The Gruffalo and Tiger Rock

The changes of the past five years

The UK’s greatest theme park has been going through a period of renovation, or rather transformation, for some time now; there is no other way of explaining the changes that have taken place over the last five years – apart from last year’s Adventure Tree Carousel, no new attraction has been added to Chessington World of Aventures. For example, the Runaway Train is now the Scorpion Express, the dark ride BubbleWorks is now Gruffalo’s River Ride Adventure and the log flume Dragon Falls is now Tiger Rock. Sadly, there have also been some retirements, such as the Monorail, which used to dominate the area around the Hocus Pocus Hall and the Zoo, and the Peeking Heights Ferris Wheel.

Scorpion Express

This development started with the Runaway Train rollercoaster, which lost all the artificial rock that had so impressively decorated the ride. Although Scorpion Express now stands relatively naked in the area, it is hard to miss. A huge mechanical sculpture in the shape of a scorpion adorns the rear helix, creating all sorts of effects that make for a very fun and lively ride. There are also a number of terrariums in the queue to entertain the waiting passengers. All in all, the upgrade of the ride has been successful. In any case, a ride on the Scorpion Express is a lot of fun.

Gruffalo’s River Ride Adventure

Similarly, the squeaky duck dark ride BubbleWorks in the Transylvanian area, next to the awesome Vampire suspended coaster, 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 in round boats sailing through a fizzy drink factory before Imperial Leather’s ducklings took over the dark ride. In 2014, the soap manufacturer’s sponsorship with Merlin ended and all references to the manufacturer were removed from the park. While the theme of the ride may have lasted for the time being, the design elements used did not. So a new IP was needed, and a classic children’s book was chosen to fit in easily with the theme. The last ride with the old design followed in 2016, before Gruffalo’s River Ride Adventure opened on 18.03.2017.

The ride itself offers a very healthy mix 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 small boat. Each room tells a part of the first children’s book, in which the Mouse stops the Fox, the Owl and the Snake from eating him by threatening them with the Gruffalo – a hitherto fictional creature. In the following rooms, the Mouse meets the aforementioned Gruffalo, who also wants to eat him, but does not, thanks to the Mouse’s explanation that all the other animals are afraid of him. Together, the Gruffalo and the Mouse climb up the ride’s lift and then make their way to the former bathing room. There they meet the other animals, who take to their heels. This scene succeeds despite the relatively open design and retains some of its old charm thanks to some of the remaining fountains. On the way back to the station, the Mouse chases the Gruffalo away, leaving him to crack his nuts in peace.

As I am not familiar with the franchise, I will refrain from making a comparison at this point. The ride itself is once again fascinating. The mix of static design elements and video projections works very well and doesn’t seem out of place anywhere; despite the rotation of the gondola, you can actually catch it at any time. In general, the ride is now consistently well attended.

Tiger Rock

The Tiger Rock log flume, on the other hand, is much less popular, although this does not apply to the new and much larger tiger enclosure which now occupies the former open areas of the log flume. This is where most of the work has been done, as the renovation of the log flume was unfortunately not carried out. So you float through a channel that could have been re-coated and have a great view of the animals in the (at least partially) surrounding enclosure. This is a good thing, especially as the animals really do congregate in these areas and it is actually the best view from the Tiger Rock log flume, but it could have been more. The hardware of the ride contrasts with the new layout of the ride and in my opinion this is a missed opportunity. As Tiger Rock is the last remaining log flume of the group in England, it is sadly foreseeable that the ride will be closed in the next few years.

