If you decide to visit an amusement park in Russia, people often react concerned. “Do you actually trust that?” and “that doesn’t sound very safe” are the most frequently heard comments. Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist visiting Wonder Island during my trip to Saint Petersburg. This is the city’s largest amusement park and Russians call it Divo Ostrov. They prefer to write that name in signs that we consider unreadable. However, the font of the letter D looks vaguely familiar to me.
Divo Ostrov is located within a huge park in the north of Saint Petersburg. You can easily get there with a cheap Uber, but the metro is a good option as well. The Krestovskiy Ostrov station is adjacent to the park and with a fixed rate of 45 rubles (64 eurocents) this price is also ridiculously low. Keep in mind that the metro can be quite busy. Especially if football club Zenit Saint Petersburg plays a home match, trains may be full of loud football fans. That’s because the impressive Saint Petersburg Stadium – home to this famous club – can be found next to Divo Ostrov. Fortunately, Tuesday 30th July is not a match day, so we get here in a relatively quiet way. And crowds at the park seem manageable, too. That’s what I like.
The city centre of Saint Petersburg is filled with palaces and monumental cathedrals. You might expect that the local theme park’s entry gate should be monumental as well, but that’s unfortunately not the case. There’s actually no entry gate: you can just walk in. Similar to many amusement parks in Northern Europe, entering Divo Ostrov is free of charge. Here, you pay per ride or you can purchase an all-in wristband. These wristbands are clearly the most economical choice at many parks, but here it seems as if the single tickets are a little cheaper. For comparison: the all-in ticket costs 2000 rubles (approximately 28 euros), whereas an individual rollercoaster ride varies between 200 and 300 rubles. My travel companion isn’t the biggest amusement park enthusiast, so one lap on every coaster and a single ride on the ferris wheel seem sufficient for this afternoon.
Let’s start with the Ferris wheel. It’s appropriately called Big Wheel and it looks quite modern. Thanks to its central location, this is the ideal way to get an overview of the park. That’s nice, because the internet offered me very little information about this park and its attractions. This is partly due to the fact that Divo Ostrov’s official web site can only be accessed in Russian. I managed to read some recognizable words, but I’m still facing many surprises today.
One of the biggest surprises is called The Rocket. This is a unique flat ride that’s located right next to the ferris wheel. I realise that Russian rockets don’t often make people happy, but this version is different. It’s actually an impressive attraction that was manufactured by Funtime. That Austrian company is mainly known for its Star Flyers, but this is a considerably more thrilling ride. The Rocket is, as the name suggests, a rocket-like vehicle that winds through the air. A steel arm rotates in huge circles and at the same time, the rocket turns around its own axis. The result is an inversion machine that’s spectacular both for passengers and spectators. I definitely don’t want to ride it, though.
Looking for exotic rides? Then Divo Ostrov is the place to be. A Russian theme park that imports a Dutch rollercoaster from Thailand… that’s pretty unique, right? Meet Whirl Wind Looping Coaster, my very first rollercoaster in Russia. It once was the highlight of an amusement park in Bangkok, but it was relocated to Divo Ostrov in 2003. At the time I close the restraint, I expect a rather rough ride: most 40 year old Vekomas are a little shaky. However, I have to admit that it’s actually not bad at all. The seats are comfortable and the trains run surprisingly smoothly. Even the ride’s colour scheme looks shiny and new. Cool!
Divo Ostrov is a family park, but thrill seekers aren’t forgotten. There’s a large number of flat rides and three of the park’s four rollercoasters contain inversions. A large number of inversions, actually: ten loopings in one single rollercoaster, that’s possible thanks to Velikolukskiy Myasokombinat-2. You’re a genius if you manage to pronounce that name correctly, but I don’t consider the coaster’s designers as geniuses. Divo Ostrov opted for an Intamin 10-inversion coaster, a pretty common type nowadays. The layout is basic and especially during the second half, all inspiration seems lost. A total of five heartline rolls were added to reach a total of ten inversions. And although I don’t hate heartline rolls, five is just too much. Still, there’s some good news as well: the ride is intense, the safety restraints are comfortable and the smoothness is remarkable. But dear people of Intamin, please try to invent a more original way to cram ten inversions into a rollercoaster. Thank you very much.
One ride on the 10-inversion coaster cost 300 rubles (about 4.20 euros) and if you want the front seats, you’ll need to pay another 50 rubles. That’s quite pricy by Russian standards, but fortunately young visitors have cheaper options. Tons of family attractions are located in an extensive children’s area and the atmosphere is quite cosy. Of course, I skipped those slides, the carousels and the (rather misplaced) Sombrero puke machine. However, one specific attraction in this area attracts my attention. I’m talking about Alien Dark Ride, which can be found in a giant blue dome. The building seems huge, but unfortunately it’s partly filled with arcade games. Still, the actual attraction doesn’t disappoint in any way. This is an interactive dark ride with laser guns and rotating vehicles. Although sets are mostly static, it all looks pretty convincing. Especially if you’re expecting the level of a third-rate fun fair (like I did), the attraction performs surprisingly well. Dark ride lovers really shouldn’t miss this one.
