“The best Belgian theme park is about to get even better”
July of the year 1975 was a golden month for European amusement park enthusiasts. On 12 July, Europa-Park opened its gates in the German town of Rust. The Italian Gardaland premiered on 19 July and Walibi Waver was inaugurated one week later. Three totally different parks in totally different regions, but they have one thing in common: they started small and they all became leading theme parks. Although Walibi may seem a bit smaller than Europa-Park or Gardaland, this Belgian park was a trendsetter in the European amusement park business during the 80s and 90s. Walibi presented lots of unique, innovative attractions during those golden decades.
Walibi’s entrance is surrounded by two of Vekoma’s most succesful coaster models. Cobra is a classic Boomerang and Vampire is a standard Suspended Looping Coaster. The latter is surpringly popular. Coaster enthusiasts usually don’t like these rides, but the general public still seems to consider it as an impressive roller coaster. Just like most other Vekoma SLCs, it reaches speeds of up to 80 km/h and there’s a total of five inversions. Yet, it doesn’t impress me and that’s mainly due to its brutal roughness. The ride is pretty shaky and the over the shoulder restraints just aren’t comfortable at all. Vampire isn’t the world’s most painful roller coaster (my nominations go to Trombi and Time Warp) but it’s far from great
Dark creatures are popular at Walibi Belgium. After your ride on Vampire, you can also have a meet-up with a Werewolf. But if you’re planning on doing so, please take the necessary precautions. Those precautions include loads of medicine that can cure a headache… you’ll need it. It’s a fact that wooden roller coasters are usually rougher than steel rides, but Werewolf is just too painful to be enjoyable. In addition, the lap bars close so tightly that I have to experience most of the ride in a pretty uncomfortable position. Werewolf remains a crowd pleaser and queues are often considerable, but I find it worthless in its current state. What about an RMC treatment like the one Robin Hood received at Walibi Holland?
Did you know that Walibi was once home to various Belgian cartoon heroes? One of them was Lucky Luke, a cowboy which lent his name to the park’s Far West village: Lucky Luke City. And although Walibi lost this license, the top attractions in this zone remind us of the past. These include Dalton Terror (an 80-metre free fall tower) and Calamity Mine. This mine train coaster is clearly inspired by Disney’s Big Thunder Mountain, but it’s considerably smaller. There’s 800 metres of track and the top speed is approximately 50 km/h. Despite those limited figures, Calamity Mine is an excellent family roller coaster. You once again shouldn’t expect the smoothest ride, but I don’t find that disturbing in this case.
Exotic World is the epicentre of Walibi’s current expansion phase. It will be home to the tallest and fastest roller coaster of the Benelux soon, but Exotic World already got a roller coaster addition in 2018. It’s called Tiki-Waka and this is a family coaster manufactured by Gerstlauer. Their rides usually aren’t that extraordinary. But when it comes to family roller coasters, Gerstlauer performs excellently. That’s not different in this case. Tiki-Waka is a nice family ride and the vehicles race over the tracks with an incredible smoothness. Although this definitely isn’t the ultimate sensation, I actually think that it’s one of my favourite roller coasters at Walibi. This is partly due to the theme: Tiki-Waka’s Polynesian decoration looks fresh and elaborate. The station building is actually so pretty that it wouldn’t feel out of place at a Disney theme park. Nice job, Walibi.
Psyké Underground is Walibi’s oldest operational roller coaster. This ride has had two other names in the past and one thing is very clear: with every name change, an extra piece of the rails was covered. Psyké Underground should be the last name according to that philosophy, as it’s a totally indoor experience nowadays. Luckily, renovations didn’t make this attraction worse. The darkness is disorienting and Walibi added some nice lighting effects as well. Besides, Psyké Underground is still smooth and the backward loop creates a bizarre sense of adrenaline. That’s why I like this attraction a lot, but please Walibi… do something about that Chernobyl-like queue.
From the oldest to the most recently opened roller coaster at Walibi Belgium. Fun Pilot is actually so new that it still smelled of fresh paint during our visit. The station and the queue are quite attractive thanks to their cartoonish decor. It even reminds me of The Barnstormer at Magic Kingdom. The ride itself isn’t that special, but it’s wonderfully smooth and rather fast for beginners. Great addition to Walibi’s children’s area.