Pictures Chessington World of Adventures

Conclusion about the visit

Of the three theme parks near London, Chessington World of Adventures remains my first port of call. The three major additions of the last five years all have their place and are all either fully or largely successful. With a revamp of the Hocus Pocus Hall walkthrough already announced, we can look forward to more to come. In any case, it’s a park to include in your UK plans, especially if you’ve never been 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 the UK, you will need to collect it from any of the attractions in the group as well as from the attraction from which you have ordered it. However, the Merlin attractions in the UK are of a very high standard, which can make choosing an attraction quite difficult. If you restrict yourself to the London area, there are three theme parks belonging to the group and a large number of smaller tourist attractions. The best choice, in my opinion, is Chessington World of Adventures. Not only is it easily accessible, but it also has two very fun rides within the park, the Dragon’s Fury and Vampire roller coasters.

Chessington World of Adventures

Entering through the Lodge Gate near Chessington South railway station, you will immediately find yourself in the Zoo area of the park. Turn right to see otters in action and enter Wanyama Village and Reserve, which opened in 2011. This area consists mainly of a large prairie and some smaller enclosures such as the meerkat enclosure. Next year the area will be expanded to include the Zufari Safari Tour.

Next to Wanyama Village is the Monkey & Bird Garden where you can see some larger birds and smaller monkeys. The Monkey Walkthrough is an interesting feature where a staff member takes a smaller group around and explains the animals in the outdoor enclosure.

On the way to the rest of the zoo area at Chessington World of Adventures, we recommend a visit to the local Sea Life Centre, which has a number of interesting aquariums. This is one of the larger Sea Life Centres in the group – very similar to Sharkbait Reef at Alton Towers. Unlike the smaller Sea Life Centres in Germany, you can easily stay a little longer in this one. 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 for refurbishment. However, the animals that were present were very active.

Sea Storm and Black Buccaneer

The Pirates Cove themed area features the Mack Rides Sea Storm ride and the very interesting HUSS Black Buccaneer boat swing. Like many other attractions in the park, the ship swing is located in a pit, which means it does not reach above the surrounding tree tops – a common height restriction in the UK. In addition to a tingly feeling in the tummy, you are guaranteed to get a bounce or two at the top.

The neighbouring area of Transylvania is home to a night creature of a very special kind. It is also home to a bubble factory and one of the most interesting fast-food restaurants. The Burger King here is themed.


BubbleWorks, the bubble factory, failed to impress on my last visit due to the lack of soundtrack, but it did so on this visit. The quirky design, which has been executed with a certain perfection, and the magnificent finale, which takes you through numerous fountain tunnels, make this dark ride something very special and something not to be missed.


Equally special is the now grown-up Vampire coaster. At 21 years of age, it still swings its guests through the treetops, and it does so with aplomb. The main highlight is certainly the big drop into the tunnel, after which the gondolas swing out very strongly, but the first part of the ride is also a lot of fun and can already show some strong swings. As with Arrow’s other European coasters, this bloodsucker will tempt you to take a second or third ride.

Dragon’s Fury

The Dragon’s Fury roller coaster in the Land of the Dragons themed area, which also features a Zierer Kontiki, a large children’s playground and an interactive water fountain, is often regarded as Maurer Söhne’s best spinning coaster. On this visit, however, I found it difficult to decide whether Alton Towers’ Sonic Spinball was not a little better. The big advantage of the Alton Towers ride is certainly the much smoother ride compared to Dragon’s Fury, but it lacks the first drop with that crazy S-curve combination that leads straight into Immelmann. Both layouts have their charms and are well ahead of the other layouts, it is just hard to say which of the two Merlin Entertainments models is actually better or worse. However, Dragon’s Fury is a truly great 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. All the attractions remained the same, except that the Flying Jumbos were moved closer to the Powered Coaster Runaway Train to make room for a stage for the very popular Dreamwork figures from Madagascar. From a distance, the Madagascar Live! show looked quite child-friendly, but 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 passengers with ice-cold water through its fountain play. Visitors get soaked by the fountains – not surprisingly there is a hairdryer at the exit for the passengers.

Lorikeet Lagoon

An attraction now found in many zoos around the world is the Lorikeet Lagoon free-flight aviary, where you can lure the colourful lorikeet with a bit of nectar. This made the birds look quite fat, probably due to their new plumage. As at Weltvogelpark Walsrode, the lorises were quite trusting, which led to some funny situations.

