SeaWorld Orlando will add a new river rafting ride that will open next year, the park announced Thursday, taking another step in shifting its emphasis from animal attractions to thrill rides.
Infinity Falls, inspired by South America’s rainforests, will feature a 40-foot plunge, which SeaWorld says will be the world’s tallest river rapid drop. On the twisting, four-minute ride on the jungle river, guests will experience the feel of whitewater rapids.
The ride will start with an elevator that will lift each eight-passenger raft, then launch it into the river with a 40-foot drop. The whitewater will have the feel of Class IV rapids, SeaWorld said. The difficulty of rapids is ranked on a scale of 1 to 6; on a real river, where rafts are not mechanically controlled, a Class IV rapid is “intense, powerful but predictable,” according to the International Scale of River Difficulty.
The ride will start with an elevator that will lift each eight-passenger raft, then launch it into the river with a 40-foot drop.
“Infinity Falls will be the centerpiece of a newly themed surrounding area, fully immersing guests in a rainforest canopy,” the park said in making the announcement. The village will also offer interactive experiences that will educate park guests about freshwater ecosystems and encounters with animals native to South America.
“We developed Infinity Falls to tell new stories that showcase the beauty and sheer power of water and the amazing wildlife that lives in it,” said Brian Morrow, vice president of Theme Park Design Experience.
The ride’s story line is that a drone exploring a jungle in South America discovered previously uncharted structures in a remote area along the banks of a freshwater river. Explorers and scientists set up base camp nearby, fell in love with the river, and set up a sustainable camp so others could learn about the jungle and the river.
The new ride should also help SeaWorld’s bottom line. While Disney and Universal have reported increased revenue and gate attendance in the last few years, SeaWorld’s numbers have dropped, largely due to the controversy over its killer whale shows.
SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment announced a year ago that it was ending its orca breeding program and would phase out its theatrical whale shows in favor of natural orca encounters and educational programs at all three of its parks.
Since then it has opened Orlando’s tallest roller coaster, Mako, which has a 200-foot drop, and said this summer it will add virtual reality goggles to Kraken, an older coaster, that will take riders on a journey under the sea. SeaWorld also announced new rides to be built at its parks in San Diego and San Antonio.
The opening of the new ride is planned for the summer of 2018.