NEDERLANDS // ENGLISH
Walibi Holland’s summer season started with the grand opening of a major new roller coaster. This ride was built by Rocky Mountain Construction, which can be considered as one of the greatest coaster manufacturers of recent times. Needless to say: Walibi Holland is home to Europe’s most hyped roller coaster novelty of 2019, which makes this park the must-do travel destination for coaster fans this summer. Their (and my) expectations are high.
Today, at least 3 of those coaster fans are Belgian. My friends and travel bloggers Roel and Kenneth (be sure to check their website Bunnies Unleashed) asked me to join them and I just couldn’t say no. Interestingly, this isn’t my first visit to Walibi Holland this week; I already visited the park last Monday. Two Walibi trips within a week, isn’t that a bit of an exaggeration? No, not at all. Besides, this second visit can be considered as a second chance for Walibi to make a good impression. Last Monday, the park was filled with noisy school groups (not positive for the overall atmosphere) and Untamed faced major technical difficulties during the afternoon. That could – and should – be better today.
It immediately becomes clear that those school trips have totally vanished. There are no tour buses in the parking lot and that’s a big relief. Also noteworthy: we’re sharing the park with loads of coaster junkies from all over Europe. These people can easily be recognized by their T-shirts with Cedar Point or Six Flags prints and by the lack of girls. Most of these groups walk towards Untamed when the park opens, but we decide to start our day elsewhere. At Lost Gravity, to be precise. This roller coaster has a fairly limited capacity, so queues tend to get long. This morning, however, staff are literally waiting for us. Yay!
Lost Gravity is not a standard roller coaster. That applies to both the hardware and the theming. The ride can be found in an area that I would define as urban trashy. It consists of sea containers, bright coloured patterns, graffiti and an occasional burst of flames. The result is peculiar, to say the least, but it works effectively here at Walibi. This is not Efteling or Disneyland, where theming makes up 80 percent of the overall experience. This is Walibi, a park which still primarily focuses on hashtag youth. In this specific case, however, those hashtaggers have to settle for a rather mediocre roller coaster ride. Lost Gravity features a fantastic first drop, some good airtime and a brilliant near-miss with a water bomb, but the last part of the layout is pretty uninteresting. Besides, the ride is considerably rougher than I remembered it to be. Mack has built some incredibly smooth coasters during the last decade, but Lost Gravity isn’t one of them. Definitely choose one of the middle seats for a better experience.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t hate Lost Gravity and I really enjoy the ride’s unusual look. But if you’re hoping for a world-class coaster, it may cause some disappointment.
Walibi Holland is a real thrill destination and there’s only one family coaster. It can be found right next to Lost Gravity and it’s called Drako. Keep your expectations low, as this is just a standard Zierer ride with a very uninspiring theme. If you’re searching for a more unique (virtual reality) experience, you might find what you’re looking for at NeuroGen. Don’t ask me what happens inside this oddly shaped building, because I have no idea. Virtual reality doesn’t interest me and the queue remained long during the entire day, so I didn’t mind skipping NeuroGen.
Although it’s a rather chilly day in the Netherlands, a ride on the log flume is always a good idea. That log flume is called Crazy River and it used to be part of a Canadian themed area. That themed land has vanished, which makes Crazy River a stand-alone attraction nowadays. And honestly, it could definitely use a huge decoration upgrade. In fact, Crazy River is even in a worse shape than its Belgian counterpart Flash Back. The actual ride, however, is fantastic. There are 3 drops and especially the final descent remains great. So please Walibi, treat Crazy River to some tender loving care… that would be greatly appreciated.
The surroundings of Crazy River look like an uncontrolled wilderness. Was this the inspiration for Wilderness, the park’s newest theme zone? It’s some kind of wild hippie garden with crooked houses, lampshades functioning as street lights and lots of bright colours. In other words: Wilderness is an alternative jumble. But just like that’s the case with Lost Gravity, it’s acceptable at Walibi. The atmosphere is nice and by amusement park standards, the land is quite innovative. The only element which feels out of place is Merlin’s Magic Castle, a Vekoma Mad House that has been there since 2000. During the Wilderness rebranding, the exterior of this attraction was smeared with loads of graffiti. True works of art, but this simply doesn’t fit within the ride’s medieval theme. Moreover, the actual storyline or ride were not adapted to the Wilderness concept. It would be a shame if this attraction disappeared (it is Walibi Holland’s only dark ride after all), but in its current state, the added value is zero. And please, can someone kill that annoying owl? Thank you.
