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Swooping over sea and sky, Manta is largest-ever single capital investment for SeaWorld San Diego.


Paul Ruben travels to the California coast to experience this double-launch coaster from Mack Rides – and to enjoy a unique animal encounter


Fishy Friends


After the thrill of riding Manta, SeaWorld San Diego guests get the opportunity to touch, feed and experience a variety of graceful rays and other fascinating fish including skates, sawfish and guitarfish. In total 60 species of ray are featured in the 100,000 gallon aquarium that adjoins the ride.


The main


difference between sharks and rays is that rays have bottom-facing gill slits, while sharks have gill slits on the side.


Unfortunately, many species are endangered


or threatened by overfishing, accidental catch or ocean pollution.


Mantas are the largest species of rays, although no real mantas are on display at the new attraction. The closest you will get is by riding this impressive coaster.


MACK COASTER SWOOPS OVER SEAWORLD


eaturing a train shaped like a giant manta ray, Manta is the San Diego park’s first real rollercoaster. This exhilarating new attraction incorporates a thrilling drop where the cars skim a lake without getting riders wet, plus dozens of twists and turns and a 100,000-gallon aquarium. “Manta delivers exactly what our guests want: a fun, family coaster complemented by an incredible hands- on animal experience,” says SeaWorld San Diego president John Reilly. “We want visitors to feel immersed in the world of rays, like they themselves are a giant manta ray, twisting, soaring and diving through the ocean.”


F


Manta sits on five acres just north of SeaWorld’s Dolphin Point. Guests get their first glimpse of the attraction as its trains zip around a 30ft rock formation. Large trees line the perimeter of the ride, while small shrines, bonsai trees. Japanese rockwork and other features create a Southeast Asian island ambience.


Asian Flavour


“Every construction project comes with its challenges,” Reilly offers. “Manta was built in an older area of the park, so we were careful to preserve some of the original structures: a stone pagoda, bell tower and the gift shop were all part of the original Japanese Village in 1964.” To ride the coaster, guests must be 48 inches (1.2m) or taller. A linear synchronous motor (LSM) launch coaster, Manta features half a mile (800m) of track and four 20-seat trains. Due to local planning restrictions, the maximum height is 30ft (10m) but the


38 JULY 2012


54ft (16m) is achieved through a 24ft excavation. Lasting one minute and 40 seconds, Manta features two separate launches and reaches its maximum speed of 43mph (70kmh) in just two seconds. The first launch takes place inside a tunnel with


larger-than-life images of rays projected onto a 270° surround screen, the first system is the first of its kind in the United States. This introduction to the world of the rays also enhances the feeling of acceleration as the train launches down the track. “Manta is a huge hit,” Reilly reports. “Our guests love the launch station, they love the turns and they love the airtime. I’ve ridden Manta about 40 times so far. And guess what? It’s my new favourite


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