NEDERLANDS // ENGLISH
Whether we like it or not… Brexit is getting closer. And as I once read in a newspaper: the only certainty is the fact that there are no certainties. How hard will it get to travel to the United Kingdom? No idea. That is why I planned a last-minute pre-Brexit trip to famous amusement parks near London. The first one was Thorpe Park, a place that provides some great thrill machines and sensational roller coasters. Today, things are getting more relaxed: I visit Chessington World of Adventures, which is almost entirely focused on the families with younger children. Chessington has been on my wish list for quite a long time now. The park offers 4 roller coasters, 2 dark rides and theming looks great. Let’s go.
In order to complete the Chessington experience (and in order to avoid the ridiculously high hotel rates in London-city) I booked an overnight stay at the Chessington Safari Hotel. This 4-star hotel is located near the entrance of the park and it was built in a colonial style. The hotel’s most unique feature is the savanna in its back yard. This actually is Chessington’s own version of Walt Disney World’s famous Animal Kingdom Lodge. Just like that’s the case in Orlando, it’s perfectly possible to spot giraffes from your hotel room or while having breakfast at the restaurant. That’s very cool and besides, the Safari Hotel’s rooms are surprisingly spacious and comfortably furnished. I’m very happy that I paid 80 euros on this room and didn’t spend more than 300 euros on an old-fashioned hotel in the centre of London. And there’s even more good news: as a hotel guest, I get a full hour of early access to the park. Yay!
After a good night’s rest, I’m at the entrance gate for hotel guests around 9 o’clock. There are no other visitors, but the two staff members let me in and they wish me a pleasant day. That day starts with a very bizarre feeling: I’m literally alone in the park. Yes, I’m serious. There are some staff members, but I can’t see any other guests for the time being. When I decide to enter Vampire’s queue, I find 4 staff members sitting on the floor. They confirm that Vampire is indeed open, but they need at least 12 passengers to start the ride. According to them, chances are low that this will happen during the first hour of operation. Fortunately, there’s a nearby attraction where solo rides are allowed.
That attraction is called The Gruffalo River Ride. This is the successor to Bubbleworks, a dark ride that had quite a legendary status among British amusement park enthusiasts. While watching an on-ride video on YouTube, I started to understand why. Bubbleworks had an original theme in which water, a colourful factory and rubber ducks played important roles. Besides, the rapid river-like boats and the smashing final scene were very recognizable. That last scene remained largely intact, but the rest of The Gruffalo River Ride seems a little less captivating than its predecessor. The sets are mainly static and I don’t like the frequent use of video screens. It may be due to the fact that I don’t know the Gruffalo character, but this dark ride doesn’t amaze me at all. Bubbleworks seemed a lot cooler.
When asking a staff member which attractions are available during Early Entry, he refers to Scorpion Express. That’s why I walk towards this powered roller coaster, where the gate is indeed open. Three operators get to their positions when they see me, after which I take the first ride of the day on my own. That’s very awkward, especially because Scorpion Express makes three rounds. But hey, everything for the coaster bingo, right? By the way: Scorpion Express was nicely themed with an impressive steel scorpion and a series of western facades. The ride itself, however, is uninteresting. There are tons of better Mack Powered Coasters on this planet, that’s for sure.
It’s 10 AM and Chessington World of Adventures’ gates are officially open for the big crowds. Well, big crowd is a bit of an exaggeration today, but I finally get to see some other visitors. Two of them join me for a ride on Rattesnake, a Wild Mouse built by Maurer Rides. The layout is standard, the sudden turns are standard and the limited comfort isn’t new either. Rattlesnake’s ride experience isn’t surprising at all, but at least theming is nice. Both the queue and the track wind through lots of wooding buildings and the exotic vegetation creates a good atmosphere. Rattesnake is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful Wild Mouse coasters I’ve ever seen.
Chessington’s thrill level is limited. If you’re searching for inversions, then Rameses Revenge is your only option (Update: is WAS your only option. Rameses Revenge was closed after the 2019 season). This Top Spin looks stunning, but it’s not a must-do for me. The nearby Tomb Blaster, however, is awesome. This interactive dark ride has a beautiful entrance and the cleverly themed queue creates high expectations. High expectations often lead to disappointment, but that’s not the case here. In fact, Tomb Blaster is the biggest surprise at Chessington World of Adventures. This dark ride is long and most scenes are incredibly well themed. The first scene is even based on Indiana Jones Adventure, one of my favourite rides ever. Thanks to Walibi Belgium, I already knew that Egyptian themed dark rides are great, but Tomb Blaster once again confirmed this today. Don’t miss it!
