I had the opportunity to ride SeaWorld’s new hypercoaster Mako several times during soft openings. Billed as the “tallest, longest and fastest” in Orlando, the shark-themed coaster lives up to the “hype” and, I believe, positions the embattled theme park to be the thrill ride capital of the local market.
The addition of Mako now gives SeaWorld three major coasters designed by Swiss innovator Bolliger & Mabillard.
Kraken, a steel floorless coaster, was installed at the park in 2000. With seven inversions and a top speed of 65 miles-per-hour, it holds the distinction of being the world’s second longest floorless coaster at 4,177 feet.
In 2009, Manta was added to the lineup. Still my all-time favorite coaster in Orlando, this beauty boasts four inversions with top speeds clocking 56 miles-per-hour. Two things make Manta unique: the fact that you lay on your stomach during the ride simulating flight and the gravity defying 98-foot-tall pretzel loop that leaves first-time riders speechless. Nothing in Orlando tops that experience.
Named after the fastest species of shark in the oceans, Mako takes riders 200 feet above the park and then reaches a top speed of 73 miles-per-hour after the steep drop. Nine airtime moments are built into the ride, guaranteeing thrill seekers come out of their seats with the feeling of weightlessness.
While Mako doesn’t have any inversions and the lap bar can be awkward for some, it’s a ride worthy of the fierce name because of its speed and airtime moments. And, despite it being a little intimidating to look at, I can see Mako being a great introductory coaster for height-eligible kids and squeamish adults who have yet to join the adrenaline junkie club.
The novelty of Mako and the fact SeaWorld is the only Orlando theme park to have three major B&M coasters could be a game changer. After years of controversy over keeping killer whales in captivity and sagging attendance, the addition of Mako will help SeaWorld begin the transition from a marine showpark to a park known for its thrill rides.
The tame mediocre rides at Disney and Universal may be able to tout “good theming,” but none (with maybe the exceptions of Hulk and Dragon Challenge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure) provide the satisfaction true coaster enthusiasts seek.
SeaWorld has a unique opportunity to claim the mantle of being the “thrill ride king” among the three big Orlando theme park companies if they continue to add to their coaster roster.
My hope is the company will invest in at least two more coasters over the next decade and bring SeaWorld up to the level of its sister park, Busch Gardens Tampa.
All eyes will be on Mako over the next twelve months to see if the ride has given SeaWorld the shot in the arm it desperately needs. If attendance and revenue chart northward, I say go ahead and give them the bragging rights.