Dragon Falls and Peeking Heights

In the Mystic East themed area is the Dragon Falls log flume, which cleverly directed the water from the shots onto my shoes, resulting in wet socks. The Peeking Heights Ferris Wheel is supposed to offer views of Staines and nearby Thorpe Park, but the view was not that good on the day we visited.

Tomb Blaster

On my last visit my opinion of Tomb Blaster was a little clouded by the long 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. The story, however, is rather flat and doesn’t deserve any real attention, as you’ll mainly be shooting at ancient Egyptian enemies and bigger bosses. The length of the ride is also remarkable, partly due to the train system used.

Rameses Revenge

Next door is Rameses Revenge, one of the best top spins from HUSS. The ride not only manages to produce a good number of spins, but also provides a good shower for the passengers. On two occasions the water fountains were approached head on and luckily they caught you well so you left Chessington World of Adventures well drenched.

Runaway Train and Rattlesnake

In the Mexicana themed area, you can ride Mack Rides’ Runaway Train – which comes with a beautiful mountain range and a top themed queue – as well as another coaster highlight: the Rattlesnake. Due to the park’s height restrictions, this wild mouse was installed in a pit, giving it a very unique look. It also helps that the queue passes through the coaster’s inner courtyard.

Pictures Chessington World of Adventures

Conclusion Chessington World of Adventures

Chessington World of Adventures is the prettiest of Merlin Entertainments’ UK theme parks, although not the biggest. The park’s portfolio is well-balanced and boasts some real treasures, including some very special rollercoasters such as Vampire and Dragon’s Fury. The park, with its extraordinary ideas, has made the most of the constructive constraints. The integrated zoo, like Drayton Manor Theme Park or Tier- und Freizeitpark Thüle, provides an all-round successful 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 we walked about 1km to Chessington World of Adventures – a Merlin Entertainments theme park. There we immediately came across a wonderfully deserted animal and theme park. On the day we visited, all the rides were doing two laps in a row, which was quite amazing, especially on the roller coasters.

Dragon’s Fury

Passing the tigers and lions, which were still moderately active in the early morning, we made our way to the first object of desire, the Dragon’s Fury spinning coaster. This ride, built by Maurer Söhne, is relatively easy to describe as it is simply brilliant. The first drop ends in a crazy S-curve combo that leads into an Immelmann turn. This is followed by a couple of turns and helices, which then lead into another weirdness, the second fairly flat lift hill, which gives you the 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 mean feat with rides like Sonic Spinball at Alton Towers or Tarantula at Spain’s Parque de Atracciones de Madrid. The ride itself usually has a very good spin, which adds to the great layout of the ride.

Wild Asia

Next door, the newly designed Wild Asia area took us straight to Asia. The former Beanoland, which was dedicated to an English comic series, has been revamped for the 2010 season and now welcomes visitors with two new features.

Monkey Swinger

As well as a bumper car, a playhouse and a crazy bus by Zamperla, the area also boasts a very remarkable installation: A Zierer Wave Swinger. Normally 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 ice-cold refreshment. This is where you realise that the English are not really averse to water. It is not surprising, then, that you will find yourself running through the water fountains at least a dozen times during the ride. The outer seats, where you are already soaking wet, are still the driest seats.


To get dry you can go to the body dryer or take a ride on the new Kobra ride, a Zamperla Disk’o Coaster. Unfortunately, the ride itself looks much more impressive from the outside than it is from the inside. Nevertheless, a ride on the Kobra is still a nice in-between ride.

Lorikeet Lagoon

The second new feature is the Lorikeet Lagoon, an attraction that is becoming increasingly common in zoos such as Erlebnis-Zoo Hannover and Weltvogelpark Walsrode. This is a walk-in aviary where lorikeets do their rounds and you can buy food for these birds for a small fee. The nature of these parrots is such that you can get into some pretty funny situations, as long as you have some nectar to attract them.