World of Adventures isn’t just a theme park; it’s also a zoo. Most of the animals can be found in the northwestern part of the park, but you can also see animals elsewhere. The nicest way to do that is with a ride on Zufari – Ride into Africa. This off-road safari is reminiscent of Kilimanjaro Safaris in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but it’s considerably smaller here. I take a seat in an off-road vehicle, we drive through the savanna and we make some obligatory photos of giraffes, zebras and rhinos. The final scene is a dark cave with some water effects, but unfortunately it’s everything but spectacular. It’s not the most action-packed attraction, but Zufari is a great addition for a zoo anyway. My fellow passengers actually seem very impressed.
Zufari isn’t the only ride that emphasizes Chessington’s zoo character. Tiger Rock also belongs in this list. This log flume opened in 1987, but it recently underwent a major refurbishment. The result is a brand-new area called Land of the Tiger. It’s stunning: the Asian pagodas look nice and the tiger habitat is huge. A unique feature is the network of bridges over which tigers can freely walk through their land. Those tigers can also be admired while riding the log flume. The track passes the animal enclosure several times, creating a rather special experience. Tiger Rock is a fine log flume, by the way. Decoration is beautiful, both drops are pleasant and it’s not too wet.
Wild Asia is another area themed to the Far East. In this land, Chessington once again proves that it’s putting a lot of effort in decoration. Both indoor playground Temple of Mayhem and Monkey Swinger look great, but Kobra is undoubtedly the area’s highlight. Disk’O Coasters are always impressive and Chessington added lots of theming to it. Too bad that these machines always disappoint in terms of ride: they’re slow and you cross the iconic airtime hill just a few times. That’s not any different here at Chessington, but those giant snake statues make it a true beauty.
Kobra delivered quite some twists and turns, but there’s an even better spinning ride: Dragon’s Fury. This is a spinning coaster built by Maurer Rides and these rides are always fun. Dragon’s Fury is one of the largest of its kind and that’s noticeable during the ride. The layout is long (they actually added a second lift hill), the ride is surprisingly fast and the intensity is above average. I recently praised Tarántula‘s power, but Dragon’s Fury isn’t any less awesome. Even the theming is good: Dragon’s Fury winds through the elaborate Land of the Dragons area. In short, this is an excellent roller coaster in a beautiful environment. The only downside I can imagine, is that horribly loud lift hill.
I’ve already ridden 3 of Chessington’s 4 roller coasters, but of course I’m not satisfied with that. So let’s hope that Vampire manages to attract 11 fellow passengers now. Fortunately, there are noticeably more guests in the park around noon, so that shouldn’t be a problem. I’m once again heading to the Wild Woods area, where the entrance to this suspended roller coaster is located. My first impression is great: the queue winds through a creepy forest, the station is stunning and those modern Vekoma trains are comfortable. The actual ride is wonderful as well. Thanks to its intense curves, Vampire creates a very authentic suspended coaster feeling. It’s not entirely smooth, but that doesn’t bother me at all. Vampire actually feels like it belongs at Alton Towers: the ride makes perfect use of the hilly terrain and the dense forest definitely adds some excitement. Very nice family roller coaster, if you ask me.
It was a short trip to London, but I had the privilege to discover 2 splendid theme parks. Thorpe Park was a great thrill destination and today, I thoroughly enjoyed Chessington World of Adventures. I didn’t spend much time in the zoo section, but the ride area was wonderful. The location is beautiful, the decoration level was considerably better than I expected and most attractions are high-quality. Vampire and Dragon’s Fury are great family roller coasters, Tomb Blaster is one of Europe’s nicest interactive dark rides and the log flume had a quite unexpected theme.
I may not be a part of Chessington’s targeted audience and I managed to see the park in just a few hours, but I enjoyed every second. This is a feel-good park that’s especially appealing to families with young children. Besides, I considered Chessington as the ideal counterweight to the intense sensations of Thorpe Park. Do I have a preference for one of those both parks? No, actually I don’t. Thorpe Park has the rides that coaster enthusiasts are looking for, but Chessington’s theming and atmosphere are significantly better. So I’d definitely recommend to put both parks on your agenda. It’s preferable to plan your visit during a quiet time of year, but please… be sure that there will be at least 11 fellow visitors. That could be useful.