The back story of Universal's Volcano Bay is based around a group of ancient Pacific islanders, known as the Waturi. These make-believe ancestors are the inspiration for the park’s imaginative rides and statue-lined pools, which feel a million miles from the rest of Orlando.
It’s in stark contrast to the snow-capped slopes of Blizzard Beach, which adopts a wintery theme, and the iconic volcano gives Typhoon Lagoon’s teetering tugboat a run for its money, too. Universal’s clever tropical set-up means that the park will be ideal for pulse-pounding rides and sunbathing sessions alike.
If you’re curious about what else Orlando’s got to offer, we’ve asked the question on everyone’s lips – Can you visit four Walt Disney World parks in one day?
It’s all well and good talking about the look and feel of the park, but does it have the ingredients to match its splash-mad neighbours for thrills? We’ll let you be the judge of that, but the evidence looks pretty substantial to us.
The 200-foot volcano – dubbed Krakatau – doubles up as a hub for a bunch of the park’s best rides. Flumes twist and turn in every direction from the top, and the Krakatau Aqua Coaster will use new technology to send four-man canoes uphill as well as down. The Ko’okiri Body Plunge will see you plummet 125 feet down a near-vertical tube, while the Kala and Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides plunge you through twin trap doors.
Elsewhere, Honu ika Mona sends you on a swirling raft ride, and tiki statues spray water on you as you hurtle down the Taniwha Tubes. Free-fall drop slides and choppy rapids, meanwhile, are tucked away in the Rainforest Village.
Universal’s not finished here either – for a look at their other new arrivals, check out our take on Nintendo Land.
You already know this place has got its fair share of rides for kid-like grown-ups. Universal hasn’t forgotten about actual little’uns, though, and they’ll be spoilt for choice here. Head to Krakatau, and you can send them through sea caves on Punga Racers – a four-lane ride where you whizz along on manta ray mats.
Tot Tiki Reef features a scaled-down version of the park’s trademark peak, plus fountains and whales that spray water in the air. Runamukka Reef’s cut from the same cloth, and reels off water guns, mini-slides and bamboo sea creatures in its repertoire.
And if you just fancy a straightforward swim, Puka Uli Lagoon is shallow enough for children, and includes bongo drums in the water. Then there’s the park’s main sunbathing spot – Waturi Beach – which looks like it’s been stolen from an unspoiled Pacific island.
And if you’re looking for one or two pointers on how to make the flight across the pond easier on your little ones, here are our 10 tips for flying long-haul with toddlers.
The tropical theme alone is pretty cool, but Volcano Bay has gone even further to make itself stand out from the crowd. Step forward the TapuTapu wearable.
This might sound like jargon at first, but bear with us – it’s seriously awesome. Everyone who visits the park gets one of these funky bracelets for the day, in a bid to make the experience more interactive. If you want to go on a ride, all you do is waggle your bracelet-clad wrist beside the TapuTapu symbol at the entrance, and the park does the rest.
You’ll be checked into a virtual line, and sent a specific time to return for your go on the ride. That means no queuing, and more time spent exploring the park. It’ll even give you a gentle nudge when your time slot comes around, just in case you’ve forgotten. Head back to the ride, scan your bracelet again, and you’re good to go.
You’ll also see the TapuTapu symbol dotted around different splash parks and river rides. Wave the wristband at the symbol, and it might kick a water jet into action, or make a secret message light up. Take the Kopiko Wai Winding River, for instance. This slowed-down ride features Stargazer’s Cavern – a dimly-lit grotto that glows when you use your TapuTapu bracelet.
Volcano Bay’s making waves when it comes to theme park tech, and across the pond there’s a new face on the European thrill-seeking scene. Take a look at Ferrari Land – PortAventura’s new fast-paced friend on the Costa Dorada.
Now for the bit you’ve been waiting for – the opening date. In true X Factor style, we’ve left this important detail right to the end. All we’re lacking is Dermot O’Leary. Luckily for you flume fans out there, the big day’s not far away. Volcano Bay’s set to open its gates on Thursday 25th May 2017, which means you’ve barely got any time to wait.
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