The Gruffalo and Tiger Rock

The changes of the past five years

The greatest British amusement park has been under a renovation mania, or rather a transformation mania, for quite some time now; there is no other way to explain the novelties of the last five years – apart from last year’s Adventure Tree Carousel, no new attraction has been added to Chessington World of Aventures. The Runaway Train for example presents itself as Scorpion Express, the dark ride BubbleWorks as Gruffalo’s River Ride Adventure and the log flume Dragon Falls as Tiger Rock. Unfortunately, there are also retirements, e.g. the monorail, which mainly shaped the section of the park around the Hocus Pocus Hall and the Zoo, and the Ferris wheel Peeking Heights have left the park.

Scorpion Express

The start of this development was the roller coaster Runaway Train, which lost its entire artificial rock massif, which decorated the ride quite impressively beforehand. Although Scorpion Express is now standing relatively naked in the area, you can hardly miss it anymore. A huge mechanical sculpture in the shape of a scorpion adorns the back helix and creates all sorts of effects for a very fun and above all lively ride. For the entertainment of the waiting park guests there are also some terrariums in the queue, in which scorpions can be suitably admired. In total, the attraction has been upgraded; in any case, it’ s a lot of fun to go for a ride or two on the Scorpion Express.

Gruffalo’s River Ride Adventure

Likewise, the squeaky duck dark ride BubbleWorks in the Transylvanian area next to the terrific suspended roller coaster Vampire was a lot of fun – let’s see what happened to it.

Originally opened as Prof. Burp’s BubbleWorks, the first 15 years were spent sailing in round boats through a lemonade factory before the ducklings of Imperial Leather took over the facility in a night and foggy operation with their sponsoring deal. In 2014, the soap manufacturer’s sponsorship with Merlin ended, after which all references to the manufacturer were removed from the parks. Although the theme of the ride could have lasted until further notice, the design elements used did not. So a new IP was needed, which is why a classic children’s book was chosen, which also fit into this theme area without much effort. In 2016 the last ride in the old design followed, before the Gruffalo’s River Ride Adventure opened on 18.03.2017.

The ride itself offers a very wholesome mixture of static design elements and video projections. The atmosphere inside is now very dense; it feels like following a stream through a forest in a little boat. The individual rooms each tell a part of the first children’s book; after which the mouse stops the fox, the owl and the snake from eating it by threatening them with the Gruffalo – a previously fictitious creature. In the following rooms the mouse meets the aforementioned Gruffalo, who would also like to eat it, but thanks to a statement by the mouse – according to which all other animals would be afraid of it – does not. Travelling together, Gruffalo and the mouse climb up the lift of the ride and then manage the shot into the former bathing room. There, they meet the other animals, who then take to their heels. This scene is successful despite the relatively open design and can at least partly retain its old charm thanks to some of the remaining fountains. On the way back to the station, the mouse chases away the Gruffalo, so that it can finally crack its nuts in peace.

Since I am not familiar with the franchise, I will refrain from making a comparison at this point. Gruffalo’s River Ride Adventure itself has definitely been upgraded and can fascinate again. The mixture of static design elements and the video projections simply works great and doesn’t seem out of place anywhere; despite the rotation of the gondola, you can actually always capture it. In general, the ride is now continuously well visited.

Tiger Rock

The Tiger Rock log flume, on the other hand, is much less popular, although this does not apply to the new and considerably larger tiger enclosure, which now uses the former open spaces of the log flume. Here, most of the work has been done, because unfortunately, the renovation of the log flume was not carried out. Thus, one floats through a channel that could have been recoated and has a great view to the animals of the (at least partly) surrounding enclosure. This is quite a thing, especially as the animals actually settle down in these areas and thus one actually has the best view from the white-water ride Tiger Rock; but it could have been more. The ride hardware is in contrast to the new arrangement of the ride and from my point of view, this is a missed chance. As Tiger Rock is the last still existing log flume of the group in England, an omission of the ride in the next years is sadly foreseeable.

