Raging through the Helices

It’s the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic and things are getting a bit back to normal as the numbers are currently dropping in Germany and more and more people are getting their vaccinations. Previously excisting restrictions are dropped and a visit to a theme park feels great once more – even though we are all wearing masks once we cannot avoid getting too close to people and of course on the rides.

Since my last year’s visit was not the best, as Serengeti Park was crowded and the capacity of the rides was restricted to a minimum, I took a day off and visited the park on a very quiet Friday. This of course had the advantage of experiencing the awesome Serengeti Safari – one of the few drive-through safaris you can experience in an animal park – at my own pace and without being too restricted by the other cars. I was also right in time for the feeding of the lions, which led to some awesome pictures.

After driving through the Serengeti Safari it was time to experience the theme park. Here, I mainly focused on the other “safari” experiences, which are mainly rather unique attractions and for the most part don’t feature any animals. I especially enjoyed the Splash Safari and Black Mamba Jetboat experiences, as both of them were extraordinary good in keeping you cool on a very hot summers day. While the Splash Safari offers a nice RIB speedboat ride on the park’s central lake, the Black Mamba jetboat safari just got you drenched the second the ride started – not to any surprise: It was the most popular ride on the day of visit.

The most recent addition to Serengeti Park is the roller coaster Batukai Racer by Technical Park which replaced the aging Chura Racer – a large Tivoli coaster made by Zierer. The layout of the 13m high family coaster basically only consists of a steep drop followed by three helices one after the other. The first of them is of special interest, as its curvature gets smaller when approaching the ground, which results in some very high G-forces and a rather awkward inclination. The second one acts like a small break in between as you get some more altitude before the final helix hits the ground. The ride itself is a bit jerky, yet not uncomfortable and a rather thrilling experience.

So thrilling, that shortly after my first round, I wanted to do a second. I was a bit distracted taking photos with my camera so that I did not realised that I let my phone on one of the benches nearby before queuing up for the second ride. After the ride, my phone was gone and I started to panic a bit. I asked the ride operator if he saw anything, but that did not help. He gave me the information that it might end up at the service centre nearby the park’s main ticket booths at the end of the day. I waited some time and decided to give it a try and walked all the way to service centre, but they did not yet got anything. They asked me to come back shortly before their closure or write an email after my visit. So I went back around 5pm and to my own surprise they actually found it!

Even though I had to worry a bit about the phone, I had an extraordinary day at the park and enjoyed it quite a lot. The drive through the empty Serengeti Safari, the rides on the park’s roller coaster Safari Blitz and Batukai Racer, as well as the refreshing and drenching boat experiences on the Splash Safari and Black Mamba made my day.

 

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Having a blast on Dynamite

The last time, I have visited Freizeitpark Plohn, I was not at all impressed by its missing professionalism in some points. I had never issues paying with my Girocard (a German Debit Card) before and since there was not an ATM nearby, I had to drive to the nearby town of Lengenfeld just to get some cash and stand one more time in the queue before finally being able to pay my entrance ticket. This time, I tried to pay online and due to the system in use, it was not at all easy to do so on the phone. It took me several attempts – yet at the end, it worked.

With a good mood, I started my day at the new entrance area to the park, which is now situated right next to the water ride Fluch des Teutates. The Rafting by abc rides gets a good crowd during the first hours of operation, while the area close to the original entrance stays deserted for the most part of the day.

Here we find the small SBF Visa spinning coaster Drachenwirbel. Like most of the installations in Germany, this also comes in the three-loop design, whereby upwards leading righthand curves always change into a downwards leading lefthand curve. Due to the change of direction, the cars quickly get into a rotation. After several laps the ride on the Drachenwirbel comes to an stop and we can exit the ride.

The second and largest addition to the park Freizeitpark Plohn in recent years is the Mack Rides Big Dipper Coaster Dynamite. The ride is situated for most part on the land of the former Silver Mine roller coaster and reuses parts of the queue. The coaster itself is a lot bigger and offers an interesting layout.

After climbing the ride’s lift, the coaster starts with a Dive Drop, whereby the car is slowly rotated around its own axis before it plunges to the ground. At full speed we now pass through a building which gives a great near miss and race over a bunny hop shortly thereafter. A steep curve now leads us upwards. After a more conventional drop, we then enter a righthand curve close to the ground. On a small hill we rapidly change direction before entering Dynamite’s loop. We then pass the ride’s entrance in a Zero-G Roll. Finally, we now circle around the HUSS Break Dance Westernrodeo before hitting the brakes.

