WAA!!! Walibi à la française

History of Walibi Rhône-Alpes

À chacun son WAA!! While I’m looking for the book by Dominique Fallon to entertain you with some lively facts about the entry of Avenirland in France, you can already be amused about the great phonetic cry from Walibi Rhône-Alpes. Eddy Meeùs, founder of the Belgian amusement park Walibi and exclusive distributor of waterskiing facilities in Belgium, was offered a share in the French amusement park Avenirland near Les Avenières in 1981. This rather small amusement park near Lyon offered since 1979 a small collection of rides from Mack and Soquet in a – not necessarily matching the name – western setting. Meeùs and a French amusement ride manufacturer first took over 40% of the shares, before they each owned 50% just two years later.  Differences of opinion between the two parties led to Meeùs holding all the shares by the end of 1985.

1986 saw the opening of Aqualibi, the first water park in the group. Although there were already plans to build a swimming pool in Wavre in 1975, these were never realised due to a lack of funds. Ten years later Dominique Fallon visited the Duinrell amusement park with its brand new Tikibad, and the idea for the Aqualibi water park was born in Belgium. Eddy Meeùs himself could only be convinced of the idea in January 1986. After that, everything actually happened very quickly. Both Aqualibis opened in a tight time frame, although the French water park would only be open during the summer months due to its location and therefore was rather sparse compared to the Belgian Aqualibi – which at the time was the status quo for water parks in Belgium.

Two years later the park received its first large roller coaster, the Boomerang.  However, the lack of visitors almost meant the end for the amusement park. The park had an image problem and Dominique Fallon had the solution. The Walibi brand was known throughout France through extensive advertising on the Luxembourg radio station RTL – although the advertising was always aimed at the Francophone Belgians – and the new rapid river, the Radja River, was on everyone’s lips. So Avenirland was to get its own Radja River, and the park was to be renamed Walibi Rhône-Alpes. Within one year the number of visitors increased from 250000 to 450000.

The 1990s were characterised by the rapid growth of the Walibi Group, while Walibi Rhône-Alpes stagnated somewhat in terms of visitor numbers. In 1997, a large part of the group was sold to Premier Parks (with the exception of the two Brussels attractions Mini Europe and Océade which were henceforth managed by Thierry Meeùs). During the Six Flags era, the number of visitors stabilised again at 400,000. This was followed in 2004 by the takeover by Star Parks, a chain of theme parks created by Palamon Capital Partners. In 2006, it was sold to Grévin & Cie, the current theme park division of Compagnie des Alpes.

From then on, Paris had the say and the first action was the massive expansion of the Aqualibi water park. It also received a new name with L’île aux Pirates. In 2011, the park’s biggest innovation followed, when the cuddly kangaroo was given its own universe and was then given a much more modern appearance. As a result, the water park also regained its original name. Large parts of Walibi Rhône-Alpes were redesigned and were now based on the leitmotif around the two fictional bands WAB and The SkunX. Even if the overall reorientation was only short-lived, it was groundbreaking.

Nowadays, the decision-making power on the orientation of the amusement park is no longer exclusively in Paris, which allows the individual parks to develop according to their own needs. The fact that a new attraction has been offered every year in Rhône-Alpes for the past seven years is a very interesting development. Not every park is able to perfectly adapt its novelties to the themed area in question.

Tour of the park

Dock n Roll and Hurricane

So it is hardly surprising that I was absolutely thrilled by the park right after entering the newly created entrance area. Walibi Rhône-Alpes is downright stylish, which is also due to the newly created Festival City themed area with its Rockin’ Tug Dock n Roll and Vertical Swing Hurricane, as well as the park’s 4D cinema. Unfortunately, the chain flyer was still under construction at the time of the visit; I liked the design idea with the multitude of fans very much.


For dramaturgical reasons, we are now moving counter-clockwise through Walibi Rhône-Alpes. We will soon come across the original principal area of the park, the actual western town. Nowadays, this area is of course very colourful to match the look of Morvan’s, L’Hermenier’s and Wuyes’ comic strip. The area boasts a wide variety of restaurants and family rides, including a merry-go-round, a vintage car ride and a bumper car, as well as two faster rides. The first of these is the Mack Rides Calypso Bamba, which offered a solid, albeit monotonous, ride and, at almost 40 years of age, is still able to thrill the family crowd.

