If you order a Merlin Annual Pass in England, you must pick it up at any of the group’s attractions as well as at the attraction where you have ordered it. However, the Merlin attractions in the UK are blessed with quite a high quality, which can make choosing a suitable attraction quite difficult. If you restrict yourself to the Greater London area, there are three theme parks belonging to the group and a multitude of smaller sightseeing attractions. The best choice from my point of view is the amusement park Chessington World of Adventures, which is not only wonderfully accessible but also has two very fun rides within the park, the roller coasters Dragon’s Fury and Vampire.
Chessington World of Adventures
If you enter the park through the Lodge Gate near Chessington South Station, you are immediately in the zoo area of the zoo and amusement park. Turning right you can watch otters in action and enter Wanyama Village and Reserve, which opened in 2011. This area basically consists of a huge prairie, as well as some smaller enclosures like the meerkat ones. Next year this area will be extended by the Zufari Safari Tour.
Seamlessly adjoining Wanyama Village is the Monkey & Bird Garden, where you can admire some larger birds and smaller monkeys. The Monkey Walkthrough is an interesting feature, where a staff member leads a smaller group around and explains the animals in the outdoor enclosure.
On the way to the rest of the zoo area in Chessington World of Adventures we recommend a visit to the local Sea Life Centre, which has a variety of interesting aquariums. This is one of the larger Sea Life Centres in the group – very similar to Sharkbait Reef at Alton Towers. In contrast to the smaller Sea Life Centres in Germany you can stay here a little longer without any problems. With children the visit is a completely different experience anyway.
The Trail of the Kings, together with the penguin and sea lion enclosures, completes the zoo area of Chessington World of Adventures. Unfortunately at the time of my visit half of the enclosures were closed as they are being renovated. However, the animals that were presen were very active.
Sea Storm and Black Buccaneer
In the themed area called Pirates Cove, you can marvel at the Sea Storm ride from Mack Rides and the very interesting HUSS Black Buccaneer swing boat. Like many other attractions in the park, the ship swing is located in a pit, which means that it does not reach over the surrounding tree tops – a height restriction common in Great Britain. Here, not only a tingling in the belly is guaranteed but also one or two bounces at the top.
In the neighboring area of Transylvania, where a very special creature of the night hangs around right next to a soap bubble factory, you can also find one of the probably most interesting fast food restaurants. The Burger King that is located here has been arranged according to the theme area.
While the bubble factory BubbleWorks was not really convincing during my last visit due to the hardly existing soundtrack, it could on this visit. The peculiar design, which was realised with a certain perfection, and the magnificent finale, in which one drives through numerous fountain tunnels, make thedark ride to something very special, which should not be missed at all.
Similarly special is the now adult roller coaster Vampire. At the age of 21, it still swings its guests through the treetops and can completely convince. The main highlight is surely the big drop into the tunnel, whereupon the gondolas swing out very strongly, but the first part of the ride is also a lot of fun and can already show distinct swings. As it is the case of the other European roller coasters made by Arrow, the bloodsucker also tempts to have one or two repeat bites.
The Dragon’s Fury roller coaster in the Land of the Dragons themed area, where you can also find a Zierer Kontiki as well as some a large children’s playgroun and an interactive fountain to drench yourself, is often considered to be the best spinning coaster of the manufacturer Maurer Söhne. However, during this visit it was difficult for me to decide whether Sonic Spinball from Alton Towers might not be a little better. The big advantage of the Alton Towers ride is certainly its much smoother ride compared to Dragon’s Fury, but it lacks the first drop with this crazy S-curve combination, which immediately leads you into the Immelmann. Both layouts have their charm and are ahead of the other layouts by a certain distance, it’ s just hard to say which of the two Merlin Entertainments models is actually better or worse. Dragon’s Fury however is a truly great roller coaster.
With the removal of the Smarties cottage in the former children’s area of Chessington World of Adventures, the last stigma of the park has disappeared. But all the attractions remained the same, only the Flying Jumbos were moved close to the Powered Coaster Runaway Train, so there was enough space to build a stage for the quite popular Dreamwork figures from Madagascar. While the show Madagascar Live! looked quite child-friendly from the distance, the show value was still much higher than the 4D Ice Age experience at Alton Towers, which currently occupies a theatre over there.
In the Wild Asia section we immediately encounter the wave swinger Monkey Swinger, which drenches its passengers with ice cold water through its fountain play. Here visitors get soaked through the fountains – it’ s not surprising that a full-person hair dryer has been set up at the exit for the passengers.
One attraction that can now be admired in several zoos worldwide is the free flight aviary Lorikeet Lagoon, where you can attract the colourful lorikeet with a bit of nectar. This made the birds look quite fat, which was probably due to their new feathering. As in Weltvogelpark Walsrode the loris were quite trustful, which led to some strange situations.
Dragon Falls and Peeking Heights
In the themed area Mystic East you can find the log flume Dragon Falls, which skillfully directed the water of the shots onto my shoes and thus caused wet socks, and supposedly the amusement park Thorpe Park, which is not far away. The Ferris wheel Peeking Heights should make it possible, but a view to Staines was denied, although the visibility was sufficiently large.
During my last visit my opinion about Tomb Blaster was rather clouded due to the longer breaks in the block sections. The ride is a real gem of an interactive dark ride, just like most of the other dark rides built by Sally. However, the storyline is rather flat and doesn’t deserve any real attention, as you’ll mainly shoot at ancient Egyptian enemies, as well as bigger bosses. Also, the length of the ride is remarkable – which is partly due to the used train system.
Next door is Rameses Revenge, one of the best Top Spins from HUSS. The ride not only manages to create a good number of spins, but also provides the passengers with a good shower. On two occasions, the water fountains were approached head-on and luckily, they caught you quite well, so you could leave Chessington World of Adventures well soaked.
In the Mexican themed area Mexicana you can ride next to the Runaway Train of Mack Rides – which comes along with a beautiful mountain range and a top themed queue – another highlight of a roller coaster: the Rattlesnake. Due to the height restrictions the park has to face, this Wild Mouse was installed into a pit, which gives it a very unique appearance. It also helps that the queue passes the courtyard of the coaster.
Pictures Chessington World of Adventures
Conclusion Chessington World of Adventures
Chessington World of Adventures is the most beautiful of the English Merlin Entertainments theme parks, although not the biggest. The park’s portfolio is well balanced and can boast some treasures, including some very special roller coasters like Vampire or Dragon’s Fury. The park with its extraordinary ideas has taken advantage of the construction challenges perfectly. The integrated zoo provides, as with the Drayton Manor Theme Park or the Tier- und Freizeitpark Thüle, an all-round successful overall package and a very good distribution of visitors within the park.
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