Pictures Chessington World of Adventures

Conclusion about the visit

Chessington World of Adventures remains my first port of call for the three theme parks located near London. The three major innovations of the last five years all have their raison d’être and can convince completely or to a greater extent. Since a revision of the walkthrough Hocus Pocus Hall has already been teased, one can continue to look forward to the future. Either way, you should always include the park in your UK planning, especially if you’ve never been over there and want to visit a theme park near London.


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With Dragon’s Fury through Chessington South


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.

Dragon’s Fury

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.

Madagascar Live!

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.

Monkey Swinger

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.

Lorikeet Lagoon

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.

Tomb Blaster

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.

Rameses Revenge

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.

Runaway Train and Rattlesnake

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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A day in the world of adventure

Chessington World of Adventures

The day after Whit Monday we took the train to Chessington South and from there about 1km walk to the amusement park Chessington World of Adventures – a theme park of Merlin Entertainments.  There we immediately came across a wonderfully empty animal and amusement park. On our day of visit, all rides did two laps in a row, which was quite astonishing, especially with the roller coasters.

Dragon’s Fury

Passing tigers and lions, which were still moderately active in the early morning, we went to the first object of desire, the spinning coaster Dragon’s Fury. This ride, built by Maurer Söhne, is relatively easy to describe, as it is simply ingenious. The first drop ends in a crazy S-curve combo, which leads into an Immelmann turn. Some turns and helices follow which then change into another weirdness, namely the second quite flat lifthill which gives you the necessary potential energy to complete the rest of the rather bizarre layout.

Dragon’s Fury is by far the best spinning coaster in the world, which is no easy feat with rides like Sonic Spinball from Alton Towers or Tarantula from the Spanish Parque de Atracciones de Madrid. The ride itself usually has a very good gondola rotation, which further enhances the great ride layout.

Wild Asia

Right next door, the newly designed Wild Asia theme area lured us straight into Asia. The former Beanoland, which was dedicated to an English comic series, was redesigned for the 2010 season and now presents itself to visitors with two new features.

Monkey Swinger

In addition to a bumper car, a playhouse and a crazy bus from Zamperla, the area also boasts a very remarkable installation: A wave swinger made by Zierer. Normally to be found in almost every amusement park, Chessington World of Adventure manages to make the Monkey Swinger something very special by using water fountains. In contrast to the installation at Phantasialand, the fountains at the Monkey Swinger are not only an impressive decoration but also serve as an ice cold refreshment. Here at the latest, one becomes aware that the English are not really averse to water. Thus, it is not surprising that one rushes through the water fountains a dozen times during the ride. Thereby, the outer seats where one already gets soaking wet are still the driest seats.


To get dry again you can go to the body dryer or sit in the new Kobra ride, a Zamperla Disk’o Coaster. The ride itself unfortunately looks much more imposing from the outside than it is from the inside. Nevertheless a ride on the Kobra is still a nice one for in between.

Lorikeet Lagoon

The second novelty in this area is the Lorikeet Lagoon, an attraction that can now be found more and more often in zoological gardens, such as Erlebnis-Zoo Hannover or Weltvogelpark Walsrode. It is a walk-in aviary where lorikeets make their rounds and you can buy food for these birds for little money.  Thanks to the nature of this parrot species it is possible to get into quite funny situations, at least as long as you have some nectar left to attract them.

Dragon Falls

In the Chinese themed area Mystic East you can find the log flume ride Dragon Falls next to the Ferris wheel Peeking Heights, from which you can theoretically see as far as Thorpe Park. This ride is wonderfully designed but offers only a very slight level of wetness and a rather bizarre layout.

Rameses Revenge

To the joyful surprise of the staff we went for a ride on the Top Spin Rameses Revenge. As the first guests of the day we were not only surprised by the fountains of the ride, but also by the good German language skills of the staff, who appropriately called the machine a Waschmaschine.

