The Steel Eel

History of SeaWorld San Antonio

What hasn’t one already heard about SeaWorld Parks. The park in Orlando has been one of the most famous amusement parks in the world since the 1970s, and the park in San Diego, California, has been offering a successful – albeit still rather critical – mixture of animal and amusement park since 1964. The most exotic park in 1970 was the one in Ohio, which, in agreement with the nearby amusement park Geauga Lake, only featured marine animal shows. Shortly before the takeover by Anheuser-Busch, the fourth and last SeaWorld Park in San Antonio followed in 1988.

First of all, it is important to note that only people who come to the park especially for the marine animals will be satisfied. Thanks to the current expansion offensive on the part of the amusement park, this may change at some point, but without the shows, SeaWorld San Antonio undoubtedly offers far too little for the extremely high admission price.

Tour of the park

Super Grovers Box Car Derby

Now that that has been cleared up let’s start our tour through the theme park. Right at the beginning we come across the large children’s area Sesame Street Bay of Play. Here you’ll find an oversized playground and a handful of selected children’s rides, including the Super Grovers Box Car Derby roller coaster. Known as the Shamu Express until 2018, it featured an orca-shaped train. After the recent rebranding, Grover guides us in his soapboxes through the oval-shaped layout by the manufacturer Zierer.

Steel Eel

Since some areas of the park were closed for annual ticket holders, I was forced to head for the park’s biggest roller coaster, the Steel Eel.

This roller coaster from Morgan has been in the park since 1999 and features the typical out & back layout of the manufacturer. The Steel Eel is the smallest representative of its kind – which fortunately doesn’t mean anything, because the steel eel knows how to entertain its riders very well.

After a short dip out of the station, the train immediately enters a curve, which releases the train into the lift. Arriving at a starting height of 46m, you immediately rush down the increasingly steep first shot. With a speed of65 mph and a good pinch of positive G-forces, the train goes straight through the valley. On the following camelback hills we are lifted out of our seats twice in the most beautiful floating airtime manner, before we head for another valley close to the ground. Immediately afterwards we are already approaching the intermediate brake. With noticeably reduced speed we turn into a steep turn, which serves as a prelude for the brilliant bunnyhop finale. The speed rush takes us over several smaller and smaller hills, which can tear you out of your seat. Last but not least we cross a supply track in a wide S-curve before we reach the braking track of the layout.

The Steel Eel is a great roller coaster with a good amount of floating airtime, which probably gets even more when the coaster is run in and under the (more normal) Texan temperatures. At least I had a lot of fun on this ride, but unfortunately the dispatch was very slow, because first the seatbelt and then the bar are checked, which means you only saw the train rolling over the track every 5-10 minutes.

Wave Breaker – The Rescue Coaster

At the nearby Wave Breaker, fortunately, things looked a bit different and after a short wait, it was possible to go on a rescue mission sitting in the first row. After a short turn you get your mission briefing in a hangar, before you accelerate via a friction wheel launch. Immediately you go up a hill in a slight turn, which you leave in a wide steep turn. After two ground-near swings, you’ll make a right turn, followed by some ground-near maneuvers. A steep left turn leads us to the second launch section, which presses you into the backrest as usual. This is also followed by a high hill, which you leave in a steep left turn. Once again on the ground, we whizz across the lake in slight swings before we make our way back after a left turn. This takes us over a multitude of very flat hills and pressure-laden passages before we even reach the braking section of the layout.

Wave Breaker: The Rescue Coaster is a very cool roller coaster with a beautiful pacing and a good flow. It is a lot of fun to ride over the high hills and ground level passages. Of course the ride is not comparable to Djurs Sommerland’s Juvelen or Le Pal’s Yukon Quad, but this roller coaster is an excellent and welcome addition to the otherwise rather meager portfolio of the amusement park.