Skunx Tower

The main attraction in this area is the Skunx Tower, which at the time was placed in the park by Premier Parks as the Totem Infernal. This 57m high launch freefall tower from S&S Power does what a freefall tower from the company in the Space Shot programme does and takes you to the top of the park with a good dose of speed. Once there, however, something happens that you would never expect and you are transported to the shoulder restraints. Airtime olé! Needless to say that you get out of the ride with a big grin on your face and if the queue at such a tower wasn’t always so long, you’d get back on board in no time. A great tower that you should not miss!


Following the paths, we cross the tracks of the park railway and have a look at the water park Aqualibi from the outside. It was not in operation at that time of the year and also the interesting looking slide Coursaire was located on a site next to the water park. Actually I always wanted to go to Walibi Rhône-Alpes to test the park and the water park, but now I was a bit too early. But that doesn’t matter, because the water park will be massively extended in the near future in order to entertain the guests as an independent water park just like in Wavre. I am very interested in the tube slide with the constantly narrowing curve diameter.

Bambooz River

Directly opposite the entrance to the pool is the modern log flume Bambooz River by Interlink and Soquet. Built in 2012, this ride was the first new attraction since the rebranding. The ride stands around relatively naked in the area, but is impressively adorned by larger steel sculptures. The ride features two shots of different heights, with the smaller one also featuring a double downhill run. Both are wet. In fact, the Bambooz River can really soak you, which is great and desirable. Unfortunately, however, you are not allowed to do any of the water rides in the French CDA parks on your own, which is why I only left it at one ride, which seems strange, especially on the next ride on our park tour.

Tam Tam Aventure

We are now embarking on a French classic, the Tam Tam Tour or Tam Tam Aventure, as the eternally long boat trip is called after its transformation. As I know the ride from Walibi Aquitaine – today’s Walibi Sud-Ouest – I was very curious to see whether the ride would drive you crazy with the monotonous croaking of countless frogs. It turned out differently. Very much so, in fact.

Since I was not allowed to go alone in the boat, but was the only one far and wide at visiting time, I was allowed to wait a little bit for other passengers. It was a good thing that within a few minutes a big crowd of girls passed by at a bachelor party. There was singing, trumpeting and of course drumming, after all there are drums built into the boats especially for that purpose. Actually, you are supposed to drum in the appropriate rhythm to the built-in film scenes – but nobody really does that. The trip itself has a great visual impact, the scenes are really creative and funny. The narrator is also highly ironic. This is really a lot of fun and gives the old boat trip a right to exist.


Speaking of the right to exist, let’s now move on to the Coccinelle. Since 1992, this classic ladybird coaster in its largest version has been entertaining park guests from Walibi Rhône-Alpes. As always, the roller coaster with the layout of a side-by-side double eight knew how to convince, but unfortunately the track was only used for a single lap. This is of course a bit of a pity, after all these rides are predestined for a multiple lap operation.

Mini Ferme and Les plongeurs de l’extrême

I spent an unexpectedly long time at the Mini Ferme, a small domestic animal zoo. It is vividly designed and yet surprisingly spacious. It’s amazing how many French family parks have such an area, the Mini Ferme here in Walibi Rhône-Alpes is one of the most beautiful examples and is especially suitable for families with small children to spend the time or at least to use the time until the next wet side story. Les plongeurs de l’extrême offer a great and absolutely worth seeing Acapulco Cliff Diver Show.

Gold River

Let’s now turn to the Radja River rapid river, which has belonged to the Explorer Adventure theme area since the construction of the MonORrail – at least parts of which run above it – and has been called Gold River ever since. In contrast to the original from Belgium, the Radja River is a Soquet product with eight seats per boat. However, the trip through the rapids is quite leisurely and without a major highlight.

On the other hand, I was quite taken with the monorail running above it. This monorail, also made by Soquet, scores with unusual insights into the park’s Vekoma Boomerang, as well as with a terrific smoothness. A truly great ride.

