Coaster Obsession: It’s like flying on the belly of a Manta Ray!


On Thursday, May 21, 2009, I was given the opportunity to attend the Manta Media Day. Sure, I can make lots of suggestions, and tell you what I thought certain things would be like, but I choose not to. I’m completely stunned by this coaster, and the aquarium that accompanies the queue line and non-rider area. Before I get into the nerdy side of the ride, you should know the aquarium is nothing like your average aquarium.

In fact, I’d say it’s hundreds of times better! As you enter the non-rider area, as soon as you look to the right, there’s an aquarium filled with hundreds, possibly even thousands of bright, colorful fish. As you continue through the aquarium, you walk into an area very similar to the gift shop area of Journey to Atlantis, but better! All kinds of sting rays are swimming towards the top of the glass and over your head. The water ripples slowly and the light shines in just right, giving you the feeling of being in the ocean. As you continue on through the aquarium, you find star fish and even a octopi! And yes, they travel back and forth from one tank to the next via a tube. That was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen in an aquarium. As you continue on and round the corner, you find a pop-up! YES!  Though, before you get to the pop up, the view on your right hand side is just stunning! Remember all those rays swimming over your head? You’re actually viewing the opposite side of the tank, except you can stand right next to the glass and watch the rays glide by. This section of the non-rider aquarium is by far the largest, and contains hundreds of rays, even a Bow Mouth Guitar Fish (The largest one in all of the pictures that were taken). After you’re done ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘ah-ing’, the sweet pop-up is located directly next to it. Once you’re inside, you may even have the chance of a fish staring you in the eyes, almost like he’s happy to see you. Before it’s all over and you leave the aquarium, there’s one last tank. It’s circular, tall, and filled with leafy sea dragons! They’re pretty cool – See if you can find one!

Now, I could spend all day talking about how special of an experience I had in the non-rider aquarium, or how I almost cried when I saw rays swimming over my head, but that’s not all Seaworld did with this ride! The queue line is just as amazing, if not more amazing.

As you enter the queue line, on the right hand side, there’s a waterfall – Don’t stand too close. You may get wet! As you continue on through the line (which is air conditioned, by the way), you find several exhibits containing hundreds and thousands of bright, beautiful fish. As you approach the stairs, the wall appears to be moving water. Woah! What? Yes, that’s right. They use projectors mounted on the walls to project the image of moving water onto the walls, again giving you the feeling that you’re swimming in the ocean. Not only are you in the ocean but rays swim by. One you pass all of this, you enter the main queue area. By now, I hope you’re inspired to fly like a Manta Ray because you’re about to fly on the belly of a Manta Ray.

Once you board the train and you’re locked in and ready to go, you’re tilted down, facing the ground. How awesome is that? As the train leaves the station and heads towards the lift hill, the beauty of Seaworld truly stands out. Sure, you get great views at the very tops of coasters, but because you’re under the track, you can see everything, even people waving at you from beneath the lift. As you proceed into the one hundred and thirteen foot drop, you head straight for the pretzel loop. The front of the train does not seem to give you the same feeling as the back does. The back of the train is a personal favorite of mine, giving you the full feeling of the g-forces produced by this steel machine. Once you’re through the first inversion, you head back towards the sky for yet another, but on your back. I’ve ridden other flying coasters, but I’ve never felt such a powerful experience as Manta. Two more inversions exist: A flat line spin, and a zero g-roll (correct me if I’m wrong). The splash down is simply amazing, but was an honest let down in the beginning. From the concept art of this feature, I was under the impression the wing of the Manta would skim the water as it passed over, but it doesn’t. Instead, jets project water, making the splash pretty real. But why?

I had the opportunity to speak to Brian Marrow, the Director of Design and Engineering and he explained why jets were used, unlike the other Bolliger and Mabilard coasters featuring the scoop on the back of the trains. If the wing of the Manta were to skim the edge of the water, it would create an extra pull on the train that would put more force on one side of the train. Maybe I should have taken Physics! Brian further explained Manta took four years to plan, meaning they’ve been planning this ride since 2005. The splashdown was installed to test it before putting into place at Seaworld to ensure it wouldn’t have a fake look. I still can’t believe it took four years to plan this coaster, but those four years didn’t go to waste.

Besides flying over water, trees, and past waterfalls, Manta is simply amazing and mind blowing. Is this one of my favorite coasters? Yes. Although it only reaches speed of fifty six miles per hour, and only has four inversions, I give this coaster a double thumbs up! This was my first B&M flying coaster, but the third flyer I’ve ridden. B&M did an outstanding job with this coaster and I appreciate their hard work.

Although Manta lasted less than five minutes and seemed like it happened ages ago, the experience of the aquarium rode home with me in the car… and airplane. Every time I go to Seaworld, Manta will be one of the first stops I make. Seaworld did an amazing job with this coaster, and oddly enough it really is like riding on the belly of a Manta Ray.

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For more information on Manta, visit it’s website.