Great White

A good nine years after the amusement park opened its doors for the first time, SeaWorld San Antonio presented its first roller coaster to visitors. The Great White is the seventh delivery of the popular Batman layout from the manufacturer B&M and at that time the only ride of its kind in Texas. Compared to the rides at Six Flags Fiesta Texas and Six Flags Over Texas, the Great White is the one where the park took the most effort and adapted the terrain to the ride’s layout. The result is a wonderful ride, which even after more than 20 years of operation is largely without any parallel. The ride through the two loops, the Zero-G Roll and the two corkscrews is simply timeless and mercilessly intense.

Rio Loco

An equally timeless classic are rapid rides. The ride through the rapids is always a refreshing experience, especially since there is also a waterfall here that catches everyone in the boat. The Rio Loco was my first rafting ride through a waterfall and is therefore especially memorable. As well as the Arab family, who entered here with a big suitcase. I have seen a lot of things in amusement parks, and it remains a mystery to me that the employees let them ride.

Sea Swinger and Riptide Rescue

This year, a new area is being created with Turtle Reef, where the rescue of sea turtles will probably be the theme. However, the aquarium was still under construction. The two associated rides Sea Swinger and Riptide Rescue could already be tested. These are a Zamperla Discovery and a HUSS Airboat.

Journey to Atlantis

The last attraction on our trail along the central lake is the Mack Rides SuperSplash Journey to Atlantis. The water roller coaster is similar to the Atlantika SuperSplash from Europa Park, but does without the small hill during the final descent, making the ride more like a classic Shoot the Chute. The wetness level of the ride is however very manageable.

In the end, all that remains is the animal shows and show feeding. Since the combined entrance ticket with the water park Aquatica San Antonio was a little bit cheaper online than the regular entrance ticket, I was drawn to the neighboring water park until the show One Ocean.

One Ocean

Just in time for One Ocean I got myself a tasty beer at the Food & Wine Festival and then watched the orca show. Generally I’m glad to have seen a whale up close, but the show itself was a waste of time and largely consists of soaking the visitors in the front rows with salt water. This was well received, after all it has been part of the concept since the 70s, but honestly, you don’t have to see the show.

Pictures SeaWorld San Antonio

Conclusion SeaWorld San Antonio

SeaWorld San Antonio is a huge theme park, but it lacks attractions. Fortunately, the original concept has been heavily criticized nowadays, forcing the park to expand massively in order to survive at all. The animal shows will give way to another range of attractions over time, so you can look forward to the future of the amusement park with great anticipation.

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About the Freischütz and other roller coasters

Bayern Park

The Bayern Park belongs to one of the more highly praised amusement parks in Germany, which attracted the attention of all roller coaster enthusiasts with the construction of the Freischütz at the latest. We arrived at the park just in time for the opening, after all we only had a drive of about 6 km that day, and the first impression was quite positive at first, although the weather unfortunately didn’t want to play along like the day before.

Because the ride at most of the attractions still didn’t start at this time we enjoyed the Heege comet swings, which offered airtime en masse. Unfortunately we overlooked the complete upper part of the park with wave swinger, an arcade including butterfly in space optics, as well as the second butterfly for the time being, thus this part was only checked off towards the end of our stay.


The relevant part of the park in Bayern Park is further down anyway and can deliver the first roller coaster ride of the day with the Froschbahn. Fortunately, the small coaster by Zierer opened just slightly delayed, but still had to do some test rides. Due to a small group of youngsters the train was well filled and did a few laps on the small oval-shaped layout with a great atmosphere.


Friends of particularly long roller coaster trains will find something for themselves at the New Tivoli roller coaster by Zierer with the incredibly original name Achterbahn. This roller coaster is identical in construction with the Green Scream from the English Adventure Island in Southend-on-Sea, but rides a little better due to the later year of construction.

After the train has been dispatched without being checked, it goes up the lift hill after a left turn and the train shows itself in its full splendour for the first time. Very shallowly follows the first descent, which quickly gains speed in a right turn. A left helix follows, so that the layout results in a figure of eight. Above the station building you take up momentum again and pass the following valley quite powerfully. Another helix, this time clockwise, follows and circles the lift just before it goes straight on the shortest way to the end of the ride.