Le Galion

Past the park’s large amphitheatre, which is only used in the summer months, the attraction now moves more and more towards the Timber wooden roller coaster! But before that, we dedicate ourselves to Le Galion, after all we are in France. This HUSS swing ship would not be worth mentioning if the seats were not separated by seat dividers, so that even small children can ride on each seat absolutely safely. As these seat dividers were never used on a Pirat, I was quite astonished.


“It’s going down, I’m yelling timber! You better move, you better dance”. Someone must have liked the song by Pitbull quite a bit, because the exclamation Timber! was certainly not known to any Frenchman before. So it’s all the nicer to have a Montagne russe en bois with lots of timbres in the park. The manufacturer of this beauty is the American Gravity Group, the founders of which were previously responsible for numerous works by Custom Coaster International, or CCI for short. For some time now, the company has been building mainly smaller wooden roller coasters, which makes them especially interesting for small to medium-sized amusement parks. So it’s no wonder that Walibi Rhône-Alpes took up the business back then.

The wild ride in the short trains starts quite quickly with the ascent of the only 17m high lift hill. After a tight turning curve, the train rushes down mercilessly over the far too narrow hilltop, accompanied by appropriate music. With plenty of airtime we complete the first drop of the ride as well as the following hill, which is quite close to the ground. After a short bend to the left we wind our way up over three tops, once in one direction and then inclined in the other direction, and are torn out of our seats every time. In a right-hand bend close to the ground we approach the park boundary, shoot over a very flat hill once more and turn around. Below the third hilltop we now perform a wild and airy turning manoeuvre. Just after that we make another turn and fly over a hill shortly after. A series of smaller hills follows immediately after a right turn, whereby the speed is reduced a little in a trim brake. Before you know it you reach the braking distance of the ride and the short and wild ride comes to an end.

Timber! is an extraordinarily great roller coaster, which has been fantastically staged and scores with its extremely powerful ride. If you compare the ride of the roller coaster with the wooden roller coasters of the manufacturer GCI which are better known in this country, Gravity Group’s ride here is quite a statement. Unfortunately there is one small detail on the ride that spoils the fun a bit and that are the trains! Timberliners may be justified, especially since they allow smaller children to ride safely. But what on earth are the blinkers on the sides of the train for? I’ll let the manufacturer get away with the stupid construction of the stirrups, because they are actually only clumsy, but the blinkers are very restrictive. You just don’t sit comfortably. Nevertheless, a good ride – but not my highlight because of the trains used.

Woodstock Express

Passing the Zamperla Barnyard Volt-O-Vent we are now heading for the Wild Mouse Woodstock Express. This Italian mouse coaster construction from the house of Zamperla offers a similar ride pleasure as the rides from L&T Systems, but with a small, but extremely fine difference right at the beginning of the ride. While the other mice escort their passengers in a right-hand bend into the lift hill of the ride, the Zamperla Mouse shoots out of the station on a short gradient before the lift makes a big noise. As I already knew this behaviour from Walibi Sud-Ouest, I was accordingly riding by and supported myself from the backrest until the moment in question. This was followed by an absolutely butter-soft ride, for which I was always happy to get in line.


Passing the boat slide Surf Music, we now go to the last roller coaster of the park and my personal favourite: the Vekoma Boomerang EqWalizer. Now you might ask yourself, why of all things a Boomerang should be better than a crazy and extremely powerful wooden roller coaster. The answer is simple: The train.

Vekoma Boomerangs are per se extremely funny roller coasters, which can easily convince on both forward and reverse ride through cobra roll and looping; as long as they ride well and at least that is what they are good for in Europe. Of course there are better roller coasters, but when a Boomerang suddenly comes along without shoulder restraints, you have to be in a pretty good position to compete against such a ride. The unusually high level of freedom on the Sunkid trains is a great benefit for the ride and makes you hungry for repeat rides. And here in the park you don’t have to pay 5€ every time like on the Vienna Prater.  However, I also have some minor points of criticism regarding the EqWalizer, which at least partly concern the ride, but do not diminish its quality. For example, getting into the second row of seats in a car is an extremely tight procedure, which could certainly be optimised with a slightly different lap bar shape. Altogether a great coaster!