Dynamite is a nice addition to the park. The Big Dipper offers a great, albeit short layout which offers a well-defined play of forces. There is only one issue: It does not have a good capacity. With a total of just two cars for up to eight people, the queue can get quite long. Especially, when only one of them is in operation and can only be loaded by a maximum of 4 people due to the Covid-19 regulations. Therefore, I only rode this Mack product once.

As the Saxonians did not really care about Covid and only a few respected the rules, I left the park early. Overall, I had a good visit to Freizeitpark Plohn. Yet, I was not overly impressed on how El Toro developed in recent years. This coaster is by far one of the roughest wooden coasters, I have been on and to my luck, I had to ride it twice in a row as the ride operation gave an encore. Apart of that, the park’s operations were good, and I am willing to come back once everything is back to normal.

 

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Rushing through the Black Forest

The history of the Tatzmania Löffingen animal and amusement park began in 2017, when the former Schwarzwaldpark was taken over by the Braun family. In order to separate it from the Steinwasen Park, which also belonged to the Braun family, it was decided to operate the park as a zoo instead of a wildlife park from now on. Both parks have a small selection of rides in common.

While Steinwasen Park offers a small selection of exquisite rides, Tatzmania focuses on quantity from SBF Visa. The focus here is mainly on rides for smaller children, including the park’s first roller coaster: the African Spin.

The compact spinning coaster has a layout with three loops that merge into one another, so you are constantly alternating between upwards leading right turns and downwards leading left turns. The cars are spinning quite well – but the ride is not too wild. Rather, it becomes more tedious lap by lap, so that after the seventh lap at the latest, you really want to get off.

Fortunately, there is also a bobsled coaster from Gerstlauer at Tatzmania Löffingen. The compact roller coaster Gold Rusher is a fair bit wilder and can boast a multitude of drops and tight curves.

The ride on Gold Rusher begins quite leisurely. After the bar – for whatever reason – has been pressed down far too hard, we immediately enter a bend and then a small dip. After passing the maintenance hut, we approach the lift hill of the ride in a short right turn. Having barely reached the starting height of 16m, we immediately plunge down into a steep turn towards the ground. Far above it, however, we soon climb up again. After a short block brake, we go through two hairpin bends before a wide curve takes us into the next braking area. In another downhill helix we now come very close to the ground. We then gain height quite smoothly in a right-hand bend before we speed through a depression. Shortly afterwards, we pass through the next braking area. Now it’s over hill and dale, once across the ride. We first race through a left-hand bend before we are lifted out of our seats a little in a series of camelbacks. A final right turn leads us into the final brakes of the roller coaster.

The Gold Rusher is a really nice family coaster that seems tailor-made for the park. The ride is not too big and not too small either, which allows it to successfully entertain a large part of the family audience at Tatzmania Löffingen.

Something I can’t think of on the next ride. The Papageienflug, formerly Eagle Fly, is – at least in theory – an interactive rollover carousel from SBF Visa, in which two smaller gondola arms whirl around a large boom. These are raised hydraulically at the start of the ride, which means that the ride is always at a very steep angle. Now, however, the riding position is – if you do nothing – very uncomfortable. So you use the small joystick, but it takes some time before the motor reacts. Now the gondola turns very slowly, which, superimposed on the ride’s motion, results in a very uncomfortable ride.

For several reasons, I highly doubt whether this ride is a joy to behold. On the one hand, the ride is hardly compatible with the family audience of the amusement park. On the other hand, at the time of its opening, the ride looked like two swastikas rotating in the air. Thanks to the modification, in which half of the gondolas were dismantled, this is no longer apparent today, but the negative publicity remains.

As an engineer, I also find it very hard to believe that none of the people in charge at SBF Visa were aware of this during the design of the ride. I also find it hard to believe that the distributor did not see this. I hope, narrow-mindedly at least, that some heads rolled and that the park operator got out of it with a good deal without any major damage.

None of this would have happened if they had relied on the tried and tested products from Gerstlauer. If they had, they would have a ride that was equally well received by every member of the family. Now you have a ride in the park that visitors ride – if at all – only once. Yay!

Tatzmania Löffingen, you have potential. As a zoo, I actually liked you quite a bit, even if you still remind me very strongly of the former game park. The redesigned enclosures near the entrance are at least pretty well done. If you were to focus on quality instead of quantity in your amusement park section and could keep your monkeys in the enclosure, then there would be a reason to visit you more often.

 

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