow told us, “The real payoff is seeing the excitement of the guests.” And, if the reaction of our group was anything to go by, the payoff will be huge!
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