Florida Travel

Two new coasters going up at SeaWorld, Busch Gardens

Mako will be the tallest, longest, fastest coaster in Orlando when it opens next year at SeaWorld.
Mako will be the tallest, longest, fastest coaster in Orlando when it opens next year at SeaWorld. SeaWorld Orlando

SeaWorld Orlando is building a hyper-coaster named Mako, named for a fast shark that changes course abruptly. It will be 200 feet tall, 4,760 feet long, hit 73 miles an hour and give riders a lot of air time. That will make it the tallest, longest, fastest coaster in Orlando.

At Busch Gardens, SeaWorld’s sister park in Tampa, Cobra’s Curse is going up — a family coaster with a vertical lift, free-spinning seats and an 80-foot cobra rearing back as if to strike.

Both are set to open next year. Each fills a gap in that park’s lineup of thrill rides. Busch Gardens gets a family coaster that fits between Air Grover, a kiddie coaster, and Cheetah Hunt, a coaster for families with older kids, but not as breathtaking as SheiKra or Falcon’s Fury, a drop tower. SeaWorld gets a monster coaster at the top of the thrill line.

Mako will be a hyper-coaster because of its tall hills — nine of them — and high speed, said Mike Denninger, senior director of rides and engineering for SeaWorld Entertainment, parent company of both parks. Riders will feel weightless each time the ride crests one of those hills.

“There will be moment after moment after moment of air time,” Denninger said. A hyper-coaster does not have inversions — twists of the track that turn riders upside-down, he said. “It is the purest coaster experience. It’s all about speed, height and air time.”

Brian Morrow, SeaWorld’s attraction creative director, said “it will be a wild mix of fear, thrills and fun.”

Mako will be built near Shark Encounter and will be the centerpiece of a shark-themed plaza that will also include a pathway reminiscent of a giant shipwreck, shops, educational experiences and an existing restaurant with an underwater view of sharks. People on that pathway won’t be under water, but will feel like they are, Denninger said.

At 200 feet, Mako will be the same height as SheiKra, a 200-foot dive coaster that hits 70 miles an hour, located at Busch Gardens and built by the same company that is building Mako, Bolliger & Mabillard of Switzerland.

It will be far shorter than the tallest coaster in the United States, however — the 456-foot Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. The tallest coaster in the world is to be built just a few miles from SeaWorld: Skyscraper, a 500-foot-plus vertical roller coaster, is scheduled to break ground on International Drive late this year and open in late 2017.

Cobra’s Curse, already under construction at Busch Gardens, will be located in the Egypt section of the park and will cross the Serengeti Plain. It will be about 2,100 feet long, 70 feet high, top out around 40 miles an hour and last about 3 1/2 minutes.

It starts out with a vertical lift — 70 feet straight up, essentially in an open elevator, Denninger said. The cars are locked into place, facing forward. Then about halfway through, they turn 180 degrees so passengers are riding backwards. At the top of a second lift, the seats are unlocked and spin freely for the rest of the ride, a little like a swivel chair does, but moving forward at the same time.

“The spinning is governed by the weight distribution of the riders, so you could get a different experience every time you took that ride,” Denninger said.

The ride has a story that ties in with the giant cobra, and the attraction has other elements, but Busch Gardens isn’t talking about those yet.