Just like many readers, I’ve spent many months in the virtual amusement park world of Rollercoaster Tycoon 2. You probably remember that popular computer game with rides like Wooden Rollercoaster 2, Merry-Go-Round 7 and Ghost Train 83. The owners of Divo Ostrov seem to be inspired by this game, because they opted for unoriginal names as well. We defied the ten inversions of Velikolukskiy Myasokombinat-2 earlier, but this means that there’s also a Velikolukskiy Myasokombinat (number 1!) within the park. When I search for a translation on Google, I end up with Velikoluksky Meat Processing Factory. And although this may sound bizarre, these two rollercoasters are indeed sponsored by the company that supplies hot dogs and hamburgers to Divo Ostrov. Talking about juicy rides…
Theming a rollercoaster to sausages… why not? I’m an open-minded person and it’s the year 2019 after all. Besides, Velikolukskiy Myasokombinat looks at least as tasty as a German Bratwürst. That’s not a coincidence because this ride has German roots: it’s an exact copy of Blue Fire, one of my favourite European rides. In terms of decoration, however, this Russian version doesn’t perform as good as its sibling at Europa-Park. The station is probably the ugliest place of Divo Ostrov and there isn’t a dark ride portion at the start. Still, it’s an outstanding rollercoaster. Seats are comfortable, the layout is wonderfully balanced and the last inversion is just as crazy as it is in Rust. Mack has undoubtedly delivered the best rollercoaster in the entire park. The most photogenic too, by the way.
It was quite a mission to purchase our ride tickets this morning. The lady behind the counter didn’t speak a word of English and I don’t speak Russian until further notice. To make things easier, we tried some basic sign language. I eventually got the tickets I needed by pointing out rides on a park map. But unfortunately, ordering tickets for Big Roller Coaster didn’t go as planned. At the time I put my finger on this yellow rollercoaster, the lady tried to make clear that Big Roller Coaster would remain closed all day long. Very unfortunate, especially because I was anticipating a coaster bingo here at Divo Ostrov. Nevertheless, I kept my optimism and that works, apparently. After a number of test runs, Big Roller Coaster opens at 3 PM. At that moment, I hurry to the nearest cashier and I once again point at Big Roller Coaster. A lovely lady replies with “Would you like to ride the yellow coaster?”
Oh right, some staff members do speak English.
The name says it all; Big Roller Coaster is an impressive machine. It actually seems as if they added a few extra supports (understatement alert). From a distance, it even looks like a wooden rollercoaster because of this abundance of supports. But does Big Roller Coaster also rattles like an average woodie does? Luckily it doesn’t. The ride is actually relatively smooth, despite its high speeds. Still, it’s not the most enjoyable experience. This is entirely due to the safety restraints: in addition to the traditional lap bars, the train features (completely unnecessary) shoulder harnesses. These things put an uncomfortable pressure on my upper body and they transform every transition into a painful moment. You may recognise these so-called accordion restraints from Olympia Looping and that’s no coincidence. Big Roller Coaster was built by the same people who invented that well-known funfair rollercoaster.
Big Roller Coaster was imported from Japan in 2004. The Vekoma was originally located in Bangkok. The Russian Blue Fire is themed to sausages, whereas its German counterpart ironically has a Russian sponsor. Am I the only one who’s a bit confused by all these strange facts? One thing is clear: there’s something crazy about Divo Ostrov and its rollercoasters. Nevertheless, I’d like to say that this first Russian amusement park experience has exceeded my expectations. Theming is limited, but Divo Ostrov has a surprisingly complete array of attractions and the coasters are nothing less than decent. Besides, staff are okay (I wouldn’t say friendly, though) and there weren’t any considerable queues during my visit. I expected Divo Ostrov to be some kind of dated funfair, but I know better now. The astmosphere is pleasant, they’ve got some nice attractions and most of them aren’t overly expensive. I guess that an average Russian amusement park visitor can have an excellent afternoon here. And honestly, that also applies to us.
You don’t have to order airline tickets to Russia, just to visit Divo Ostrov. However, combining this amusement park with a city trip to Saint Petersburg is definitely worth it. It takes some effort to apply for a Russian visa, but this city provides a great way to avoid yet another trip to Barcelona or Paris. Do consider Saint Petersburg as a must-see European destination. You won’t be disappointed.