Pictures Walibi Rhône-Alpes

Conclusion Walibi Rhône-Alpes

Walibi Rhône-Alpes was – as the last remaining Walibi Park – on my bucket list for quite some time now and fortunately, thanks to the upcoming novelties, it has been back on the list for quite some time. The park has a great charm and convinces with its really coherent overall concept. The park also has a very pleasant audience, which further strengthens the family park character. It was also nice to meet the bachelor party troop again and again, who really thanked me every time for the ride with them on Tam Tam Aventure. In any case, I couldn’t have imagined a better start for my roller coaster trip, although the Yukon Quad roller coaster celebrated its premiere in Le Pal on the same day, but we’ll look at it in the next review.

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Italian Miniatures and Rollercoasters


The history of Leolandia starts 45 years ago, when the entrepreneur Guido Pendezzini presented his miniature park under construction, modelled on the Dutch miniature park Madurodam near The Hague, to the public. However, the park was not officially opened as Minitalia until three years later. The centrepiece of the park, which has also been a prominent feature of the park’s official name for a very long time, is the Italian-style miniature village Minitalia with its replicas of striking Italian buildings and towns. In addition, the country was presented with smaller regional stands and even back then some rides were offered.

In 1997 Pendezzini sold his park to the Triberti and Fabbri families, who, as showmen and manufacturers of amusement park equipment, had considerable experience in this field. They developed the park into an amusement park and operated it as Fantasy World Minitalia until 2007, when the Zamperla family, also an amusement ride manufacturer, took over the park. Since then Leolandia has been regularly expanded and supplemented with products from the company’s own catalogue.

Twister Mountain

A prominent example of this is the Twister Mountain spinning coaster, which is perfectly placed directly at the exit to the park, next to the already oversized park sign, to attract customers of the hypermarket opposite to Leolandia. However, this is only the small version of the well-known funfair model based on the layout of the French manufacturer Reverchon.

After leaving the station you climb the 10m high lift hill. At the top, you pass through two hairpin bends at a rapid pace, whereupon the first descent is already waiting. Above the station you pass through a block brake and shortly after that, halfway parallel to the lift hill, the second major shot of the ride. Without any strange bumps in the ascent you reach the other side of the roller coaster. In the next brake the rotation of the car is released, whereupon the next four hairpin bends are passed with surprisingly much momentum. Without a bump, the return to the other side of the ride follows and finally, after another hairpin bend, the brake track.

Although the Spinning Coaster variants by Zamperla are not considered to be very spin-friendly thanks to their optimised carriages and therefore usually miss their target, the Twister Mountain offered us a solid, albeit quite short, ride. The comfort in the gondola is unfortunately not quite as high as with Reverchon, but in theory the ride offers better restraint, especially for smaller children, thanks to the single bars.

Electro Spin and Donna Cannone

Just as solidly we were entertained by the Mega Disk’o Electro Spin and the Flash Tower Donna Cannone. While the Disk’o offered intensive spinning action, the pulley tower could convince with surprising airtime at the upper turning point. Unfortunately a launch from the cannon is not simulated.

Leo Coaster

The other attractions of the rather sparse Expo 1906 area are a cogs ride with a king kong look, a fire fighting carousel, a wave swinger and the small children’s roller coaster Leo Coaster. This roller coaster comes in the standard version of the manufacturer, i.e. oval-shaped with a helix in the middle, but has comparatively good riding characteristics.

Mondo di Peppa Pig

With the Mondo di Peppa Pig, an attempt was made last year to establish a toddler area in the park based on the English model. However, what in England ensures that Paultons Park is only known as Peppa Pig World and provides it with masses of visitors, seems a little unlovingly put up here. Although there is the possibility to look at the original house of the main protagonists of the series and to take a photo with the actors, the merchandising sales seem to be the only basis for this area.

Il Trenino

The whole thing continues with the Masha e Orso (Mascha and the Bear) show and the train ride Il Trenino by Thomas & Friends. Admittedly, a train ride with Thomas and his friends is always a good idea, as you can see at Drayton Manor in England, but outside of the shape of the train there is no reference to the series.