In 2016, Walibi Belgium presented a world novelty that counts both as roller coaster and water attraction. We’re talking about Pulsar, a Power Splash by Mack Rides. What makes this attraction unique is its combination of forward and backward launches with a refreshing splash at the end. It requires a fairly complex technique and strict timing, but the result is stunning. Pulsar is a real treat for both spectators and passengers. The station building looks great and IMAscore composed an impressive soundtrack exclusively for Pulsar. The actual ride is short, but surprisingly intense. Those three launches feel much more powerful than they look and the final splash is literally gigantic. As a result, it’s possible to conclude your ride on Pulsar completely soaked. Nevertheless, we discovered that the 3rd row is a pretty safe place to remain mostly dry. Awesome attraction.
The neighbouring Flash Back was also built by Mack Rides, but it’s approximately 20 years older than Pulsar. This log flume differs from most other versions when it comes to theming. The ride isn’t themed to a sawmill or the Far West, but it’s shaped as a rejuvenation machine. That’s a very nice idea, but the attraction could also use a rejuvenation cure itself. Most decorative elements look old and although Flash Back has already undergone quite a few renovations, the current state of the attraction is rather questionable. That’s a pity, because this attraction remains fantastic in terms of hardware. It’s got a long layout and the last descent is pretty good. According to some rumours, Flash Back will get a major overhaul soon. Let’s hope that this is true.
Welcome to Karma World, the newest themed land at Walibi Belgium. In reality, this is a conversion of an existing zone, but still a very good one. Karma World is based on the spirit and exoticism of Bollywood and it’s a whole lot better than the former Ali Baba Land. The area’s most popular attraction, however, didn’t receive a big makeover. Radja River was fitted with a new entrance, but everything else remained unchanged. That’s not necessarily bad. This is one of Europe’s largest rapid rivers and it also has one of the most spectacular finales on such a ride. Right before the final lift hill, boats pass through a tunnel of water before crashing into a huge tidal wave. This series of water effects ensured that I exited the ride soaked, just like my 11 fellow passengers.
One bizarre fact about Walibi Belgium: the park is home to two interactive dark rides with circular-shaped, 6-seater vehicles. The oldest one is Challenge of Tutankhamon and it’s themed to an expedition through ancient Egypt. It’s full of great animatronics and the dark atmosphere is very convincing. Since its opening in 2003, I’ve considered Tutankhamon as the best dark ride in Belgium. The recently opened, screen-based Popcorn Revenge didn’t change my opinion. Although Popcorn Revenge’s decoration is totally different (this one’s themed as a Bollywood cinema), the added value of this novelty is limited. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a lovely attraction, the theming is original and it provides great fun. But is Popcorn Revenge really the attraction Walibi needed? No, I don’t think so.
Mad houses aren’t that common in America or Asia, but they are in Europe. Efteling’s Villa Volta was the first and remains one of the best examples worldwide, but Walibi also built a version in 2001. It’s called Paleis Van De Geest (The Genie’s Palace) and I’m a big fan. The pre-show is visually entertaining and the actual ride features fantastic music and good theming. The only disadvantage in this disorienting attraction is the forced use of bilingualism. It’s nice that they want to please both Flemish and Walloon visitors, but this unfortunately results in chaotic narration during the entire ride.
WORTH A VISIT?
Walibi Belgium is a park that keeps getting better with every visit. This has always been the best Belgian park in terms of rides, but the general atmosphere was sometimes sad (or even hostile) and theming wasn’t the park’s biggest strength. In recent years, however, Walibi Belgium is fixing these two issues. New themed areas such as Karma World and Exotic World are looking amazing and staff are the best I’ve encountered in a very long time. Both in terms of customer service and language skills, Walibi may be very proud of its current workforce. If you consider the fact that Walibi will soon open the brand-new mega coaster Kondaa, it’s safe to say that this is the best theme park in Belgium. Definitely worth a visit!
Photo Gallery 2007, 2016 & 2019
Do you prefer Walibi Belgium over Walibi Holland? How excited are you for Kondaa? And should Werewolf get an RMC treatment soon? Share your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this page.