Why would I complain about a Mad House when there’s an awesome new roller coaster just a few steps further? Wilderness is home to Untamed, Walibi’s newest showpiece. This hybrid RMC replaced Robin Hood, a Vekoma wooden roller coaster which has been entertaining guests between 2000 and 2018. Well… maybe entertaining isn’t the right word, because Robin Hood became pretty rough during the last few years. The station and the layout are still somewhat recognizable, but (luckily) it’s hard to find any other similarities between Untamed and its predecessor. The medieval theme, for example, has totally disappeared. In the queue, cool lounge beats can be heard and we’re surrounded by illuminated LOVE signs. That queue is quite pleasant, by the way: it’s winding through lush flower beds and it’s offering some beautiful view of the ridd. In addition, a suitable tribute to Robin Hood has been provided. Walibi created an artistical forest of Vekoma rails and there’s even an old coach which was displayed on a recycled piece of track. Robin Hood was certainly not a top attraction, but it’s nice to see that Walibi hasn’t forgotten about its former wooden coaster.
Rocky Mountain Construction has quickly become one of the world’s most respected roller coaster manufacturers. Their coasters are often extremely smooth, they’re fast and they contain elements that can’t be found in any other ride. Untamed fits perfectly within that perspective. After a waiting time of approximately 30 minutes, Kenneth, Roel and I experience a mind-blowing ride. I won’t be describing the whole ride from element to element, but I can tell that Untamed never gets boring. It is an endless game of weightlessness, power and heavily banked curves. RMC’s layouts always look a tad unnatural, but they feel like they’ve been designed by the gods. When I first looked at those two first inversions, I wondered how on Earth such an element could feel comfortable. But at the moment I rushed through that so-called double inverted corner stall (exotic names for coaster elements… another RMC specialty), it provided some of the craziest coaster satisfaction ever. This is largely due to Untamed’s comfort; there are very few coasters of this caliber that float through their course with such smoothness.
Untamed is a hype and therefore, my expectations were high. This coaster didn’t disappoint in any way, though. Although it’s the smallest RMC that I’ve ridden so far, it certainly isn’t less interesting than its big brothers. In fact, I even prefer Untamed over the immensely popular Wildfire at Kolmården. Rocky Mountain Construction has created a monumental roller coaster and Walibi intergrated it in a beautiful new area. Untamed is without a doubt the best roller coaster in the Netherlands and it may even be one of the best rides in Europe.
Holland is a quite small country, but the Dutch have no reason to complain about their roller coasters. Toverland built great rides like Troy and Fēnix, Efteling opened the world’s most beautiful Dive Machine and Walibi Holland has been home to Goliath since 2002. This Intamin Mega Coaster has been a fan favourite since it opened. With over 1.2 kilometres of track, a height of 46 metres and a top speed of 105 km/h, it’s quite an impressive ride. Still, Goliath turns out to be a bit disappointing today. Don’t get me wrong: the first drop is fantastic, the ride offers some amazing airtime and that unique Stengel Dive is wonderful. But unfortunately, the second part of the layout is a little forceless. Whereas Untamed literally keeps going to the final brake run, Goliath loses its pace much faster. I’d like to praise the ride’s crew for their incredibly fast dispatches, but one ride is enough for me today.
One single ride on Goliath is enough. One single ride on the nearby El Condor is too much. This Suspended Looping Coaster looks nice. With its bright colours, the ride perfectly fits within the Mexican themed square. Yet, El Condor has been known as a torture machine for many years now. This was the prototype of the SLC, one of Vekoma’s most successful coaster models ever. I haven’t ridden any version that was really enjoyable, but I remember this one as the worst of them all. That’s why I don’t feel the need to ride it today, but Kenneth and Roel do. Their opinion is (surprisingly enough) not that bad, but nevertheless I don’t feel the urge to give it a try. Thank you, next.
