SeaWorld’s latest venture ramps up the standard for waterparks worldwide…

SeaWorld’s much-anticipated Aquatica facility had its soft opening on March 1, with guests from around the world present to celebrate Orlando’s new take on the traditional waterpark.

The South Seas-inspired waterpark features attractions from serene to extreme and was set for a grand opening ceremony on April 4.

Aquatica, like sister parks SeaWorld and Discovery Cove, create an immersive experience, rich with marine life and water-based thrills and spills.

"Aquatica’s diversity of attractions takes the high-speed thrills you expect at a waterpark even further by blending them with up-close animal interactions," said Dan Brown, executive vice president and general manager of the three parks. "We’re eager to share this truly one-of-a-kind experience with our guests."

Featuring 36 water slides, six rivers and lagoons and more than 80,000sq.ft of white, sandy beaches, Aquatica really does set a new benchmark for the industry. It also features the only Commerson’s dolphins found in the south-eastern United States, as well as giant anteaters, vibrant birds and an array of exotic fish.

"No one creates animal adventures like SeaWorld, and this exciting twist is one of the many distinctions that makes Aquatica not only new to Orlando, but also new to the world," added Brown.

Rides, slides and animals

In the park’s signature attraction, Dolphin Plunge, guests seemingly ‘fly’ beneath the sea. Riders catch sight of the spectacular black and white Commerson’s dolphins as they jet through the marine mammals’ habitat in clear, 250ft-long tubes. These dolphins are swift and agile swimmers, commonly seen wave-riding in shorelines breakers or groundswells.

Equally thrilling, the waterpark features the world’s only side-by-side wave pools capable of operating both together and independently. While they are completely different experiences, Big Surf Shores and Cutback Cove can generate one immense wave or duelling waves – challenging even the most avid water enthusiasts.

Winding rivers offer two different voyages, ranging from relaxing to racing. Loggerhead Lane floats guests through gentle waterfalls, past exotic birds, and through a magnificent underwater grotto that is home to thousands of exotic fish. For a more thrilling journey, Roa’s Rapids sends riders through racing waters and rushing geysers.

For younger guests, Walkabout Waters is – at 15,000sq.ft – one of the world’s largest interactive water playgrounds. This 60ft-tall, colourful water adventure is ideal for kids to zip down slides and blast water cannons.

Amid its 59 acres of lush landscaping, colourful buildings and tropical surroundings, Aquatica dazzles with colourful eight-lane racing slides, triple-drop raft rides, double inner-tube adventures, and a six-storey family ride.

For guests feeling a little less adventurous, tranquil beaches and refreshing pools help slow the pace. Private cabanas are available for rent to those desiring a private retreat. Privacy curtains drape all four sides of each cabana, which contains a mini-refrigerator. Included in the rental is an all-day locker, soft drinks, water, juice, sunscreen and a 25 per cent discount on merchandise.

"Guest comfort is first and foremost at Aquatica," said general manager Tim Cuddihy. "The entire park was designed to limit wait times and provide easy access to rides, attractions and restaurants."

Each of the three SeaWorld parks in Orlando connects guests to the sea through distinctly different experiences. For over 35 years, SeaWorld Orlando has entertained millions of guests with breathtaking animal experiences, dazzling attractions and awe-inspiring shows.

"We’re excited about taking the SeaWorld parks to the next level," added Brown. "It’s our commitment to our guests to provide the ultimate, unmatched family vacation."

Aquatica’s South Seas-inspired flora features more than 100 species of trees and 250 species of shrubs, grasses, vines and flowers. In total, 60,000 plants cover its lush grounds. The serene beaches are packed with 3.1m pounds of soft, white sand. Its rides, lagoons and rivers are filled with 3.3m gallons of water kept, at a comfortable 84 degrees.

Main attractions

Showcasing the park’s most distinctive animals, Dolphin Plunge takes riders down 250ft of clear tubes, underwater, and through Aquatica’s beautiful Commerson’s dolphin habitat. Guests who prefer to see these stunning black and white marine mammals without taking the plunge may sneak a peek at Dolphin Lookout.

Guests can catch a wave in the world’s only side-by-side wave pools capable of operating together or independently. Filled with a combined 860,000 gallons of water, these enormous wave pools deliver very different experiences. Cutback Cove produces crashing waves with 5ft swells, while Big Surf Shores creates gently-rolling surf.

The Roa’s Rapids adventure river zips guests through 1,500ft of rapids, past geysers and through waterfalls at a speed three to four times faster than many waterpark rivers. For a slower pace, the Loggerhead Lane lazy river floats guests through a spectacular underwater view of the Commerson’s dolphins, past exotic birds and through a beautiful 10,000-gallon habitat of thousands of exotic fish.

For those who prefer life in the fast lane, Taumata Racer speeds riders down a 300ft slide, in and out of tunnels and around a 360-degree turn, before racing them across the finish line. This eight-lane racing slide is named after a 300ft hill in southern Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. Taumata is short for the original 84-letter Maori name "Taumata-whakatangihangakoauauotameteaturipukakapikimaungahoronukup-okaiwhenakitanatahu," which translates roughly as, "the hilltop where Tamatea with big knees, conqueror of mountains, eater of land, traveller over land and sea, played his koauau to his beloved."

Rafters on the Hooroo Run experience a sense of weightlessness as they soar down this six-storey, 250ft, triple-drop water ride. The 7ft-wide flume takes four riders at a time on a straight shot down – three times. While the popular Australian term "G’day" means hello, its counterpart "Hooroo" means quite the opposite.

The Wahalla Wave family raft ride splashes four guests at a time down six storeys and through 600ft of tunnels, twists and turns. The enclosed flume is on the same tower as Hooroo Run, but offers a slightly slower journey.

Adventurous rafters will enjoy the twirling sensations of the Tassie Twister ride as they spin and splash through a tunnel and into a sparkling pool below. The 129ft enclosed flume takes single or double inner tubes into a super bowl, spins riders around and drops them into Loggerhead Lane. Riders must be able to maintain proper riding position and hold on to handles unassisted.

Seated in double inner tubes, riders on the Whanau Way head down five-storey slides filled with thrilling drops, unexpected curves and cascading water curtains. At the top of the tower, guests may choose one of four colourful slides, each of which will send them down 340 feet and splash them into a crystal blue pool.

Younger guests will also enjoy the interactive Walkabout Waters wet playground, one of the world’s largest, or Kata’s Kookaburra Cove, which features 79,000 gallons of water and plentiful fountains, rides and slides. Highlights include Slippity Dippity, Slider Rider, Racer Chaser and Zippity Zappity. Here, tiny tots – even those too young to walk – can enjoy sliding with their parents in specially designed rafts.