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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The Zufari Adventure

Changes in Chessington World of Adventures

After Chessington World of Adventures had increasingly cared for its animals in recent years and expanded the zoo area, they invested this year, in addition to the constant improvements to the amusement park, in a ride and immediately in new enclosures for African animals. In fact Chessington is more beautiful than ever before, because the Flying Dumbos, which moved last year, is now in a matching paintwork. A further five million pounds is currently being invested in further improvements to the park’s appearance, which is why the Dragon Falls log flume, the Powered Coaster Runaway Train and some of the paths are currently closed to visitors. The start of this movement is Zufari.


The big novelty this year is Zufari, an installation where you are guided in a spacious off-road vehicle, with a capacity of 30 people + driver, to an off-road track with some surprises, where you can observe some animals. Theoretically you can compare the installation with the beginning of the Jungle Safari from the Serengeti Park in Hodenhagen, before you go into the jungle and sarcasm takes over.

Zufari offers everything you would expect from a safari based attraction. After you have completed or skipped the obligatory photo shoot in the queue, you wait for the entrance to a preshow room, which actually only serves to distract the children a little from the waiting time, because the actual film is soon played. Afterwards a monkey appears on the screen, which was already visible in the movie. This monkey interacts with the audience, like for example in Stitch live! from the Walt Disney Studios in Paris. Unfortunately, the comments here are all harmless and the animation is not that good, but the children liked it.

After boarding the truck, the very jerky and funny ride starts. As soon as the vegetation here is fully developed, this part will surely give you a much greater sense of adventure than the ride has been so far. Along a non-equipped flamingo enclosure we now pass the giraffe enclosure, where strange signs have been put up on the hall, all of which warn against passing through a cave.

With a little wit and some forward and backward driving the actual safari starts now. You can see giraffes, zebras and rhinos, which will surely be seen in the big enclosure next door, which will further enhance the hotel stay at the park.

Since a path is blocked, we’re going into the cave after all. What you can expect in the cave itself is especially pleasing for the left side of the car. As known, Chessington enhances some attractions by a huge amount of water. The fact that children are only allowed to occupy the middle seats has now been cleared up, as well as why the floor was so wet when entering the car. A waterfall at the end of the cave is the reason why the cars still drip when entering the loading station is the only effect that was self-evident from the beginning.

For the water-loving English, the finale certainly rounds off the Ride into Africa, but even the German doesn’t have to worry about too much contact with water, as it is only slightly higher than the grand finale of the dark ride Bubble Works and by no means as soaking wet as the wave swinger Monkey Swinger – where the drenching fountains were unfortunately not used on the day of the visit – or the Top Spin Rameses Revenge.


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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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