Dragon Falls

In the Chinese themed area of Mystic East you will find the log flume ride Dragon Falls next to the Peeking Heights Ferris Wheel, from which you can theoretically see all the way to Thorpe Park. This ride is beautifully designed but has a very low water level and a rather bizarre layout.

Rameses Revenge

Much to the surprise of the staff, we took a ride on the Top Spin Rameses Revenge. As the first guests of the day, we were surprised not only by the ride’s fountains, but also by the staff’s knowledge of German, who appropriately referred to the machine as a ‘Waschmaschine’.

Tomb Blaster

In the same themed area is the interactive dark ride Tomb Blaster, an attraction by Sally that is well worth seeing. A long train takes you through a series of breathtaking backdrops. Due to the yawning emptiness of the park and the resulting long pauses in the block areas, you could score a lot of points, but the ride also lacked some momentum.


Somewhat hidden in a pit like Top Spin, the cars of Rattlesnake – a Wild Mouse by Maurer Söhne – make their rounds. The waiting area in the middle of the layout alone deserves some attention, but the ride trumps that. Unlike the Crazy Mine at Germany’s Hansa Park, the original ambience has been preserved and not enhanced by functional additions.

Runaway Train

Slightly off to the side is the Powered Coaster Runaway Train – a Blauer Enzian model from Mack Rides. This standard model is perfectly suited to Chessington World of Adventures, as you can see from the queue that has somehow been inserted into the ride. The coaster itself is also much more harmonious than its sister ride Flying Fish at Thorpe Park, which is barely 15 miles away. The friendly staff also contribute to the great atmosphere.

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 walk is through the Sea Life Centre, which unfortunately has an ugly tent look from the outside. Inside, however, the aquarium is very impressive. The large variety of species and the elaborate design make for a high entertainment value. Thanks to the very low number of visitors, it was finally possible to take a closer look at the fish.


The Transylvanian themed area is home to the world’s most beautiful Burger King and a very special dark ride about squeaky ducks. The tour of the BubbleWorks bubble factory is quite amusing and has one of the most impressive finales as you literally take a bath. You won’t get wet, but the water jets you pass through are impressive.


The last roller coaster in the park is an Arrow Dynamics and is a true suspended coaster. This rare type of coaster is mainly found in America and unfortunately the very few examples are getting rarer and rarer with time. So it’s good to know that there is one in Europe. The new Vekoma trains at least give hope for a long future.

The ride on Vampire starts out quite amusing with some combinations of curves where you are already swinging a bit to the side. Shortly after that the ride climbs the second lift hill, which completes the visible part of the ride. Passing the row of houses by the Burger King, you quickly reach the treetops where you continue to swing back and forth. The highlight of the ride comes shortly after when you exit a tunnel and swing out hard after a big drop. Unfortunately, you end up in the brake section, where you swing out a bit before returning to the station.

Vampire is a very surprising coaster, and the ride comfort for those who wear glasses is noticeably improved as soon as you take them off. Although Vampire is neither the tallest nor the fastest roller coaster in the park – mainly due to the local constraints of the park – Arrow Dynamics have managed to give the park an extremely entertaining ride that is definitely unique, at least in Europe.

Black Buccaneer

Next to it, in a very interesting location, you can admire the park’s boat swing, which, like all the other big rides, is located in a pit. Bizarrely, the entrance to Black Buccaneer is in a rather illogical position, so you might need to spend some time looking for it. Once you have made the impressive descent to the ship swing, you will be rewarded with a great ride with a rather large swing out.

Pictures Chessington World of Adventures

Conclusion about our first ever visit

Chessington World of Adventures is one of the most exciting animal and theme parks in Europe, with top quality rides, beautifully designed themed areas and a really good zoo. If you are in the London area and have to choose between Chessington World of Adventures, Legoland Windsor and neighbouring Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures is well worth a visit.


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