In the rear part of the Leolandia park, right next to the miniature village Minitalia, there are several animal enclosures, most of which show indigenous farm animal species. The enclosures are sufficiently large and resemble a farm. Unfortunately there are some smaller aviaries with parrots next to them, which is a great contrast to the newer looking farm area.

The Cowboy Town forms the western part of the Leolandia, where the combination of log flume and powered coaster, well-known from the Wunderland Kalkar, is presented. In addition, there are several round and high rides in this area, including the very uncomfortable kite flyer Wild Avvoltoi, as well as a larger show stage.

Gold River

After leaving the station of the log flume Gold River, the boat bobs a little through the channel and after a longer S-curve and a short left turn you reach the first steep lift hill, which takes you into the equally steep shoot. After a good moistening you are released into the channel again and cross a larger right-hand bend to climb the second lift hill at a 90° angle to the first shot. Typically Zamperla, the second downhill run is no less steep than the first one, so that one is led quite abruptly into the second run; here too, the wetness of the downhill run is within a pleasant range. The return journey to the station follows.

Mine Train

Above the log flume is the access to the Mine Train roller coaster, whose course runs mostly over the fairway of the Wild River. After a somewhat longer ascent with a slight left bend, which is climbed quite leisurely, a rather long right turn follows. The first increase in speed is in the downward helix to the left. Immediately afterwards, the waterway’s channel is crossed at a dizzy height in a right-hand bend. In a slightly larger downward helix you now circle the second shot of the log flume, followed by a rather wide right turn, which immediately closes the course. The train then races through the station and completes another, rather leisurely round.

Although the track of the roller coaster from the Wunderland Kalkar was built much more compact it is clearly the better roller coaster of this quite special combo. The Mine Train from the Leolandia, however, crosses the track a little bit too slowly and unfortunately also very jerky, so there is no fun to ride on.

Rapide di Leonardo

Opposite it is the round boat slide Rapide di Leonardo, an Italian interpretation of the popular River Splash rides by the manufacturer ABC Rides with a very special twist. After leaving the station, you immediately make a small right turn and enter the vertical lift, which brings the boat into position, holds it and lifts it up without any technical control frills. After you have been quickly transported upwards, the basket tilts forward and the boat rolls out of the lift. You are now thrown into the first helix at full pelt, whereupon the boat is immediately set in rotation. After a few meters you make an S-curve combination around the tower, which makes the boat turn at a breathtaking speed. This speed increases in the following downward helix and lets you play Russian Roulette during the following shot. After the soaking, the boat goes through a 180° turn, where a round and spinning cannon apparatus fires water at the passengers at regular intervals. The return to the station now features some elements of a rapid river, such as a waterfall that turns off and various rapids. It is the much quieter part of the ride, which allows you to put what you have just experienced into words and makes you wonder why Zamperla has not been able to sell another ride of this kind. The Hydro Lift at least is an unparalleled fun machine and wins every prize for the best dizz with ease.

Riva dei Pirati

The visually most convincing theme area at the Leolandia is the pirate area Riva dei Pirati, which consists mainly of children’s rides, but which is presented in a great design. Besides the good ship swing Galeone and the beautiful Splash Battle Mediterranea, you will find the prototype of the Stand-Up Disk’os Surf’s Up Scilla e Cariddi. Although the ride through the long gondola is a bit rough in parts, the Floating Airtime is worth an experience, so it is a pity to find only a small version of this ride. Unfortunately, the restraint system charges you a little bit statically, so you can get a little shock at the exit.

Pictures Leolandia

Conclusion Leolandia

Leolandia is a really nice theme park with a pretty good idea right from the beginning of its existence. The Minitalia is quite nicely realised and can keep you busy for a few hours, compared to the Legoland parks around the world. At the same time this miniature outdoor wonderland offers a wonderful view of the corners of this charming country, which you would like to see in real life. The quality of the theme park is, with the exception of the Expo 1906 area, very high and is further underlined by the matching workers’ uniforms, divided according to the theme areas of the park.

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