The weather is rather chilly and cloudy today. Those aren’t the ideal conditions for an extensive test of the water rides, if you ask me. We therefore skip El Rio Grande, a rapid river. However, I’ve ridden it last year, during a scorching hot summer day. It made me realize that El Rio Grande is surprisingly well integrated into its lush green environment and that’s always a huge bonus for this type of attraction. The ride itself, however, is very tame. There aren’t any big waves or waterfalls and the layout is also pretty short. Better rapid rivers can be found in Kaatsheuvel, Rust and Plailly. Still in desperate need of water? Then be sure to ride the Splash Battle on the other side of the park. This attraction was nicely themed in a cartoon style and it actually was the first of many European splash battles.
I like coaster photography a lot. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes difficult to make good photos. Xpress – Platform 13, for example, is almost invisible from the park’s walkways. Taking photos from Goliath would be an option, but that would be against park regulations. That’s why I opted for a (less original) aerial photo taken from the Ferris wheel, on which you can see the ride’s black tracks. Fun fact: the layout is nearly identical to Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster at the Disney Resorts in Paris and Orlando. This Dutch version isn’t themed to music, though. Platform 13 tells the story of a creepy, abandoned metro station. The walk-through towards the station is pretty amazing and the platform itself is nicely decorated as well. It’s just a shame that the actual ride isn’t themed at all. This dark theme begs for a total indoor experience with music and frightening effects. In reality, we end up riding a rather rough roller coaster in the open air. That doesn’t necessarily make Xpress a bad ride, but it feels like a missed opportunity to me.
Apart from Lost Gravity, every roller coaster at Walibi Holland has undergone major changes since they opened. Xpress originally was a Superman roller coaster with an appropriate colour scheme, while Goliath and El Condor both received a paint job. Drako was moved to another location within the park and I don’t need to talk about the Robin Hood upgrade anymore. The last coaster that got a big refurbishment is Speed of Sound. This Vekoma Boomerang once opened as La Via Volta and did what Boomerangs usually do: fitting 6 inversions on a limited footprint. Regular park guests seemed to know that Boomerangs aren’t that unique, which often resulted in short queues. However, Walibi tried to make the ride more popular and surprisingly enough, they succeeded. They added onboard audio and a flashy light tunnel and the result is called Speed of Sound. I’m still avoiding Boomerangs at any cost, but the general public seems to enjoy this ride a lot.
Another long queue can be found at Lost Gravity during the afternoon, but the single rider option enables us to bypass it. If you’re willing to fill in empty spaces, the wait time can be reduced to one minute. In fact, quite a few roller coasters at Walibi Holland are equipped with a single rider queue and I’m highly recommending them. A major exception is the single ride line of Untamed, which moves rather slowly. And there’s more bad news concerning Untamed: because of technical problems, the brand-new coaster is in a 1-train operation during the entire afternoon. Of course, this results in an extended waiting time. We had hoped to make quite a few more rides before park close, but unfortunately that doesn’t seem possible in these conditions. To end with a positive note, I would like to mention the fact that Untamed seems to become considerably more intense later in the day. So be sure to ride it in the afternoon or evening, if possible.
Walibi’s newest addition left me speechless, that much is clear. Untamed is probably Europe’s best amusement park novelty of the year: it’s simply awesome. But how awesome is Walibi Holland? Is this the Netherlands’ best day trip? Unfortunately not, if you ask me. And this may sound strange, but Untamed is partly responsible for that. Although Walibi Holland is trying to put itself on the map as a family-friendly destination, it remains a park for thrill seekers in the first place. Five of its seven roller coasters feature inversions and the park’s only family roller coaster is just ridiculously small. I don’t want to claim that Robin Hood was an essential roller coaster for Walibi, but at least it aimed itself towards a broader audience. Since Robin Hood has been transformed into a thrill coaster, the water rides are the only remaining attractions which can be enjoyed by the whole family.
In my opinion, a roller coaster like Pégase Express (Parc Astérix) would be the perfect addition to Walibi. Furthermore, the park really lacks a dark ride. Wouldn’t Walibi Belgium’s interactive Popcorn Revenge have fitted better in the Netherlands? And I’m pretty sure that Belgians would’ve been happier with an Untamed version of Werewolf. But hey, who knows what the future holds.