Tomb Blaster

In the same themed area there is the interactive dark ride Tomb Blaster, an attraction from Sally that is well worth seeing. Here, a long train takes you through numerous breathtaking backdrops. Due to the yawning emptiness in the park and the resulting longer breaks in the block areas, one could accumulate a bunch of points, but the ride also lacked some momentum.


Somewhat hidden and lying in a pit like the Top Spin, the wagons of the Rattlesnake – a Wild Mouse from Maurer Söhne – do their rounds. The waiting area in the middle of the layout alone deserves some attention, but this is even more trumped by the ride. In contrast to the Crazy Mine at the German theme park Hansa Park, the original ambience has so far been maintained and not enhanced by functional extensions.

Runaway Train

Somewhat offside you can find the Powered Coaster Runaway Train – a Blauer Enzian modell of Mack Rides. This standard model has been perfectly suited for Chessington World of Adventures, which you can already notice when passing through the queue that has somehow been put into the ride. The coaster itself is also much more harmonious than the sister ride Flying Fish from Thorpe Park, which is barely 15 miles away. The nice staff provides a great atmosphere as well.

Hocus Pocus Hall and Sea Life Centre

An interesting attraction is the passage through the Hocus Pocus Hall, where you can see some effects with special glasses. Another interesting walkthrough is the Sea Life Centre, which unfortunately has an ugly tent look from the outside. But in the interior, the aquarium is very convincing. The big variety of species and the elaborate design provide a high entertainment value. Thanks to the very low number of visitors it was finally possible to have a closer look at the fish.


In the Transylvanian themed area Transylvania you will find the probably most beautiful Burger King in the world as well as a very individual dark ride around the topic squeaking ducks. The tour through the bubble factory BubbleWorks turns out to be quite amusing and can show one of the most impressive finales, because here you literally go for a bath. You won’t get wet, but the water jets you drive through are very impressive.


The last roller coaster of the park is from Arrow Dynamics and is a true suspended coaster. This rare type of roller coaster can be found mainly in America and unfortunately the very few examples are getting rarer and rarer with time. In this respect it’s good to know that there is also a ride of this kind in Europe. The still quite new trains made by Vekoma at least give hope for a long future.

The ride on Vampire starts quite amusing with some curve combinations where you already swing a bit to the side. Shortly after that you will go up the second lift hill, after which you complete the part of the ride that can be seen from the outside. Passing the row of houses at the Burger King you quickly get into the treetops where you continue swinging a little to and fro. The highlight of the ride follows shortly afterwards, when one swings out quite intensively after a big drop while leaving a tunnel. Unfortunately, one lands in the braking section shortly thereafter, where one swings out a little before returning to the station.

Vampire is a very surprising roller coaster whose ride comfort increases noticeably for those who wear glasses as soon as you take them off. Although Vampire is not the highest or even the fastest roller coaster – which is mainly due to the local conditions at the park – Arrow Dynamics managed to put an extremely amusing ride into the park, which is definitely unparalleled at least in Europe.

Black Buccaneer

Right next to it, in a quite interesting location, one can admire the ship swing of the park, which, as all the other bigger rides, was put into a pit. Bizarrely, the entrance to Black Buccaneer is in a quite illogical position, so you can invest some time before you find it. After one completes the impressive way back down to the ship swing one is rewarded with a great ride with a quite large swing-out.

Pictures Chessington World of Adventures

Conclusion about our first ever visit

Chessington World of Adventures is one of the most interesting animal and theme parks in Europe and can boast first-class rides, beautifully designed themed areas and a really good zoo area. If you are close to London and are spoilt for choice between the three theme parks Chessington World of Adventures, Legoland Windsor or the practically neighbouring Thorpe Park, the park in Chessington should definitely be paid attention to – it is worth it.


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