The roller coaster has a very neat layout and makes a good impression due to the strong forces, if it weren’t for the totally incompetent staff. It’s a big mystery to me why the train was completely humid despite the covered station and the staff, standing at the other end of the station just so that nobody notices that they are there, not even the idea to clean the train before the first guests were waiting for minutes for the ride. Funnily enough, even Karlos Taxi in the Danish Djurs Sommerland was cleaned by an older gentleman before our ride. But in the course of the day this competence turned out to be missing basically everywhere in the park.


After a meandering ride on the HUSS Airboat Schmetterlingstanz we went over a bridge towards a part of the park with no real meaning. Not every park can afford a totally filthy lake with a steamboat ride and an artificial castle with a Bavarian look at its edge. Through its optically appealing garden a small round boat trip takes you to a grotto where a fountain of youth is waiting for you – the hottest temptation for Americans since the beginning of Europe.

The luge of the game park

In this corner you will also find the entrance to the game park of the Bayern Park, probably the only reason why it is worth the long way to come here. Friends of luges might see it differently, but the extra charge of obligatory rides in a theme park, where even the Heege rides are free, borders on impudence. In addition, there is another installation in the upper park area. As the slope at the Olympus of the animals seemed to be too steep, we went back the same way.


Connected to civilization again we could observe the first test runs of the Freischütz, but it did not seem that the rideF would open soon. Therefore we climbed up the mountain parallel to the track, as at the upper end of this way Thalon a modified tower construction was waiting for me to explore its interior.

The ride inside the former observation tower is a Zierer Family Freefall Tower, the best examples of which are the double ride Tikal of Phantasialand or Majas Blütenturm of Holiday Park. In contrast to the brilliant fun machines, however, one tried to enhance the ride with an unimportant background story, in which one lights up scenes in different heights without any animatronics. The concept itself could be good, but for that the ride itself would have to be more dynamic and not operate in toddler mode, similar to Screamie in Heide Park. The scenes inside make absolutely no sense and can also be left out completely, which would even enhance the ride and also improve the look of the tower a lot, because the extensions for the interior scenes don’t make the tower very attractive, even though the ugly paint scheme already retouched some of it.

Next to the tower is a Zierer Kontiki in a stone look, which doesn’t really offer anything apart from the queue where you should watch your head as an adult. But admittedly, this way it fits wonderfully into the theme area Thalonia.


Below these attractions, one of the highlights of Bayern Park is on display: the ABC Rides Rapid River Splash Wildwasser-Rafting. At first glance, this beautifully designed ride seems hardly to differ from the smaller installations of the manufacturer, but a compact design was not abandoned in favour of a flow channel in front of the lift hill, including a waterfall. The lift here shows itself in a very simple version, which is unfortunately a pity, because the 45° lift of the Lost World from Erse Park Uetze is a small highlight, just like the vertical versions. At the top, the boat slowly but surely picks up speed and after the first curve combination at the latest, you are spinning like crazy. In addition, the boats have a very distinct upswing, so that the descent is very entertaining. At the end of the slide, the obligatory splash waits for the passengers, but as it is typical for the manufacturer’s constructions, the wetness of the ride tends to zero.


The second highlight is right beside the rafting course, but unfortunately, the entrance is at the other side, so that from here, one has to walk long ways up and down again, although there is a bigger open space at this side and the waiting area could just start here. Beautifully designed waiting areas do have their charms and the opera roller coaster Freischütz could well cope with a suitable area, but instead, a path below the inside tophat leads through two buildings with zigzag pathways to an open square before entering a labyrinth. After this square follows the bigger one before there are several smaller paths with different obstacles, but here only one path was open, leading to the very modern station.

As soon as you sit down in the train, it starts immediately; first a little bit forward, then a little bit backward and in a funny way only perceptible in the first car, the train slowly starts moving and is immediately accelerated forwards. Always leading upwards, it goes with a lot of pressure into the first inversion. In the following valley you are pressed into the car very powerfully, but also shaken properly. The following looping goes the way a looping should go, but often does not. Afterwards an insanely intensive Bavarian curve with a heartline roll that is just as intense is performed. A little more leisurely follows a steep turn whereupon the last inversion is completed. Another right turn later you pass through the station and with a lot of luck you are sent on a second lap through the course. Most of the time you are braked and driven back to the starting position.

