Florida Guide > Other Parks
Aquatica - same old, same old or new leader?
This is a family trip report from Aquatica.
As somebody who has travelled to Orlando and visited all the water parks I was particularly excited about visiting Aquatica for the first time. Other members of our group who hadn’t been to Florida before were also really excited.
Before we left the UK I had been using Aquatica’s website to build everybody’s excitement telling them we would be swimming alongside dolphins and flying along all the new tubes. It would be fair to say we were all looking forward to a trip to the water park.
The day for our visit dawned, bright and sunny thankfully! We were off to Aquatica that still hadn’t been “officially” opened yet by (as one Aquatica employee put it) “Mr Busch, the owner of the company, not the idiot who runs the country! ” His words not mine! !
Unfortunately, we ran into a small problem fairly early – we couldn’t find the place, there were no road signs anywhere! As the driver for our group this was causing my stress levels to rise somewhat! Thankfully, I vaguely remembered something about Sea Harbor Drive on the website the night before. After a quick u-turn and a right along Sea Harbor we found Aquatica at the end of the road.
The queue to park was slow but kept moving and even after arriving as close to 10am as possible we still noticed it was going to be a busy day. We parked and headed towards the entrance, only for me to have to go all the way back to the car as you are not allowed to take your own food or drink into the park (take note people! ). Having finally entered we took the decision to get a couple of lockers. Once again the queue was slow and having paid $16 for two large lockers ($8 each) we put the sun block on and took the towels in search of sun beds. By this point, Max (the youngest member of our party aged 9 years) was almost ready to burst with excitement and was ready for the off.
However, we had a small problem – there were no vacant sun beds or chairs, they were all being used. After ten minutes of wandering between people we found a tree and dumped the towels and flip-flops there. We could finally head for the rides.
Our first stop was the Taumata Racers where we all collected our mats and headed up the stairs. A ten-minute wait was all that was needed before we could line up and get ready for the light to go green. We all knelt with our hands on the handles ready to plunge ourselves head first into the tube. The first section of the ride is covered in the tube. As you exit the tube you are showered with water and before you can get your bearings there is a sharp dip in the slide and you head rapidly for the bottom! This was a great slide however it was over fairly quickly. With the adrenalin now pumping we grabbed the rest of the group and moved on.
Our next stop was HooRoo Run. This was in a large circular tube that allowed 2 or 3 adults to ride together. As aparty of two we jumped (or stepped gently if the truth were known! ) into the raft and were ready. One of us went down backwards as our party of two descended the three dips in this rather short ride. The three dips were overcome and we hit the bottom splash pool within a few seconds. Everyone agreed this was good but a bit short.
Now we were all off the mark we headed back up the same steps and queued for Walhalla Wave. The queuing time was again short despite the park being busy. Again this was a raft style ride allowing 2-3 adults to ride together. This time we had a boys raft and a ladies raft. This slide was much longer. There were sections in the sun and covered tube sections. The twists and turns meant the raft climbed the sides of the tube with each bend –The boys did their best to make this happen! The end of the ride descends sharply in the dark of the tube and before you know it you exit the tube and hit the splash pool! We all agreed this was the best ride we had been on so far.
After this we strolled across the park towards Whanau Way. A slightly longer queue met us this time. We collected our tubes and headed off. On these rides there is the chance to ride alone in a ring or with a partner in a double tube. After fifteen minutes in the sun, or the queue – depending on your point of view, we were ready. I boarded my tube and headed off. A series of twists and turns in the dark and in the sun followed before I hit the splash pool again. Another good slide and the group decided to go again to see if the ride was different on anther of the slides at the top as there are numerous starting tubes. Following our second ride we all decided they were pretty much the same but good fun none the less.
After this we needed lunch. We headed back towards our towels and ate at Mango Market. There was a wide range of dishes on offer including freshly made pizzas, sandwiches, wraps, fresh fruit, cakes, drinks, crisps etc. The quality was surprisingly good and there wasn’t a crumb left when our group had finished!
To let our lunch settle we decided to head to Roa’s Rapids thinking it would be a gentle lazy-river style ride. However, when we entered the jets of water providing the current hit us. This was NOT a lazy river! There was a gentle current all along the ride which moved you along quite briskly. There were life vests available in all sizes so you could put one on and just move along letting the water do the work for you. However, the water was only 3 feet deep so you could stand up easily at any time. After two laps of the circuit it was time for another ride.
We headed to the queue for Dolphin Plunge. This was the longest wait of the day – about 30 mins. The wait was so long as only two people could go at once. As we waited we could see the pool where the small dolphins were swimming past the tubes. Everybody seemed keen to get a closer look and couldn’t wait to get on the slide. As we got the front of the line one of our party became a little uneasy. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to do this anymore! However, fair play, she sat down and when the light went green she pushed herself (slowly) into the mouth of the tube. The rest of us followed soon afterwards.
Now – this was the main disappointment of the day. We had waited half an hour and once on the ride we flew past the dolphins so quick and couldn’t see them. The majority of the ride is in a dark enclosed tube. The only time it becomes transparent is when you go through the dolphin pool and by the time your eyes have adjusted you hit the water in the splash pool! Despite this the ride was good and contained numerous twists, turns and plunges.
Next on our list was Loggerhead Lane (aptly named) and Tassie’s Twisters. Loggerhead Lane IS the lazy river. However, it is much shorter than those at Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. The slight difference here though is that there are two different routes. The longer route takes you past the Dolphin Plunge and the glass allows you to see the ride and the dolphins. The shorter route takes you past a large tank of tropical fish embedded into a wall.
Having followed both routes we joined the queue for Tassie’s Twisters. Unfortunately, the line for this so long that it came into Loggerhead Lane and caused a bit of a jam. We had to queue in the water for a while before we could climb to the top of the steps.
Once at the top of the steps we were able to get on this ride. Once again there were single or double tubes depending on your preference (you have to carry these in the queue with you). The ride starts off with an enclosed tube. You twist and turn in the dark and then enter the sunlight into a large bowl. At this point you slide round the bowl until you are going slow enough to dive into the exit tube and descend rapidly into the splash pool. Unfortunately it took me 6 times round the bowl before I could slow myself enough to exit the bowl. This was slightly annoying to say the least and took the gloss off the ride for me. Overall this was an average ride.
Our final stop of the day (after 3 more circuits of Roa’s Rapids) was Cutback Cove. This was a themed on the beach with a sandy entrance to the water. Every few minutes the claxon would sound and the waves would run for ten minutes before ten minutes of calm water. The water was only five foot deep at the most so there were a number of small children unsupervised and enjoying themselves in the pool. This provided a quiet, relaxed end to the day although Max would have happily headed for Roa’s Rapids again had we let him!
We collected our things from the lockers and returned our keys expecting the $3 returns as advertised. However, the $3 was actually a voucher which could only be spent at Aquatica- very convenient!
We agreed as we left that it had been a good day. My personal thoughts are that is was good fun but there are still some kinks to be ironed out. Road signs are a must, particularly to help first time Florida visitors. Also, a power cut during the day meant the Taumata Racers and children’s play area were cut off and out of action for an hour or so in the afternoon. The number of sun beds could also be improved as not everybody wants to go on all the rides. However, I do appreciate we went just after the park has been opened so the number of people may drop as time progresses.
I can now say I have been to Aquatica and enjoyed the experience. The slides were generally good but there was no slide that stood out as exceptional and there no big slides like Summit Plummet at Blizzard Beach or Humunga Kowabunga at Typhoon Lagoon. I like Aquatica but it comes a close second to Blizzard Beach for me.
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