“Zoo, Zoo, I go for Zoomarine. Zoo, zoo, Zoomarine.” The last time I heard the Zoomarine song, I was in the mother park of Mundo Aquático SA, which has been entertaining visitors of the Algarve since 1991 as the only amusement park in Portugal worth visiting. Apart from the really good water parks Slide & Splash and Aquashow Park, there are also few alternatives in Portugal. However, as the shows are well produced and the animals are housed in sufficiently large enclosures, a visit is still not recommended for animal welfare activists, but it is safe for everyone else.
In 2005 the sister park near Rome opened, where the group concentrates mainly on the animal shows on a much larger area and built rather large stadiums for this purpose. Additional animal enclosures, aviaries and the aquarium, for example, are almost completely missing, which makes the park, officially designated as a zoological garden, less credible in its own statements regarding the conservation of species. However, the mission of Zoomarine is to respect and appreciate nature in a passionate way, to accompany children and adults into a world full of emotions and to let them discover the animals living in the park.
As in Albufeira, all the buildings are kept simple and so the entrance in the form of a tent is not very representative. In the park itself, you will find a very well-kept garden and paved paths throughout Zoomarine, which makes a good first impression and makes Zoomarine a decent theme park.
Right at the beginning you will come across the roller coaster Squalotto, a children’s roller coaster with the traditional Italian layout of a Brucomela. It is the much younger of the two coasters, but with the not so wild ride over smaller waves and a bigger drop, it offers enough fun for smaller children only. The train features a nice design which fits the name of the ride.
If you follow the main road you will come across a number of rides, all from L&T Systems or their successors Preston & Barbieri. Besides an interesting Saltamonte, a bouncing carousel with cogs as gondolas, you will find the Harakiri dinghy slide and a well designed carousel.
In the immediate vicinity, but still well hidden in the farthest corner of Zoomarine, you will find the large Blue River log flume with its three shots, also by L&T Systems. The ride goes in dugout canoes through a hot-galvanised channel, where first a small drop, then an equally large double drop and last but not least a bigger drop is waiting for the passengers. Due to the rainy weather on the Mediterranean coast near the Italian capital, we decided not to take a ride as it was quite chilly for a change.
On the other side of the amusement mile there is a small water park with a number of sunbeds for relaxation. In addition to two water playgrounds, there is a slide complex with two kamikaze slides and two spiral slides, one of which is a black hole, and, since this season, a flow rider, i.e. a wave riding simulator. But there is also a 3D cinema, a Splash Battle and the Schwarzkopf classic looping star Vertigo.
The classic funfair ride, which only started its journey through Ireland as part of the Funderland ensemble after 28 years of operation as a stationary ride in various European amusement parks, begins with a confident climb up the lift hill. After having collected enough potential energy for the only inversion of the ride at a height of more than 24m, the rider immediately makes a steep turn towards the ground to approach the loop at full speed. With a good amount of power you pass the first and only inversion of the ride. Immediately you shoot up again to make a turn in the air. But the rest doesn’t last long, because the train immediately plunges back to the ground, which can lead to unexpected airtime, especially in the back of the train. In the opposite direction to the first gradient, the train again takes on a bit of height and efficiently reduces it parallel to the lift hill. Since a straight line with a constant cross slope is a bit strange to drive, you are straightened up in between, however without considering the principle of turning around the heart line. After all, this principle had been applied for the first time in 1978 at the Shockwave in the Texas amusement park Six Flags Over Texas; however, the planning for the Looping Star was already in full swing at that time. Leaning to the left again, you pass through another elevated curve before approaching the ground again in a hill. A last fast right turn follows until you reach the braking distance and finally the station.
Although the looping star Vertigo has led a more than eventful life so far, it still rides a bit better than its direct relative at Attractiepark Slagharen. Under the Bemboom family it started its life in the, long forgotten, Freizeitpark Kirchhorst not far from the A7 motorway near Hanover, followed by the English amusement park Southport Pleasureland and the French western theme park OK Corral. As a loan the ride went to the Parque de Atracciones in the Spanish capital Madrid, followed by the short-lived Plutón Park near Vigo, also in Spain, before the ride was set up in Luneur Park, the former and future Luna Park of the Italian capital. Following the aforementioned funfair debut in Ireland, the ride has been entertaining passengers here at Zoomarine since 2010, and it is as pleasant as ever. At the same time, Zoomarine takes good care of the rides, which means that the park is in some way a conservation area.
All in all, the Zoomarine amusement park in Italy is a good park, which animal welfare activists should better avoid. The shows, none of which we have seen, are certainly the main reason for visiting the park, but they are also the park’s livelihood. Neither as an amusement park, nor as a zoo, nor as a water park could the park support itself, because in the end none of the mentioned park types are developed enough. In the overall package, however, it can entertain you for a whole day, especially since the shows, if they are as well produced as in Portugal, are well worth seeing. But it is also a fact in Italy that people’s consciences have changed over time and the closure of the dolphinarium in Gardaland in 2013 at the latest marked the beginning of the end of the remaining dolphinariums. In this respect I am curious to see in which direction the Italian branch of Mundo Aquático SA will develop.
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