The Freischütz is a very good roller coaster by the Munich roller coaster manufacturer Maurer Söhne, but it is justifiably notorious for its pronounced rocking of the cars, which is especially more pronounced in the front car of the train than in the rear car. As prospective mechanical engineers, Jan and I immediately thought of several possibilities for improvement, but these would unfortunately result in higher friction and thus a far less snappy ride. In my opinion, the intensity of the layout is grossly exaggerated despite the powerful driving style, because the greyout during the ride, which is often advertised as a core feature, was consistently omitted despite several directly consecutive rides.

Pictures Bayern Park

Conclusion Bayern Park

Bayern Park is a well-kept amusement park with some good rides and a reasonable price/performance ratio both in terms of park admission and catering. However, a park loses a lot of sympathy points as soon as the staff turns out to be incompetent, unfriendly and above all unenthusiastic. Apparently, it is quite normal in this area, as the staff in the premium partner hotel Schlappinger Hof was the same. Sure, the Bayern Park attracts tourists and you don’t have to like them, but elsewhere you force at least one or two smiles on your cheeks while you serve your guests professionally and without grumbling – why they don’t do it here is highly questionable, although it was only one day in the off-season.


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Rides and animals in Thüle

Tier- und Freizeitpark Thüle

The zoo, which has existed since 1954, has managed to create a very well-functioning amusement park section through the additions of the last 20 years, which unfortunately robs the zoo of its visitors. While the amusement park part of the Tier- und Freizeitpark Thüle was very well received, I could hardly spot any other visitor on my tour through the zoo part. This is more than just a pity, because this area was probably subject to some extensive renovation works in the last years.

The Heege Rides

The amusement park part of the park has its origin with the many small rides made by the manufacturer Heege, which is why you can find the classics Luna Loop and Sky Diver among others. But also a very rare Heege ride pleases every roller coaster fan with good taste, because here you can’t ride a normal Butterfly, but the large version instead. This one is not only longer, higher and faster but also more powerful. A special feature of this ride is that you can ride it with open bars. But there are also new types of rides in the park.


For the Zierer friends among us you can ride the Kontiki Swing Boat as well as a Force Two roller coaster model. I never saw this layout before, so I was really looking forward to the ride on the Drachen-Achterbahn, which had a decent track length for a children’s roller coaster and some speed.

Bobkartbahn and Storchenturm

I did not test the Wiegand Bobkartbahn in the Tier- und Freizeitpark Thüle despite the appealing layout, because neither the queue nor the bobkarts moved significantly, even crept. Especially worth mentioning is the nearby Twist & Turn Storchenturm of the manufacturer Metallbau Emmeln, which offered a very good ride. Also the design of the ride catches the eye in a very positive way.

Spring Ride Tower

The Moser Tower Spring Ride Tower is similarly positive, but from the ride’s point of view it offers the worst possible ride for its passengers. Here, the kids stormed in without end, I myself left it at only one ride, as the tower braked rather unpleasantly, also the ride program was rather bad as mentioned above.

The water rides of Tier- und Freizeitpark Thüle

For the soakers among us there is unfortunately not much to see except a Nautic Jet and an dinghy slide, so that one could only advise the park to order a log flume, or at least another tube, this time however with a curve, for their dinghy slide. The family audience of the park would certainly appreciate it, especially with the temperatures last Sunday.

Eiertanz and Airboat

Beside the funny Technical Park Apollo 2000 Eiertanz, which in my opinion could have swung out even higher, you could also board a HUSS Airboat. This ride was not as bumpy as the ride from the Danish BonBon-Land, but it was still appropriate for the audience.

Conclusion Tier- und Freizeitpark Thüle

All in all, the Tier- und Freizeitpark Thüle offers something for the whole family. The rides are already fun to a certain extent and even the roller coaster fan is well served here, which is also due to the large shuttle coaster. The entrance fee is very fair and also includes the quite big zoo, which one should not miss.


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